Unless it’s indoors, you probably haven’t used your pool for a few months. Now that the warmer weather is finally kicking in, it’s time to make sure that your pool is ready for summer. Even if you don’t plan to swim for a few more weeks, now is a good time to start cleaning, testing, and maintaining your pool so that it’s good to go when you are.

First of all, we hope that you didn’t leave your pool empty over the winter! Pools do need to be drained every three to five years to prevent excessive build-up of dissolved solids, but leaving a pool empty for a prolonged time can actually cause it to raise up and pop out of the ground. The weight of the water inside the pool helps to keep it from being pushed up by a high ground water table. If you’re due to drain your pool or if you test the water and your total dissolved solids (TDS) are high, get a professional to drain the water, but the pool should be refilled as soon as the necessary cleaning is complete.

Check your pool equipment to make sure that it’s still fully functional. Look for water collecting on the concrete underneath the pump when it’s running — this can indicate a leak, which is much easier to have repaired if you catch it while it’s small. If it’s working but makes more noise than it used to, you may need to have the pump checked or replaced by a professional.

Test your water, either at home or by bringing a sample of your pool’s water to a pool supply store. This will give you an idea of the water’s levels in terms of mineral content, pH, alkalinity, chlorine level, and quantities of TDS. If you go to a pool supply store, they can tell you exactly how to correct any imbalances. You can also have a professional come to your home and test the water for you. Once you know what’s out of whack with your pool’s chemistry, you can then take the necessary steps balance your chemicals.

You will also need to “shock” your pool, meaning that you temporarily boost the chlorine levels in order to get rid of bacteria, algae, and other organic material in the pool. Vacuum any leaves or debris from the bottom of the pool. Change your filter and clean it every day until the water is clear. And check for potential hazards around your pool, like loose ladders or wobbly diving boards.

Once you start swimming, you’ll need to repeat these tasks on a regular basis — test the chemicals and use a net to remove leaves daily; check the filter, shock the pool, and vacuum the pool weekly; and have a professional test the water every month.

Sabina McPherson works for Aqua Leisure Pool Supply in the Hampton Roads, VA area. Visit www.aqualeisurepools.com today for more information about cleaning, chemical testing, and maintenance for your swimming pool.