How to Clean an Above Ground Pool Liner

a girl in an inflatable toy in an above ground pool
  • 3 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 50-100

On a hot summer day, few things are as beautiful and inviting as a swimming pool sparkling in the sun...unless it's dirty. You need to know how to clean an above ground pool liner to keep your pool crystal clear and beautiful.

If your pool liner isn't cleaned regularly, it is subject to becoming a home for mold, mildew, and other types of pool-related grime. Keeping the liner clean helps keep the entire pool clean.

Stains, discoloration, and grime tend to be highly visible on the pool liner and can affect the entire look of the pool.

Don't Drain Your Pool

No matter what other guides may suggest, you should not drain your above ground pool. In most cases, the water is actually essential to the design integrity of the pool.

That means when fully drained, the pool's walls could cave in and compromise the pool. You will need to learn to clean the pool with the water still in it, which means using long-handled tools and walking around the entire pool.

Scrub Your Pool Liner

Even if your pool liner doesn't look grimy, you should give it a thorough cleaning at the beginning of the season and at the end of the season at least. If you use the pool a lot, you may need to clean it once or twice during the season as well.

Add a few drops of dishwashing liquid to a cup of white vinegar and mix the two into a gallon of water. This will help to kill any mold or mildew on the pool lining, and this mixture removes stains and discoloration from the liner.

Dip your pool brush into the solution and start gently scrubbing the walls, both above and below the water line. Start at the top and brush down toward the bottom of the pool.

Pay special attention to the corners—grime tends to collect here, and these areas can be hard to reach.

To rinse the pool, start filling it with clean water from the hose. Let the water overflow so the suds come out of the pool.

Do this until the suds are gone, drain the excess water, and your pool is clean and lovely again.

Serious Stains

If your pool liner has gotten pretty dirty and you can see visible grime on it, you might need to take some extra steps to get it clean again.

Make a paste of baking soda and warm water to rub this mixture directly onto stains with a soft-bristled brush.

You can also drop some vitamin C tablets into the pool. Vitamin C helps to soften stains and remove grime.

Once the vitamin C has been dissolved into the water, try scrubbing the stains gently with the brush.

After you have loosened up all the grime, you will want to skim the pool water and treat it with chemicals like chlorine to get the water clean.


Discoloration on pool liners can indicate a chemical imbalance or another issue with the pool. You can use the different colors that may appear as a sort of visual guide to what might be wrong.

For example, a blue-green color on the lining could indicate that copper is leaching into the water. Copper pipes are often used to carry water.

If you see a reddish-brown color, you probably have rust getting into the pool. This could be coming from ladders or handrails in the pool, but it may also indicate that something is happening with water and drain pipes connected to the pool.

Pool accessories like ladders and diving boards are often made with plastic, but they are made with metal, too. When exposed to water, most metals will rust.

The rust could even be caused by nails and screws attached to pool equipment. Check all the equipment that goes into the pool for rust spots and replace accordingly.

Red or purple discoloration might come from overhead berries and debris from trees. Green or brown stains are usually from plant debris and other outside flotsam.

If there are trees near the pool, you will have to do more frequent skimming and cleaning to keep the pool looking nice. Trees drop all sorts of debris and attract litter critters that create their own messes.

If you see black stains on the liner, you might have a chemical imbalance. Check the chemical levels of the water.

If you have waterline stains, which look like a ring around the inside of the pool, you probably have calcium buildup or your pool chemicals aren't dissolving properly.

Check the chemical composition of the water to see where the levels are off and adjust as needed.

man installing pool filter

Install a Pool Filter

A pool filter will help to keep the pool clean on a regular basis. The filter and accompanying pump will keep the water moving and circulating, constantly going through the filter, to keep the water clean and grime-free.

However, this does mean you can install a filter and never worry about cleaning the pool again. Having this device still takes regular work, but it does take less work than cleaning the pool manually with a skimmer and brush all the time.

You will need to clean the filter and pump regularly. You want to clean debris from the basket once a week, and you will still need to skim your pool frequently to remove debris when you see it.

Skimmer Basket Hack

If you want to spend a little less time skimming the pool, use a skimmer basket. This little guy floats around the pool, sucking in debris to keep the water cleaner.

You will need to clean out the skimmer every couple of days, particularly if you have trees near the pool, but this is still less work than manually using a skimmer regularly.

If you have a filter and pump system that keeps the water slowly circulating, the skimmer will float around and circulate around the pool to clean the surface of the water for you.

The Tennis Ball Trick

Oil from the skin, lotions, sunscreen, and all the other stuff that people put on their skin comes off of bodies and gets absorbed into pool water. All this stuff can accumulate and make the water dirty or cloudy and leave its mark on pool liners, too.

After the pool has been in use, toss a couple of tennis balls in there. The balls have a way of absorbing oils and other gunk that gets into pool water.

This is a simple, quick cleaning trick that will keep water clearer and cleaner. Get into this habit and your pool liner will stay much cleaner and require less work.

Weekly Maintenance

To keep your pool looking nice and keep the liner looking clean, remove debris from the pool regularly with a skimmer or clean out floating skimmers once every couple of days or so.

Once a week, you should brush down the walls with the pool brush while the pool is open.

You should also keep the pool covered when it is not in use to keep debris out, and always cover the pool when it's raining.

Keep the pool water clean by maintaining a proper chemical balance. If you maintain a pH balance of 7.4 to 7.8, you will be at the recommended level for standard size pools.

A standard pool should also have a calcium hardness of 200 to 250 ppm and a total alkalinity level of 100 to 150 ppm. Test the chemical levels once a week to make sure the pool has the right balance, and adjust the levels as needed to get to the right chemical composition.

Keep an Above Ground Pool Liner Cleaner

Perform regular weekly maintenance and seasonal deep cleaning on your pool liner to keep the entire pool much nicer and cleaner. The right treatments will prevent bacteria, algae, and mold growth that make the pool unpleasant and unhealthy, not to mention unattractive.

Maintain a good chemical balance and keep the pool covered, and you will need to do less cleaning. You can also use little tricks like filters and floating skimmers to cut back on the regular maintenance of pool cleaning and make it easier to keep yours looking perfect.

The more regularly you perform maintenance and cleaning, the nicer the pool will look and the less work you’ll have to do overall. It’s not so difficult to spend an hour or two cleaning and maintaining the pool once a week when you will get many hours of enjoyment out of having a beautiful, clear pool.

Above Ground Pool Liner Cleaning FAQ

woman floating on pool toy

What is the best thing to clean a pool liner with?

Ordinary dish soap, white vinegar, and baking soda all work well as pool-cleaning ingredients, so you don't even have to buy special products if you don't want to. However, there are a range of chemical pool cleaners you can use if you like.

Apply cleaning agent directly to stains and grimy areas on the pool liner with a long-handled, soft-bristled brush.

How do you clean the inside of an above ground pool wall?

When cleaning pool walls, use a soft-bristled brush to brush the walls of the pool in a downward motion. This will loosen up grime and algae and gunk.

Go all the way around the pool, cleaning from the top down in long strips until the liner is completely brushed. You will need to perform this task once a week while the pool is open and in use.

What is the best chemical to clean pool walls?

Chlorine tablets are one of the most popular choices to keep pool water clean and one of the most well-known options for home pool cleaning. These tablets are easy to use and easy to find, which makes them a great choice to keep pools clean.

Essentially, all you need to do is drop chlorine tablets into the water. This will keep it cleaner and clearer.

What is the best thing to clean above ground pool?

A simple cleaning solution like liquid soap and water makes a great pool cleaner that is non-toxic yet effective. You can use vinegar to treat stubborn stains that don’t want to come up during regular cleaning efforts.

Simple household ingredients make good pool cleaners when you need to scrub the walls and floor of the pool. To keep the water clean and prevent grime from building up on the pool liner, try using chlorine.

How do I keep my above-ground pool crystal clear?

Maintaining beautifully clear water is never easy. You will need to do a little bit of maintenance to your pool every day or every few days at a minimum if you want to keep the water clean and clear.

The pool should be skimmed out or vacuumed every day or every few days at the most. This will keep debris and junk out of the pool water, which will help it stay cleaner.

Scrub the walls once a week to remove the buildup of grime and oils. You should also check the chemical balance once a week and add whatever treatments are necessary in order to maintain the correct chemical balance.

Discolored pool water looks very uninviting, and anyone will hesitate to jump into a pool if the water isn’t clear and clean-looking. Clean the pool and treat the water as needed to keep the water crystal clear.

Water discoloration can indicate the presence of metals in the water, such as rusted iron, copper, or silver. Find out what’s causing the dislocation and treat this issue with chemicals to balance out the problem to get the water clear again.

What is the best way to clean a vinyl pool liner?

Vinyl pool liners can rip and become damaged due to improper cleaning methods. Harsh scrub brushes and abrasive chemical cleaners can cause vinyl pool liners to become damaged.

Clean vinyl pool liners gently with a soft scrub brush and mild cleaners. Do not use a lot of force to scrub pool walls.

Work in a circular motion. Cleaning pool liners this way will loosen up grime and gunk so that it is not clinging to the liner.

How do you clean the inside of an above-ground pool wall?

A soft sponge or soft-bristled brush can be used to wipe down interior pool walls.

Next, gentle chemicals can be added to the water to clean it further. A standard water test will tell you how to adjust the pool water pH and identify any problems in the water, such as an abundance of algae.

How do you remove green algae from vinyl pool liner?

A standard pool vacuum with an extension can remove algae from pool walls. An algae-killing chemical that is specially designed for pool will ensure that all algae is effectively removed.

Can I use baking soda to clean vinyl pool liner?

Baking soda is alkaline, which means it can raise the pH and alkalinity of your water. This will improve the clarity of the water.

Baking soda is a good all-around cleaning agent that works well for pool liners. Mixed with vinegar, baking soda is a safe and effective way to clean pool liners.

Can you use muriatic acid to clean a vinyl pool liner?

Muriatic acid can be used to adjust the pH of water but it will also damage vinyl pool lining, so you should not use this in your pool. Hydrochloric acid can reduce alkalinity in pools and will not harm the lining.

Further Reading

Guide to Pool Filters, Supplies, and Chemicals

How to Raise Swimming Pool pH

How to Winterize an Above Ground Pool