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I've written about in-ground pools in the past, and how I think they are expensive, not practical, an insurance liability, and not necessarily a great idea in Montana. I still kind of think that, but I have to admit... the $300 I spent on this cheap-o Walmart pool was the best $300 I've spent in a long time.

We bought it this spring, shortly after the kids got sent home from school. We set it up on the very first hot weekend we got in the end of May, when it hit 80 degrees for the first time. Of course, we set it up way too early and we had about a month of cooler temperatures right after we filled it with ice-cold water.

A few weeks later, it was consistently warm enough to swim almost every day and the water had warmed up enough not to chill you to the core when you jumped in. My kids absolutely LOVE it. They ask me every single sunny day, "when are we going to jump in the pool, dad?" Nine times out of 10, I'll say, "Give me a few minutes and we'll take a plunge." My 9-year-old is the biggest fan, and the 14 x 3.5 foot pool is just the right size for her. Not too deep that she feels uncomfortable (she's not really a great swimmer) but it's still big enough to splash around and swim. My 4-year-old also enjoys getting in on the fun, bobbing around with her life jacket. It's a great distraction from them being glued to their favorite YouTube channels and games they play on their devices all day.

Cheap pools and pool accessories have been in tight supply this summer, thanks to COVID and everyone realizing they need something to do while spending more time at home. I tried for weeks to find one of those long, extendable handles for my little pool vacuum thing at Walmart, to no avail. They had all kinds of nets, scrubbers, etc. (that all require the handle) but they never received any handles. I finally bought an extendable aluminum handle at Lowes that was meant for painting and made it work.

Pool filters have been tough to find as well, and we gave up looking at local stores last week and ordered a box of eight online. They're not super-expensive (like $7 apiece) but they seem to clog up really fast. Like, in two or three days. I can't afford to blow through them that quickly, so I did some poking around online and found out that you can clean them fairly easily. There are special solutions you can buy at the store (for like $16 a quart) and other sites mentioned using muriatic acid (yikes!). I was looking for an easier, cheaper and less toxic solution, so after researching the various options, here's what I did and it works great:

  • Wait until you have three dirty filters to maximize your time and effort.
  • Three of the "A" style filters (4x8" cylindrical) fit perfectly in a five-gallon plastic bucket.
  • Cover them with hot water and about a 1/4 cup of dish soap.
  • Let them soak for a few hours. Swirl them around and get them all soaped up.
  • This will help release the body oil, lotion, sunscreen and other greases that clog up the paper filter.
  • Take an old toothbrush and give a swipe or two (gently) between each pleat in the paper filter to dislodge any grass, bugs, dirt, cottonwood seed or grime that is stuck in the fibers.
  • Put a spray attachment on your garden hose (one that has a "jet" spray option) and spray the living hell out of the filter to blast out any remaining gunk and dish soap.

Voila! Your filter is now ready to re-use. I'm not sure how many times this can be done. I would assume at least until the paper filter starts to eventually break down. Now if I could find a way to keep those darn grasshoppers from jumping in.