In order to ensure your pool remains safe and healthy to swim in, you need to make sure and take care of the entire pool. This includes the often overlooked metal handrails. While you do need to keep the water clean and the filters clear, the metal handrails may go unnoticed. However, if you are not careful, the metal handrails may rust, deteriorate or even break off, which puts anyone climbing up or down the handrails at risk. It doesn't take much work to protect the handrails and extend the life of the equipment. You just need to take advantage of these five secrets.
About Metal Handrails
Metal handrails are relatively straightforward. No matter the kind of pool you have, the size or if it uses saltwater or a more traditional water, the handrails are more or less the same. The handrails are made up of several steps, allowing someone to climb in and out of a pool. Sometimes these are made of an individual bar that travels along steps built into a pool. The steps built into a pool are usually constructed in larger pools. For those without the available yard space, there is not enough room for the steps so that the ladder handrail is used. Either way, the handrail is made from the same lightweight but sturdy metal.
Problems to Look Out for
There are two basic problems a pool owner needs to look out for. The first is rust. With the constant presence of water against the metal, handrails may suffer an increased possibility of rusting out. The chemicals within the pool often interact with the metal, increasing this potential if the handrails are not properly taken care of. This becomes even more of an issue if the pool is a salt water pool.
Salt water pools have many advantages, but interaction with metal is not one of them. Much like road salt on an icy road causes rust on vehicles, salt in a saltwater pool may do the same. Due to this, those with saltwater pools need to pay extra careful attention to the handrails and do whatever is necessary to protect the material (many contractors will look for other materials to use instead of the metal due to this exact issue).
The other problem pool owners need to watch out for is the screws and joints connecting the handrail to the side of the pool may begin to deteriorate. This is a common issue as not only is water constantly present around the metal but with people using the handrail for the support it adds tension and weight to the handrail. It is important to provide a thorough check of the handrail's connections routinely to make sure no screws or connectors are pulling out of a pool wall.
If a handrail becomes loose, it is important to correct the problem early on. It is easier to correct the issue sooner instead of waiting for the handrail to detach from the pool wall or surface around the pool completely.
5 Ways to Protect Your Handrails
1. Remove Metal Handrails
One of the biggest errors a pool owner carries out with the handrail is leaving the metal handrails attached to the pool during the offseason. During the offseason, the pool needs to be drained and cleared of water. However, a small amount of water may linger in the bottom of the pool (and some water may leak in from snow and rain (depending on the climate).
When the water is left to sit against the metal handrails and go untreated (or unnoticed) for months at a time, it increases the chance of rust development. Plus, when left out against the natural elements there is an increased chance of the metal handrails suffering damage. Due to this, it is very important to disconnect it and put it into storage during the offseason.
2. Wax the Metal
Every six months or so while the pool is active and opens the owner needs to apply a stainless steel and corrosion preventative agent to the handrail. Something such as an auto wax will work just fine. The coating will typically last around six months, depending on how it is applied. It is important to use a soft rag when applying the wax and to avoid anything abrasive when polishing it into the metal handrails.
There are specially designed metal handrail waxes on the market, but for anyone who washes (or polishes) their car at home, all they need to do is pull out the auto wax and use it instead. Plus, the auto wax is usually less expensive.
3. Clean & Wipe Down
The metal handrails need to be cleaned on a regular basis with fresh water. This helps remove any chemical build up. A dry, soft cloth should be used to rub it down to help with the removal of the chemical build up. This is even more important if the pool uses saltwater/seawater or there is a chlorine powder present in the pool. A cleaning can be used such as one that is used on glass windows. This removes dirt and grime easily from the metal, especially if it is cleaned once a month or so. By using a soft cloth it will rid the metal of chemical and sodium buildups and help prevent the development of rust and other corrosion.
4. Inspect For Rust
It is important to regularly inspect the metal handrail for any rust. Once rust begins it will quickly spread. Rust usually begins after the top layer of the metal handrail has worn down, exposing the underside of the metal. With the metal exposed to water and oxygen, the rust is not far behind. For anyone who has seen rust on a car before, the rust spreads quickly when not taken care of. If any kind of discoloration is ever identified on the metal, it is important to clean off the discoloration and to remove the rust spot immediately.
If rust is present, there is an easy-to-use cleaning solution anyone can make at home. This is made up of one can of powdered cleanser, one spray bottle cleaner, one past automotive wax and one Scotchbrite pad, which is similar to a hard surface sponge (it is important to not use a brillo pad as this will end up scratching the metal handrail and increase the possibility for rust to develop and spread).
To use the combination, the pool owner needs to first apply the powdered cleaner and then gently rub the area that is stained, following the same polish pattern. This will help push the cleaning solution into any created groves of the polish. Once on it should be rinsed off with clean water and then a de-greaser should be applied to remove any remaining stains. Once the stains are gone it needs time to dry (when performing a cleaning like this the handrails should be pulled from the pool). After the handrail has finished drying the wax should be applied.
5. Cleaning the Discolored Steel
If the metal remains discolored or tarnished, it is necessary to perform some more extensive cleaning and repairs (before moving on to completely replacing the handrail). If the handrail has a spattering of rust, as if it is freckling, it needs a stronger cleaning agent. Simichrome polish is one option that works well and is designed for other metals that suffer from this kind of problem. It is always important to have the handrail out of the water when using these harsher cleaning agents in order to prevent the chemicals from seeping into the water.
If the pool metal handrail has heavy rusting, it means the handle has likely sat in the water for an extended period of time. This leaves the entire handrail susceptible and becomes difficult to correct. In advanced stages, it is possible to contain the rust and even paint over it, but it will never be returned back to its original look. In these instances, it is best to replace the metal handrail, eventually. However, for the time being, the pool owner needs to use a naval jelly and apply it to the rust. This will help waterproof the area and reduce the possibility of the rust from spreading.
Metal, when not cared for properly, will break down when exposed to both water and oxygen. Add in chemicals and even salt and the problem becomes much more of an issue. Due to this, metal handrails on a pool are susceptible to rusting. There are ways to take care of the handrail and to prevent this from happening as long as the owner of the pool remains proactive.
Cleaning the handrail on a regular basis, removing it from the pool during the offseason and doing whatever is necessary to prevent the development of rust are all steps in not only protecting the metal handrails but extending the life of the handrail as well. Take the time to care for your pool handrails the right way will add years to their life and to your enjoyment!