How to Clean Swimming Pool Hand Rails and Ladders

Pool ladder in empty pool
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You may have noticed your swimming pool handrails or ladders corroding or rusting. All steels can rust or stain depending on what chemicals they come in contact with. The stainless steel grades used in swim pool rails and ladders are fairly impervious to swimming pool water that is in balance. However, unbalanced water chemistry and some other causes (poor electrical grounding, pouring chemicals near the rails, etc.) can stain or rust them.

Removing the Pool Rail or Ladder for Cleaning

To clean your pool rails or ladders you must first remove them from the swimming pool. They are normally wedged in sockets called deck anchors. By lifting up the escutcheon plates -- the decorative circles around the rail/ladder where it goes into the swimming pool deck -- you will see the bolt that raises the anchoring wedge. Using a wrench, you can unscrew this bolt about a half an inch. You may then need to knock down the bolt to drive the anchoring wedge down, freeing the rail/ladder. You now should be able to lift the rail or ladder up and out of its sockets. If the rail/ladder is stuck, you can use a rubber mallet or similar tool to bang the rail just above the deck to break it free.

If the handrail/ladder still will not come out and you are sure the wedge is knocked down, you can try using a car jack to get the rail out. By putting the jack under the hooked part of the rail (you may need to use a short piece of 2 x 4 to reach), you can apply force upward. Be careful not to jack it too hard as you can deform the rail or bend it. Try lifting the jack just enough to apply pressure and hitting on the rail just above the anchor with your rubber mallet. In most cases, this will free the rail.

Occasionally, you may come across a rail that will not come out, even with light pressure from a jack. The rail has probably corroded to the anchor, and you may have to distort or destroy the rail to get it out. You will have to determine if replacing the rail and/or the deck anchor is worth it at this point.

Cleaning the Pool Rail or Ladder

Now that you have removed the handrail/ladder you can clean it. The best cleaner for this is one like Naval Jelly. Use a plastic scouring pad (not steel because it scratches the rail) to scrub with. You may want to disassemble a ladder to make cleaning easier. Be sure to rinse thoroughly after cleaning to remove all residual chemical from the rails. (Note: an alternative to Naval Jelly that you may already have in your home is Coca-Cola.)

Now that you have cleaned them well, you can apply some car wax to them if you like. This will help protect them from the elements longer. If you close up your pool for the winter, this is an ideal time to remove and clean your handrails and ladders. By cleaning them, you will maintain that new look much longer.

When you clean your pool, do not use harsh chemicals, always wear protective gear, and stay hydrated when you are cleaning your pool handrails in the sun.