Piscataway, NJ • Every pool accumulates residue and stains from calcium and other elements in the water, even in areas where the water is relatively soft and the pH level is closer to neutral. The historical cleaning method of necessity has been chemical agents to loosen and remove the white, chalky buildup around the tile line and spillover areas. But caustic chemicals can deteriorate the surface of some tiles and loosen tiles by damaging the grout, which explains the growing shift toward blasting as the pool industry’s favored means of keeping pools looking their best.
According to a spokesperson for one of the leading suppliers of abrasive blasting equipment and supplies, Steven Schneider of Kramer Industries, blasting with glass bead has proven to be an exceptional means of tile cleaning and is growing in popularity in all areas of the country.
“High pressure cleaning systems are being used on a variety of surfaces,” says Schneider, “including traditional ceramic tiles, aggregate finished and natural-stone style tiles.” Field veterans of the industry also confirm that blasting is far superior to the way the problem has been dealt with in the past.
Beyond effectiveness, another benefit to blasting with glass bead, as opposed to using chemicals, is the fact that glass beads are inert. They don’t interact with pool water and have no effect on its chemistry.
The glass bead available through Kramer Industries is made of virgin materials, so it is non-toxic and free of silica. The particles are round, smooth and extremely small. They come in various grit sizes, with finer grades recommended for soft surfaces. The size most often used in the pool industry is 100-170 mesh.
Deciding how much air pressure to put behind that grit also depends on your surface, and it is easily determined by most industry veterans by testing a small area in a low visibility area of the pool. The trick is to start at a low-pressure and work your way up.
Another medium being used to clean pool hardscape is crushed walnut shells. The walnut shells are crushed and graded into various sized-grit just like any other medium, and they are organic and biodegradable. However, according to Schneider, crushed walnut shells aren’t as effective as glass bead to clean scale build up on tile. Walnut shells are better suited to removing dirt and grime from soft surfaces made of sandstone or limestone, like stone decks and pavers.