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Is It Okay To Drain My Vinyl Liner Swimming Pool?

One of the most important things that any owner of a vinyl liner pool needs to know is that you should NEVER drain your vinyl liner swimming pool. The water in the pool helps hold the liner into place. If you do drain your pool you can cause your vinyl pool liner to shrink ,upon refilling if the liner has lost its elasticity it can cause the liner to rip or tear. The liner can also become hard and brittle. The older the vinyl material is the more likely this is to happen. If you do have to patch a hole or puncture, you will not need to drain your pool as most vinyl repair kits are designed to work under water. Also if you drain too much water out of an above ground pool, it can lead to the pool wall collapsing. You can help protect the life of your liner by not draining your pool.

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  1. Kathi Grace says:

    My inground pool was filled with sludge during Hurricane Irene. We drained it in October and refilled it so we could put the liner back in the sides. However, there are still brown stains on the liner around every corner and spots in the shallow end. Is there a way to clean these? We put a lot of shock/chlorine in it for the winter but it didn’t lighten much? Would soft scrub on a push mop work or is there something I can purchase?

  2. Kevin says:

    Wish I had read this before. I drained my above ground pool completely to look for a leak. After spending hours on hands and knees, did not find anything. Left pool drained for a week. Now there are several wrinkles. I was going to have another go at finding the leak…then came across your site. Advice? Should I fill back up? Attempt to get wrinkles out, then fill up? How to get wrinkles out? There is nowhere to access the back of the liner with a shop vac. Thank you.

  3. Foster says:

    You should check your local yellow pages for pool service companies that service above ground pools.

  4. Foster says:

    There are different products that you can purchase to remove stains. If it is all organic staining, you should be able to remove it.

  5. Foster says:

    You need to fill the pool back up as not to possibly have structural damage. There are several ways of locating a leak, but you should start with the dye test. Swim around in the pool and squirt a small amt of dye around the area you think it could be. If the dye sucks into the hole, you have located your leak. If you remove the liner, you can get underneath it and you will see sunlight peering thru the hole. You may have to call a local service company that has the equipment to do electronic leak location.

  6. Kenny says:

    My inground pool with a vinyl liner and it has pull away from the bottom drain how can I fix it

  7. Cyndi says:

    I have a 16×32 above-ground Kayak pool that I think is about 10 years old (I’ve been here 5 years). One corner settled and is almost one inch lower that the rest. How can I fix that? I accidentally drained the pool, so it only has a few inches of water in it. Thanks.

  8. Foster says:

    You will have to install a new main drain gasket & faceplate. The pool will have to be empty, so its best to do this when changing the liner as well.

  9. Rob M says:

    we have an 12X18 above ground Esther Williams pool. the liner had a hole it so we drained it and removed the liner. Can we leave the pool all winter without a liner or cover and just put in the liner next year when we open up the pool? We live in New York where we get a snow during the winter.
    thank you.

  10. Andy says:

    And, if i leave it up, what winterizing do you suggest? I’ve always been told to drain it halfway, and put a large innertube in the water, ( to fluctuate the freezing water), then cover. Any help is appreciated!!!!

  11. Adam Paetz says:

    My 15′ above ground pool had a leak and all the water drained out of it. I am not sure where the leak is and do not want to put a new liner in and refill the pool before winter. I will put a new liner on in the spring so shrinking is not a concern. Is it okay to leave the empty pool up throughout the winter. Is there any other way to help support it other than having water in it so it does not fall apart? If I take the pool completely down, I probably will not put it back up in the spring…

  12. Adam Paetz says:

    I am thinking of putting cinder blocks stacked 3 high, on end, every 6ft or so,around the inside perimeter of the pool. I do not care about the liner, as it will be replaced next year. I believe this should prevent the poo from collapsing until the spring. I would not put a cover on it, as it would create extra pressure on the frame from the snowfall. Are there any other options that have been proven to work?

  13. Indiana pool novice says:

    I have a in-ground pool and am closing it for the first time by myself. Can I drain it just past the jets without hurting the liner? Want to make sure the lines do not freeze.

  14. Kali says:

    Our pool cover was ripping so we went out to try to fix it and discovered that somehow all of the water in our pool is gone. We drained it just below the lines for winter and now it’s completely empty. Will it hold up until spring time or will it ruin due to it being empty? What should we do?

  15. Cassie says:

    My in ground pool has a big rip at the top but I can’t afford a new liner for a couple of months what should I do? The water level is about 2 1/2 feet low

  16. Scott says:

    A vinyl repair kit may fix it temporarily

  17. Ray Sawyer says:

    I have an above-ground pool which definitely needs a new liner. I plan to have this done profesionally. My concerns: 1) Does temperature change affect liner replacement? Can I have it done now in January or in May when we will begin using it? I hate to put in new liner and let it set there for four months without use…and also using up warranty. Once weather warms will that affect new liner?; 2) Liner is definitely leaking. Should I keep filling and winterize until May? Or should I just let it go down? It’s at about two feet. I didn’t think above-ground pools were under as much danger as in-ground to collapse without water. Need advice on this and anything else you can inform me about situation. Thanks very much for your expert advice in these matters.

  18. Ray Sawyer says:

    Quick question. Is this site still active? Noticed last response was November 20, 2012. Need to get some info pretty soon. Thanks.

  19. Debbie says:

    Yes, the sight is still active. Please let us know if we can answer any questions for you.

  20. Debbie says:

    Temperature can definitely affect the liner installation. I would recommend doing it in May if the weather is cold in your area in January. I would not let the water drain down in the pool, a pool wall can collapse if there isnt water in the pool if any bad weather or heavy winds come through. Please let us know if you have any other questions.

  21. Ray Sawyer says:

    Very helpful. Thanks Debbie! ray

  22. Bethany says:

    We bought a house with an above ground pool. The previous owner claimed that the liner was replaced 3 years ago but haven’t opened the pool or treated it properly in 2 years. It is absolutley horrible with a thick sludge at the bottom. We moved here late fall so can’t do much til spring. We plan to try to clean it with chemicals and vaccuming. However if all else fails and we have to drain is their a ideal weather to do it in (ex: hot/humid or cool/dry) to minimize the risk of shrinkage and damage? It is a very large pool and will take time to drain and refill…..

  23. Greg says:


    Draining the liner voids a manufacturer’s warranty in most cases. However, if you do need to drain the liner, it would be best to do it in hot weather. Please let me know if you have any other questions or concerns.

  24. Lori says:

    I noticed that our winter cover was down about a foot this morning, and discovered a good water leak in the wall of our pool. It looks like the wall rusted out in a spot and the liner sprung a leak. HOW do we patch the hole on the outside of the liner? The water wants to push the patch off. So far we had to cut the hole in the wall bigger so we can work on the hole, but will a patch hold on the outside? Of course the hole is near the bottom of the wall and we will lose almost all of our water if we can’t fix the hole. It’s snowing too! grrr

  25. Holly says:

    Our pool was closed at the end of Sept. We left most o the water in. We removed the pump and let the water go right below that level. We just discovered this morning that all the water drained completely form the pool. It appears as if the liner is still ok, but it is about 6-7 years old. What should we do. We till have a few colder months ahead. At least until April or May.

  26. Mark says:

    Our vinyl lined pool has a gash that is allowing water behind the liner. We are not in a position financially to get the liner replaced right now. Should I leave water in the pool even though it will get behind the liner, or empty the pool? Neither sounds like a good option….

  27. Mark says:

    Additional info – our pool is a metal shell lined with vinyl.

  28. trish says:

    hi i put a winter cover on my 24 foot round above ground pool. This year we had a lot of snow and ice had built up on my cover, pushing to water out of the pool. i look at it and realized that there is not much water left in my pool. will this affect my liner? what should i do?

  29. Greg says:

    Lori, A patch will work on the back side of a liner as well. Simply apply the glue/cement then apply the patch over the top. I would recommend draining the pool until the wall is repaired to minimize the chance your pool could collapse.

  30. Greg says:

    Trish, your liner should be just fine. Check the liner and make sure it is not cracking or deteriorating. If it is fine, try to get the pool filled back up to prevent the liner from drying or becoming damaged. Hope this helps.

  31. Greg says:

    Mark, it would be a good idea to drain the pool completely and remove the liner. This will prevent damage to the pool frame from anything unexpected with the liner while you wait to purchase a new one. Please let us know if we can assist you in ordering a liner for your pool.

  32. Greg says:

    Holly, If the liner is left drained for an extended period of time, it could become brittle and break when you attempt to refill to pool. My advice would be to find out why all the water leaked out of the pool first. If all the water drained out, it had to be a leak at the bottom of the pool. Usually that kind of leak would mean it is the liner leaking. Hope this helps.

  33. Sawyer says:

    My in-laws pasted away and their home is over 200 miles away. The pool is a soft-liner. I can’t afford to pay pool service until the house sells. Who knows how long that will be. What are my options? Are there any long term chemicals that can be added to the pool to keep it from turning green?

    Thanks for your help.

  34. Greg says:


    Unfortunately there are really no long term chemicals that will keep the water from turning green. If your budget is low, I would recommend shocking the pool with a chlorine shock and making sure that if there is a chlorinator on the pool that it has chlorine tablets. Keeping the chlorine level up is probably the best defense against green water.

  35. Robert says:

    I had to drain my pool because of lots of broken glass. Now it’s drained lots of wrinkles are in the liner how can I fix this…

  36. Robert Watkins says:

    My aboveground 24 foot round 4 foot deep pool had a leak in it and over the winter e water run out but about a foot of water. I uncovered it and noticed my liner is bulging out all the way around. The bead is still very tight, i found the two holes and patched them now my concern is the bulging. It looks like it’s got air between the wall and the liner. The pool is not buckled any where. Should i just refill it and hope that the bulging liner is pushed back into place wih the weight of the water and watch it in case i have to help release the air? Concerned!

  37. Marie says:

    We want to replace a pipe that was leaking. To install the new one, we have to replace the inlet as the one that was there was all rusted out. However, we cannot get it to fit as the liner is stretched in the wrong direction and the holes don’t line up. We tried hot water around it to stretch the vinyl but we are still about 1 cm short. Any advice? The water level is now about 3 inches under the inlet. The vinyl is not as old as the pool (probably late 90’s vs pool from 60’s).

  38. Sue says:

    I have an above ground pool with a vinal liner. I replaced the liner two years ago. When I took the cover off last week there is only 8 inches of water in the pool (21 x 41). How do I know if the liner is still ok since it only had 8 inches all winter long. The liner seems to have air behind it like a bubble when you push on it. I’m not sure if I should put more water in it until someone can come out and fix the hole.

  39. Stephanie says:

    My above ground pool got drained and the liner has fell 3/4 way down. It’s been about 3 weeks without water. There is a fence close to the wall and deck surrounding the pool. Will my pool be okay to put winter cover on it and wait till next year to replace liner?

  40. Joanne says:

    My landlord didn’t close the large above ground pool properly last fall. We moved in in March and was told that all we had to do was remove cover and add chemicals. To make a long story short when we took the cover off the water was a mess…green, smelly and about an inch of leaves and small twigs on the bottom. I got in and tried to clean it up and I got rid fo most of the debris with my hands. We shocked it, used baking soda and algeacide. Nothing really worked so I drained it to about 1/2 feet. The water is clear now but there is some powder still sitting on the bottom. I plan on vacuuming that out. I started filling it up again and it was almost up to the intake but then overnight the level went down a bit. It is about 1 1/2 ft below the filter. It has stayed at this level so I can’t put the filter on. Is this a leak or is there something wrong with the liner? Thanks

  41. Greg says:

    Stephanie, you should get another liner installed in the pool as soon as possible. Leaving just the pool frame up without the outward pressure from water inside the pool makes the pool very susceptible to damage from wind, weather, or just time.

  42. Greg says:

    Joanne, the only reason the water level would drop at all is if there is a leak in your liner somewhere. If the water is clear enough, you may be able to find where the leak is and patch it. Here is a good blog article on how to find leaks in your liner: How To Find Leaks In a Vinyl Liner Pool

  43. James says:

    Wanted to offer a li’l hope to any concerned in-ground vinyl-lined pool owners who’ve mistakenly drained or are planning to drain their pool completely. 🙂

    We bought home with 30,000 gal 18×36 pool, and replaced vinyl liner about 4 years ago. This year with relentless rains, etc we attacked issues with over 100lbs of various chemicals, with unsatisfactory results. Thinking ourselves as brilliant, we were certain the pros were simply happy to sell us chemical upon chemical and don’t recall even hearing the option of draining our pool completely to “start over”.

    OOPS!! Now (after-the-fact) we’ve learned there was GOOD REASON why no one offered to simply have us drain to refill with fresh water.

    So, we drained our pool completely on 80 degree days/ 60 degree nights. Went to refill immediately by only (simply) adding two garden hoses from our home faucets, thinking all was normal & that the stretched corners would simply return flat with the weight & pressure of water in a refilled pool.

    Well, you guessed it, after about 10,000 gallons of water was refilled, the seam-lip atop the vinyl liner popped out in deep corner, and both sidewalls of the pool. THAT’s when we took to the internet and found we made a potentially-drastic, costly (and even dangerous) mistake. :/

    We spent hours on countless sites trying to find remedy; not wanting to accept the bad news…and called the local well-established and respected pool company to ask for the best tips they had for us.

    “In my 12 years in this profession, I’ve never had or heard of anyone being successful with draining & refilling a vinyl lined pool, but you could always also try too, but we’d be happy to provide you a bid on a new liner when you find the need to do so.” the SALESperson told me. 😉

    So yeah, I gulped hard, and thought: “he was in the SALES department, of COURSE he wants me to replace my 4-year old liner, even though we bought THE BEST ‘ultimate’ liner available!” and was determined to somehow make this work….of course with lots of prayer asking for help that could overcome even MY stupidity and/or ignorance. lol

    We found a site that says it MAY be possible, but we’d need industrial-level type-shop-vacs and BRAND NAME “Duck tape”, none-other……and the best of all worlds combined with proper moon alignment for some tidal help (kidding, but basically, it was saying our chances were slim).

    Of course being the stubborn man that I am (cheap-o, even!) I was smarter as always, and only used selective tips to try again. 🙂 You’d think I knew better by now…..and maybe I did, or just got (what you’d say) “lucky”!

    So we grabbed my 12 year old Craftsman Black-Friday Special shop vac, and ducT tape generro brand from (you couldda guessed this!) Harbor Freight Tools, did some whack-job of tapery, NOT on the skimmer, but on the lip of the liner we got to last to re-attach. haha

    Fired that baby up, and looked at the clock (which the site told me to run it for ATLEAST 15 mins before beginning water-fill…but the “it” to be run was industrial-macho machine stuff…err-right?) Oh well, 15 minutes hit and most of the air was sucked away from my inner-balloon vinyl liner, and who-knows when my craftsman would suck its last breath, right?! Sooo, we opened the faucet on our two hoses running into the pool…and kept praying; at least I WAS, I THINK my wife was too–she was SUPPOSED to be, since it was HER urging afterall that convinced me to give up on the chemical attempts the weeks earlier!


    While the hoses were pumping freshness into our cavern of potential (unknown to the dufuses we were bein’) danger and collapse, we *actually* followed the advice of someone online who suggested putting coins in the top lip where the liner goes into that plastic rail (name unknown, sorry) that pinches/bites the finished-vinyl top line to hold it all into place (other than the water pressure, itself). Oh yes, we had plenty of coins around, but took the extra time to find pennies! I’d say it’s to keep the copper ‘look’ uniform all around the pool, but you know better than that, since I didn’t even splurge on DUCK tape, doh!!

    HOWEVER, I’m 100% certain our refill would have failed, had we skipped the coin-addition along that frame and vinyl top.

    We watched the pool fill for the first few hours, and walked the edges, and plunger-ed the wrinkles out as the need arose. BOY did our liner stretch! After we got 3″ of depth in the shallow end, our MIGHTY Craftsman sucker was able to relax its lips after a fantastically-well-done job, and we continued filling the pool, praying, and checking that the liner top was indeed staying in-tact, approx. every hour.

    Well, our pool is full to the level we like on our skimmer (of 67% tap water) and will be warming tomorrow in the heat of the day, under a thermal blanket, as we balance chemicals and await our first chance to test out its ability to perform as normal.

    I’ll never empty my pool again, until it’s time to replace my liner in due time…and I’ll TACKLE anyone who tells me they are certain they need to drain their’s for any other reason. 🙂

    If you are in the same plight, I wish you the very best. Be safe, give it a shot, and if your liner still has enough elasticity in it, and you prolly need warm enough weather as an aide, I think you can do it too…just be sure to use the coins, pennies-only.


  44. James says:

    oops, it doesn’t look like I can edit my post…I meant: 67 DEGREE tap water, not 67 percent as typed. Sorry. 🙂
    And to clarify, if it wasn’t assumed already, we have an IN-GROUND pool, & we ran our shop-vac CONTINUOUSLY during our hours of refill, until the water level was 3″ deep in the shallow end. (I’d suggest the biggest guage of extension cord you have, I used a 10ga one, which did well, but the power cord of our Craftsman shop-vac got VERY warm during process, and I did what I could to keep the actual machine shaded. Running a vac for that long on a cheap cord might be a bad idea, if not a fire hazard as well.) 🙂

  45. Johnny says:

    James, I really enjoyed reading your story. Professionals commonly drain and clean newer vinyl liner pools, however, this requires a lot of skill and patience and still comes with a lot of risk. As for your penny technique, this is the old-school way to lock a liner in, now most professionals use liner wedge bead lock. I do agree that the penny technique certainly does cost less though! We plan to go into more detail about this issue next week. I look forward to reading more of your comments in the future!

  46. James says:

    thanx for the reply Johnny. Since you certainly know more than me, I would love to ask you:

    Now that my pool is full, etc…is it ever safe (or when) to remove the pennies currently jammed inside the ‘liner wedge bead’, or should they remain there as safest long-term holding until I next need to replace the liner? I’m guessing the full-pool’s water weight will hold it all in place regardless of the pennies now, but know our liner (prior to the drain/refill) popped in small areas from time to time, needing tucked back in…and perhaps it’s much more ‘dangerous’ now due to the much-tighter stretching of my vinyl than original install. 🙂

    I don’t ask because I need my pennies back, lol…..but moreso if I should put them right back in if ever seeing any/some pop out during normal pool use in the future.

    Appreciate it!

  47. Johnny says:

    James, I would keep the pennies in place since you had issues before. Normally, after the pool is full, you should be able to remove the pennies assuming the liner is fitting well. The main area of concern is the corners and how tight they are. If you are broke one day, I would try to refrain from using them. LOL

  48. Rae says:

    I want to give some helpful hints. I decided it was time to drain my above ground pool for the second time. My kids and their friends loved it the first time we had the pool and had a great time jumping around and doing what kids do (preferring not to go to the public pool on some days).

    The second time I installed My son and his friends occasionally used our pool (now adults decided they should have a pool party with their friends Airforce, Marines, Army, PSP)

    My suggestion to you is never buy an above ground pool as part of a sales agreement. I just put a slow leak in the liner and frame so it will be easier for and my kids to take to the landfill. Plus we are watering the flowers on the lot below.

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