Not to get all guru on you, but everything—at least when it comes to your pool—is about balance. You probably know by now that when one part of your greater circulation system is off, whether that be your pump, your filter, your plumbing, or your jets, then every other part can be affected, too. But the same applies to the chemicals in your actual water: they all work together to keep your pool sparkling clean. Overlook one, and you can find yourself in hot water, and with costly repairs to boot.
Thankfully, it doesn’t take a chemistry whiz to get it just right. I’ll explain which chemicals you need, what exactly they do, and how to make sure your levels are exactly where they need to be. No white jacket necessary.
Why Chemical Balance Matters
It’s been a longtime dream of pool owners that their water could just naturally repel algae, bacteria, and other seriously gross contaminants. Unfortunately, it’s still a dream. In fact, untreated water is the perfect breeding ground for just that: microorganisms that could potentially even make you sick love to live in natural water. And when they’re living in happy conditions, they multiply fast.
Like most of the steps in your DIY pool maintenance schedule, checking your chemical balance every week is a preventative measure—it’ll save you big time in the long run. Because untreated pool water left for even a short amount of time can lead to a bacteria and algae infestation, do damage to your actual pool, and require a ton of remediation later. Better to do your future self a big favor and avoid that hurdle completely, right?
Wait, There’s More Than Just Chlorine?
Chlorine is a household name, and for good reason. It’s super available, inexpensive, effective, and overall an incredible resource to have, though it has some drawbacks which saltwater pools almost completely eliminate. You can thank chlorine for neutralizing all that gross and potentially dangerous bacteria, not to mention organic contaminants swimmers leave behind like hair, skin cells, sunscreen, and soap—and so much more that I probably don’t need to mention (bugs, anyone?). But your sanitizer doesn’t work in a vacuum, or a robotic cleaner. And in order to keep it sanitizing well, you’ll need to help some other chemicals step up to the plate.
Everything You Should Have in Your Kit
Any prepared pool owner—that’s you, now—has the following chemicals on hand:
· pH increaser
· pH decreaser
· Alkalinity increaser
· Calcium harness increaser
Plus, you might want to use the following, though I don’t really recommend these unless, you know, you really need them:
· Algaecide, if you have a history of algae. Proper sanitization should do the job.
· Clarifier and Flocculant, which will de-cloud your pool. But a cloudy pool is an indicator that something in your circulation system is seriously wrong, so I’d advise getting to the bottom of that instead.
· Metal sequestrant, which will get rid of rust-colored or green pool stains. Cleaning your pool often should prevent these stains from forming.
Are you ready to make the switch over to saltwater, so that your chlorine is operating at the lowest, safest, and most consistent levels possible? Make a smooth transition with the Salt Ways Eco Friendly Salt Chlorine Generator. It’s ultra-reliable and comes with a lifetime warranty.
Getting the Perfect Levels
Don’t worry, I wasn’t going to leave you there. Now that you know which chemicals to keep in your arsenal, I’ll explain how to get the right levels for each. Plus, I’ll make sure you know exactly what each chemical does—that way, if things do go awry, you’ll know exactly which needs adjusting. Now that’s what I call know how.
This is the killer oxidizer we can’t do without—unless you opt for one of its less common substitutes, like bromine, biguanide, or minerals. In which case, good for you. I’ll stick with the standard option. If it’s not broken, why fix it?
Chances are you already know how to properly chlorinate your pool, so you know that the ideal chlorine level is 3 parts per million (ppm). If your chlorine levels drop below this number for long enough, don’t be surprised when your pool slowly turns into a green pond. If you have more than 3 ppm of chlorine in your pool, you can expect swimmers’ eyes, skin, and throats to get red and irritated. I’ll tell you now: adding too much chlorine is not going to kill bacteria better. It’ll just be a pain.
Whatever you do: if you have an outdoor pool, make sure your chlorine is stabilized. This means it have cyanuric acid, which protects chlorine from breaking down in the sun. Not sure your chlorine is stabilized or not? Check the active ingredient. If it’s Trichloro-S-Triazinetrione or Trichlor, it’s stabilized.
And here’s some news that sounds worse than it is: eventually, your cyanuric acid will build up, and you’ll need to drain a bit from your pool water. This is totally normal, and if you stay on top of it, you’ll never have to drain your entire pool in the middle of pool season. That’s an outcome neither of us wants.
I know, I said you didn’t have to be a chemistry whiz to do this, so I’ll keep this brief: pH is a measurement of how acidic or basic a substance is. The scale covers 0-14, and anything below 7 is acidic, while anything above 7 is basic.
The ideal level of pH for pool water is almost just in the middle: 7.4 to 7.6. These levels help chlorine work at its full capacity. But that’s not all: keep in mind that human eyes and mucus membranes have a pH of 7.4. So not only does your pH keep your pool water clean, but it also keeps it as comfortable as possible, too. And there’s nothing basic about that.
Remember, all these chemicals are useless unless your water is circulating properly. For a pump you can trust, try the 1.5 HP Variable Speed Blue Torrent Thunder In-Ground Swimming Pool Pump—it pays itself off in under a year, is eligible for rebates, and also comes with a lifetime warranty. As customer Eric D says, “Day one, I fired this pump up and it ran clean and fast.”
This is where the idea of balance really starts to set in. We’ve established that proper pH levels help chlorine do its job. But pH wouldn’t work without this nifty chemical: alkaline. To keep pH from being too influenced by external factors, alkaline steps in to take the heat.
You might’ve noticed that I listed an alkaline increaser and not an alkaline decreaser in the chemicals you should have in your kit. This is because an alkaline decreaser doesn’t exist—in face, it doesn’t have to. When you use a pH decreaser, your alkalinity levels will also drop. Expecting a vicious cycle ahead? Don’t worry—a pH increaser won’t increase alkalinity in the same way.
The ideal alkalinity level is 125 ppm, but you can be anywhere between 100 ppm to 150 ppm safely. Just make sure you adjust alkalinity first, and then pH. This line of command will make sure alkalinity is ready to protect pH from the get go.
You probably know about hard water, especially if you’re used to dealing with white spots on your glass dishes. Calcium hardness is the measurement of how hard or soft your water is, which depends on where you live and where your water comes from.
The ideal level of calcium hardness is 175 to 225 ppm, and 200 to 275 ppm for concrete and plaster pools. If the calcium is too low, you’ll want to add a calcium hardness increaser to prevent scaling and corrosion of your pool walls, pump, pool filter, and other equipment. If it’s too high, which can happen when your pH is too high, you can end up with some seriously cloudy water. When this happens, this next step is even more important—and it just might surprise you.
For this next step, I recommend tried and true shock like the Super Premium Sanitizing and Fast-Acting Pool Shock. Not only does it work fast in your water, but its conveniently packaged in one-pound bags, so you never have to worry about measuring yours out again.
This is One Shocking Finish!
Pool shock is an all-in-one reset for your pool. Technically a high dose of chlorine, it’ll blast away the noxious (and obnoxious) organisms that chlorine leaves behind, which are called chloramines. It’s also a quick remedy for pool algae and other, um, bodily functions that I won’t go into. You should shock your pool at least once a week—but make sure that you do it at dusk or night, and run your pool for eight hours afterward to make sure the job is done right.
Now Put Your Work To The Test
Pool test strips are your new best friend: they’re super inexpensive, work fast, and will tell you everything you need to know. You’ll want to use them every week to make sure you’re on the right track. And though it might not seem like it at first, this little effort will keep a major peace of mind.
It’s all about balance, remember? You just put in some serious work, so it’s time for some serious play. Enjoy.