How To Maintain A Swimming Pool Part 1 (Chemicals)

Part 1. This guide will familiarize you with the basic chemicals needed to maintain your swimming pool. Swimming pool maintenance can seem like a daunting task but it's quite simple. Once you've educated yourself on the basics, you'll be able to maintain a crystal clear pool in no time. 

1. Chlorine- This is your primary sanitizer. It is stabilized and comes in either a tablet (1" or 3" tablet) or granular form. One dose will usually last anywhere from 3-7 days. It will kill algae and bacteria. For a chlorinated pool the chlorine level must be 3-5 ppm (parts per million. There are 2 chlorine levels that you will need to pay attention to, free chlorine and combined chlorine. Free chlorine is the chlorine that is in the water doing it's job and combined chlorine which is chlorine that has combined with contaminants rendering it useless as a sanitizer. The sum of these two is the total chlorine.

2. Bromine- Bromine is an alternative to chlorine. Bromine also comes in tablet (1" tablet) and granular form. Bromine is more stable than chlorine at higher (hotter) water temperatures. This is why bromine is primarily used in spas. Bromine has two downsides. The first is that it is expensive. The second is that it is burnt off easily by sunlight. Cyanuric acid will not help protect the bromine therefore you use more of the product than you would chlorine. Use of bromine as a sanitizer limits you to using a non- chlorine shock. Bromine needs to be maintained within 2-4 ppm.

3. pH- This is a measure of the water's total acid-alkalinity balance. The lower the pH, the higher the acid level. The pH level in a pool needs to be maintained anywhere from 7.2-7.8. If the pH is too low, it will corrode metal equipment, cause etching on the surface materials and cause skin irritation. If the pH is too high, it can cause scaling on the pool surface and plumbing equipment and can cloud the water.

4. Shock- This is another type of chlorine. It is unstabilzed and will stay in the water only for a day or so. The pool needs to be shocked at least once a week. Adding a shock treatment will usually spike the chlorine level to 10 ppm. You will want to wait at least 12-24 hours before swimming can be resumed. Pool shock can either be liquid or a granular based product. Shock is also available in a non-chlorine for. This type of shock is an oxidizing shock and can be used as a "shock and swim" meaning you can swim 15 minutes after adding the shock to the pool.

5. Alkalinity- Also referred to as total alkalinity is a measure of alkaline in the water. While alkalinity can affect the pH level, the two are not the same and are adjusted by two totally different chemicals. When the alkalinity is within range, it will help prevent the pH from bouncing in and out of range. Alkalinity needs to be within 80-120 ppm. Low alkalinity can cause skin and eye irritation, green water, etched or stained pool walls and floor. High alkalinity can cause cloudy water and causes the chlorine to lose efficiency as a sanitizer.

6. Calcium hardness- Pool water requires a certain amount of calcium. If the level of calcium is too low, the water is considered soft. Soft water is corrosive and it will dissolve calcium and other minerals from plaster pool surfaces and metal equipment (heaters, pumps, salt cells etc). If the calcium level is too high, the water is considered hard water. Hard water can cause scale on pool surfaces and equipment, particularly heat exchanging surfaces. The calcium hardness should be maintained between 200 and 400 ppm.

7. Cyanuric Acid (CYA) also known as conditioner- Simply put this is "sunscreen for your chlorine" because chlorine is very susceptible to the sun's ultraviolet rays. Slow dissolve chlorine tablets and granular chlorine contains cyanuric acid but there will be times when you will need to manually add the cyanuric acid to the water. The ideal range for cyanuric acid is anywhere between 30-80 ppm. Cyanuric acid (conditioner) comes in either a liquid or granular form.

8. Metal remover- Tap and well water contain traces of iron and copper. Copper-based algaecides and improper water chemistry can add to this (corrosion of heat exchanger). The result can be either green (copper), brown (iron) or a purple/black color (manganese). Metals in the water, mixed with chlorine can cause green hair. A metal remover deactivates and removes trace metals from the pool water or water.

9. Algaecides- The main cause of algae in a swimming pool is improper sanitizer (chlorine) levels combined with hospitable conditions that allow algae to thrive. Algae is a plant and needs food, water and light to grow. An algaecide will help prevent algae, it will not kill algae.

If you have any other questions about pool and spa products please do let us know - we are here to help! 

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