Whether you are new to pool ownership or are just looking for a refresher course, balancing your pool chemistry doesn’t have to be a daunting task. The key to a clean and clear swimming pool is to ensure your pool water is both balanced and sanitized.
Check out our quick guide, followed by a more detailed chemistry lesson on pool water balance and sanitation.
- Total Alkalinity:
- 80 – 150 ppm (concrete and gunite pools)
- 100 – 150 ppm (painted, vinyl & fiberglass pools)
- pH: 7.4 – 7.6
- Calcium Hardness:
- 175 – 225 ppm
- 225 – 275 ppm (plaster pools)
- Chlorine: 1.0 – 3.0 ppm
- Cyanuric Acid:
- 25 – 50 ppm
- 50 – 80 ppm (pools using salt water Chlorine generators)
- Total Dissolved Solids: 500 – 5000 ppm
Total Alkalinity (TA)
Total alkalinity refers to the quantity of alkaline material in the water (bicarbonates, carbonates and hydroxides). Ideally your swimming pool should maintain proper total alkalinity levels between 100-150 parts per million.
“Alkalinity is a pH buffer, meaning it helps to keep the pH from drastically moving up and down the pH scale by absorbing major changes to the waters before affecting the pH.” – Swim University
Adjusting your pool’s alkalinity is the first step. Alkalinity is defined as the ability of the water to resist changes in pH. It acts as a buffer to pH and makes it more stable.
Add an alkalinity increaser if your TA is too low. Add sodium bisulfate to decrease alkalinity if your TA is too high.
The pH refers to the relative acidity of the water. Maintaining water at a pH between 7.4 and 7.6 (a little above neutral on the pH scale) is key to balancing your pool water. This pH range is most suitable for swimming because it is less irritable to the eyes and generally more comfortable for swimmers. Chlorine is also most effective in this range. If your pH is too high or too low, the chlorine isn’t able to do it’s job.
Precipitation, swimmers, and pool debris can all change your pool’s pH. Low pH means your water is acidic. High pH means your water is basic. Keep your pH balanced to avoid equipment and structural damage.
The biggest change to pH comes from products used for sanitation, like chlorine tabs. Chlorine tabs have a very low pH, often requiring you to add a pH increaser. Pools using a salt water chlorine generator (SWCG) often have a higher pH level. For this reason, you will need to add more pH decreaser or muriatic acid to a SWCG pool than you would in a traditional chlorine pool.
It is wise to keep both a bottle of pH Increaser (sodium carbonate) and pH decreaser (sodium bisulfate) on hand to deal with pH fluctuations that can frequently occur.
3. Calcium Hardness
Calcium hardness may not technically be part of balancing your water, but without paying attention to dissolved calcium levels, your water will pursue other avenues to find it. The proper calcium hardness level is between 175 – 225 ppm or 225 – 275 ppm for plaster pools.
Monitor the calcium levels in your pool to avoid damage to your pool walls and equipment. Protect your pool by adding calcium hardness to your water. Measure carefully, as too much calcium can lead to scaling (calcium carbonate depositing itself on surfaces) among other problems.
Use calcium chloride to raise the calcium hardness of your pool water. If you are experiencing high calcium hardness levels, the only remedy is to drain at least some of your pool water to dilute it with fresh water.
Cyanuric Acid (CYA)
Cyanuric acid (CYA) is a water stabilizer and should be in the range of 25-50 ppm or 50–80 ppm for salt pools. Cyanuric acid is sold as either a pool stabilizer or pool conditioner and helps prevent destruction of chlorine from the sun’s UV rays. It is especially important to add cyanuric acid if you are starting with fresh water and need a stabilizer base. Chlorine tabs already contain cyanuric acid, so CYA is replenished if you’re using tabs. With a salt water chlorine generator however, CYA will need to be added separately.
Sanitation is imperative to disinfecting your pool water to prevent disease spreading organisms, as well as bacteria and algae growth. Environmental pollution from humans, animals, cosmetics, leaves, pollen, dirt and other debris are constantly affecting your pool water. When it comes to pool sanitation, chlorine is the most commonly used ingredient.
Chlorine is used as a water sanitizer. It works by disinfecting your water to rid it of any bacteria, algae, ammonia, and other contaminates. Your chlorine levels should ideally stay between 1.0 – 3.0 ppm.
Add Chlorine to your water with tablets or use a powdered or granular chlorine (we prefer tablets for ease of use). Tabs can be added to a chlorinator, floating dispenser, or skimmer basket(s) in your pool.
When you purchase chlorine, ensure you specifically seek out Trichloro or Dichloro as the active component. These variants of chlorine are considered stabilized products. The chlorine content is susceptible to degradation by UV rays from the sun, but with stabilization, this process is significantly decelerated.
Alternatives to Chlorine
Bromine, biguanide and the minerals silver and copper are sanitizer alternatives to chlorine. While they each have their pros and cons, chlorine remains the most popular and least expensive option. Using a mineral solution still requires small amounts of chlorine for complete sanitation. Contrary to popular belief, a SWCG creates chlorine. People often assume a salt water pool is better because it doesn’t use chlorine, but this is a misconception!
Super chlorination or “shocking” is also vital to maintaining a clean and healthy pool. When you shock your pool, you are essentially adding 3x the normal amount of chlorine you would regularly add. A shock treatment will burn organic materials out of the water and allow the sanitizer to work properly.
Shock your chlorine pool when any of the following occur:
- Your pool is cloudy.
- There is pool algae present.
- The water temperature exceeds 84 degrees.
- Your chlorine level is lower than 3 ppm.
When you have added all the necessary chemicals to your pool, let your pool pump run so your chemicals can circulate throughout. Balancing your pool water may seem tricky at first, but it will get easier with practice and patience.
Stop by our Retail Store for all of your pool chemicals needs and bring a sample of your pool water to receive a professional water test!