Keeping Swimming Pool Chemistry Simple

Water balance is an important part of your pool maintenance to prevent damage to equipment and allow the chemical products to work efficiently. Your water should be tested regularly and adjusted to meet the proper required levels. Your water’s balance is constantly changing and everything from weather to oils, to dirt and cosmetics affect it. No matter which form of sanitization you use, you need to test your water 2-3 times a week, or any time you notice a change in water quality get your test kit out or bring it up to your local pool store.
If you test yourself and are using a liquid reagent test kit make sure you are taking a proper sample up to the fill line on the container. Add drops holding the dropper bottle vertically (straight up and down) as holding at an angle may distort the drop size and lead to inaccurate results, and always wash out the container after each test. If you are using the test strip method immerse strip and swirl 3 times in a one foot circle and then raise strip from water face up and keep level to avoid reactant on strip pads from running. Don't shake off excess water. Compare your results starting with the end pad starting with the free chlorine and end with the total hardness pad, this allows for the correct reaction time for the different pads.

Recommended Levels are as follows: Min Ideal Max

Free Chlorine (ppm) 1.0 1.0-3.0 5.0
PH 7.2 7.4-7.6 7.8
Total Alkaline 60 80-120 180
Calcium Hardness 150 200-300 400
Cyanuric Acid 10 30-50 100

Gunite Pools maximum alkalinity should only be 120

It is key to know your pools volume in gallons prior to adding chemicals. When adding any chemical if unsure add in small increments it is better to add a little and retest than to add too much. It is also key to have proper expectations, if your pool looks like a swamp there is no chemical to make it clean and clear in an hour, you must be able to allow your water to filter and it may take 24-48 hours before you see results depending on the filter size and amount of time you run your filter. For example a sand filter usually takes longer than a DE filter because a DE filter can pick up particles 2-5 microns in size where a sand is 50-100 microns.
The most common areas to pay attention to in water chemistry to initially balance your pool water are Chlorination, Alkaline and PH. Low Alkalinity makes it hard to control the PH level, which can lead to corrosive water and may damage equipment especially heaters!! Both high and low alkalinity can cause cloudy water and make it difficult to balance the rest of your pool.
Low Chlorine levels can easily cause cloudiness as well, there are two types of chlorine free and total. I usually explain the free as what is available to work but is sitting on its laurels so to speak. Shocking the pool will usually get these to work fast and clear up the cloudiness should everything else show balanced. I always suggest using liquid chlorine shock over a powder, because there is no residue sitting on your liner, just walk around the pool perimeter and put the gallon in. This is in addition to what you are using as your regular chlorination program be it trichlor, dichlor (powder), salt, etc. Different kinds of chlorine can lower or raise your PH levels so try to test water regularly; for example super shock can raise PH levels while Trichlor can lower PH (tricky isn't it) but put simply if your pool is cloudy check for Chlorine, PH and Alkaline levels first, bet you one or two are off and need rebalancing.
*Add chemicals according to the label and one at time, never mix together.

Here are some trouble shooting issues you may come across:

Can't keep chlorine in pool- make sure water is balanced, add Stabilizer (Cyanuric Acid Level Low) this helps sunlight from drawing chlorine from pool

Pool has green particles on bottom or algae-there are several forms of algae, green, mustard, black and coral just to name a few with green the easiest to treat with an algaecide, black and mustard algae's are somewhat resistant to chlorine so get an algaecide specific to the kind you have and with black you may never really get rid of it but you may be able to keep it faded with higher chlorine levels and treatments of a black algaecide.

Rusty reddish yellow stains- may be metals in your water. If you fill your pool with well water or had a ton of leaves deteriorate in the bottom of the pool over the winter you may have some metals in your water, use a metal remover. Iron- usually brownish red, Copper- blue green (can also be a sign of a bad heat exchanger), Manganese- pink red black or brownish black stain.

If you have done everything chemically to fix a water problem with minimal results then the issue may lie with your filtration system here are some helpful hints based on filter type:

Sand Filter-If you find that filter pressure is not building up check your sand, replace if more than three years old or the particles may be too small where the sand may need help picking them up.

DE Filter-Backwash if pressure is too high, you will notice as there will be no or little flow of water back into the pool so backwash and recharge with new earth.

Cartridge Filters-Take out the cartridge and clean it well. Especially if you had a bad algae bloom.

Above-Ground pools-The skimmer is the only way water is getting into the filter. If the top foot of water in your pool is clear but the rest is cloudy or milky you may have poor circulation, try pointing your return eyeball down to get water moving at a lower level. You can also attach your vacuum and put it at the bottom of the pool with vac head tilted on its side. You can at this time try a clarifier.

Vinyl in-ground-if you are cloudy only in the deeper end of the pool again circulation may be the issue and you should point your returns downward to get the water moving or try the vacuum head tilted on the side drawing the water up and circulating through the filter system. You can also try to get your returns to form a whirlpool effect to increase circulation.


1.Keep out children and pets reach
2.Never mix chemical together. Add separately and slowly. Never add water to chemicals, add chemicals to water.
3. Don’t smoke around chemicals
4. Store products in a cool, dry well ventilated area.
5. Don’t inhale fumes or let chemicals come into contact with eyes, nose or mouth.
In case of contact or swallowed, follow emergency advice on product label and call local poison control center and doctor.
6.Keep chemical containers closed when not in use.
7. Never tamper with labels or switch chemical out of its original container.
8. Use exact quantities specified, not more. Chemicals need to circulate for hours before retesting water.
9. Less is more don’t stock up on chemicals. Shelf life is important so dispose of according to hazardous waste disposal rules of your community.
10. If a spill occurs follow clean up instructions per label or call local emergency # keep spilled item isolated.

I hope this helps a little in your swimming pool endeavors. Try not to add too much chemical to your pool as this is not environmentally friendly and evenutally adds up to Total Dissolved Solids which I didn't even cover here (TDS) just remember you are swimming in this pool.
If in doubt bring a sample to a pool store where they don't push a bunch of chemical on you but sell you what you need.
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