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Pool Balancing Chemicals What are pool balancers? Do I need pool balancers? How much of each balancer should I use? How do you balance pool water?

Pool Balancing Chemicals

Swimming pools don’t stay sparkling clear and gorgeous on their own. Pools require a careful care and maintenance routine to keep water safe for swimmers and beautiful in appearance. Achieving a chemical balance in your pool is key to enjoying its refreshing water.

You don’t have to be a chemistry expert to keep pool chemicals balanced. You simply need to know a few things about chemicals that are useful in pools. We’re here to give you a head start on mastering the art of balance—pool chemical balance, that is.

We’ll answer the following questions common questions about pool water balancers:

  • What are pool balancers?
  • Do I need pool balancers?
  • How much of each balancer should I use?
  • How do you balance pool water?

After reading this guide and talking with your local pool professional, you’ll be ready to keep your pool clean and balanced, all year long.

swimming pool with fence

What are pool balancers?

Water balancers keep all the chemical levels of your pool in line. In addition to sanitizers like chlorine and bromine, other pool chemicals impact your pool environment. These pool water balancers fall into several categories:

Alkalizers: If pH or total alkalinity is too low, chlorine can rapidly deplete. Low pH can corrode pool equipment and surfaces as well as irritate skin. Therefore, you can balance low pH or total alkalinity with alkalizers like baking soda or soda ash.

Acids: If pH or total alkalinity is too high, chlorine will not work efficiently. High pH water can also be cloudy. To lower pH and total alkalinity, use acids like muriatic acid or dry acid (sodium bisulfate). Acids can cause serious damage to skin and eyes, so handle these chemicals with caution.

Conditioners: When you use unstabilized chlorine in an outdoor pool, the sun’s rays can deactivate the chlorine. But there’s a simple fix—add a chlorine conditioner like cyanuric acid. Stabilized chlorine already has a base pool conditioner added.

Calcium Hardness Increasers: If your calcium hardness level is too low, known as soft water, it can corrode pool surfaces. Increase calcium hardness levels with calcium chloride, but don’t add too much because calcium levels can be hard to reduce.

Put Your Pool Water to the Test

It’s a good idea to test your pool water before (and after!) you add balancers -- or any other chemicals, for that matter. A good test kit will tell you if your pool is balanced, and it will also tell you if your chemical treatments are working effectively. Most pool supply stores sell easy-to-use strips that make testing quick and easy.

Do I need pool balancers?

If you want a clean and clear pool that is safe for swimming, then you need pool balancers. Skipping out on these important chemicals means that your pool will go where nature takes it. If you’ve visited an untreated pond recently, you know that leaving your pool au natural will likely result in murky water, bright algae blooms, and wildlife inhabitants like frogs.

To avoid this pool-turned-pond scenario, keep your chemistry in check. Regularly test your pool water and add chemicals to correct any errant pool chemistry results. Balancing pool chemicals takes some work but having a clean and safe place for your family to splash is worth it.

swimming pool with list-group-item-action

Chlorine v. Chloride: A Letter Makes a Big Difference

What is the difference between chlorine and chloride? Are they the same thing or do you need both to balance a pool? Understanding the difference between chlorine and chloride requires a bit of a dive into chemistry. Chloride ions have one extra electron compared to chlorine. Also, chlorine exists on its own while chloride must combine with another element. For pool use, chloride combines with calcium in calcium chloride, used for hardening water. And chloride combines with sodium for sodium chloride, or salt, used in saltwater chlorine generators.

How much of each balancer should I use?

It can feel complicated trying to keep up with the different chemical levels needed for clean pool water. Here’s a chart that boils it down to the basics, giving you the description, use, and desired range of common pool chemicals.

Know the Lingo: Parts Per Million

Parts per million – often abbreviated as PPM – is a unit of measurement that tells you how much of a particular substance – such as a chemical or mineral -- is present in water.

This is an element in the form of solid calcium hypochlorite tablets or granules or liquid sodium hypochlorite.

Why You Need It
  • Keeps water clean
  • Destroys harmful bacteria
  • Keeps water safe for swimming
  • Keeps algae away
Desired Range

3ppm

Tips for using:

Add chlorine granules directly into your pool water or use chlorine tablets in a floating dispenser, skimmer basket, or automatic chlorinator.

Bromine is another heat-resistant sanitizing element that kills contaminants in pool water.

Why You Need It
  • Keeps water clean
  • Breaks apart harmful bacteria
  • Remains active longer than chlorine
  • Works better in hot water
Desired Range

5ppm

Tips for using:

To reactivate bromamides that can reduce sanitizing ability, shock your pool regularly. If you use bromine tablets, they contain some chlorine as well.

Sodium carbonate (Na2CO3) is a chemical content with an alkaline pH of 11.3-11.7.

Why You Need It
  • Raises pool pH
  • Raises total alkalinity
  • Less expensive to use than baking soda
Desired Range

Add 1 pound per 10,000 gallons of water

Tips for using:

Don’t add too much soda ash or your pool water might become cloudy.

Sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO₃) is a chemical compound with a mildly alkaline pH.

Why You Need It
  • Raises total alkalinity
  • Raises pH slightly
Desired Range

Add 1.5 pounds baking soda per 10,000 gallons of water

Tips for using:

Baking soda is good at raising a pool’s pH and total alkalinity, but it also comes in handy as an abrasive cleaning agent useful to scrub pool tiles and grout.

Muriatic or hydrochloric acid is a liquid chemical used to balance total alkalinity and pH of pool water.

Why You Need It
  • Lowers total alkalinity
  • Lowers pH
Desired Range

Use 1 quart per 15,000 gallons of water

Tips for using:

This strong acid requires careful handling with protective gloves and goggles. Keep this acid away from fiberglass or vinyl-lined pools.

This chemical compound is a solid salt at room temperature but dissolves easily in water.

Why You Need It
  • Increases calcium hardness levels
  • Prevents pool water from corroding surfaces
Desired Range

200 ppm-400 ppm

Tips for using:

Don’t add too much calcium chloride because it can be difficult to adjust pool water calcium levels down.

Cyanuric acid helps protect chlorine from becoming deactivated in outdoor pools.

Why You Need It
  • Keeps chlorine active
  • Protects pool chemicals from UV rays
Desired Range

50 ppm

Tips for using:

Add cyanuric acid if you use unstabilized chlorine. Stabilized chlorine already has the conditioner added to its formula.

How do you balance pool water?

Before you begin balancing pool water, you need to understand where your water chemistry stands. For that, you can test your pool water with a liquid or test strip kit, or you can bring a water sample to a pool store for professional testing.

Once you determine what chemical levels are out of range, you’ll know what you need to add to balance the water. Add needed chemicals in this order:

First, raise total alkalinity with baking soda or soda ash. If you need to raise pH too, then soda ash will accomplish both goals. To lower total alkalinity and pH, add muriatic acid. Total alkalinity acts as an umbrella, protecting all other pool chemical measurements. Having total alkalinity and pH in line will help the other pool chemicals work better.

Next, adjust your calcium hardness level by adding calcium chloride if needed. If your calcium hardness level is too high, it’s a more difficult fix. You’ll need to remove some water and add fresh water, using a filter if your tap water calcium content is high.

Finally, add your sanitizers, most likely chlorine or bromine. You might add these directly to pool water or to a floating dispenser or feeder. If you use unstabilized chlorine, add cyanuric acid as well.

If you have specific pool problems, you can address those with additional chemicals. Add algaecide to prevent algae growth. Add stain and scale formulas to prevent metal staining or mineral scaling on pool surfaces.

After this simple routine, your pool should be clean and sparkling in no time. Regularly test pool water and add additional chemicals to keep your water clean and clear. Also, remember to vacuum and remove leaves and other debris. These steps improve pool chemistry and help sanitizers work better. Don’t forget to reward yourself with a luxurious soak once you’ve achieved beautiful, well-balanced pool water.

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