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What to Know About Pool Chemicals

We will be the first ones to admit that pool supply stores can be a bit intimidating. They typically smell strongly of chlorine and are lined with shelves and walls of various tubs and bottles of every possible chemical available on the planet and you likely have no idea what they all do. To start with, it is important to understand the various chemical levels that you must maintain and what effect chemicals and other additives have on that process. In order to help you through the impending fog of confusion, here are some of the beginning basics of pool chemicals and how they relate to your pool water.

Free Chlorine

To put it simply, this is related to the stuff that sanitizes your water and actually represents both the available and reserve chlorine in your water at a given time. When free chlorine levels get too low, you begin to get cloudy water and are susceptible to the development of algae. Free chlorine levels are maintained by adding some kind of sanitizing product (powder or liquid chlorine, salt water generators, household bleach) to your pool each day, usually through some sort of automatic feeder. The reason being is that free chlorine is constantly eaten up by various factors including sunlight and through the neutralization of bacteria and other organic material in the pool.


These are the levels that describe either the relative acidity or basic nature of your pool water. A pH range of 7.2-7.8 is ideal with levels lower than that having the potential to cause serious irritation to the eyes and skin. Lowering pH can be done using a treatment of muriatic acid and raising it is as simple as adding some borax or soda ash.

Total Alkalinity

This is another pH related chemical level but it has more to do with your pool water’s ability to maintain an even and consistent pH level without the addition of large amounts of chemicals. When total alkalinity levels are too low, pH tends to make large swings in its level and is very difficult to stabilize. In order to raise total alkalinity, another simple household item, baking soda, can be added to the pool water.

Cyanuric Acid

Cyanuric acid is a chemical additive that helps protect free chlorine from the evaporative effect of sunlight. It is critical to know what your cyanuric acid level is because while it serves a helpful purpose, it also decreases the effectiveness of the free chlorine meaning, the higher the cyanuric acid level, the more chlorine you need. In the pool supply store, cyanuric acid is typically sold in a solid or liquid form as stabilizer or conditioner.

If you still feel your eyes glazing over, go ahead and give us a call and let us come out for a chemical service consultation.