pool-chemicals

How To Use Pool Chemicals: Your Complete Guide

Welcome to your handy one-stop swimming pool chemicals guide!

Adding the right pool chemicals can be a tricky business, because it’s not as easy as throwing in a bit of this and a bit of that when you feel. Instead, it involves a little research, a lot of observation, a regular routine, and above all, safety.

So slip on your gloves and lower your safety glasses, because we’re about to get started.

In this article:

  • Why pool chemicals are important
    • Are pool chemicals harmful?
  • Necessary swimming pool chemicals:
    • Balancers
    • Sanitizers
    • Oxidizers
  • Additional chemicals for proper pool care:
    • Clarifiers or flocculants
    • Chlorine stabilizers
    • Stain removers
    • Algaecide
  • Using pool chemicals to clean a filtration system
  • Breakdown

Before we start, we should probably check whether you’d prefer to automate this whole process. If you’d like to save yourself some reading (and chemical balancing) time, check out the SplashMe pool automation system, which allows you to keep some of your chemicals balanced from your smartphone. 

Technology: making our lives easier every day.

More of a manual, DIY person? We got you. Let’s dive in.

Why Pool Chemicals Are Important

Chemicals can go on without a swimming pool, a pool cannot go on without the chemicals.

There are various issues that can begin to happen if you don’t add pool cleaning chemicals to your water. Some of these issues result in an aesthetically unappealing pool, but others can cause serious health problems.

Here are just some of the issues you can avoid with the use of pool chemicals:

  1. Build up of bacteria, algae, and pathogens.
  2. Skin and eye irritations.
  3. Corrosion and cracking.
  4. Staining.

As a pool owner, avoiding these types of problems should come at the top of your list, but not everything goes to plan all of the time.

There are also additional, but not as necessary, chemicals you can include in your pool supplies that’ll help to keep your pool in tip top shape.

Hold your horses, we’ll be getting to pool chemicals shortly. Let’s talk a bit about safety first.

Are pool chemicals harmful?

Pool chemicals can be harmful to you and your surroundings if not handled correctly.

Undiluted chemicals can be detrimental if consumed, breathed in, or if there is any contact with your eyes or skin. But the harmfulness of a chemical is significantly reduced when the correct chemical to water ratio is mixed into your pool.

Most chemicals are added directly into your pool and distributed via your filtration system; others may need to be diluted in water beforehand; but either way, always wear your safety gear.

You safety gear kit should include:
  • Safety glasses
  • Rubber gloves
  • Face mask
  • Covered shoes
  • Old clothing

If you’re using a chemical that needs to be diluted before being added into your pool, here are a few tips to reduce harmful accidents:

  • Position your mixing station at the side of the pool.
  • Add chemicals to water, never the other way around.
  • Never pour chemicals close to the skimmer.
  • Always add chemicals into your pool while the filtration system is running.

Along with these safety measures, and before ripping into a bag of chemicals, prevent harm by always reading the manufacturer’s instructions and as we’ll explain, following our guide on adding pool chemicals in the right order.

List Of Necessary Swimming Pool Chemicals

For a healthy pool, all swimming pool owners require a cavalry of chemicals ready for battle against the unseen bacteria and pathogens that develop within the depths of the pool.

The correct amount of balancers, sanitizers, and oxidizers are referred to as water chemistry, which we’ll cover in more detail below.

In terms of knowing whether the correct amount of these chemicals are circulating around in your pool? Well, you’ll find that out from using a testing kit (the 3029-H test strips come highly recommended).

If your testing kit shows a pool chemical imbalance, it’s time for a top up.

To be ready to top up a chemical in your pool when needed, you’ll want to have these chemicals below in your pool supplies from day one:

Let’s go over these chemicals, and what they do, in more detail. First up, we’ve got the pool water balancers.

Calcium hardener

The pool water needs a balanced amount of calcium, because without it scaling or corrosion in your pipes and pool lining can begin to happen.

The material that your pool is made from will determine the amount of calcium hardener you’ll need to add:

You can increase the hardness of calcium, but there are no common pool chemicals that soften calcium. If your calcium is too hard, you’ll need to dilute the water in your swimming pool, which will affect the levels of all other chemicals.

pH balancers

pH balancer chemicals create harmony between acidity and alkalinity in your pool water.

If your pool water is too acidic, this causes burning, if too alkaline, this causes dryness and scaling.

Pool water with a balanced pH level will show between 7.4 and 7.6 on the pH scale, and Total Alkalinity will need to be maintained at 100ppm to 150ppm. To successfully hit this range, there are three chemicals you’ll need on hand:

You’ll likely use the Buffer and pH Decreaser more frequently than the increaser. If your pH is low the odds are your Total Alkalinity is also low, and adding Buffer to the water will also increase the pool water’s pH.

By having your Total Alkalinity at the correct level it slows down any changes to the pH level in the water, making it easier to maintain. You’ll need to top up the Buffer from time to time as it sacrifices itself when something comes along that wants to reduce the pH in the pool. 

Maintaining the optimal pH range increases the effectiveness of chlorine by providing the right environment for chlorine to do its job. It’s recommended that you test pH levels at least once a week.

Sanitisers

Sanitiser chemicals safeguard your pool water by attacking bacteria and other microorganisms.

There are two types of sanitisers you can use, each of which needs to be maintained at different quantities:

  • Chlorine: Better for swimming pools. Quantity between 1ppm – 3ppm.
  • Bromine: Better for spa pools. Quantity between 3ppm – 5ppm.

These sanitizers kill microorganisms by oxidizing them and leaving behind the byproduct chloramines (or bromamines). Once in a while, you’ll need to promote the oxidation of these chloramines or bromamines.

Oxidisers

If your pool is giving off an overbearing chlorine smell – or worse, showing signs of algae blooms – you’ll know it’s time to oxidise.

Oxidation is also known as shocking, where you’re essentially adding more chlorine to your pool water, effectively making the inactive chloramines oxidise into the air.

The alternative to adding in more chlorine to shock the chloramines is to add in a non-chlorinated shock treatment, so you have two options:

To keep things simple, shock your pool once a week or once every fortnight in the evening, and leave overnight while your filtration system is running.

And remember, you’ll have the best idea of your pool’s chemistry best when you use a testing kit.

Additional Chemicals For Proper Pool Care

If you would like to take your pool care to the next level, there are more pool chemicals you can have on hand to improve the quality and health of your pool and water:

  • Chlorine stabilisers
  • Clarifiers or flocculant
  • Cleaners
  • Algaecide

We’ll go over these in more detail below. Let’s start with an important one: the chlorine stabilisers.

Chlorine stabilisers

The sun oxidises chlorine into the air quickly, at 1ppm every hour, and without a stabiliser, you’ll be frequently topping up chlorine levels.

Adding chlorine stabiliser prevents active chlorine from being oxidized by the sun, but if you have a covered pool, such as an indoor one, a chlorine stabiliser isn’t a necessity.

Lucky you.

But for anyone whose pool is subjected to the elements, you’ll be better off with a preventative measure:

Some chlorines already contain Stabiliser, but it’s a good idea to check to make sure there’s enough in the water.

You can’t beat the sun, so to avoid spending more money on chlorine, consider adding chlorine stabiliser to your pool supplies.

Clarifiers or flocculants

A clarifier or flocculant will fix your cloudy pool water problem quickly by coagulating the tiny particles that make up cloudy water.

There are two pool chemicals that’ll get the job done:

  • Clarifier makes the tiny particles big enough for your filter to pick up.
  • Flocculant clumps the tiny particles together so they sink to the bottom of your pool and can be vacuumed up.

If you’re in a rush to clear your pool, a clarifier is the quicker solution as the particles are picked up by your pool’s filter. If you have enough time to vacuum the bottom of your pool or would like to save your filtration system from extra work, use a flocculant.

If you need to use a flocculant you will need to vacuum the pool to Waste, which means you will need to top the pool up – and check your chemical levels again too!

Cleaners

Most pool chemicals work to keep the unseen clean, and although this can sometimes help as a prevention for visible stains from appearing, when they do, you’ll need a chemical that’ll save your elbows.

You may want to invest in these elbow-saving pool cleaning chemicals:

Sometimes debris can cause staining and calcium or rust build-up to appear, putting a damper on the look of your prized pool – so you can keep it looking good with an effective cleaner.

Algaecide

You’re already protecting your pool from algae if you use chlorine, but an algaecide can be useful if there’s ever a time that you don’t manage to stay on top of your chlorine routine.

When you spot algae forming or if the sight of green, black, or brown in your pool frightens you, there are a few choices of algaecides that’ll keep your pool looking clear, or eliminate the blooms:

Most of us find algae unsightly, but for whatever reason you don’t, keep in mind that toxins can leach into your pool from the algae blooms. So to keep everybody safe, keep up with pool sanitation, and for added protection or when algae appears, use an algaecide.

Read More: Check out our guide on Pool Algaecide: How To Get Rid Of Pool Algae Fast

Using Pool Chemicals To Clean A Filtration System

In this swimming pool chemicals guide so far, we’ve discussed taking care of your pool water with chemicals. Now it’s time to focus on what keeps your pool going strong: you.

Just kidding. It’s not you. We’re actually referring to the filtration system.

You’ll have one of these three types of filtration systems:

  • Media filter (or Sand filter)
  • Diatomaceous earth (D.E) filter – although these are rare these days
  • Cartridge filter

Grease, dirt, and chemicals from bodies and the pool water can clog your filter, so to maintain filter longevity, no matter the type, consider these options:

Yup, algae can bloom in your filter – the possibilities are endless!

But with these two pool chemicals you’ll successfully prevent unwanted scum building up in your filter, thereby reducing pressure build up, and reducing the amount of time you spend on manually cleaning your filter.

Remember that manually cleaning your filter is inevitable, and absolutely necessary to do. Pool cleaning chemicals for your filter just take some of the load off.

Quick List of Pool Chemicals

There are a great deal of pool chemicals to keep track of, so to make things easier, we’ve broken them down into two categories:

  • Absolutely necessary:
    • Calcium hardener
    • pH balancers
    • Sanitizer (chlorine)
    • Oxidizer (shock treatment)
  • Going the extra mile:
    • Chlorine stabilizer
    • Clarifier or flocculant
    • Pool cleaning chemicals
    • Algaecide
    • Filter degreaser and cleaner

It’s best to keep a record of when you’ve added a chemical to your pool and create a routine on when you should test a chemical for balance.

Let’s be honest, you’re probably not going to do this. But for the record, we have advised that it would be best if you did. 

Anyway, if you would like to spend less time on pool chemicals and more time having fun in your pool, automation can help you get to this point.

Remember that SplashMe Pool Automation thingy we mentioned at the beginning? This makes sure that testing and dosing of some of your absolutely necessary pool chemicals are taken care of.

Whether you go down the manual or automated route, be sure to bookmark this article for easy access.

About the author

Adrian Hill

Adrian Hill

Hey! I'm Adrian, founder and pool expert here at Dolphin Pacific. I love spending time with family, fishing, and have been known to brew my own beer.

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