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Pool cleaning chemicals: your guide for fresh, clean and clear water

Welcome to your handy one-stop pool cleaning chemicals guide! Adding the right chemicals to clean your pool 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 about pool cleaning chemicals:

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 time (and chemical balancing), check out the Hayward OmnilogicThis system allows you to keep some of your cleaning chemicals balanced directly from your smartphone. 

Technology makes our lives easier every day. Are you maybe more of a manual, DIY person? We got you!

Let’s dive in.

Why pool cleaning chemicals are important

Cleaning chemicals can go on without a swimming pool while a pool cannot go on without the cleaning 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, cleaning 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 cleaning chemicals shortly. Let’s talk a bit about safety first.

Are pool cleaning chemicals harmful?

Pool cleaning 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 pool filtration system. Others instead may need to be diluted in water beforehand. But either way, always wear your safety gear.

Your 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:

  1. position your mixing station at the side of the pool.
  2. add cleaning chemicals to water, never the other way around.
  3. never pour chemicals close to the skimmer.
  4. 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. Also, as we’ll explain, follow our guide on adding pool cleaning chemicals in the right order.

List of necessary pool cleaning 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, sanitisers, and oxidisers 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 by 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:

  • Vinyl or fiberglass: 175ppm to 225ppm calcium hardness level reading.
  • Concrete or plaste: 200ppm to 275ppm calcium hardness level reading.

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. On the other hand, 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.


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 sanitisers 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.


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 can add chlorinated shock treatment or non-chlorinated shock treatment.

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 when you use a testing kit.

Additional cleaning 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 pool cleaning chemicals 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. Without a stabiliser, you’ll be frequently topping up chlorine levels. Adding chlorine stabiliser prevents active chlorine from being oxidized by the sun. In case 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 chlorine stabiliser that contains cyanuric acid, added to your pool at 40ppm.

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 cleaning chemicals that’ll get the job done:

  • a clarifier makes the tiny particles big enough for your filter to pick up.
  • the 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. On the other hand, in case 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. In such case, 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!


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.


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.

For further information, check out our guide on pool algaecide

Cleaning filtration system with pool chemicals

In this pool cleaning 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 a chemical filter degreaser and an overall algae bloom prevention

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. This way you will be reducing pressure build up, and also 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 cleaning chemicals

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

Absolutely necessary pool chemicals:

    • calcium hardener.
    • pH balancers.
    • sanitiser (chlorine).
    • oxidiser (shock treatment).

Going the extra mile for the best cleaning:

    • chlorine stabiliser.
    • clarifier or flocculant.
    • pool cleaning chemicals.
    • algaecide.
    • filter degreaser and cleaner.

Keeping a meticulous log of when you add pool cleaning chemicals and establishing a routine for regular chemical testing is crucial to maintaining a balanced pool. However, let’s face it, life can get busy and keeping up with such routines can be a challenge.

But don’t worry, there’s a solution that can help you spend less time on pool maintenance and more time enjoying your pool. Enter automation – a game-changer for any pool owner.

Imagine effortlessly maintaining the ideal chemical balance in your pool, without the hassle of manually testing and dosing chemicals. Sounds too good to be true? Not with the Hayward Omnilogic system we mentioned earlier. It takes care of all the necessary chemical maintenance for you, leaving you with more time to splash around and create memories with family and friends.

Whether you prefer a manual or automated approach to pool cleaning chemicals, be sure to bookmark this article for easy access to helpful tips and insights. Your sparkling pool awaits!

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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