Pool Chemicals

What you need to know about swimming pool chemicals

Swimming pools need to be monitored constantly and treated regularly to keep them free from dangerous bacteria and algae. A pool owner needs to balance pH, water hardness, sodium bicarbonate levels and residual chlorine in the water. This is accomplished with the use of swimming pool chemicals.

Pools need regular attention, and kits which allow owners to do their own swimming pool water testing are readily available. Pools should be tested daily and adjusted, and shock treated at longer regular intervals. To keep the water healthy, chemicals as well as quality pool pumps and pool filters are needed.

Shock treatment refers to the application of a large dose of chlorine. Contrary to popular belief, when a pool has a heavy chlorine odor, it actually has too little free chlorine in it. The odor is the result of compounds called chloramines, where the chlorine has combined with nitrogen compounds from organic residues. The large dose of chlorine, followed by a brief rest period for stabilization, will remove the odor and the organics.

Chlorine-Based Pool Chemicals

Most pools are treated with chlorine. Although there are many competing claims among chlorine manufacturers, the main difference between brands is the percentage of active ingredients. Always compare this figure when calculating the costs. A certain liquid may seem inexpensive, but it may actually only contain 10 percent active ingredients; similarly, chlorine pucks with a diameter of 3 inches may have 75 percent active ingredients and be safer to store and handle.

Automatic chlorinators may be built into the pool's plumbing system, providing continual monitoring and treatment. Such systems are still expensive, though.

Non-Chlorine Pool Chemicals

In recent years, other options for pool disinfection have hit the market. These include bromine, a chlorine relative. It is much more expensive, but provides good residual protection. Biguanides contain no chlorines, but over time, the microbes they neutralize will become resistant and the pool will need to be treated with chlorine. Ionization and mineral purifiers are occasionally used where chlorine sensitivity is an issue.

Algae Treatment

In addition to the growth of bacteria, algae can be a problem in swimming pools. Algaecides may be either copper-based or a "quat." Copper treatments can cause staining, while quats can cause foaming. Copper algaecides cannot be used where biguanide disinfection is used.

Maintaining a swimming pool requires much more than an occasional pool water test. A pool owner needs to become educated on the many products available, their relative merits and drawbacks, and their interactions, both desirable and undesirable.

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