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Facts About Pool & Spa Chemicals

IF YOU’RE NEW TO OWNING A POOL OR SPA one of the areas that might give you a little pause is the whole “chemical thing”. It’s easy to go to your local big box store and be completely overwhelmed by the selection, symbols, numbers, industry mumbo jumbo and general confusion these products cause in the hands of the uninitiated. What you need to do is distill your search down to the facts about pool and spa chemicals, the basics of what you need.


There are certain immutable facts about pool and spa chemicals that you should know before taking the plunge and buying something off the cuff, and here they are:


Fact #1 – You Need Chemicals. It may sound obvious, but regardless of how big your pool motor is, how many gallons it circulates per hour, or how big your filters are, you will need chemicals of some sort to keep the water looking sparkling clean. There is really no way around the use of chemicals of one kind or another in any pool or spa. You may think that salts systems skirt this issue, but all they do is convert salt into chlorine via electrolysis. Okay, so you’ve resigned yourself that you need to use chemicals. What next?


Fact #2 – pH is everything. The first thing you need to address is pH. If you pH is off, it doesn’t matter how much chlorine you add, you will still have all sorts of problems keeping the water clean. A pool or spa has a very narrow range of pH – between 7.4 and 7.6, and any deviation from that simply causes the pool chemicals to have to work much harder to keep the pool clean. pH balance is accomplished by the use of acids and bases designed for commercial pool use, added in judicious quantities by the pool owner. Most pools will only ever need one or the other added, and not both, since the local water will have its own natural qualities right off the bat. Alkalinity – the close cousin to pH must also be controlled with chemicals as well to keep the water hardness constant.


Fact #3 – Your pool needs sanitizer. No matter how well circulated or pH balanced your pool is, you will need to use a sanitizer such as chlorine or bromine in order to kill the bacteria in the water and keep it clear. The sanitizer kills bacteria, cysts, plant life, and mitigates the damage caused by human skin oils in the water. It doesn’t last forever, and must be constantly kept topped off since it breaks down with sunlight and use.


Fact #4- You probably still need algaecide. One of the oft forgotten facts about pool and spa chemicals is that you will still most likely need to use algaecide to keep the water plant free. Standing water or even water that circulates slowly is a perfect breeding ground for plant life. Add a little heat and you will quickly see exactly how much plant life can grow in such a small space. If sanitizer is a multi purpose jack of all trades, algaecide is a professional plant hit man that targets only plant life, eliminating it before it can get a toehold.


Fact #5- Use small doses often! Pool chemicals are not a once per month thing. Say you calculate that you need a gallon of sanitizer per week in our pool. Adding four gallons every month is not the same thing! Pool chemicals need to be added in small doses frequently to keep the water looking great. A couple times per week is far better than once every two weeks. Keep these facts in mind and expect a crystal clear pool for years to come!