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Swimming Pool Startup Chemicals

SO YOU'VE FILLED THE POOL FOR THE FIRST TIME with nice clean sparkling water. Pat yourself on the back and take a picture for posterity's sake, because if you don't take care of that pool, it's the cleanest it will ever be at the time you fill it – it's all downhill from here. It doesn't have to be, however. You can keep your pool as clean and sparkly as the day you filled it, and judicious use of pool startup chemicals will help you.

First off, the pool's water is only as good as the water used to fill it with. Your city water might be overly acidic, murky, extremely hard, or even cloudy. Unfortunately unless you're planning on importing water for your pool, you get what you get. Get a hold of a good test kit or set of test strips and test the city water first to establish a baseline. If this is the first time you've filled your pool or you have a large pool, test the pool in multiple spots at least 2-3 feet below the surface to make sure the readings are right.

Your first pool startup chemical will be used to control the pH of the pool, which is the first thing you want to address. If your pH is off, nothing you add to your pool will work right, from sanitizer on. This is because pool chemicals depend on proper pH to function correctly. pH directly affects a whole variety of factors, and a good pH falls within a narrow band of 7.4-7.6. If you're lucky enough to have stable pH right out of the tap (rare, but possible), then you don't need to do anything. Most pool water is too alkaline, which means you'll need to add little doses of muriatic acid to bring the pH down. Follow the instructions and add only the amount you need, and monitor it over the next few days to ensure the level drops to where you want it to and not further.

The next pool startup chemical you will need is sanitizer, and one of the best sanitizers out there is chlorine. Not only does it come in two easy to use forms (solid tablets and liquid), it is cheap and available at just about any hardware store as well as all pool supply houses. At first, you'll add chlorine in what's called shock levels – an extra heavy dose to start your pool off in the right direction. A shock dose coupled with extra circulation will ensure that all the water gets treated properly in the beginning. Keep swimmers out of the pool while shocking as chlorine at elevated levels irritates mucous membranes and provides general discomfort.

Now is also the time to keep the water hardness in check, otherwise known as alkalinity. If pH is like a furnace that heats your home, alkalinity is like the thermostat that adjusts your temperature. The two are tied, meaning one changes with the other. Alkalinity is important since water that is too hard negatively affects your pool pump seals, jet nozzles, and immersed equipment.

Lastly, make sure you add some algaecide for good measure. Most people think algaecide is for use only when you see algae – dead wrong. You use algaecide much like the old commercial – "but you don't have dandruff" – "exactly". Use algaecide before you have a need for it to keep nasty plant life at bay.

The first couple weeks after starting up your pool are a time to make sure everything is running right, and you need to check your readings more often than not to ensure levels are okay. After a couple week stability period, you can coast a little bit more knowing that your pool was properly started up.

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