Common Pool Chemicals

by Pool Builders on 07-12-2012 in Articles

One of the most important parts of proper swimming pool care is the proper use of pool chemicals. If you have ever had a pool, you know how much work that can be! Here are some of the basic chemicals that your swimming pool will need. They are split up into water balancers, sanitizers, algaecides, and clarifiers.

Water Balancers

A pH Increaser (Sodium Carbonate, Soda Ash) increases the pH of the pool water. It is usually sold as a powder, but it can be found as a liquid. You may hear it referred to as pH Up, pH Rise, or pH Increaser.

A pH Decreaser (Sodium Bisulfate) lowers the pH of the pool water rapidly and lowers alkalinity slightly. Though usually in powder form, it is also available in liquid form. You may hear it referred to as pH Down, or pH Decreaser.

An Alkalinity Increaser (Sodium Bicarbonate, Baking Soda) raises the alkalinity of the pool water without adjusting the pH. It comes in powder form, and is commonly called Alkalinity Up, Alkaline Rise, Alkalinity Increaser.

An Alkalinity Decreaser (Muriatic Acid, Sodium Bisulfate) lowers the total alkalinity of pool water. Muriatic acid can be used in much smaller doses than sodium bisulfate (pH Decreaser). It is available in liquid (muriatic) and powder (sodium bisulfate).

Calcium Hardness Increaser (Calcium Chloride) increases the total hardness of pool water. It is available in granular form and a liquid form. The granular form gets very hot when added to water, so if you dissolve before putting it in the pool, use extreme caution.


Chlorine is the most commonly used pool sanitizer. It comes in liquid, granular, and tablet form. Tablets are the most easy way to keep your levels constant, whereas the granular and liquid forms make a better shock treatment.

Bromine is an alternative to chlorine that tends to be gentler for swimmers. It is available in tablets and in granular form. Although slightly more expensive, Bromine is not only gentler, but more effective at killing algae and bacteria than chlorine.


Quaternary Ammonia is the most common algaecide used in pools. It is good for routine maintenance and keeping light algae growth at bay. It comes in liquid form, and must be applied carefully to avoid foaming.

Polyquats is used for more stubborn algae growth. It is more expensive than Quaternary Ammonia, but it will not cause foaming and is far more effective at killing and preventing algae.


Metal Removers lower levels of Iron, Copper, and other metals to prevent stains. It is generally used after a large amount of water has been added that contains high levels of metals. It may contain phosphates.

Stain & Scale Inhibitors also control stains made by mineral levels. They prevent stains caused by high hardness levels in the water.

Cyanuric Acid (Stabilizer) has been called a "sunblock for chlorine" because it protects chlorine molecules from dissipating in the presence of UV light. It also affects pH and alkalinity so these may require further adjustments after use.

Remember that even if you are well acquainted with each of these chemicals, they are not only difficult to store, but potentially dangerous to keep, especially if you have small children or pets. If you don't want to bother with dealing with all of this, finding the right measurements, or if you are worried about keeping your kids and pets safe, you might want to call a pool service and let them take care of your maintenance needs.

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