Easy Guide to Understanding Swimming Pool Chemicals  

by Pool Builders on 03-30-2011 in Articles

While a swimming pool's filtration system is the hardest worker when it comes to keeping the water clean, without maintaining the right chemical balance, you simply cannot get the job done.
The following guide will explain what pool chemicals are and how they work to keep the water as it should be - clear, clean and great for swimming.

Why Swimming Pool Water Needs Chemical Treatment
It is vital to chemically treat your pool water and maintain it at the right levels for these major reasons:
? The fact is that harmful pathogens, such as bacteria, thrive in water. So, if you don't treat your pool water with chemicals, these micro-organisms will pose a health risk when you swim in it.
? Water with the wrong chemical balance can get unattractively cloudy.
? Imbalanced water can damage parts of the swimming pool.
? Imbalanced water can irritate your skin and eyes.

Pool Disinfection Explained
The main pool disinfectant people use to kill water pathogens is the element chlorine, which comes in chemical forms such as calcium hypochlorite (a solid) or sodium hypochlorite (a liquid). Chlorine reacts with the pool water when it is added to form hypochlorous acid, which is effective at killing bacteria and other pathogens through an oxidation reaction.
Chlorine generally comes in liquid, powder or tablet form (professionals tend to use gaseous chlorine). It can be added to the pool water anywhere in the cycle, but the experts recommend adding it just after the filtering process using a chemical feeder. This is because if you added the chlorine directly into your pool using tablets for example, it tends to be too concentrated in certain areas, which can cause damage.

Using Pool Chlorinators
The problem with hypochlorous acid is that it's not a stable chemical, meaning it's prone to degradation when exposed to ultraviolet light from the sun. To combat this, it's advisable to use a pool chlorinator that includes a stabilising agent, such as cyanuric acid. This reacts with the chlorine to form a more stable compound that won't degrade as easily when exposed to ultraviolet light.

Getting Rid of Chloramines
The second problem with hypochlorous acid is that it has the potential to combine with other chemicals to form new, undesirable compounds that can reduce its ability to sanitise the water and also cause irritation to your eyes while swimming.
If hypochlorous acid combines with ammonia (found in urine among other things), it produces chloramines. These culprits are the ones that reduce the disinfectant effect of chlorine, cause the water to have an unpleasant odour and irritate the skin/eyes. The solution to this chloramine problem is to shock treat your pool by adding an unusually potent dose of chemicals to eliminate both bacteria and the unwanted chemical compounds.

The Importance of Correct pH Levels
When it comes to protecting your pool from chloramine formation, it's also vital to understand the second most important factor in maintaining the right water chemistry - pH levels.
The pool water's pH amounts to its overall balance of acid and alkaline. What this means is that water which is either too acidic or too alkaline will cause undesirable chemical reactions. If the water is too acidic, it will cause skin irritation, corrode metal equipment and cause etching on surface materials. If it's too alkaline, it can cause clouding of the water and scaling on the pool surface as well as plumbing equipment.
What's more, both high acidity and high alkalinity impact the effectiveness of the chlorine to disinfect your pool. If the water has too high an acid level, the chlorine won't be able to destroy pathogens as well as it's supposed to, and if there's too much alkaline it will cause the chlorine to dissipate too quickly.
On the pH scale, zero indicates extreme acidity, 14 extreme alkalinity and 7 a neutral state. Most pool experts say that the ideal pool pH should range between 7.2 and 7.8. If your pool water is not at these levels, you will need to counterbalance by adding either extra acid or alkaline. Common ways to do this are sodium carbonate (soda ash) or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) for more alkalinity, and muriatic acid or sodium bisulfate for more acidity.

Considering how easily water can be negatively affected as explained above, it should be clear that using the correct Swimming Pool Chemicals is vital and requires you to keep consistently vigilant when it comes to maintenance.

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