Swimming Pool Chemicals Primer  

by Pool Builders on 06-06-2011 in Articles

Ah, relaxing by the backyard pool - the sun, the sparkling water, the idyllic summer afternoon...the heavy scent of chlorine in the air. Not if you're using the right swimming pool chemicals in the right proportions. Chlorine is one of the most-used sanitizers, products that keep bacteria and algae from building up in your swimming pool water, but it's only one of the several products that you'll use in your pool to keep the water sparkling clear and healthy. Here's a basic primer on swimming pool chemicals to help you understand just what it is you're putting in your pool.


Chlorine is the most commonly used sanitizer for swimming pools. It's an oxidizer, which means that it breaks apart the nitrogen and other chemicals that build up in pool water. That makes the water a less attractive home for algae and bacteria, which make your water cloudy, smelly and unhealthy for swimming, and is one of the absolute basics for swimming pool maintenance.

Chlorine is available in several forms for your swimming pool. Calcium hypchlorite is generally used as a "shock" agent, to quickly chlorinate pool water. It does the job quickly, and then burns off just as quickly. It's available in granular form or as tablets, and should be mixed with water before adding it to your pool so that it doesn't bleach the pool liner or paint. Cal Hypo is the most dangerous of the types of chlorine to store and handle. Always follow the label directions for storage, mixing and handling to avoid accidentally mixing Cal Hypo with other forms of chlorine.

Sodium dichlor is a granular form of chlorine, which is also often used as a shocking agent. It dissolves well in water and can hang around for up to 6 hours, even in direct sunlight. It doesn't work well in automatic chlorinators, and is a little weaker than other forms of chlorine.

Sodium trichlor is the most commonly used form of swimming pool chlorine. Trichlor is ideal for use in automatic chlorine feeders because it dissolves in flowing water. It's usually available in tablet or stick form, making it easy to add to automatic chlorinators. It also provides the highest amount of available chlorine to keep your pool water sparkling clear.


Bromine is similar to chlorine in its sanitizing abilities, but it is more commonly used in spas and hot tubs than in pools because it is more stable in warm water. Some people will choose bromine rather than chlorine because it's kinder to sensitive skin and has less of a chemical odor than chlorine. Bromine usually comes in tablet form and is used in an automatic feeder to provide continuous protection to your pool water. Bromine is more expensive than chlorine, however, so chlorine tends to be one of the swimming pool chemicals of choice for most pool owners.

Stabilizers and Balancers

In addition to pool sanitizers, your pool maintenance routine should include chemicals that help balance the pH and alkalinity of your pool water. These include cyanuric acid, most commonly used stabilizer. Stabilizers help protect the chlorine in your pool from burning away and help it do the job of sanitizing your pool water.

You may also need to add calcium to water to prevent corrosion, or a de-scaling agent to reduce the amount of calcium in the water if your pool water is cloudy. Other swimming pool chemicals you might use include algaecides, pool clarifiers and enzymes that help clear and clean the water in your pool.

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