Without a doubt, pool chemistry is one of the most confusing aspects of pool ownership. Pool professionals love the fact that there are so many different pool chemicals with intimidating scientific names like potassium peroxymonosulfate. It gives them ammo to sell you on pricey services you could be doing yourself.
The truth is, pool maintenance isn’t all that difficult. There are a few simple facts you need to know right off the bat. The rest of the details – different chemicals, products, and treatment methods – you can easily learn as you go. All it takes is time and a willingness to do what it takes to keep your pool clean and sparkling. Here’s a basic primer to get you started.
Why Pool Chemicals are Necessary
Nobody actually likes pool chemicals. They sting eyes and irritate skin. They cost money. And most importantly for pool owners, they’re a chore to maintain. So why do we use them? Here are the two main reasons:
1. Safety. Without treatment, pool water can become contaminated with algae, bacteria, and dangerous microorganisms.
2. Aesthetics. How many sparkling blue ponds to you find in nature? Chemicals help keep your pool water beautiful and inviting.
All the chemicals you add to your pool either serve one of those purposes, or work to maintain the performance of other chemicals. The latter is where it can get complicated.
Chlorine does the job of sanitizing most swimming pools (though bromine can also be used). Most people add chlorine directly to their pool as a liquid, but you can also find it in tablet and granular form. Another option is to use a chlorine generator to convert salt into chlorine in the pool. A lot of people prefer this because they don’t have to deal with storing chlorine (and the hazards that entails).
A lot of the remaining work of pool maintenance has to do with keeping the chlorine from degrading or causing unwanted problems. To keep everything running smoothly, you need a kit or device you can use to test your water so you know when it’s time to add chemicals. Here are a few of the major terms you need to know:
Stabilizers. On its own, chlorine is rapidly destroyed by the sun’s rays. Stabilizers are chemicals that combine with chlorine to form a more durable compound, boosting its performance.
Shock Treatment. Chlorine gradually loses its effectiveness over time – so even if your test kit says you have plenty of it in the pool, it may not be doing its job. To hit the reset button, you need to shock treat your pool with a high dose of chlorine every so often.
pH Level. We’ll skip the details about acidity and alkalinity here. The bottom line is that a pH that is too high or too low can have ill effects on your pool equipment and prevent chlorine from working properly. To avoid these problems, you need to regularly test your water and add chemicals to keep it at a certain pH level (7.2-7.6 is the sweet spot).
There’s a lot more to learn about pool chemistry, but basic maintenance is a simple matter of monitoring the levels of various chemicals and making adjustments as needed. You don’t have to know how everything works. You just need to know what works.
Beyond Pool Chemicals for Dummies
While you can learn just about everything you need to know about pool maintenance as you go, it’s a good idea to keep a reference at hand for when you have questions. At some point, you may also be interested in gaining a deeper knowledge about pool chemistry. In either case, you may want to find a comprehensive book on pool maintenance.