Pool Chemistry Explained

When you dream of having a pool in your backyard, you picture a perfect oasis of summertime relaxation. The clear blue water is a great way to beat the heat, and your kids can perfect their front crawl strokes in between beach ball games and splash fights.

However, top-level pools require top-level maintenance. In between all that fun in the sun, you have to monitor your pool’s chemical balance and make sure the water is ready for swimming. If you are thinking about installing a pool or if you have just installed one, read on to learn more about the chemicals you need and why they’re necessary.

Why Chemicals Are Necessary

Lakes and oceans maintain themselves, so why is your pool any different? Here are three good reasons why your pool water needs a good chemical balance before you hop in.


Standing water is a perfect host for pathogens. It doesn’t help that when you and your family swim in the pool, you leave behind your own bacteria and other contaminants. Pool chemicals will kill harmful substances and ensure your family will leave each pool experience just as healthy as before.

You also need to maintain your chemical system to protect your family’s skin. If your water makeup isn’t balanced, it can irritate your skin and eyes, and it can even affect your hair.

Pool Maintenance

The wrong chemical makeup doesn’t only affect people-it affects your pool, too. If your pool is too acidic, it can corrode metal ladders and surfaces and cause pitting and etching on your pool’s interiors. If your pool water is too alkaline, you’ll notice scaling, which doesn’t look good and can be hard to clean.


You want your pool water to look clear, blue, and beautiful. Without the right chemical system, you can end up with a cloudy, murky mess instead of that gorgeous oasis. Algae and other water issues affect your pool water’s color and clarity. No one wants to swim in something that looks like a swamp pond.

What Chemicals You Need

Although you’ll find a variety of brand names and pool products on the market, a basic chemical system falls into four categories.

Disinfecting Agents

To eliminate the harmful little bugs that like to live in your pool’s water, you need a good disinfecting agent. The most common choice for pool treatment is chlorine. You can find chlorine in several different forms for use in your pool-most commonly, calcium hypochlorite or sodium hypochlorite. Sodium hypochlorite comes in tablets or powders while calcium hypochlorite comes in liquid form.

The chlorine product you buy will likely also include a stabilizer. This is keep chlorine from degrading in direct sunlight and other conditions.

To keep your pool disease free, make sure your continuous chlorine level falls between 1 and 4 ppm (parts per million.)

pH Balancers

To control your pool’s acidity and alkalinity, you have to control its pH balance. Not only will this keep your pool water clear and protect your equipment, but your chlorine system will work more effectively if it doesn’t have to fight against the wrong pH.

pH measures on a scale from 0 to 14, with 0 being acidic and 14 being alkaline. You want your pool to measure between 7.2 and 7.8. If your pool pH is higher or lower, you’ll need to add acids or alkalis to balance it.

Some sodium compounds (such as sodium bicarbonate and sodium carbonate) will reduce your pool’s acidity. Acids (such as muriatic acid) or compounds (such as sodium bisulfate) will reduce alkalinity and lower your pool’s pH level.


Algae can get into your pool through rain, wind, and the water you use to fill the pool. These microscopic organisms can cause big problems for your water if you let them get out of control. Left unchecked, algae cause clogged filters and stop your pool chemicals from working properly.

To rid your pool of algae, you need an algaecide. You can choose from products the remove all types of algae or more specific treatments that kill green algae. After an effective treatment, your formerly cloudy, algae-filled pool will look clean and clear again.

Shock Systems

Shock systems completely disinfect your pool, clear its water, and stop small problems in their tracks. They break down pathogens and remove other contaminants swimmers can leave in pools, such as traces of sunscreen and sweat.

You should shock your pool about once a week to keep it free and clear and safe to swim in. You won’t be able to use the pool for swimming until a little while after the shock treatment, so plan your schedule accordingly.

Your swimming pool should be a beautiful emblem of summer fun. Check your water’s chemical levels regularly and use the proper products to maintain your pool’s panache.