A Step-by-Step Guide to Keeping Inground Pools Safe & Protected
Keeping your pool water balanced is critical to ensure a safe and healthy swimming environment. But it’s not as simple as just making sure you have chlorine.
If any chemical is slightly off, it can throw the others off, making your pool a breeding ground for bacteria. Thankfully, balancing your pool water chemicals isn’t difficult. And it will eventually become routine.
To keep your pool safe, clean, and protected at all times, here’s a look at the importance of balanced pool water, along with the different types of chemicals to use and how to use them.
The Importance of Balanced Pool Water
Balanced pool water is clean, safe, healthy, and comfortable to swim in. And it will prevent damage to your pool’s structure and equipment.
Too much chlorine will cause skin and eye irritation, and potential illness, while too little will not be effective at killing bacteria, algae, and other contaminants.
If pH levels are too high, the water will become cloudy and create scale deposits on your pool walls and equipment. And if the pH levels are too low, the pool surfaces and equipment will become etched and corroded.
Simply put, unbalanced water can lead to plenty of unwanted issues with your pool. So do yourself and your pool a favour and keep your water balanced.
How Often to Test
Backyard inground swimming pools should be tested with a test kit once a week. And if any of the chemicals are off-balance, you will need to test the water daily until the chemicals are balanced.
7 Steps to Balance Pool Water
Before adding any chemicals to your pool water, make sure the pool pump is on so the chemicals will circulate in the pool.
1. Test and Adjust Total Alkalinity
Total Alkalinity (TA) is the first thing you should balance in your pool water. TA refers to the amount of alkaline material in the water. And since alkaline is a pH stabilizer, the number of alkaline substances in water will affect the pH balance.
The ideal Total Alkalinity range for pool water is 80 – 120 ppm.
If you need to increase the Total Alkalinity, add an alkalinity increaser such as sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), adding up to 25 pounds per 10,000 gallons of pool water.
And if you need to decrease the Total Alkalinity, add muriatic acid or sodium bisulphate (dry acid).
2. Test and Adjust pH
The pH level of a substance refers to how acidic or basic the substance is, and falls within a range of 1.0 to 14.0, with 0.0 to 7.0 being acidic, and 7.0 to 14.0 being basic.
It’s crucial to keep the pH level balanced to protect your pool from damage.
The ideal pH level for pool water is 7.4 – 7.6.
To increase pH, add a pH increaser such as sodium carbonate (soda ash)—6 oz. of soda ash raises the pH of a 10,000-gallon pool by 0.2.
If your pH fluctuates, the Total Alkalinity might be too low. In that case, add baking soda to increase alkalinity and stabilize the pH.
To decrease pH, use a pH decreaser such as sodium bisulphate or muriatic acid.
3. Measure and Adjust Calcium Hardness
If calcium builds up in your pool water, you might start to notice a white line (scale) forming near your water line. Along with looking dirty, this scale buildup can damage your pool material and equipment.
The ideal Calcium Hardness level is 200 – 400 ppm.
If you need to increase your pool’s Calcium Hardness, add calcium chloride and follow the instructions on the label.
If you need to decrease the Calcium Hardness, partially drain your pool and refill it with fresh water. Also, use flocculants to collect excess calcium, and a pool vacuum to remove the excess calcium.
4. Add Sanitizer to Your Water
Sanitizer will keep your pool clean and free of bacteria, so the water remains safe and healthy to swim in. Chlorine is the most common type of sanitizer used in pools, and comes in the form of:
- Liquid chlorine
- Granular chlorine
- Chlorine tablets
- Salt chlorine generators
Shocking your pool is the fastest way to refresh and sanitize your pool water.
When testing the chlorine levels in your pool water, look at the:
- Free Chlorine—which is the amount of unused chlorine that is still available in the water
- Total Chlorine—which is the total amount of chlorine present in the water
Subtract the Total Chlorine from the Free Chlorine to find the pool’s used chlorine.
The ideal chlorine level in a pool is 3 ppm.
Other types of sanitizer include:
Similar to chlorine but without the strong odour, bromine is also gentler on hair and skin, and is most often used in small pools and spas due to its higher price. And also, unlike chlorine, bromine is not stabilized so it will quickly burn away in sunlight.
The ideal bromine level in a pool is 3 – 5 ppm.
Biguanide must be used as part of a chemical sanitization trio, so it is more expensive than chlorine, and it cannot be used with traditional pool chemicals, algaecides, and shocks.
The ideal level of Biguanide is 30 – 50 ppm.
Mineral sanitization systems are less common, but they are used to supplement chlorine and salt generators. Mineral systems release copper and silver ions into the pool water to help regulate pH.
These systems are relatively low maintenance, and only require the cartridge to be replaced every six months.
5. Check and Adjust Cyanuric Acid
Cyanuric Acid (CYA) prevents sunlight from burning away chlorine in pool water. While CYA is often found in pool shock, you may need to add more to ensure it is fully protecting your pool’s chlorine.
The ideal Cyanuric Acid level in pool water is 30 – 50 ppm.
6. Measure Your Water’s Total Dissolved Solids
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) refers to the number of substances that have dissolved in your pool water, such as chemicals, algaecides, shock, salts, dirt, and other contaminants.
While there is an acceptable level of TDS for pools –up to around 1,000–there is a point when the level becomes too high.
If your pool’s TDS level is below 2,000, then you don’t need to adjust the water.
But if your pool’s TDS level rises above 2,000, then you’ll need to drain small amounts of the pool water and refill with fresh water, testing until the TDS levels drop below 2,000.
7. Shock Your Swimming Pool
Shocking your pool helps refresh the water, so it is sanitized, clean, and safe to use.
To shock your pool:
- Fill a 5-gallon bucket with warm water
- Slowly mix in a one-pound bag of pool shock into the bucket of water
- Stir with a stick until the shock dissolves
- While walking around the pool, gradually pour the bucket of shock water into the pool, pouring most of it into the deep end.
Test the pool water at least six hours after shocking the pool and make any necessary adjustments as outlined in the steps above.
What About Pool Temperature?
The temperature of pool water will influence the effectiveness of pool chemicals. At higher temperatures, the water and chemicals are more active, so you may need to use fewer chemicals to balance the water. And at lower temperatures, you may need to add more chemicals to balance the water.
But do keep in mind that bacteria and algae thrive in warm water, so your chlorine might be used up faster in warm temperatures.
You can use to a Saturation Index calculator to determine the ideal levels for your pool chemicals based on the water temperature.
Balancing a pool is fairly easy, especially with a list of steps and getting into the habit of doing it regularly. And well-balanced pool water ensures your pool is safe and protected, so you can spend less time worrying about the water and more time enjoying your pool instead.
Bert Minor has been a part of the landscaping business for nearly twenty years and has gained an excellent reputation as an innovative and creative designer. In fact, several of his designs and projects have been featured in industry supplier magazines. An active and contributing member of the industry, Bert sat on various boards including the Ottawa Chapter of Landscape Ontario and the Landscape Ontario Provincial Construction Committee. Bert also contributed technical articles published in the Canadian National Landscape Association magazine. With a relentless pursuit of knowledge, Bert has attained several industry certificates in landscape design, landscape construction and with the PHTCC—Pool and Hot Tub Council Canada. Prior to joining the landscaping industry, Bert spent several years in management in the services sector primarily in a customer advocate role. His honesty and integrity and his ability to build and develop strong relationships with clients reflects that.