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How important is Borate in a Swimming Pool?

Updated on April 6, 2017
Barack James profile image

Barack is a chemical engineer and pool water chemistry nerd. He has been in the commercial pool maintenance industry for more than 7 years!

Adding Borate in the Swimming Pool
Adding Borate in the Swimming Pool | Source

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Borate: Prevents Scales & Metal Stains, Cloudy & Green Pool, and Softens Hard Water

To be precise, the main purpose of using borates in a swimming pool is to have an easy to maintain pool; by keeping pH under control to avoid pH related pool troubles like calcium scaling in saltwater pools, metal staining in metal laden pools, cloudy, and green pool water. I know because I am using borate in my SWCG pool.

In most cases, even if you are knowledgeable in water chemistry and you are using the most accurate pool water test kit on the planet like I do;) You may find pH and other important pool chemicals such as Chlorine, Cyanuric acid, Calcium and Total Alkalinity (TA) getting out of balance.

For example in my case, I was away from home for close to one week sometimes back and someone else had to maintain my pool. Unfortunately, total alkalinity got out of range, which brought up pH level to over 8.0 ppm and consequently, scales were everywhere.

Importantly; don’t be deceived that borates will relieve you from using any chemical in the pool like some manufacturers will tell you. Rather, borates play a very important role in having an easy to maintain and trouble free pool.

Drifting pH has lots of potential risks in any type of swimming pool water; be it metal free, metal-laden, nonsaltwater, and saltwater.

Ideally, if you have metal laden pool water or saltwater pool; you should consider using borate to prevent metal stains, water discoloration, and calcium scaling resulting from drifting pH levels.

Moreover, a wrong composition of pH will affect the efficiency of all chemicals in the swimming pool including chlorine. No need to say, we all know all the bad effects of high or low pH levels in the pool water.

Borate should be used in a concentration between 30 and 50 ppm. However, before adding borate into your pool water, you need to balance your total alkalinity (TA) and pH levels: This is necessary because borate raises pH and TA when used in the pool water.

I Recommend: Swimming Pool Chemistry 101: Effective use of Chemicals

Importance of Borate in a Swimming Pool

So you want to weigh if you need borate in your pool or not? Here are the positive sides of using borate in a swimming pool.

1. More Stable pH

Every pool owner knows the bad sides of drifting pH in the pool: Firstly, when the pH drift up beyond the maximum recommended level, chlorine will not be effective in killing harmful bacteria and other organisms such as algae that thrive in the pool; which will result in green pool water.

Secondly, when chlorine becomes ineffective, it will not function as a sanitizer; and this will definitely result in cloudy or dirty swimming pool water.

Moreover, high pH levels than is necessary will result in calcium scaling or building on pool surface, waterlines, and pool accessories; especially in SWG pools.

Finally, high pH has health issues such as burning eyes and nose, dry and itchy skin and scalp in the skin.

On the other hand, when pH goes down below the recommended level for a standard plaster pool, this will erode pool parts causing damage to the plasters and grouting.

Low pH also corrodes metal pool accessories such as pool steps and heater. This may also result in pool staining and water discoloration from corroded metals.

Since borates keep pH under control all the time; you will prevent all the listed pool troubles resulting from unstable and drifting pH when you add borate into the pool water.

This will also give you an easy time maintaining your pool since you will not need to use much of strong acids and soda ash to reduce and raise pH levels respectively when out of balance.

I Recommend: How to Lower Total Alkalinity and pH using Aeration

2. Helps Prevent Algae

This is absolutely true: Since borates keep pH under control, the effectiveness of chlorine in the pool will not be tampered with, and this means that algae will not thrive in the pool.

3. Reduced Chlorine Usage

We all know how harmful chlorine can be in a swimming pool if not used as appropriate. Using too much chlorine in the pool has been associated with skin cancers and other harmful diseases.

More badly, the byproducts of chlorine that accumulate in the pool water are even more dangerous than chlorine itself.

Since borates help keep away algae; using too much chlorine may not be necessary. Moreover; chlorine is not consumed at a high rate when pH is stable; and will ensure that you don’t have to shock your pool more regularly like is the case when pH is not kept under control using borate.

4. Sparkling and Soft Pool Water

When you use borate in your pool, the water will remain clear for a long period since chloramine or combined chlorine does not form quickly as compared to a pool without borate agent.

To add on top, most borate agents available in the market today have chlorine stabilizer in them (Cyanuric acid); and keeps chlorine from being consumed by UV light from direct sunlight.

They also contain components that help to soften hard pool water that causes dry skin, red and itchy eyes among others.

I Recommend: How to Maintain Metal-Laden Swimming Pool Water

What are the Downsides of Using Borates in the Pool?

Now for more than 5 years using borate in my pool; I have not had any problem worth raising an alarm for: However, most pool managers consider using borate in the pool as an additional expense.

Ideally; talking about expense when using borate to maintain a swimming pool is an argument with no base: Like we have seen, borates prevent many pool problems from occurring, problems that reversing is very costly and time-consuming.

Also, there has been some concern that borates are toxic when taken by pets such as dogs and cats. However, I consider this to be carelessness of pool owners.

To be precise, there is no pool chemical that is not toxic when consumed; and extra care needs to be taken to avoid human or pets consumption.

I recommend: How to Clear Green Swimming Pool Water

How to Add Borate in the Swimming Pool

So you are aware of the advantages of using borate in your swimming pool? Whether saltwater, nonsaltwater, metal-laden water, or nonmetal laden pool water, borate plays a very important role in swimming pool maintenance.

Borates are available in the market in form of tetraborate decahydrate or pentahydrate.

The most common borates in the market today are Proteam's Supreme Plus, Bioguards Optimizer Plus, Poollife Endure, Guardex Maximizer and 20 Mute Team Borax.

20 Mule Team Borax is preferred by most pool managers due to its cost affectivity as compared to other borates.

However, the only downside of 20 Mule Team Borax is that it is not pH and alkali neutral; and you need to use a strong acid such as muriatic acid along with it to lower pH and adjust total alkalinity (TA) as required during or after the process of adding borax to the pool.

In case you are under budget and you feel 20 Mule Team Borax and muriatic acid is the best option for you; then here is how to add 20 Mule Team Borax into your pool.

However, using borax is too much work actually: You can save time by using any pH neutral borate product; particularly Supreme Plus by Proteam. This product is pH neutral and does not require that you use acid along with them to lower pH or TA.

I recommend: LaMotte ColorQ Pro 7 Digital Pool Water Test Kit

Adding pH Neutral Borate Agent: Supreme Plus

Step 1: Skip When Using pH Neutral Borate Agent

Since Supreme Plus and Salt Support are pH and alkali neutral; you don’t need to go through the hardest process of adjusting pH and TA using muriatic acid and aeration.

As such, we are skipping the very first step; which is adjusting TA to be between 70 ppm and 80 ppm for SWGs with bleach or liquid chlorine, around 100 ppm for SWGs with trichlor, between 80 and 120 ppm for pools with liners and between 100 and 125 ppm for pools made of plaster.

Another step we are skipping is the process of adjusting pH levels to be within the recommended range of 7.4 ppm and 7.6 ppm since borate (borax) will increase both pH and TA when used in the pool.

I Recommend: How to Clear Cloudy Swimming Pool Water

Step 2: Adding Supreme Plus Borate Agent

I recommend Supreme Plus since that’s what I am using and it’s superb: On the other hand, the alternative Salt Support has some content of Cyanuric acid in it; and I always feel that will bring more complications in Cyanuric acid concentration in the pool.

However, it’s a good product and you can use it if you don’t mind balancing Cyanuric acid levels in your pool water.

With your pump running; add recommended Supreme Plus (or Salt Support) according to the volume of the pool by dumping all the way around in the pool water or through the skimmer, whichever method you are comfortable with.

After adding the borate agent; brush down the sides of your pool all the way around to create currents to mix it up much faster.

By the way, this is what we should be doing every time we add any chemical into the pool water; this is the same stirring the pool water.

Step 3: Run the Pump for 24 Hours

Let your pump run for 24 hours as this speeds the process of completely mixing the borate agent you added with the pool water.

Step 4: Test the Pool Water

After 24 hours; you need to test for borate, pH, and TA to make sure that they are all within the recommended range: The borate should be reading around 50 ppm, the range of 7.4 ppm and 7.6 ppm for pH is ideal.

Step 5: Test Borate Levels Monthly

You need to test the levels of borate in your pool on a monthly basis and adjust it at recommended level of 50 ppm by adding borate agent you are using. However, if you backwash frequently, you will need to test for borate regularly and adjust it.

I recommend: Swimming Pool Filters: Reviews and Comparisons

Step 6: Enjoy

Enjoy the sparkling pool water with stable pH, reduced demand for chlorine, algae free, soft water, and low chances of calcium scaling and metal staining.


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