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Maintaining Your Swiming Pool

Updated on June 5, 2008

Maintaining your pools chemical balance

The two biggest elements of good pool maintenance are proper filtration, and a good chemical treatment program.

Chlorine, pH, total alkalinity, calcium hardness, and stabilizer are all important factors in maintaining chemical balance in your pools water.

Traditional Chlorine Pool

With a traditional chemically chlorinated swimming pool you will need to have these chemicals on hand.

  • stabalized chlorine
  • algae preventative
  • swimming pool shock

Stabalized Chlorine comes in sticks or tablets that you put in a distribution container. Chlorine is an oxidizer and a sanitizer. It burns up organic materials in the water reducing the stress on the filtration system, and kills germs. You usually need to keep 2-4 ppm (parts per million) of chlorine in the water to ensure there is enough to kill all germs and bacteria.

Periodically you will have to "shock" or superchlorinate your pool. This is necessary if the chlorine level gets way too low, a heavy rain occurs washing contaminants into the pool water, or you begin to see algae developing.

Salt Chlorination

Salt Chlorinated Pool

Salt Chlorinated Pools tend to be easier to maintain because the chlorination is done for you. Because having a constant level amount of chlorine readily available in your pool at all times to "attack" all of the bad stuff, salt chlorination has become a great alternative to chlorine tablets. During salt chlorination, regular food grade salt is converted into chlorine, then once it is used, it is converted back into salt and ready to be used again.

So, how does this work? Well, basically there is a chlorination cell that houses metal plates with opposite charges. When you add salt to the water, it becomes conductive allowing electricity to pass between these plates. As long as you have enough salt in your pool, electrolysis and the conversion from salt to chlorine can occur. Salt chlorination tends to maintain a more steady chlorine level than traditional chlorine products, therefore reducing the need to "shock" your pool.

I am a big fan of salt chlorination, so I am going to fill you in on some added benefits of investing in a salt chlorination system. Firstly, you will probably spend upwards of $30,000 on your swimming pool, so the added investment of $1,000 into a salt chlorination system should be a no brainer. Not only will it reduce the amount of time you spend on trying to equalize your chemical balance, but over the first few years it will pay for itself in savings on chemicals. Not only that, but it is easier on your skin, hair, and eyes too!

Pool Chemical Maintenance


If you have ever had a fish tank, this one will sound familiar! pH is a measure of how basic or acidic your pool water is. If your swimming pool water is "basic" it has a high pH, if it is "acidic" it has a low pH. It can also be neutral or "balanced". pH is typicall measured on a scale ranging from 6.6 to 8.4 with 7.4-7.6 being neutral (where you want your pools water to be).

Acidic water, which would be anything lower than 7.4, is sometimes called "hungry" water. It tends to etch and corrode things because it is looking for something to combine with.

Basic water, anything above 7.6, is referred to as "over saturated", and tends to leave deposits on things. These deposits are called "scale" and are left behind because the water has excess material it needs to get rid of.

Crystal Clear Pool Water

Total Alkalinity

Alkalinity hinges on the pH, so you will see now why it is so important to keep a steady balanced pH. As said above, acidic water is referred to as "hungry" water, wanting to combine with something in order to balance itself. Acidic water as I also said is corrosive, so in attempts to balance itself,it can and will etch your plaster pool finish or corrode metal parts in your pump and filter. The other option (obviously a much more preferred option) is to add a buffer of alkaline materials (alkalinity increaser) to the pool.

If you allow the alkalinity to get too low, the pH can swing to its highs and lows and eventually damage your pool and its equipment. If you allow the alkalinity to get too high, the water will cloud.

Calcium Hardness

Calcium hardness is how much calcium your pool water has dissolved in it. Similar to alkalinity, if your calcium hardness level is too low, your water will begin to look for calcium elsewhere--IN YOUR PLASTER FINISH- leaving pits in its wake. If it is too high, you will have cloudy water. A balanced level of calcium hardness falls between 250-500 on a scale of 0-700.

Keep Your Water Clear

Stabilizer & Regular Water Testing

Stabilizer is the chemical you add to your chlorinated pool waterto keep the chlorine from evaporating or burning off. Stabilizer is Cyanuric Acid which stabilizes Hypochlorous Acid, or chlorine.

With any pool, you will have to have the water chemically tested at least once a week. There are many pool supply stores that offer this for free. Be sure to tell the person testing your water what type of swimming pool you have ie. gunite, vinyl liner, or fiberglass, and whether or not it is salt chlorinated. You will also need to know approximately how many gallons of water your pool holds. The size of your pool will determine how much of each chemical you need to add in order to get the water balanced.


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    • RachelOrd profile image

      Rachel Ord 7 years ago from Palm Coast

      Karen - keep it up girl, you rock!

      Casey - yes, we install two different types of equipment that adjust the pH. One is a basic acid feeder. You still have to test the pH regularly, but it allows you to dial in an output so you don't have to directly handle the acid. The second is call the Sense and Dispense by Hayward. It uses CO2 to adjust the tests for it and dispenses accordingly! Pretty amazing !

    • profile image

      Casey Ollson 7 years ago

      Have you seen those devices that balance your pH for you daily?

    • profile image

      Karen Reader 7 years ago

      I skim my pool twice a day, brush it once a week, and always keep the chemicals balanced. My pool is magnificently clean!

    • profile image

      Pool Chemicals 7 years ago

      Great hub. Chemicals can be confusing. Thanks for the information.

    • profile image

      Amy Appleton 8 years ago

      That's true swiftpoolsupplies. It should never be overlooked.

    • swiftpoolsupplies profile image

      swiftpoolsupplies 8 years ago from Naples, Florida

      Maintenance can be a pain but if you stay up with it and follow good advice like this it's well worth it! Thanks for a good thorough post.

    • RachelOrd profile image

      Rachel Ord 8 years ago from Palm Coast

      Thanks Kenny-

      Pool maintenance may seem like a daunting task to new pool owners, but once you have the facts and the know how, it's not so hard. It is very important to maintain your pools chemical balance in order to sustain the life of your interior finish - be it plaster, vinyl, or fiberglass!

    • profile image

      Kenny 8 years ago

      This is a very comprehensive guide to maintaining your swimming pool, a vital part of keeping it safe for your family. Thanks for compiling this information!

    • Tommy B profile image

      Tommy B 9 years ago

      The part I hate is the pool chemical and changing the filters. Thanks for your article...

      Tommy B

    • In The Doghouse profile image

      In The Doghouse 9 years ago from California


      Wow, this is a lot of great information for pool owners. We have always maintained our own pool, but have recently thought of hiring someone to do it... that is another Hub all in itself, finding a reliable pool service company! :) Thank you for the great pool information.