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Pool Chemistry Simplified

Let’s face it. There is nothing quite so inviting on a hot day as a crystal clear, well-maintained swimming pool.

One significant key to that is your pool’s chemistry. At Hive Outdoor Living, #1 Tampa Bay Pool Builder, we want you to thoroughly enjoy your pool and hope to make taking care of it a little bit easier.

Let’s Simplify Your Pool Chemistry.

Probably due to the word “chemistry,” many people may feel that keeping their pool’s chemicals in balance to keep the water as pure and clean as possible might end up being quite a chore, a challenge.

That is not really the case.

The real challenge is after your pool water chemicals get totally out of balance and, as a result, generate costly repairs.

Pool Chemistry rests primarily on two points. First, the chlorine level to kill bacteria, germs and stop algae. And second, the pH of the water – the balance between alkalinity and acidity. Depending upon where one lives, you would add water hardness and possibly the levels of iron in the water.

The actual meaning of pH is the “potential or power of Hydrogen.” The range of pH extends from 0 (acid) to 14 (alkaline), with 7.0 being neutral.

For example, at 77°F pure water is at a pH 7.0, or neutral (neither acidic nor alkaline. This is also referred to as basic.

Pool Chemistry Simplified covers your pH and Chlorine levels.


First, to dispel certain folklore.

There are those who blame things such as urination in a pool for their burning eyes. That is simply not the case. That specific phenomenon is, in most cases, caused by the pH level of the water in which one is swimming.

The pH of your eyes is between 7.0 and 7.3.

Here is an example of burning eyes sensation when one is not in a pool. Have you ever been exercising, or working hard, causing you to perspire quite a bit? Then, all of a sudden, a few drops of sweat from your hair/scalp hits your eyes. Presto! Eye burn.

That is because the pH of your hair/scalp is in the pH 5 range. However, the sweat that is produced lowers to near that pH prior to hitting your eye. At a pH of 5, your hair and scalp are approximately 100 times more acidic than the pH of your eyes. Thus the burning sensation.

Now that that point is out of the way…


Aside from burning our eyes, pool water that is either too acidic or too alkaline causes certain chemical reactions that can harm your pool/spa and/or your system.

When pool water pH is too high, i.e., too alkaline, the water can become cloudy and, worse, scaling can develop in your pool equipment and on the surface of your pool.

Too low of a pH, too acidic, can and does corrode metal in your pool equipment and can cause skin irritation.

As well, a pH that is either too high or too low reduces the effectiveness of chlorine, your primary defense against algae and pathogens.

If your pH is too high, chlorine cannot kill pathogens. If your pH is too low, chlorine dissipates much too rapidly to be effective.

The pH level in your pool should be somewhere between 7.4 and 7.6 (though some will say 7.2 to 7.8 is acceptable), slightly on the alkaline or basic side.

The pH of swimming pool water can be easily tested with a simple test kit. One popular, inexpensive kit is the Taylor Residential Test Kit. This kit measures Total Chlorine or Bromine (if you decide to use this instead of chlorine) and your pool’s pH level.

Ideally, the reagents, the liquids, used for testing should be stored indoors in their plastic container, keeping them away from severe temperature fluctuations. Taylor formulates its reagents to remain effective for at least one year.

Therefore, a good practice is to purchase new reagents at the beginning of each swimming season. If you are fortunate enough to live in an area where you can swim year-round, then choose a specific annual date to change to new reagents.

The most popular forms of chlorine used today are granulated powder (referred to as Dy-Chlor) or tablets/sticks (Trichloro-s-triazinetrione or trichlor).

Chlorine tablets and sticks are very highly-concentrated, offering around 90% chlorine, and take time to dissolve. They are typically placed in dispensers sitting on top of your pool water, though some people place them in their skimmer basket area. Granular chlorine, which is around 56%^ pure chlorine, is scattered over your pool water surface.

The choice for chlorine form is dependent upon several factors, particularly pool usage and air and water temperature. After a short time, whichever form you decide to use, a common routine will generally arise and, if followed, will provide a clean environment.


The following are instructions for use with the Taylor kit. Other manufacturer’s may vary slightly, so check their instructions.

For chlorine, fill the left cell with pool water, add five drops of the R-0600 solution, cap and invert (do not shake) the water. Compare the color against the chart. The ideal range of Chlorine in your pool is between 2-4ppm (parts per million).

For pH, fill the right cell with pool water, add five drops of R-0014 solution, cap and invert (do not shake) the water. Compare the color against the chart. The ideal pH range for your pool (and spa) is between 7.4 and 7.6.

If your tests show both within those ranges, you are good to go.

If your Chlorine test shows a level below 2ppm you will need to add some chlorine. However, if it is above 4ppm, you should wait and let the level go down before swimming. If you don’t want to wait a few hours, you can add a neutralizing chemical, such as sodium thiosulfate or sodium sulfite.

If your pH is above or below the range, you need to adjust it by adding liquid muriatic or dry acid to lower the pH or soda ash to raise the pH. Be sure to follow the directions for either one, so as not to add too much.

Testing should be done at least twice a week. In hotter temperatures, testing more often helps ensure your pool maintains it’s sparkling luster.

A clean pool makes for a healthy pool.


That’s really all there is to it.

Get a test kit and the required chemicals and reagents.

Test at least twice a week and adjust the levels, as needed.

Keep your pH ideally between 7.4 and 7.6.

Ensure that your chlorine level is between 2-4ppm.

Swim and enjoy!

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