Swimming Pool Chemistry for Dummies: How to Balance Pool Chemicals

Clean Pool

When most folks imagine the life of a pool-owner, they think of summer barbecues: kids splashing around as they play Marco Polo, parents sipping soda pop (or maybe a beer or two) while hot dogs and burgers sizzle on the nearby grill. It’s an idyllic picture, and one that’s certainly a reality for pool-owners… maybe half the time. The other half of the time, we’re busy, measuring chemicals and cleaning the filters so that those barbecues can go off without a hitch.

While it may not be the most glamorous job in the world, maintaining the chemistry of your pool water is a very important one. Clean, pH-balanced pool water will not only make your poolside hours more enjoyable but it will help you keep your pool walls clean, your water sparkling, and your swimmers healthy. Proper pool chemistry doesn’t have to be a difficult task, either; a few clicks around a swimming pool supplies online shop can provide you with everything you need for a perfect pool.


jump into the pool

Keeping Pool Water Balanced

When you use chemicals to clean your pool, it is important that you balance out the acidic and basic chemicals in the water. This prevents damage to the pool and keeps the water from becoming unsanitary. While it may seem overwhelming to give yourself a crash course in chemistry, there’s only a few vital measurements you need to consider:

pH Levels –

pH measures the acidity or basicity of the water. It is measured on a scale from 0 to 14, with anything below 7 considered acidic and anything over 7 considered basic. Optimal pool pH is around 7.4 – but keeping it there isn’t always so easy.

Anything that goes into your pool will affect the pH balance, from sunscreen to rainwater. When the pH gets too low, your water can become acidic, leading to corrosion of your pool walls and skin irritation if you swim too long. When the pH gets too high, the basicity in the water can cause cloudy water, deposits on the walls, and dried out skin.

Keep proper chemicals on hand, such as pH reducers or increasers, and be sure to measure your pool’s pH regularly so you can hit that sweet spot. A couple common products you can use for increasing or decreasing the pH level include:

pH reducers

pH increasers

Total Alkalinity –

This is the measurement of all hydroxides, carbonates and alkaline substances. Essentially, your total alkalinity helps to stabilize your pH balance. It’s important to keep your alkalinity on the higher side – ideally between 80 and 120 ppm (parts per million).

If your total alkalinity falls too low, there are chemicals that can help raise it. Typically, these alkalinity increasers (as they’re aptly called) are acidic, which means that the added chemical could change your pH levels. Your best bet is to keep the pH increaser handy when working on alkalinity. Odds are, you’ll spend some time working with them both. Products you can use for increasing and decreasing alkalinity include:

Alkalinity increaser

Alkalinity decreaser

Calcium Hardness –

Have you ever seen hard water stains on a glass shower door? That white, cloudy look is far from appealing, and not something you want to see on your pool’s walls, floor, ladders, or tiles. Avoiding this is a matter of keeping your pool’s calcium levels nice and balanced.

Again, the balancing act is critical here. Too much calcium in your water will create those hard water stains, but not enough can make your water corrosive, which is also dangerous for pool surfaces.  The ideal calcium range is between 180 and 220 ppm, and you can achieve that by adding calcium hardness to the water. If you find yourself with calcium levels over the 220 ppm, you can lower calcium hardness by adding fresh water to the pool. A common product for increasing calcium hardness includes:

Calcium Hardness increaser

Calcium Chloride


swimming pool temperature

A Quick Note on Water Temperature

You may think that the amount of each chemical would be exact. But the reality is that external factors do influence the pool water’s balance, and each time you test may be different. When it’s warmer, your required chemical levels are likely to go down, while they increase during the colder months. You can determine your pool’s saturation level with the Langelier Saturation Index, then adjust your chemicals in order to achieve balance.

Now that you have all your chemicals and all the know-how, you are ready to properly maintain a well-balanced and beautiful pool. Remember to test two to three times each week, and enjoy swimming!


Author Bio: Keith Salvador is a freelance writer from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He has over 15 years experience in pool care and installation, starting with his summer job at the local YMCA. He’s used his expertise to teach friends, local businesses, and online swimming pool supply shops the keys to perfect pool maintenance.

Photo Links: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b5/FreeGreatPicture.com-30424-swimming-pool.jpg