A Homeowner's Guide to Pool-Cleaning Products

by Shelley Frost
A full complement of swimming pool chemicals and related implements sits in the foreground with the blue water of an in ground swimming pool visible in the background as well as greenery, swimming pool chemicals, swimming pool, pool, pool chemicals, chemicals, cleaning chemicals, chlorine, pH balance, blue water, water, trees, greenery, shrubs, swimming, chemical testing kit, pool testing kit

Splashing around in your backyard pool is a relaxing way to spend your summers, but it takes a lot of work to keep your pool sparkling and fresh.

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A traditional chlorine pool requires several pool-cleaning agents to sanitize the water and make it safe for swimming. Find out which cleaning products you need and how they work to better understand pool maintenance requirements.

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What Basic Products Do You Need to Keep Your Pool Clean?

Your swimming pool is a little like a chemistry experiment, but you don't want to test out cleaning agents without knowing what you're doing. Many pool cleaning products are hazardous if they're used or stored incorrectly. Always follow the instructions on swimming pool-cleaning agents, and get help from a professional pool maintenance company if you're not sure how to care for your pool.

Common cleaning products you'll need to keep the water clean and safe include:

  • Sanitizer: Chlorine is the most common sanitizer for pools. It kills bacteria to keep the pool water sterilized. You can also use other sanitizers, such as bromine.
  • pH adjusters: Keeping the pool in the ideal pH range makes it easier for the chlorine to kill bacteria. It can also help your pool equipment last longer. You'll need a pH increaser and pH reducer, which is available in powder form.
  • Alkalinity increaser and decreaser: A proper alkalinity level helps maintain the pH level in the pool. Having commercial products that increase and decrease alkalinity helps you keep the water in the correct range.
  • Calcium hardness control: Calcium helps stabilize the alkalinity levels in your pool, so a low level can affect the pH. High levels can cause scaling and corrosion. Calcium corrector products help keep the levels correct.

You can often find pool-cleaning packs that include all the basic substances you need to get started.

How Does Chlorine Work?

A naturally occurring element, chlorine sanitizes your pool by killing bacteria and viruses in the water. It does this by creating hypochlorous acid in the water. This process happens when the chlorine touches the water. Because UV rays break down chlorine in outdoor pools, you need to regularly add more chlorine to keep the levels high enough to sanitize the pool properly.

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What Products Do You Need to Shock a Pool?

Shocking a pool means you're adding substances to the pool water to raise the chlorine level quickly. This might be necessary when you have a large buildup of chloramines, which develop in the water when the chlorine combines with urine, sweat and oil. If you get a big smell of chlorine near the pool, you likely have a lot of chloramines floating around in the water. You might also need to shock the pool if the water is cloudy or you notice algae growth.

Shocking your pool breaks up the chloramines and helps kill bacteria in the water. Pool shock is different from the normal chlorine you use to sanitize your pool. You can use different types of pool shock to get the results you need. Calcium hypochlorite, also called cal-hypo, is a popular and cost-effective option. Sodium dichlor is another option, and it can go in both chlorine and saltwater pools. If you want a chlorine-free option, you can use potassium monopersulfate to shock your pool. This is a good option for a saltwater pool and allows you to swim in about 15 minutes. However, it isn't an algaecide, so it won't help with an algae problem in your pool.

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Checking the Pool's pH

The pH level of your pool water measures how acidic or alkaline it is. You want a balanced pH in your pool, usually between 7.3 and 7.6. Proper pH levels help the chlorine work effectively, which helps keep the pool clean. If the pH levels rise, the chlorine isn't as effective at killing bacteria. It can also cause the water to get cloudy or scale to form on different parts of your pool. You might even be affected with skin rashes if you swim in water with high alkalinity. Lower pH levels can also cause issues, such as stinging eyes.

pH levels can change naturally due to factors such as rainfall and too much sunscreen in the pool. You'll need a testing kit to keep an eye on the pH levels. You can use strips that you dip into the pool or drops that you put into a test tube of pool water. For both methods, you match the color to the chart to find the level. You should generally test the pH levels two to three times per week. Use the results to determine if you need to add products to raise or lower the pH.

What Other Products Do You Need to Keep Your Pool Clean?

You'll likely need a few other cleaning agents and tools to keep your pool clean. Those might include:

  • Algaecide to kill and prevent algae
  • Phosphate remover to control algae
  • Algae brush
  • Skimmer
  • Pool vacuum
  • Pool cover to keep debris out

How Do Saltwater Pools Stay Clean?

Saltwater pools still use chlorine, although it's in a different form. They use a salt chlorine generator to turn salt into chlorine using a process called electrolysis. Water from the pool continuously passes through the salt chlorine generator to constantly create more chlorine, which sanitizes the water.

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