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How to use
some of the less common pool chemicals? As the swimming
pool industry has matured, specialty chemical
products have evolved. There are specific
products - for specific problems! Various
products to make pool maintenance easier or more
effective and choosing the right product for the
task can help assure a better prospect of
success, save time and money. Borates have
come into widespread pool use, as a means of
helping to control algae growth. It is not
a stand-alone cure for algae, but it does reduce
the carbon dioxide content, which, in turn,
helps retard algae growth. Borates do not
replace conventional pool sanitizers, but can
help reduce their overall usage. If problems
arise, refer to the
Page, as a source of problem-solving
information, broken down into various
categories. Scroll down the page and click on the linked
or images, in the archived answers below, to access additional information, on that topic or product.
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Problem-Solving Information, in a question and
Chelated Copper or Sodium Borate
Advantages or Disadvantages?
husband spent a good bit of money yesterday to convert
our pool from a chelated Copper (copper citrate) system
to a Borax system. I need to know the advantages and
disadvantages of each system. Also, which do you
recommend?? Thank you,
Brandon, MS, 4/6/2016
Neither product is a stand alone
system, for maintaining swimming
pool and are usually used to
compliment another sanitizer or
oxidizer. Regardless of how
they might assist, in the sanitizing
role, they provide no oxidizing
benefit and must be used with an
oxidizer such as, chlorine, bromine,
hydrogen peroxide, potassium monopersulfate
or ozone. They can be used
with a single oxidizer or with a
combination of products. While they can
help reduce the amount of oxidizer
required, they cannot eliminate it. Chelated copper products are
generally recognized as algaecides
and can help reduce the amount of
oxidizer, chlorine for example,
required. Sodium borate, as
swimming pools, helps deplete the
amount of dissolved carbon dioxide
and, in the course of doing so,
denies algae an abundant and ready
source of this vital plant nutrient.
What you have are two examples of
products, that can help you use less
chlorine, which is the most popular
pool oxidizer and sanitizer.
Some individuals gloss over the need
for chlorine, as a sales ploy.
In my opinion, these products are of
greatest benefit, when used with a
Their presence will allow you use
less chlorine or bromine, to
maintain any given PPM level.
Having made this transition, you
have no other option, but to
maintain an adequate
sanitizer/oxidizer level and that
translates into using chlorine or
bromine. I am sure that your
intent was to use no chlorine, but
that is an elusive goal.
Better that you try to maintain the
pool using chlorine or bromine and
settle for being able to reduce the
amount of product required.
For this reason, I find that
salt chlorine generators are
complete sanitizers. They
perform both the sanitizing and
oxidizing function and eliminate the
negative aspects of chlorinated
pools. You will have more
control and consistency, using a
salt chlorine generator, along with
these supplemental products.
They just need some help. I
hope that this information is
Sincerely. Alan Schuster,
I am using test strips to test the
borate level in my 24k gal pool and it is difficult for me
to get an accurate color reading from the strips. I think my
borate level is somewhere in the 60-80 level. My pH is about
7.1 and my TA is about 110 which I think is within reason.
The borate seems to be on the high side and my question is
can I have a high borate level without having the pH and TA
levels also being high? Also, what problems would the high
borate level cause? Thanks for any and all help/comments.
Harry L., 7/10/2013
Borates help lower the amount of dissolved carbon dioxide,
depriving algae of a vital nutrient. The suggested level is
30-50 PPM. Borates do not prevent the pH and or TA from
being higher or lower than normal.
Insta-Test Borate Test
strips are available to test the borates level. Your final
pH will depend on the nature of the water and the type and
quantities of pool chemicals being added: chlorine having
the most pronounced effect. Higher borate levels can present
some toxicity issues, especially with pets that drinking
from the pool. A recommended range is used, so that a
reasonable amount of chemicals can be suggested, as being
required to help achieve the desired benefit of using less
chlorine. Your best assurance of good water quality is
proper maintenance and frequent water testing. If you want
to avoid the color-matching and guesswork, I suggest an
all-digital ColorQ Water Analyzer. There's a model for every
type of pool or sanitizing method. I hope that this
information is helpful.
Sincerely. Alan Schuster, 7/11/2013
► Safe Borate
Someone suggested that I use borax in
my pool to help as an algaecide and said it would also
decrease the chlorine usage. Is this a safe chemical? If it
is safe how much should I put in the water? How much is
safe? Is this a commonly practiced procedure? I live in a
western suburb of the Phoenix area and my pool capacity is
12000 gallons. Thanks.
John B., Arizona, 3/12/2016
Borates will decrease the amount of carbon dioxide in the
pool water, helping to slow down any potential algae growth.
The recommended level is 30-50 PPM. Levels higher than 80
PPM could to be close to causing the onset of toxic
symptoms, in pets and people that ingest too much water. It
is used in a variety of pool chemicals, full strength or as
an additive. The commercial product contains a lot of water.
The pool grade usually contains less water. If using the
commercial product, you can add 8 pounds, to bring you to
about 30 PPM. Borates can be measured with
Insta-Test Borate strips, between 0 to 80 PPM. I hope that
this information is helpful.
Sincerely. Alan Schuster, 3/13/2016
► How Borates
I've had a hard time finding objective
info on a chemical used to fight algae: 100% sodium
tetraborate pentahydrate. People selling it say it works
great, but I've not been able to find any customer feedback
on the web. Does this stuff work on algae and bacteria, and
would you recommend it for a pool that recently had a
stubborn pink bacteria and black algae bloom simultaneously?
Brad H., 6/18/2008
Sodium borate is not an algaecide. Its use is based on
something known in analytical chemistry: that borate
solutions do not absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide. Someone
made the connection and got a patent, some 20+ years ago. It
has expired and others are marketing it. It is a product
what will help you use less chlorine, by retarding algae
growth. Less available carbon dioxide deprives algae of a
vital building block of life. But, it is not an algaecide.
You still need chlorine to kill and destroy algae and
bacteria. In your case, lots of it. Lower the pH to 7.2, as
that will make the chlorine more effective. Test the
stabilizer and get it under 100 PPM. Have the water tested
for phosphates and nitrates, as these can be playing a role.
Pink Algae is actually a bacterial problem and chlorine may
not be as effective as bromine. Switching could solve the
problem, but costs will rise. Adding a 60% polymer algaecide
could help, as well. I hope that this will help solve the
Sincerely. Alan Schuster, 6/19/2008
► Where To Start?
I recently purchased a home in
Woodland, CA with a inground pool. The vinyl liner was
replaced by the previous owner in 1999. My concern is
cleaning and water chemistry but I am totally overwhelmed by
the number of products on the market. Can you narrow down
the list of essentials I should keep on hand for proper
maintenance of a vinyl lined pool. Thank you.
Colleem T., Woodland, CA., 4/25/2013
The question is reasonable with a big BUT! The chemicals
that a pool will require are based upon the water chemistry
and the sanitizer being used. These are unknowns in your
case. Assuming that you are using chlorine, I would suggest
a salt Chlorine generator. It will provide convenience and will
be less likely to cause a liner problem. You will need chemicals to lower the pH. You may or
may not need to adjust the total alkalinity, chlorine
stabilizer or calcium hardness: it depends upon how the
water tests. Adding algaecide is a good idea. Your water may
or may not contain metals that will need to be treated.
Which brings us back to the first sentence. The best way to
determine the chemical needs is a water analysis. Most pool
professionals offer a complimentary analysis. That's where
you should start. You will have to perform a free chlorine
and pH test on a frequent or daily basis. While,
I find test strips convenient,
however, nothing is better than a
ColorQ Digital Water Analyzer. Become better informed and
you'll have fewer problems. You can fill in a lot of the
blanks by browsing through the various topics of this
website. I hope that I have been helpful. Enjoy the pool.
Sincerely. Alan Schuster, 4/25/2013
► Helping The
Can you use a liquid solar product
with a solar pool heater? It is a chemical filled ball that
is placed in the skimmer, slowly releasing its contents.
Does it clog the tubes?
Yolande K., Tampa, FL, 3/13/2012
The major reason that pool water cools off is due to
evaporation. There are products that help to reduce
evaporation by forming a mono-molecular layer on top of the
pool surface. This ultra-thin film is biodegradable, so as
not to cause buildup problems. This film will help retain
the heat during the overnight period and help reduce the
overnight drop in temperature. Is it worth the expense? I
hope that this information helps to keep you in warm water.
Sincerely. Alan Schuster, 3/13/2012
► How Long To
Hello. How are you doing? We just
recently purchased a 15ft x 4ft above ground pool. It has
been nice, but now we are having to add pH, soda ash and
chlorine chemicals, etc. I don't like chemicals, but I know
they need to be added to keep it safe. I did not find
anything on the pH bottle about when it is safe to swim,
after using the chemicals. I have a 4 year child and I like
to be safe about the chemicals. If you get a chance, please
let me know more about chemicals and pool safety. Thanks so
K. H., 6/11/2011
How long to wait? This question really does not have one
answer! You don't want people jumping into a "cloud" of
chemicals. Follow the label directions and add each chemical
to dissolve in turn. Never directly combine different
chemicals. Make sure that the filter is operating while
chemicals are being added. Liquid chemicals can disperse
more quickly, than some granular chemicals. Some chemicals
are more hazardous that others. In the final analysis, it is
a matter of allowing a reasonably amount of time for the
chemicals do be diluted by dispersion. Depending upon the
amount of chemical, type of chemical and strength of the
circulation, an elapsed time of 15 minutes to one hour might
be reasonable. It is always best to be able to re-test the
water after some chemical additions, in order to make sure
that proper pool water chemistry is being maintained. Let
the label instructions and common sense be your guide.
Better circulation helps to assure quicker dispersion of the
chemicals and eliminates the dead zones that promote algae
growth. The Circulator is an easy-to-install circulation
booster, that will make the water come alive and provide
savings in electricity and chemicals. There is a page for
Pool Chemical Safety, available on the website. Be safe and
Sincerely. Alan Schuster, 6/12/2011
► Clean Up
What is the best way to neutralize the
chemicals used in pool servicing that have been spilled in
the backs of trucks? What are the neutralizing chemicals or
compounds you would use?
Trying to neutralize a possible mixture of chemicals is
probably too risky. You are better off using copious amounts
of water to dilute and flush out all of the chemicals. The
water will reduce the risk of chemical reactions. Chemical
spills should always to handled in accordance with the
instructions provided on the packaging.
Sincerely. Alan Schuster, 10/9/2012
► Enzyme Use?
Although I have never used such a
product, I am curious about enzymes. How are they used in
swimming pools? Are there advantages, limitations and
disadvantages? My pool is a vinyl inground, 16 by 32 and I
use a stabilized chlorine in an automatic chlorinator. I am
not having any particular problems.
Fayetteville, NC, 8/24/2009
Enzymes can help digest or biodegrade oily residues, bather
wastes, cosmetic residues and organic byproducts. The
removal of these undesired materials can help improve water
clarity, reduce any tendency towards foaming, improve the
appearance of the water line area and help eliminate oily
films that can interfere with sanitizing or filtration.
Those are the advantages. There are no disadvantages or
limitations that come to mind, inasmuch as enzymes are used
in all types of pools, residential and commercial. Just
follow the directions on the label. I hope that I have been
Sincerely. Alan Schuster, 8/24/2009
I've been told that there is a tablet
that can detect urine in pool water. What can you tell me
about it? Thanks a lot.
Jo G., Merrick, NY, 8/2/2010
The joke's on you! I can tell you that no such product
exists. Once upon a time there was a product like that, but
it was intended as a joke! It was not intended to be
anything else! Urine in a swimming pool is no joke: it can
quickly deplete the chlorine level, especially in smaller
pools, and will lead to the formation of odorous
chloramines. If there is urine in the pool, the odorous
combined chlorine level will rise and the free chlorine
level will bottom out. Large amounts of shock will probably
be required to restore the proper chlorine levels. Toilet
training is better! I hope that I have debunked the myth and
let's have no peepee in the pool. Enjoy the pool.
Sincerely. Alan Schuster, 8/2/2010
► Lots Of
Hi, I find your web site most
interesting. Thanks. My husband and I have a small pool
business--retail as well as service. I have a few questions
for which I have been unable to find the answers--maybe you
can help. Regarding "mustard algae"--is it possible some of
this is either dirt or dead algae circulating through the
sand filter and back to the pool? It seems as if most people
who think they have the mustard algae also have a sand
filter. This is coupled with the fact that many pool dealers
in our area think "bigger is better" when they sell a pump
and motor. I spoke with a woman today who has an effective
2.2 HP (1.5 HP with a 1.47 SF) on a 24" sand filter! Others
will say they were sold a 1.5 HP pump and motor for only a
few dollars more than a 1 HP. Hasn't anyone checked out the
flow rate charts? So much for may soap box, but I was
wondering if that could be causing ineffective filtration
rather than an actual algae problem? Also, I have had
limited experience with the sodium bromine products. I
carried a product containing sodium bromide which seemed to
work well, but another (containing ammonium sulfate) I have
tried more recently creates a major chlorine demand
requiring cases and cases of sodium hypochlorite to achieve
a residual free chlorine. I do use the sodium bromide salts
with a non-chlorine activator in our spa with good results.
I have limited knowledge of this phosphate problem, but we
have maintained clear, clean, safe pools for years without
treating for it. Maybe it's because more people are having
their lawns treated that phosphates have become a problem.
At what point should phosphates be treated, and do you know
of a good, reliable test kit we as a dealer can use? I
appreciate any light you can shed on these topics. Keep up
the good work.
Carol K., Cincinnati, OH, 8/25/2013
Dead algae can go right through some sand filters. Many
people make the mistake of backwashing too often. It should
be done when the pressure readings indicate a need. Almost
all of the people writing about cloudy water have sand
filters. An oversized pump can be part of the problem, but
usually it is poor water chemistry and maintenance
practices. There are things that you do that can help
improve the situation, in other than a chemical sense.
Replace the sand with a zeolite sand filter media
replacement: it is far better, than sand, at removing dead
algae and fine particles. Adding a
Robotic Pool Cleaner,
with its built-in micro-filter will help remove dead algae
and improve the circulation across the pool floor, making
algae growth less likely. Sodium bromide products do seem to
work well in problem situations. The other type of product,
being based on ammonium sulfate will boost the chloramine
content and will require massive shock treatments to restore
proper conditions. Regarding the phosphate levels: I believe
that you mean 500 PPB (B for billion) and not 500 PPM (M for
Million). In order to be effective, the phosphate level must
be reduced to near zero. 500 PPM is a very high level. If
the phosphate level is reduced, there is less tendency for
algae growth, but keeping it low is another matter. If a
pool has a recurring algae problem, the use of
phosphate eliminator can make sense. Nitrates is another
possible cause of recurring algae problems. For the majority
of pools, clear water that is algae-free can be achieved
with modest phosphates present, provided that the pool water
chemistry, filtration and cleanliness are properly
maintained. There are
phosphate and nitrate test kits
suitable for your needs. I hope that I have been helpful.
Sincerely. Alan Schuster, 8/26/2013
► Keeping The
I heard that there is a product that
you can add to the water that will help keep the temperature
from dropping at night. It that true.
Brenda, R., Michigan, 6/25/2009
Strange, but true. The product works by forming a
mono-molecular layer on the pool surface and is used, at
night, after the filter is turned off. Does it work? In
theory, if you reduce evaporation, you will reduce heat
loss. A better and reasonably inexpensive method of warming
the pool water is the use of a
solar pool heater. There are
solar pool heating kits that are easy to install and
reasonable in cost. To get the most efficiency out of a
heater in an area, such as yours, a solar blanket can be
used, in conjunction with any type of heater, to reduce
night time heat loss. These are plastic sheets (sized to
completely cover the water) filled with air bubbles, that
are used as a cover on the pool surface. Solar blankets are
not safety covers! Put it on after the pool is finished for
the day and take it off when you are about to resume
swimming. If left on during sunny periods, it will cause the
pool temperature to rise significantly. Reels are available
to remove and store the solar blanket, until it is used
again. Safety pool covers are available that are either
manual or automatic and can help reduce heating costs or
help keep unheated pool warmer. Enjoy the summer.
Sincerely. Alan Schuster, 6/25/2009
► Vinegar and
I have been told that white vinegar
and baking soda are alternatives to pH balance. If this is
so are they as good as the commercial chemicals? Which one
is used for raising and lowering?
Jim H., Minnesota, 6/13/2008
Although people have written about vinegar before, I have no
idea how the notion got started. Vinegar is not a good means
of lowering the pH of the pool and it is certainly not cost
effective. While, I doubt that the bathers will smell like a
pickle, there is really no point in such usage. Baking soda
is used to control the total alkalinity of the pool water.
It should be used on an as needed basis, in order to adjust
the total alkalinity upwards into the 80-120 PPM range. One
and one-half pounds will raise the TA of 10,000 gallons by
approximately 10 PPM. I hope that I have been helpful.
Sincerely. Alan Schuster, 6/13/2008
Physical Therapy Pool?
IS THERE ANY REASON A BURN PATIENT
SHOULD NOT USE AN EXERCISE POOL THAT WE USE BROMINE IN?
Physical Therapy, 3/13/2010
I really am not qualified to answer this question. It should
be directed to a medical doctor. I am sure that the main
concern is that the water be properly sanitized, so that
infection possibilities are at a minimum. I know of no
reason why bromine would be objectionable, but it is the
medical opinion that matters most! Sorry that I couldn't be of
Sincerely. Alan Schuster, 3/13/2010
Can you tell me some of the possible
uses of potassium permanganate in a swimming pool? Also, is
there a history of using this product in the pool/spa
Scott M., 2/1/2007
I have never heard of its use in the swimming pool industry
and probably for good reasons. It would introduce manganese
compounds and that would bring the risk of severe staining
and discoloration problems. While it is a powerful oxidizer,
the use of chlorine or monopersulfate makes more sense in
treating a swimming pool. I hope that I have been helpful.
Sincerely. Alan Schuster, 2/2/2007
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