Imagine the ideal swimming pool. It might have Spanish tiles. A high diving boardSome These ladders are unique and sleekMaybe even a fountain. Everyone has their own style, and that’s part of what makes the industry great. I think the one thing everyone has in common is their ideal image of themselves: a sparkling clean pool. And I’m talking sunlight-reflected-in-diamond-shapes clean.
Other than just being nice to watch, water that’s truly free of dirt and grime is also free of bacteria, including the kind that can make you sick. So not only does it look nice to have a clean pool, but it’s the only safe way to swim. You can skim and vacuum your pool, have the right pool pump, and run it for the perfect amount of time every day—as you should. The only thing that can kill this bacteria is chlorine. I’ll explain what chlorine Is, how it works, how to choose the right kind amount for you, and how to properly add it to your pool—all in three easy steps. Let’s get sanitizing.
First Thing’s First: What Exactly is Chlorine?
Chlorine is basically a household name—and for a reason. It’s by far the most popular pool sanitizer, mainly because it’s both wildly effective and wildly inexpensive, a combination anyone should love. It’s also exceptionally safe, as long as the dosage is right. It’s even used for drinking water when dosed down. Basically, if you’re in the ballpark of the right amount of chlorine for your pool, you’ll kill all the bacteria you need to and won’t irritate your skin, eyes, and throat.
Chlorine is a chemical compound—but that doesn’t mean you had to have aced high school chemistry class to understand it. The solid chlorine form is sodium hypochlorite; the liquid chlorine form is calcium hypochlorite. And despite popular misconception, you don’t need a different type of chlorine for an above ground versus in-ground pool. Sound good? Let’s move on.
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How does chlorine ensure safe swimming?
This one is easy: when you add sodium hypochlorite to your pool, or calcium hypochlorite if preferred liquid chlorine, it activates the bacteria in your water. This doesn’t mean that the bacteria is technically completely removed—you’ll need the right pool filter and the help of pool shock for that—but the bacteria will be dead in the water. (You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to use that phrase.)
Step One to Proper Chlorination: Choosing the Right Chlorine.
This is where it gets technical. The ideal chlorine combination of your pool is between 1And 3 parts per million (ppm). In order to kill pathogenic viruses, you’ll want to make sure your chlorine concentration doesn’t fall below 1 ppm. Go above 3 ppm and while you’re sure to wipe out bacteria, you’re also vulnerable to that irritation in your eyes, nose, lungs, and throat. Now that you’ve got the numbers, it’s time to choose between stabilized or unstabilized chlorine for your pool—and trust me, it won’t take more than sixty seconds to find out.
How do I choose the right chlorine for my pool?
It’s simple: pool chlorine is either stabilized or unstabilized. The idea of unstabilized chlor might bring back memories of lab coats and beakers as well as minor explosions. But chlorine is different. “stabilized”It only means that it contains cyanuric acid. Cyanuric Acid protects chlorine from sunlight like a sunscreen, but it is also reliable. Is anyone else already getting roasted this summer, or have you?
Stabilized chlorine is most popular because most pools are outdoor. If you have an outdoor pool, you’ll want stabilized chlorine, or your chlorine will break down and prove itself more or less completely ineffective. Stabilized and unstabilized chlorine can be used in indoor pools. You also have pretty sweet digs—I’m jealous.
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Choosing Chlorine: Which type is best and how much do I need?
Although outdoor pool owners have the option between granules of chlorine and chlorine tablets, tablets are the way to go—and most maintenance experts agree. Why? Well, they’re cost-efficient, they dispense chlorine at a steadier rate, and they’re simply the easiest to use. It’s a no brainer.
There are two sizes of chlorine tablets: one-inch and three inches. For most pools, the three-inch size is recommended, since they are less complicated and cheaper to use—they sanitize a whopping 5,000 gallons per tablet, and you can use fewer of them than you would one-inch tablets.
If you have a spa or a very small pool—in other words, any body of water less than 5,000 gallons—the one-inch tablets are for you. They might also be handy for very, very large pools because of their faster rate of dissolution, but it’ll cost you.
I don’t know how many gallons of pool water you have. It’s simple geometry anyone can do—even if you weren’t exactly a candidate for math camp that year. Simply multiply the length, width, depth, and depth of the pool in feet. Then multiply that number by 7.5 to convert it to gallons. Prefer formulas? Follow the one below.
[Pool Length in Feet]x [Pool Width in Feet]x [Pool Depth in Feet]x 7.5 = [Volume of Your Pool in Gallons]
For the purposes of finding how many tablets your pool needs, round your volume up to the nearest 5,000—so you can be sure you’re not undershooting it. If your pool has a capacity of 25,000 pounds, you’ll want to use five tablets (that’s one tablet for every 5,000 gallons). It would be so simple to teach algebra.
Step 2: Add chlorine to your pool.
I wish it was as simple as tossing the chlorine tablets into the pool and letting them take care of the rest—it’s not. Thankfully, there are a few devices that will ensure your chlorine is disseminated throughout your pool water—and active traces of bacteria are long gone.
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The Floating Chlorine Dispenser
If you grew up around pools, you most certainly remember swimming around this floater—and accidentally kicking it during your underwater flips. Our warm feelings for floating chlorine dispensers should be put to rest. This low-maintenance and fairly inexpensive device—you can get one for as little as ten dollars—proves that sometimes you get what you pay for. Womp womp.
What’s the problem with floating chlorine dispensers? Well, they’re just not consistent. If they get caught in one place—which they often do—they can release too much chlorine in one area of your pool (which can also destroy your pool liner). They release chlorine into more or less slow-moving water—not the water that flows directly through your pool filter as part of the circulation of your larger system. This means that chlorine is not evenly distributed throughout your pool. And if it’s not dispensed evenly, it’s not effective. You can skip this nostalgic device and continue reading.
The Pool Skimmer
Much better than the floating chlorine dispenser—and if you can believe it, even cheaper to start—is the pool skimmer method. You can simply drop in chlorine tablets into your pool and call it good. The caveat is that you’re dropping the correct amount of tablets into your pool SkimmerIt is a small basket-lined bucket that is built into the side wall of the pool. Make sure your pool filter is on, and add in the tablets to push beautifully-sanitizing water through your return jets, which will spread chlorine evenly throughout your pool.
Of course, although this method doesn’t require buying anything but the tablets, it’ll cost you in energy costs to run your filter. My recommendation? Make a long-term investment that’ll save you significantly. Variable speed pumps like this Energy Star-certified one have the option of running at a lower speed, and tend to pay themselves off in under a year in energy saved. It’s my top recommendation for any pool owner.
The Automatic Chlorinator
Meet the most advanced chlorinating system on the market. The automatic chlorinator hooks up to your return line (that’ll be the plumbing that runs from your pump back to your pool) to ensure the water is sanitized just before it enters the pool. It is a favorite among pool maintenance professionals because it allows you to load the feeder with multiple tablets at once, without worrying about how many. Then you can set the chlorine level for 1 ppm to 3ppm and let the feeder do its job.
Here’s a tip: in the beginning, make sure you use chlorine test strips to make sure that the level you set is accurate for your specific variables: your environment, how frequently the pool is used, and the natural water quality of your area. These details matter, and it’ll save you the headache later.
Step Three to Properly Chlorination is Pool Shock.
If you don’t know about pool shock already, now is the time to learn. Pool shock is technically a higher chlorine dose, so it is vital to maintain a clean pool.
Here’s how it works. The chlorine particle creates a chemical compound we call a chloramine. It attacks and kills bacteria and other organic materials in your walls. This is an inactive chemical that remains in the water until it can be oxidized. But not only is it kind of gross, it also reduces the amount of free chlorine in your pool—that’s the amount that your chlorine can actually work. Your chlorine will be less effective if you chlorinate your pool only without shock. Cue swamp scenario.
Pool shock is easy to use. Simply walk around your pool’s perimeter and pour the appropriate amount. You should add shock at night or at dusk, as the sun can burn the compound.
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Is chlorination possible? Now it’s time to have some fun.
When it comes to your pool, the reward far outweighs the work—and it’s even better when you take the DIY approach and worry less about the cost. Now that you’re checking your levels twice a week with test strips and adding chlorine accordingly, you can forget about bacteria and focus on the fun. A clean pool is something you deserve. Enjoy it.