How To Get And Keep Perfect Water Chemistry

by T. Duff on July 30, 2010

When it comes right down to it, there are three basic elements to getting (and keeping) a crystal clear, sparkling pool. Get these three elements under control, and you can enjoy a truly paradise-like, perfect, sparkling pool.

Let these elements get unbalanced and out of whack, and you will be faced with everything from algae growth, to cloudy water, to skin irritation, to chemical stains to scale formation …. and the list could go on and on.

Suffice it to say that with these three key areas, the phrase “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” could not be more accurate! So here are 3 keys to having perfect swimming pool chemistry (and, by extension, to enjoying a perfect, crystal clear, sparkling pool).

Perfect Swimming Pool Chemistry Key #1 – Total Alkalinity Level: Total Alkalinity is the measure of water’s resistance to change in pH. It is the “buffering” capacity of the water. The higher the Total Alkalinity, the harder it is for the pH to change. The acceptable range for Total Alkalinity levels is between 90-140 ppm, however, the ideal range is between 100 to 120 ppm. You should check the total alkalinity levels once a week using a simple test kit. If your Total Alkalinity is outside of this range, then adjust the total alkalinity by adding sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to raise it or sodium bisulfate (dry acid) to lower it.

Perfect Swimming Pool Chemistry Key #2 – pH Level: Maintaining a proper pH balance is one of the most important and basic areas of good pool care — and to keeping your pool crystal clear. You should check the pH levels once a week. The ideal range is between 7.4-7.6. Just remember, if it’s lower that this you can cause equipment issues and also irritate your skin. If it’s higher than this, you will those nasty “rings” around the water line of your pool. To lower the pH, add sodium bisulfate or liquid muriatic acid. To raise it, add soda ash (sodium carbonate).

Perfect Swimming Pool Chemistry Key #3 – Proper Sanitation: Regardless of what type of pool you have (hydrogenated, salt water or traditional chlorine), you cannot underestimate the importance of sanitation with your pool water. Sanitizing is essential to keeping pool water clean, bacteria-free, and safe for swimming the water. Sanitizing also kills all microorganisms, including bacteria and algae, and removes unwanted contaminants from the water. Use a sanitizer to help fight bacteria, and shock the pool on a regular basis to help keep it clean and crystal-clear.

Once you get these three elements under control, you have made your entire pool maintenance job so much easier.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Melanie August 4, 2010 at 8:36 am

This article is great! When I decided to try and maintain my own pool, to say that I felt information overload is an understatement!

It just seemed too complicated — in terms of how all the pieces fit together.

Oddly enough, as soon as started doing less — and started doing those few things right — my pool got better and I had a heck of lot less stress 🙂


Brian December 22, 2012 at 7:14 pm

Yeah mate… Great advice, if anyone wants a low maintenance swimming pool please do those 3 simple test regulary


Don Huffer June 6, 2013 at 4:58 pm

I have a tech telling me the pool water is okay with Alk at 40ppm if the cal hardness is high. Is this true and is this a satisfactory way to maintain balanced water? I say get all the numbers in line.



T. Duff June 11, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Hi Don,

Sounds like pretty poor advice assuming the TA is at 40 (not an easy accomplishment). That’s considerably low and can cause staining, etching, skin/eye irritation and can cause your pH to swing wildly and rapidly in different directions.

I agree with your assessment. Consider doing a partial drain/refill over a few days or backwash down to the skimmer several times and refill over several days to lower the calcium issue.



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