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How to Treat Common Pool Water Chemistry Problems

Eight common pool water chemistry problems can be easily mitigated with the proper water treatment procedures.

From chlorine to pH to mineral hardness, there are many pool water components that must be carefully regulated. Following are eight common pool water chemistry problems and how to treat them:

Heavy chlorine odor: Super chlorinate (breakpoint chlorinate) pool water to help eliminate chloramines. Increase chlorine residual to a higher parts per million (ppm) than previously maintained so that chloramines don't reform. In indoor pools, ultraviolet disinfection can also help prevent chloramine formation.

pH bounce: Check and adjust total alkalinity levels, as total alkalinity serves as a buffer for pH change. Maintain a residual of 80 to 100 ppm total alkalinity. Add sodium bicarbonate to the water to increase total alkalinity.

Eye irritation and skin rashes: Super chlorinate the water to eliminate chloramines (see 1 above). If necessary, confirm that water pH and total alkalinity are at proper levels.

Foaming pool water: For pools with low total alkalinity, add sodium bicarbonate to maintain total alkalinity between 80 and 100 ppm. Also discontinue the use of algaecides (quats or poly quats) containing ammonia. If foaming is a result of body oils or other materials, use antifoaming products until the chlorine is able to oxidize and eliminate them.

Excessive chlorine consumption: Add chlorine at 10 ppm or higher to oxidize organic matter and eliminate excessive organic chlorine demand.

Blue-green staining of pool and tile surfaces: As a short-term solution, add sequestering agents to make copper more soluble and less likely to cause staining. These agents may also reverse minor staining if applied as soon as the stain appears. However, since sequestering agents have a limited ability to increase copper solubility, the best solution is to identify and eliminate the degradation source of the system's copper (copper pipes or components, or heat exchangers in the circulation system, for example). Utilize a water balance scale (Langlier Index, Calcium Saturation Index or Ryzner Index) to ensure that water has adequate levels of minerals/hardness to prevent corrosion of copper elements. Additionally, maintain proper levels of pH, total alkalinity, calcium hardness and total dissolved solids for optimum water balance.

Coudy water/algae blooms: Shock the pool to reach five to 10 ppm of chlorine. Should cloudy water persist, examine the water circulation and filtration systems. If algae blooms continue after shocking, add an algaecide.

Drifting/dropping of total alkalinity: Reduce the strength of the acid feed or slow the acid feed rate to prevent the conversion of alkalinity to CO2. CO2 can also be used in lieu of or in conjunction with the acid. If the total alkalinity level rises, a stronger acid can slow/prevent upward drift.

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