Skip to content
Pierce Pools Logo

Balancing the pH in Your Pool

Nothing completes a home like a pool! It’s a place for relaxation, fun, family, and memories.

Deciding to have a pool is the easy part, keeping your new pool clean and safe is a bit more challenging and requires commitment.

Ensuring that your water is clean and that the chemicals in your pool are maintained at healthy levels will also help with the longevity of your pool.  One of the most important ways you can do that is by making sure that you are balancing the pH level of your pool water. Sometimes this can be confusing, but once you get the hang of it, you will become a pro.

During the summer, whether you have a chlorine or saltwater pool, you should be testing pH levels regularly. The chemical levels in your pool are affected by a lot of things. Sunlight, water levels, organic and inorganic debris such as plastic and leaves, rainfall, and other factors can all throw the pH balance out of whack. 

What are pH levels? The pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of the water. The scale ranges from 1 (extremely acidic) to 14 (extremely alkaline) and your pool needs to be between 7.3 and 7.8 (slightly to the acidic side of the neutral 7 range).

If the level is too low, meaning more acidic, then it can start to cause damage. It is acid, after all, and water that is too acidic will corrode, pipes, pool equipment, lining, walls, etc. Even worse, it’ll start to irritate and burn the skin and eyes. We’re all familiar with red burning eyes from swimming in pools. This can be caused by acidic pH levels.

High pH means the water is more basic or alkaline. Without enough acid, the water becomes “hard”. Hard water means more minerals. This is the opposite of acid because more acidity means corrosion. More alkaline, meaning more minerals, means buildup. The water will become murky and cloudy. You will start to see calcium buildup on your pool equipment and pipes. Buildup causes strain on the system making the whole thing less effective over time. Also, a high pH environment can become a breeding ground for bacteria, making the water unsafe to swim in.

If your pH is too high or too low, the chlorine or salt that you add to the pool will be rendered much less effective. The less effective, the more chlorine or salt you add, the harder everything is working, the more money you are spending. It doesn’t matter how much chlorine or salt you treat the pool with, without balanced pH, you will not get the correct balance. pH is at the foundation of keeping your pool water clean and clear.

Here’s where the chemistry comes in. You need to test the pH level of your pool water. Tests can be purchased wherever you purchase pool equipment. Pool stores or big box hardware stores (Home Depot or Lowes) will have what you need. When you get your too high or too low result, maybe 7.0 or perhaps 8.2, then you want to purchase the necessary chemicals to reach a pH balance.

Common pH reducers include muriatic acid and sodium bisulfate. The most common pH raiser is sodium carbonate. You can find the chemicals necessary at your pool store as well as the basic instructions need to apply them properly so that balance is restored to the water. It tends to involve some math as you will need to calculate the amount of water in the pool in gallons and thus, how much of each chemical to add. The instructions will also tell you how to apply whatever chemical you are using to the water, typically mixing in a bucket of water first or by pouring the chemical directly into the water in a way that ensure it is properly circulated. You’ll want to wait anywhere from an hour to even overnight depending on the chemical before you test again, and then adjusting as necessary. Remember, it’s easier to add more if it wasn’t enough. If the pH goes too far in the opposite direction, you might need to use the opposite chemical to send it back toward center. Also, take notes and log the original levels and how much of each chemical you add. This will provide a good reference to help you gain an understanding over time of how to effectively manage your levels.

As the weather cools and we get into fall and winter, we always suggest keeping up with your pool maintenance. With less use and different weather conditions, you don’t have nearly as much upkeep, but you should continue to monitor the pH from time to time. During the off-season, you will not need as many chemicals to keep it balanced. Pool covers will always be important for keeping debris out, and there are chemicals that you can use to keep algae from growing.

For chlorinated pools, you can also do a chlorine shock, which is just a stronger concentration of chlorine that super sanitizes the water. This is useful during summer to quickly get the pool clean, but you can also use it to shock the water before closing the pool down for a while. It’ll help keep the pool cleaner and in balance for longer. If you don’t yet want to cover the pool, you’ll probably have to skim the debris out more often as there likely more leaves falling. The more similar your fall/winter pool usage is to spring/summer usage, the more similar your chemical treatment routine will be. Use it less, cover it more, treat it less frequently. Safety tip: If you do shock the pool and plan to cover it, make sure to let the chlorine levels fall back to normal before doing so. 

Our team at Pierce Pools provide all the pool maintenance services you need to ensure your pool is prepared for each season. Trying to bring your pool back from the brink of legally being considered a biohazard that even the Ninja Turtles wouldn’t touch will always be more work and money than regular maintenance. Remember, vigilance is the key to ensuring your pool is always ready every season. So please, do not hesitate to give us a call and we can help assist you with everything from balancing and maintaining good pH levels to keeping your water crystal clear no matter what season we are in. We are always here to help you with all your pool needs!