Raising Pool Alkalinity: Chemicals vs Household Products

Maintaining a proper swimming pool alkalinity level is critical to keeping your pool water healthy and balanced. Allowing your alkalinity to fall too low can lead to problems like corroded pool equipment and damaged and stained pool walls and floors. Low pool water alkalinity can also irritate your eyes or cause redness or turn your pool water green.

Total Alkalinity

Total alkalinity is the measure of your pool water’s ability to neutralize acids. Your pool water’s ability to neutralize acid  e determines how easy it is to balance your pool water chemistry.  Total alkalinity is expressed as parts per million (ppm). The ideal range of total alkalinity for your pool is between 80 and 120 parts per million. Carefully maintaining the alkalinity level of your pool will facilitate accurate measurements and control of chlorine, pH and hardness properties of your water and simplify your swimming pool maintenance. Measuring your pool’s total alkalinity is simply using test kits readily available at swimming pool supply stores.

Raising Your Pool’s Alkalinity

Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is the most common and safest household product used to raise swimming pool alkalinity levels. Raise your pool’s alkalinity slowly, over the course of several days, for more accurate and predictable results. Using sodium bicarbonate at a rate of ¼ pound per 10,000 gallons of water will raise your total alkalinity by ten parts per million, This will also result in a slight increase in your pool’s pH level  as well. Although it may not be cost effective to rob the box out your refrigerator, sodium bicarbonate is readily available in bulk quantities, and inexpensive, at local farm, feed and seed supply stores and swimming pool supply stores.

Sodium hydrogen carbonate is an alternative offered at swimming pool supply stores. This chemical is equally effective at raising your pool’s alkalinity levels and can be cost competitive. The advantage to using sodium hydrogen carbonate that is packaged for swimming pool use instead of household sodium bicarbonate is the swimming pool specific product is manufactured and tested with swimming pools in mind, so the application information on the package label is apt to be more accurate and predictable at raising your pool water alkalinity than the big sack of baking soda from the feed store that most likely doesn’t have any application information of the package.

Both sodium bicarbonate and sodium hydrogen carbonate share the same personal over exposure hazards. These hazards include aggravated respiratory disorders from inhalation over exposure, and skin or eye irritation and redness. Refer to the product manufacturer’s material safety data sheet to assess the environmental and health hazards for any product you are considering. Protect yourself by using a respirator, goggles and gloves while handling these chemicals.

Testing your pool’s alkalinity and pH daily will help keep your pool chemistry in balance. Be careful to avoid over shooting your alkalinity level as lowering it is much more complicated. When possible, follow product labels application instructions accurately to achieve more predictable results.