If you have a swimming pool at home, you’ll need a pool testing kit to ensure that the water levels are all properly balanced.
If the water in your pool is too acidic, this will corrode your equipment, and it’s likely to bring about etching on surface materials. Beyond this, acidic water will irritate your eyes, nose, and skin.
If, on the other hand, your pool water is too alkaline, this can cause scale to develop on the surface as well as all over your pool plumbing gear.
Neither of these scenarios is ideal. Excessive acidity or alkalinity both impact the efficiency of the chlorine in your pool, and resultantly impede the process of disinfection.
When you’re checking the pH level in your pool, you should aim for somewhere between 7.2 and 7.8. On the pH scale, 0 is extreme acidity, with 14 representing extreme alkalinity. 7 is neutral, so you’re shooting for just the alkaline side of neutral.
Now, before we show you how to raise the pH level in your pool, a few more basics so you can proceed better informed…
The pH balance of water expresses its acidity or alkalinity.
pH is the abbreviated form of potential hydrogen. This describes the ability of a substance to attract ions of hydrogen.
What does this mean for your swimming pool water, though?
Well, opinion differs when it comes to the ideal pH, but estimates fall within the range of 7.2 to 7.6 for swimming pool water. 7.4 is often bandied about as the optimum pH level.
To avoid irritating swimmers and destroying pool equipment, keeping the pH level properly regulated is key.
Unless you’re lucky enough to hit the jackpot with pH levels as above, you’ll face one of the following problems:
- Low pH levels
- High pH levels
Low pH levels
If the pH levels in your pool water are too low, the water will be acidic and corrosive.
The first and most obvious adverse effect is the way this water will irritate your skin, nose, eyes, and mouth. Acidic water will also parch your hair and skin, as well as potentially causing itching.
Beyond this, acidic water will also cause plaster, concrete, and tiling to deteriorate prematurely. It will into the grout and stone, too. As these mineral dissolve, they’ll stain your pool and cloud the water.
As final insult, low pH water will minimize the effectiveness of the chlorine in your pool. This can lead to an accumulation of bacteria and algae.
How about if pH levels are too high? Well, that brings about a different set of problems.
High pH levels
If you find the pH levels in your swimming pool are higher than 7.8, this is considered high pH.
High pH water is too soft, and this triggers certain adverse outcomes.
Typically, high pH water is caused by chlorine stabilizers or sudden and dramatic spikes in temperature.
When the water is too soft, your chlorine stops working as effectively. High pH water also causes skin and hair to dry, along with eye irritation. If you spot premature wear to your goggles or bathing suit, this could point toward high pH levels.
The Role of Chlorine in Pool Health
The most common chemical used to oxidize and disinfect swimming pools is chlorine.
This chemical works in 2 distinct ways:
- Chlorine kills bacteria and algae in the pool as it disinfects the water. These can bring about waterborne illnesses. Pool bacteria can also cause skin infections, ear infections, and diarrhea
- Chlorine neutralizes dirt and debris. This process is called oxidation.
If pH levels are unbalanced, the chlorine won’t work properly, resulting in unsanitary pool conditions.
How to Safely Raise Pool pH Levels
Now, we’ll assume that you’ve got a suspicion your pool water’s pH levels are out of whack.
If you suspect this, it could be that you noticed something looking wrong with the water. Or, maybe you ran a test and it came up reading low pH.
Luckily, raising pH levels is not hard and requires no specialist knowledge. Follow these simple steps and you’ll increase those pH levels in no time.
- Check the reagents
- Add some sodium carbonate
- Check the total alkalinity then add some baking soda
- Aerate the pool water
Check the reagents
The very first thing you should do before committing to any further course of action is to check your reagents.
Test strips need replacing every year, so if you have an older stash of supplies, they could be out of date. This will lead to imprecise results.
If you find the strips have expired, get a new test kit and try again.
If they seem good, here’s what you do next…
Add some sodium carbonate
Sodium carbonate, also known as soda ash, is highly alkaline and dissolves efficiently in water. The other benefit of soda ash is that it leaves almost no trace in the water.
If you add strongly alkaline matter to your pool water, this will raise the pH level, while at the same time reducing the acidity in your pool water.
What counts here is using a light touch. The last thing you want is to go over the top and veer from low pH water to high pH water.
- Calculate how much soda ash you need making sure not to exceed 2 pounds for each 10,000 gallons of water
- Check that your pool pump is working. You’ll need this to circulate the water
- Broadcast the soda ash evenly across the surface of the pool water
- Wait for at least 1 hour. Once the water has recirculated, test the pH levels again
Check the total alkalinity then add some baking soda
Total alkalinity is used to illustrate the sum of all the water’s materials.
If total alkalinity is low, this can bring about random fluctuations in your pH levels. If you find that you still get low pH readings even after you’ve added soda ash, low total alkalinity could be the underlying issue.
To raise total alkalinity in your pool, you can use sodium bicarbonate – baking soda – which is quite similar to soda ash. By adding 1.4 pounds of baking soda for every 10,000 gallons of pool water and then allowing it to recirculate, you should find this fixes the problem.
Aerate the pool water
Sometimes, adding alkalines to your water still doesn’t raise the levels sufficiently.
In this case, it’s time to aerate the water thoroughly. This is a lengthy process that could stretch out over a few days. One method of achieving it is to activate water features so that jets hit the surface of the water. An alternative method is to go all-in and add some aeration pipes.
If you follow this guidance, low pH levels in your pool should be no further cause for concern.
What causes this situation to happen in the first place, though?
What Causes Pool Water to Become Low pH?
As outlined above, low pH levels in your pool water can create manifold problems from maintenance issues like eroded fixtures through to irritated skin and eyes.
The majority of cases of low pH water are caused by overuse of the pool, improperly balanced chemicals, or heavy rain.
Beyond this, body fluids and perfumes dissolving into the pool can also lower the pH levels of the water. If you have recently had lots of people gathered for a pool party, this could easily trigger lowered pH levels.
Sometimes, incorrectly managing pH levels can bring about problems. As with all aspects of pool maintenance, there’s a degree of trial and error involved. This is all part of the fun until you start experiencing health problems or corroded pool equipment. Armed with the knowledge from today’s guide, you can now take action if required.
Prevention is better than cure, and the easiest way to keep your pool water safe, healthy, and properly balanced is to maintain it on a daily basis.
Test your water levels weekly using one of the kits we recommend.
Each month, you should vacuum your pool, brush it, and deep clean it.
Apply pool shock once a month, too. Some shock treatments respond better with weekly use.
Even if you take care of all of this diligently, you may still find your water levels become unbalanced. If this happens, we hope today’s guide to raising pool pH levels safely has come in handy.
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