Cheat Sheet for Ideal Pool Chemical Levels

Pool season is close! Most pool owners know how to chlorinate their pool or treat for algae if needed at opening. Balancing the other key elements in your pool chemistry, such as pH, stabilizer, calcium hardness, and total alkalinity levels, can be more confusing. Here are the instructions that you need to make sure that your pool water is sparkling clear. Testing and correcting your pool water at home has never been easier.

  • If your total alkalinity is low, you will need to add sodium bicarbonate to your water to get it to the ideal range of 80-100 ppm. You can find complete sodium bicarbonate dosage instructions here.
  • If your total alkalinity is high, you will need to add muriatic acid to lower your alkalinity to the idea range of 80-100 ppm. You can find muriatic acid dosage instructions here.
  • If you need to raise the pH level in your pool water, you need to add sodium carbonate (soda ash). Here are complete instructions for raising your pool’s pH with sodium carbonate.
  • If you need to lower the pH level in your pool water, you will use the same muriatic acid mentioned for lowering your total alkalinity, but in different dosage amounts. Here are the complete instructions for muriatic acid dosage when trying to lower pH.
  • To raise the stabilizer level in your pool, you will need to add Cyanuric Acid in the dosages recommended in these instructions: cyanuric acid dosage chart. If the stabilizer level is too high, you must drain and refill the pool. There is no chemical corrector.
  • To raise the calcium hardness in your pool, add calcium chloride. You can find the exact calcium chloride dosage here. If your calcium hardness level is too high, you must drain and refill the pool. There is no chemical corrector for this problem.

12 thoughts on “Cheat Sheet for Ideal Pool Chemical Levels”

  1. Samara

    I’m a complete newbie here and I feel completely lost…. Help! I’ve got a salt water pool (38×18) my alkalinity is at 40 and my stabilizer appears to be close to 0. What and how much do I add?? Do I put it in the skimmer? Also am I supposed to be putting shock in? If so, how much and how often?

  2. Carol Curry

    Cloudy water. Water tested and first chemicals done .Check two different test and both are really good. Whats your guess that I’m doing wrong. Well water

    1. Trey Collier Post Author

      It is quite common for well water to contain minerals like iron, copper, manganese, etc., which can stain and/or discolor the water. Get water tested for these “Metals” If found try to find some kind of “Metal Out” or Metal remover and treat your pool with the directions on that product.

  3. Carol Curry

    Had my water tested when opening pool. Been running for four days. Cloudy. Check two different test kits. Both perfect where everything is suppose to be. Help

  4. Karen

    I started this year with a new liner,filled 27’x52″ pool from well water was clear then turned filter on and added one pound of chlorine . Now the water is green . Can someone help ?

  5. Tony

    How about when you have iron present in your water. I live in the country and have well water with what I call high iron. Sometimes it even smells.

    1. Trey Collier Post Author

      Hi Gary:

      Well the over simplified answer is that if the pool water is properly maintained, it will produce an environment where algae simply cannot thrive.

      With that said there are many things that are done or not done that allow algae to take root, with these being the most common:

      1 – Failure to maintain adequate levels of chlorine.
      2 – Stabilizer buildup from use of dichlor or trichlor base combo shocks etc
      3 – Nitrogen buildup or other chlorine consuming build up from combo shocks or using cheap foaming algaecides, over use of clarifiers and the like.

      What the pool chemical companies do is try to trick you with slick marketing pieces and fancy chemicals to entice you to buy more and more chemicals for you pool. Less chemicals can do MORE for you. They have created these fancy testing applications to test your water for free at the local stores to create a report designed so you leave the store with a big bag of chemicals.

      What one should be doing, is learn how to test their own water, and know what to do to move the results into the ideal ranges on this cheat sheet.

      1) Keep your pH between 7 and 8. If your pH is maintained, nothing else will work.
      2) Use a chlorinator, floater or salt system to maintain the chlorine levels near ideal.
      3) Run your pump/filter at least 6 hours per day in TWO different times.
      4) Shock appropriately, in the evening only.
      5) Brush the walls and floors completely every 2 weeks at minimum
      6) Get a “COMPLETE” test kit, and use it often

      Every pool seems to have its own chemical personality. Even two identical pools in yards right next to each other will behave differently. Over time you’ll learn how yours work..

  6. Shasta Pools & Spas

    It is true that cloudy pool water is a real turn off for your guests. Treating your pool with the right mix of chemicals is essential in keeping your water clear and inviting. Many pool builders offer maintenance services to help you ensure your pool stays like new for many seasons to come. Great post!

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