Pool Chemicals 101: The Complete Guide for Beginners

Person adding pool chemicals into their pool water.

If you have recently added a pool to your home's outdoor space, congratulations! Pools are an amazing way to stay cool, get exercise, and have fun. Now that the installation process is done and your pool is ready for use, you might be wondering how on earth to manage the chemicals that need to be used for pool water upkeep.

Pool chemicals are one of the most critical parts of managing any kind of pool, and you will need to know when, how, and why to use these products. Without careful management of the pH and chemical content of your pool water, your swimming hours might grind to a halt. Dirty, slimy, or smelly pools are the result of incorrect pool chemical management, and you can avoid these issues with ease by using this guide.

If you are ready to learn about pool chemicals 101, you need to read on!

Common Pool Chemicals


This is the most critical part of your pool maintenance plan, and you will need to have this chemical on hand at all times. Pools of varying sizes will need different amounts of chlorine to keep the water fresh, sanitary, and smelling good. Chlorine works by oxidizing contaminants and neutralizing bacteria.

Chlorine comes in granule form as well tablet form. Your pool might not be set up for the use of both of these forms of chlorine, so you will need to check on the delivery method that your pool was designed to use. Keeping the chlorine level in your pool correct can be relatively easy as long as you follow the guidelines set forth by your pool manufacturer.


This is a product that can be used as an alternative to chlorine. This product also ionizes contaminants, and it does not break down as quickly as chlorine. Bromine does, however, make its own wastes called bromamines. This can lead to a need to shock your pool to get rid of the waste products from the bromine. Depending on the pH of your pool water, this might not be your best sanitizing solution compared to chlorine which is the industry standard for a good reason.


This is the chlorine-free sanitizer that some people choose to use instead of traditional sanitizing agents. This product works by forming water-soluble clumps of contaminants that are easy for the filter to grab. This is an expensive option, and it is not as effective as either Bromine or chlorine.


When your pool is set up for mineral sanitizing, part of the water's sanitizing processes are completed through the use of silver and copper. This is a more common option for spas, but it can also be used in pools. This is not a complete sanitization system, and you will need to use other chemicals like chlorine to finish sanitizing the water. Minerals can make the water feel soft and pleasant in ways that other chemicals cannot, and tandem systems can provide a pleasant pool experience for your needs.

Pool Shock

This is a very helpful chemical product to have on hand in case your water gets a bit out of sync and starts to smell bad, look oily, or create bubbles. You will be able to get various kinds of pool shock, and all of them should take care of stabilizing your water readily. Most people shock their pools once a week to prevent upsets to the overall pH balance in the water, but this product can be used again if there has been a challenge to the water, like bodily mishaps or the sudden appearance of algae.

You might want to have some other chemicals on hand, like pool flocculant, algae killer, and water clarifier. These are not going to be needed as often as basic chemicals, but if you do have an issue where your pool water gets quite a bit off track, they can be a big help. These chemicals are often needed when you have brought your pool back from the winter or if there has been an issue while you were away. They are not going to be common-use items for your pool maintenance needs.

The more solutions you have on hand, the more likely you are to clean up your pool's water quickly. That being said, you can usually pick up any of these products in your local area and bring them back home to take care of your pool water issue right away.

Managing the pH Levels in Your Pool

Perhaps the most difficult part of the learning curve for managing a pool is the water pH. This process requires that you have a testing kit and that you use this kit to check the water at least weekly. Water pH can impact the feel of the water, its smell, and when in the correct range, it can prevent things like algae from growing.

Rain, dirt, skin cells, and other contaminants can lead to incorrect pH in your pool. To manage your pool's pH correctly, you will need a pH increaser and a pH decreaser on hand at all times. The pH of your pool might be linked in part to the natural hardness or softness of your water, and you might use one kind of product more often than the other.

The ideal pool pH is 7.4 to 7.6, and you will want to make sure that you keep this level consistent so that your chlorine can take care of its job effectively. The alkalinity of your pool water prevents the pH from moving up and down on the scale, and you will want to keep this water factor stable as well. Baking soda can increase alkalinity, and you can easily have a large bag of this product on hand too.

Another water factor that you will need to consider is calcium hardness. This can be directly the result of your area's water condition, and it might be high or low from the beginning. You will want to be sure that you are keeping the calcium hardness correct to prevent scaling, cloudy water, and a soapy appearance. You should always adjust your pH first, adjust alkalinity next, and take care of calcium hardness last.

Caring For Your Pool Water on a Schedule

Pool management has to be done on a regular basis to prevent issues with water clarity and sanitation. If you do not care for your pool on a schedule, your pool ownership experience will feel like a rush from one emergency to the next.

The first component of your management protocol is to test the water at least every three days. This will ensure that you are aware of changes in the water before they throw off all of the other pH factors that need to be in balance. Make sure that you vacuum and skim your pool at least once a week and that the pool pump is running 24/7 unless you just cannot afford to operate it in this way.

When the swimming load in your pool is high or if there is a bodily waste-related accident in the pool, shock the pool when you get out. This will prevent bacterial overgrowth and issues related to sunscreen and other contaminants in the water. You can also throw some tennis balls into the skimmer basket to absorb sunscreen, cosmetics, and other oily substances.

Make sure that you are replacing the chlorine or alternative chemicals in your sanitization system per the schedule recommended by your pool manufacturer and the maker of your sanitizing product. Being off schedule with your sanitizer for even a few days can lead to a water disaster that can take weeks to clean up.

Empty your skimmer baskets weekly when you skim the pool and vacuum. It is always a good idea to test the water at this time as well. If you see algae or other kinds of problems in the water, you will want to see what the various water factors look like before you just blindly start adding chemicals. When you just throw chemicals at the water in your pool, you will do more harm than good. Make sure that you always take a beat and figure out what is going on in your pool before you make any adjustments to any of the chemicals.

Contact Outback Pools and Spas Today for Water Care

If you have a pool that is suffering from water clarity or pH issues, or you are new to pool management and want some help, Outback Pools and Spas is here for you! We are experts at water care and maintenance, and we can also provide repair services as needed. Working with our team of expert technicians ensures that your pool will be beautiful, fresh, and ready for use at all times.

We are the leading pool dealership and pool maintenance provider in Wichita Falls for a good reason. Contact us today to discuss your pool care needs!




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