How to Lower Alkalinity in Pool Water
Owning a pool is a lot of fun, but it does take work. You have to keep the water clean and looking great, and part of that process involves testing the water. You have to balance the right chemicals and make sure the water is safe for people to enjoy. Unbalanced water can lead to health risks and even damage to your pool's surfaces.
Part of this process is keeping your pool's water at the right alkalinity. Alkalinity and pH go hand in hand, so you need to understand how each may affect the other. Learn everything you need to know about alkalinity and how to lower your pool's alkalinity if it is too high.
Importance of Lowering Pool Alkalinity
Alkalinity and pH share a close relationship. In other words, total alkalinity will affect the behavior of your pool's pH, and changes in pH will also affect the water's alkalinity. Striking the right balance is key to enjoying a pool with stable, balanced water that is safe to swim in.
Alkalinity vs. pH
Your pool's pH level is one of the most important metrics you can measure as a pool owner. And by measuring your pool's pH, you're one step closer to achieving an ideal pH level for safe swimming conditions. But part of the struggle of owning a pool is dealing with forces of nature that seem to constantly upset your pool water's equilibrium.
The pH scale is a range from 1 to 14, with 7 being neutral. Anything below 7 is acidic, while any number above 7 is basic, or alkaline. Many outside factors can affect your pool's pH levels, including rain, sweat, cosmetics, dirt and leaves. These items all have a pH of their own that will raise or lower your pool's pH when they get in the water.
What you need to do is stabilize your pool water by achieving the appropriate total alkalinity. Alkalinity is the measure of a pool's total amount of alkaline materials in the water. In other words, alkalinity is a measurement of the water's ability to neutralize acids. Low alkalinity leads to major spikes and dips in the pool's pH levels, while high alkalinity leads to overly buffered water with pH levels that are difficult to adjust.
What Happens if Your Pool Alkalinity is High
Alkalinity affects your pool water's pH levels. pH is extremely important to monitor as a pool owner because it influences the effectiveness of your chlorine. And this, in turn, affects the safety and cleanliness of your water, as chlorine kills germs.
You want your pool's pH to rest somewhere in the 7.2 to 7.8 range, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This is the pH level that allows your pool's main disinfectant, like chlorine, to be the most effective. This range is only slightly basic, or alkaline, in nature. Part of the reason for this is that alkalinity prevents your pool's pH levels from drastically changing. This keeps your pool's water more stable and easier to keep clean.
So, the higher alkalinity, the better, right? Not necessarily. While you do want your pool's water to be slightly alkaline, having too high of alkalinity can be as bad as having overly acidic water. Many people raise their pool's alkalinity with products like baking soda to achieve that higher level of stability. Others have little work to do to achieve high alkalinity because their water source is naturally alkaline. These factors differ for everyone, and both situations can result in water that has an alkalinity level that is too high.
When pool alkalinity is high, it can cause the water to have a cloudy appearance. The water will also start dumping the materials it absorbed onto your pool's surfaces in a phenomenon known as “calcium scaling.” Scaling and cloudy water will cause any pool to look unattractive, but other side effects exist, as well. High alkalinity can contribute to clogged filters, which can be expensive and bothersome to remedy. Your guests may also avoid the water due to irritation of the skin and eyes caused by the high alkalinity.
So, now you know how alkalinity affects pH levels, the quality of the water, the surfaces of your pool and the experience of your guests. That's why you want to achieve balanced water in your pool. But if you're noticing an alkalinity level that is too high, your first order of business is to get that alkalinity level lower.
Maintain Balanced Pool Alkalinity Levels
To know whether you need to lower your pool's alkalinity, you must first understand the ideal range of pool alkalinity and how to maintain that level. It could take some time and effort to achieve the right alkalinity, but the rewards will be worth it. Your pH levels will stabilize, and your pool water will be clean and inviting to your guests, friends and family members.
The ideal range for the alkalinity of a pool according to the Florida Administrative Code for chemical standards of swimming pools is 80 to 120 parts per million (ppm). You should check your pool's alkalinity once per week to ensure it's staying in this ideal range, raising or lowering it as needed with the right pool chemicals. Generally, baking soda raises alkalinity, while muriatic acid lowers it.
First, it's important to know what might happen when you try to lower your pool's alkalinity. As you introduce more acids to the pool water to lower alkalinity, you'll be lowering the pool's pH levels, as well. Lowering pH levels can lead to undesirable consequences, including corrosive water. The water will start eating away at the pool surfaces it contacts, which would be costly to fix.
Higher acidity also translates to lower total alkalinity, which means the water will become less stable. If you decrease total alkalinity too much, you may find that your pool's pH levels change by large margins whenever you test it. It can be hard to get the pH levels under control again until you raise your pool's alkalinity. Go too far in that direction, and you can find yourself back to the beginning of the entire process.
We recommend the following two practices to try to avoid these extreme outcomes:
- Test daily at the beginning: You probably will be unable to solve your pool's unbalanced alkalinity issue in a day or two. Instead, get in the mindset that this process may take a little while to complete. Test the water every day to get an accurate measure of your pool's alkalinity. If you continue following the best practices, soon enough, you'll get a reading that will make you jump for joy and throw on your bathing suit.
- Start slow: Read the directions on the packaging of the product you'll be using to lower your pool's alkalinity. Only add the recommended amount to your pool, and consider starting slow to avoid accidentally adding too much. You can always add more acidic products later if you need to lower the alkalinity further. But add too much, and you could have another problem on your hands trying to raise the alkalinity again.
Use Technology to Your Advantage
It's normal to feel like the process of balancing alkalinity is difficult, but it can be easy with the help of the right technology. Instead of remembering to test your pool every day with old-school testing kits, you can use state-of-the-art technology to receive the information you need about your pool's water via a smartphone monitoring app.
This is exactly what you experience with WaterGuru SENSE. It installs in seconds, fitting in your pool's skimmer. There, it's able to monitor your water with its patented optical sensors, giving you a reading of the entire pool's chemistry — not just the chemistry of the surface water, like other devices. This ensures you're getting the most accurate results possible to help you achieve excellent pool water conditions.
With WaterGuru SENSE, maintaining balanced pool water is easier than ever. SENSE sends relevant information about your pool's water to your smartphone so you can keep a watch for chemical threshold levels, pH and alkalinity. The app will even provide suggestions for next steps if your pool needs some chemical attention. With this information, you can make minor adjustments throughout the week instead of dealing with major changes in alkalinity or pH levels.
How to Lower Pool Alkalinity
Whatever the reason for the high alkalinity in your pool's water, you need to lower it to avoid the negative consequences mentioned above. But you also want to avoid lowering it too much and sending your pool's pH levels spiraling out of control. Here, we'll discuss one of the most common ways to lower your pool's alkalinity to the ideal levels using muriatic acid.
Muriatic acid is a form of hydrochloric acid, which is a corrosive, strong acid. It's available at most hardware, pool or home supply stores, making it easy to acquire and use.
Here are the steps you should follow to lower pool alkalinity with muriatic acid:
- Turn off your pool's pump: This will cause the water in your pool to stop moving, which is necessary for the next steps. You should wait at least an hour or so after turning off your pump to give the water plenty of time to settle down. Movement causes the water to aerate, which can raise your pool water's alkalinity. Letting it come to a standstill creates the right environment for lowering alkalinity.
- Read directions on the bottle: Different pool products may have different recommended amounts to add to your pool water. Read the labels carefully, following all directions and amounts for your pool's size. You may have to compare recommended amounts to your pool water's current alkalinity level.
- Follow safe handling practices: Muriatic acid can be dangerous if mishandled. Read the manufacturer's directions about how to add it to your pool so you can stay as safe as possible. You may have to dilute the muriatic acid before putting it into the pool water, but this differs from product to product. Wear long sleeves and pants instead of shorts, and put on other protective gear like goggles, a face shield and gloves.
- Pour the product into the water: You'll want to pour the muriatic acid into the deepest area of your pool. Allow it to sit in the still water for an hour or so. This will give the muriatic acid a chance to naturally aerate, which will lower the pool's total alkalinity.
- Turn on the pool pump: After that hour or so of natural aeration, you should turn your pool's pump back on. Let it run for several hours to allow the settled muriatic acid to make its way through the entire pool.
- Test the alkalinity and pH levels: After several hours have elapsed, it will be time to test your water levels again. Test both alkalinity and pH levels to see how much each has dropped. There's a chance you may have to do the process again if more lowering is required.
Try to practice patience throughout the whole process, especially if you need to lower the alkalinity more after the first round of testing. It's best to start this process several days or even a week before any scheduled pool parties. This will give you ample time to get a handle on your pool's alkalinity levels, ensuring everyone has a safe and enjoyable time swimming in your pool.
And remember that you can use products like WaterGuru SENSE to enhance your pool testing routine. Being able to check your pool's chemical levels from your smartphone will make the process of lowering your pool's alkalinity easier. You'll get real-time results to help you know exactly what you need to do to achieve balanced pool water. You can then address minor changes in alkalinity and pH before the issue grows into something much more severe.
Enjoy Easier Pool Monitoring With WaterGuru SENSE
Are you ready to enjoy an easier pool maintenance experience? Then it's time to buy WaterGuru SENSE and see how easy pool care can be. Our products make it easier to treat your pool so your water can be sparkling clean for your next party or a relaxing afternoon. You can even browse our website to learn more about common pool problems so you can better face the twists and turns that come with owning a pool.
And if you're already an owner of SENSE, we have the additional supplies you need to keep going strong. With our products, you can keep your water balanced and enjoy the process.