Chemistry in school was super tricky for many of us. Pool chemistry is no more a straightforward subject to tackle, but it is nevertheless a critical subject to be educated on. Maintaining a safe and squeaky-clean swimming pool is no walk in the park. The biggest challenge is balancing the chemical levels in the pool; alkalinity is crucial in maintaining the overall chemical setting.
Pool owners need to keep the alkalinity level within the safe limits, and they may need to keep adjusting and readjusting it, i.e., making it lower or higher to maintain the overall chemical composition of the pool. In this article, we are specifically going to discuss how to increase alkalinity in pools and why it is so important.
What is the Importance of Alkalinity in Pool Water?
Pool alkalinity is the volume of water that prevents acidification. It determines your pool’s ability to neutralize acids and bases and maintain a healthy pH. It produces neutral bicarbonate ions by absorbing hydrogen. Swimming pools can become extremely harmful if the water has low alkalinity content. It may become brittle and result in corrosion or cracking of pool walls. Some metal surfaces even face the risk of melting under such conditions. Any alterations in the chemical composition can cause fluctuations in the average water pH level, which can range anywhere from 1 to 14 on the pH scale.
The phenomenon of an abnormal pH level in pool water is known as pH bounce and can be the source of an unbalanced alkalinity level in your pool. A lower pH indicates more acidity in the water, whereas a higher pH indicates more alkalinity. Thus, lower alkalinity means higher water acidity, which can significantly damage a swimmer’s health. Health issues may arise, including irritation to the eyes, nose, and skin, and even chemical burns that can occur in worst-case scenarios. In short, a swimming pool with a low alkalinity level can be immensely harmful.
What Causes Low Alkalinity in Pools?
- Treatment of pool water using dry acid or muriatic acid is notoriously known for reducing pH levels in the water.
- Heavy rain dilutes the pool water since rainwater contains low alkaline levels. Thus, flooding due to heavy rain can alter the average alkalinity level of your pool.
- Acid rain contains carbonic and sulfuric acids, causing a decrease in alkalinity and pH levels in pools.
- Adding freshwater with low alkalinity while backwashing and draining pools can deplete the overall pH of your pool.
- Adding too many chlorine tablets to pool water causes the pH level to drop since these tablets have low pH levels.
- Sweat and urine contamination of pool water lowers the alkalinity level. It produces harmful chemical compounds like trichloramine and cyanogen through the reaction of uric acid (found in urine) and chlorine.
How to Increase pH in Pools without Increasing alkalinity
Aeration is the most natural, affordable, and convenient way to increase pH without increasing the alkalinity of pool water. It includes churning the water for a considerable time without using chemicals. This process causes the water to lose dissolved acidic carbon dioxide quickly by exposing large volumes of water to the air, thus raising the pH of the water, much like an open soda bottle.
How to aerate the pool water:
- Run the pool pump.
- Turn on the various water features (waterfalls, bubblers, fountains, cascades, deck jets, etc.)
- Splash around the water in the pool (have a pool party!).
- The jets should be pointed in an upward direction to ensure the movement of water.
- Saltwater pools have an advantage since saltwater generators create a lot of aeration, thus causing higher pH levels.
- The operating time for this process can range from half a day to several days, depending on the initial pH level, total alkalinity level, and the rate of water aeration.
Adding borax (sodium tetraborate) to the pool water will increase the pH level quicker than just aeration since the pH level of borax is 9.5. But since it is not a carbonate compound, it doesn’t raise the pool’s total alkalinity. It also helps in keeping the water clear and inhibiting unwanted algae growth. However, you must keep the borate concentration in check since borax adds borates to the water. Combining aeration and borax will achieve the intended high alkalinity levels while minimizing the rise of borates and alkalinity levels.
The amount of borax to be added depends on the initial pH level, total alkalinity level, and quantity of borates in the water.
How to Increase Alkalinity in Pools?
Can Baking Soda Be Used to Increase the Alkalinity Level of Pools? If Yes, Then How Much Baking Soda is to Be Used?
Sodium bicarbonate, commonly known as baking soda, has a pH of 8. Thus, adding baking soda to pool water increases pool water’s alkalinity and pH level, preventing corrosion and damage to pool structures. Many commercial companies add baking soda to their pool products as the main ingredient in their attempt to answer this exact question.
Step-by-step guide on How to Increase Alkalinity in Pools using Baking Soda:
- Determine the total pool alkalinity: Run a thorough test to determine your pool’s alkalinity and pH levels. The ideal pH level for pool water ranges between 7.2 and 7.8, and the perfect alkalinity lies between 110 and 150 ppm (parts per million). A lower pH than 80 ppm indicates that the alkalinity of the pool water needs to be raised urgently.
- Buy good baking soda: The amount of baking soda to add can range from 1.5 pounds to 8-10 pounds, depending on the present total alkalinity of pool water. Ensure you have bought enough baking soda for your needs. Getting suggestions from the pool supplier and retailer may be helpful. You can find baking soda in retail or online stores or purchase it directly from manufacturers.
- Determine the quantity of baking soda to be added: Figure out how much baking soda you will need to use. For example, 10,000 gallons of water will take 1.5 lbs of baking soda to increase its alkalinity by about ten ppm, so if it has a pH level below 7.2 will need 3-4 lbs of baking soda. Distribute the baking soda in wide arcs across the entire pool. This process is known as “broadcasting.” Start conservatively, as you can always add more baking soda if required after retesting.
- Do not forget to dilute the baking soda: The instructions to cut it should be clearly written on the packaging.
- Help the baking soda dissolved in the pool water: Wait for at least 6 hours for the baking soda to fully dissolve into the water. Turn on the circulation system of the pool to help with the dissolution.
- Retest and repeat: The pH and total alkalinity of the pool water should be retested after 6 to 24 hours. Repeat the previous steps if the water has a pH below 7.2 and alkalinity below 110 ppm.
Important Points to Remember:
- Never forget to wear goggles and gloves while working with baking soda.
- Sodium bicarbonate is relatively safe, but if it comes in contact with your eyes, rinse them immediately, as it can irritate them.
- Add the compound directly to the water; there is no need to use a skimmer to apply baking soda.
- Keep adding baking soda carefully in moderate increments, as adding too much of this compound can raise the pH and alkalinity levels of the pool to an undesired level.
- Do not add too much baking soda to hard water since calcium build-up is at risk around the pool. It can make the pool water cloudy or, even worse, clog the pool filter.
Sodium Bicarbonate Vs. Sodium Carbonate
Don’t confuse baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and soda ash (sodium carbonate). Baking soda primarily increases alkalinity while slightly raising pH, while soda ash is used to increase pH while slightly raising alkalinity.
Home Remedy for Increasing Pool Alkalinity
Use pure baking soda or sodium bicarbonate while following the above steps. This is a wonderfully safe and affordable method to increase the alkalinity of pool water in your home, increasing your pool water’s chemical stability and clarity.
Hopefully, you have learned some crucial advice on how to increase the alkalinity of your pools if you are dealing with low pool alkalinity since a balanced alkalinity level is non-negotiable when it comes to a healthy swimming pool. The alkalinity level keeps the pH level of your pool stabilized. Therefore, maintaining a healthy alkalinity level is inevitable if you want to ensure your pool has a proper chemical composition.
Low alkalinity levels threaten swimming pools and swimmers, making it critical for pools to be checked, tested, cleaned, and managed regularly. It will save you a lot of effort and issues in the long run, as well as help you save on extra costs on chemicals and pool equipment. It will also ensure that the overall well-being of your pool’s physical and chemical state is maintained. Water chemistry is vital for pool owners and users and should never be ignored.