While a sparkling in-ground pool with a diving board and spacious deck make for a glorious backyard, not everyone’s yard space is conducive to such a large structure. Above-ground pools have become more popular as their styles, sizes, and cleaning systems has broadened and improved.
However, most pool care companies don’t service above-ground pools, leaving the owner in charge of the maintenance. This can be a daunting task! Hazardous chemicals and fairly strict care regimens are necessary to maintain a healthy and safe above-ground pool.
If you find your eyes crossing with all the different products to use, we’ve got you covered. Let’s take a look at the most common pool care chemicals, their ideal levels, and what exactly they do.
We all know this is the most important chemical for pool care. In order to stay stable and effective, it’s dependent on many others, which we will discuss momentarily. For now, let’s look at what it actually does.
A close relative to household bleach, chlorine is a powerful antiseptic. It keeps bacteria, algae, and debris at bay in your pool’s water, creating a safe environment for swimmers. Most pools need to maintain a chlorine level of 7.2-7.6ppm (parts per million).
Chlorine breaks down much more rapidly in hot weather, excessive sunlight, and regular pool use. Did you know that, under these conditions, you need to use at least twice as much chlorine to keep it at a sanitary level? Make sure you’re checking your levels multiple times per week in the summer and adding chlorine tablets as needed!
Chlorine is typically stored in the pump, the filter, and/or floating distributors. It’s available in buckets of 3″ tablets, and needs to be stored in a location that doesn’t reach extreme temperatures. DO NOT open a bucket of chlorine tablets that have gotten hot! The fumes can cause severe damage to your eyes and lungs.
Calcium chloride is a hardener, which helps reduce stains- especially on vinyl above-ground pools. You want to make sure you maintain a calcium level of at least 150ppm. Granules are available at your local pool care store.
Be sure you’re handling calcium granules very carefully when adding it to your pool! This chemical gives off a lot of heat, and you should avoid direct contact. It is recommended to use gloves and goggles when handling it. Diluting in a bucket of 3-4 gallons of water is the best method before adding calcium to your pool.
This chemical helps keep chlorine stable. As we mentioned before, chlorine can break down much more quickly during heavy summertime pool use. Cyanuric acid helps prevent that, keeping available chlorine at a safe level in your pool.
The best ratio for cyanuric acid is 30-50ppm. It is often sold as “pool stabilizer” and can be purchased in liquid or solid form. Be sure you take the same precautions when adding it to your pool as those we outlined for calcium.
Algae can be a real challenge to get rid of once it’s developed in your pool. While it isn’t harmful itself, the compounds it releases during photosynthesis can promote bacteria. It’s also just plain unsightly to have green, yellow, or black gunk in your pool!
A weekly solution of algaecide is a great preventative measure for regular maintenance. Unlike some other products we’ve discussed, algaecide can be added directly to the water. You want to disperse it widely, and be sure the pump is on for optimal distribution.
In order to remain stable, chlorine needs water that holds a high pH level. This is why it’s important to keep a healthy amount of alkaline in your water. It’s available in tablets that look much like chlorine tablets, but they tend to dissolve more quickly.
An ideal alkaline level in your pool is 80-120ppm. These tablets can be added to the water without dilution, but their tablet form will prevent proper distribution if you simply drop them into the pool. Add them to the filter and/or the floating chlorine distributor.
A pool shock treatment is generally a concentrated form of chlorine, but may also include some other components, such as algaecide. An above-ground pool should be shocked at least monthly to optimize chlorine availability, and anytime you notice the water getting cloudy or greenish.
You can add shock directly to the water, and you want to keep the pump running for at least 24 hours afterward. If you’re combating algae, you want to 1)skim, 2)brush, and 3)vacuum the pool beforehand. This loosens up the particles, allowing the shock treatment to dissolve them more effectively.
- Chlorine is the most critical element to pool care, as it keeps the water clean and safe. However, it is dependent on stable amounts of several other chemicals.
- Calcium chloride is a water hardener, that’s especially important for use in above-ground pools. It helps reduce stains in the vinyl siding.
- Cyanuric acid, also known as stabilizer, is an important component in keeping your chlorine stable. With both this chemical and calcium chloride, take extra precaution when adding to your pool!
- Algaecide helps keep algae from forming, which then helps prevent harmful bacteria. A weekly dose of algaecide is a good preventative measure for healthy pools.
- Alkaline is critical to maintaining an ideal pH for optimal chlorine availability. It’s available in tablets that can be placed in your filter and floating chlorine distributor.
- Shock is mainly a concentration of chlorine, used to clean out dirty/cloudy pools, and improve the amount of available chlorine in your water. Shock treatments can be done monthly and for addressing algae growth.
If you’ve got a basic understand if what all you’re handling- and how to handle it- you’ll be a pool care pro in no time. Read more now about additional pool care concepts!