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Specialty Chemicals for Special Times

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Proper pool care is based on three very important P's: Prevent disease, Protect equipment and Provide the expected swimming experience.

Maintaining adequate sanitation is a key element to proper pool and spa maintenance, as it keeps bathers safe from disease and allows for clean, clear water. Shocking the pool on a weekly basis, adding a preventative algaecide, good physical maintenance and select specialty products round out the key components of a program that maximizes the impact of the sanitizer and helps provide the expected swimming experience.

Due to current market conditions, the use of liquid chlorine has become more prevalent for pool sanitization, leading to more attention to pool care maintenance and water balance. In addition, a strong focus on pool care efficiency and sanitizer longevity has increased awareness of the wide variety of specialty chemicals that are available to enhance the effectiveness of a typical pool maintenance routine. Pool owners and service professionals alike want to use the least amount of sanitizer necessary to maintain a clean, clear pool with an acceptable sanitizer residual. Specialty chemicals can help.

Before diving into options for specialty chemicals, the first thing to look at for efficiency is water balance. A balanced pool is much more efficient than a pool that is not balanced correctly. Alkalinity and pH, as well as CYA and calcium hardness, all impact the sanitizer residual as well as overall chemical efficiency in the pool. Water should be tested weekly, at a minimum, and professionally tested at least once a month to make sure proper water balance is maintained. Low pH (below 7.2), for example, will cause chlorine to be used up very quickly in a pool. High pH (above 7.8) is just the opposite. Chlorine doesn’t get used up quickly at all, but it’s “lazy.” It’s in the pool but is not effectively killing bacteria or algae. pH between 7.2 and 7.6 is ideal.

RELATED: Understanding Ammonia and Nitrates

Beyond water balance, there are other products that can be added to a routine pool care program in order to maximize the impact of the sanitizer. A preventative algaecide, which should be a part of any pool care maintenance program, is an important addition to the pool when trying to maintain an adequate chlorine residual specifically. Adding an algaecide weekly allows chlorine to be used for killing bacteria and not get used up killing algae. The less work chlorine needs to do in the pool, the longer it will last. For service professionals, choosing the right preventative algaecide is important. Certain algaecides could cause excessive foaming when water features or attached spas are present. Refer to label instructions for guidance.

In addition to a preventative algaecide, adding an enzyme product on a weekly basis can also enhance the efficiency of any pool care program. Enzymes break down non-living waste that is typically oxidized by higher levels of chlorine or a non-chlorine oxidizer. By using enzymes to break down things like sunscreens, hair products, body oils, pollen and more that are present in pool or spa water, the demand on chlorine is reduced. Less chlorine needed to maintain a residual can be evident in a maintenance program that uses enzymes consistently to break down non-living waste.

Enzymes are great at enhancing pool care efficiency, however, the reduction of non-living contaminants in the water has a positive impact on many aspects of pool care. Enzymatic action in the pool will help reduce the formation of scum lines that often form right at the waterline, leading to less scrubbing and a pool surface that is more visually appealing. Beyond that, the breakdown of non-living contaminants before the filter means that filter run times increase, and the frequency of filter cleaning can be decreased. Less water lost to backwashing and filter cleaning means saving money on the water and chemicals it would normally take to keep the pool full and balanced. In short, enzymes lead to superior water quality with less work.

RELATED: Enzymes: More Than Just Nightmare Relief

Another option to improve water quality and ensure success is phosphate removal. When the phosphate level gets too high (roughly over 125ppb), it can create dull, cloudy or hazy water conditions and increased time and effort needed for pool care. In combination with high pH and calcium hardness, high phosphate levels contribute to the formation of calcium phosphate scale on surfaces and equipment. Chlorine generator cells are particularly vulnerable to problems caused by the buildup of calcium phosphate scale. Once scale forms on the cell plates, the generator is less efficient at breaking down salt molecules and creating active chlorine. This can lead to problems with maintaining the proper chlorine residual and can lead to reduced cell life. Heaters can also be susceptible to calcium phosphate scale buildup.

Phosphates are introduced to the pool through many sources, including personal hygiene products, soaps, detergents and the environment. Routinely testing for phosphate and keeping a pool at a near-zero phosphate residual is the ideal goal. To accurately test for phosphates, make sure algae is not present in the pool and that the chlorine residual is below 5 ppm. Phosphate testing and removal should be done on a maintenance basis in order to maintain a low level of phosphate in the pool at all times. Testing for and removing phosphate proactively helps reduce recurring pool problems, simplifies pool maintenance needs and improves both the look and feel of the water.

From a chemical standpoint, anything that can be done to enhance the effectiveness of pool care is a valuable addition to the program. Balanced water, preventative algaecides, enzymes and phosphate removers all contribute to creating the ideal environment for liquid chlorine to be successful. Look for multi-functional weekly maintenance products that will add both enzymes and phosphate removers at the same time, maximizing the potential of your pool care program while minimizing the time poolside and the number of product additions needed. In addition, proper physical maintenance, as well as storage and handling, are necessary to maximize the pool maintenance program and minimize the work necessary to protect swimmers and provide the expected environment. An all-inclusive pool maintenance program is the key to success.

Alicia Stephens is the education and training manager for Biolab, Inc. In her 19 years with the company, she has focused primarily on education, training, and development, as well as technical support and new product research and integration. She can be reached via email at alicia.stephens@biolabinc.com.


This article first appeared in the September 2021 issue of AQUA Magazine — the top resource for retailers, builders and service pros in the pool and spa industry. Subscriptions to the print magazine are free to all industry professionals. Click here to subscribe.


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