Keeping your pool water clean is one of the most important tasks you have as a pool owner. While many people might assume that keeping the water clean means fishing out debris and leaves from the pool, you also need to think about the microscopic bacteria and pathogens that can live in the water. If not treated properly, the water in your pool can become the perfect home for bacteria, viruses, algae, and other contaminants that will leave the water overrun and not safe for swimming.
That’s why pool sanitizers are so important. They keep your pool free of bacteria and are a central part of pool maintenance. There are several types of methods to sanitize your pool. Keep reading to learn more about each method and how to select which suits your needs.
Chlorine is one of the best-known pool sanitizers and has been used for a long time. In fact, the first known use of chlorine to sanitize pool water was in 1910 at Brown University. Chlorine is also cost-effective and easily accessible. Chlorine can come in several forms, such as liquid or tabs. There are three types of chlorine measures: free chlorine, combined chlorine, and total chlorine. Free chlorine is the chlorine available in your pool to neutralize bacteria and get the job done. This is also the chlorine level that you are likely measuring on a regular basis. Combined chlorine is the product of chlorine neutralizing bacteria, rendering it ineffective. Total chlorine is a measure of both free chlorine and combined chlorine. You can also find stabilized and unstabilized chlorine. Stabilized chlorine contains cyanuric acid, which prevents free chlorine from being destroyed by sunlight.
Calcium hypochlorite usually referred to as “cal hypo,” is another pool sanitizer that has been in use for more than a century. Cal hypo is actually made from chlorine gas and calcium oxide (lime) and can be found as both tabs or a powder. Cal hypo is most often used for “pool shocking,” or the process of getting rid of chloramines and substantially increasing the free chlorine level in your pool. It’s generally recommended to shock your pool once per week, at night. You should also consider shocking your pool after unusually extensive use, adverse weather, or if anyone has, er, used your pool for #2 (yuck). Your pool will be safe to use 24 hours after shocking. Keep in mind that if you choose to use cal hypo in tablet form, you’ll need to purchase a feeder, which exposes untreated water to the cal hypo tablets in a controlled manner.
Using salt water is another method to sanitize your pool. While some people assume that saltwater methods don’t use chlorine, this is incorrect. Rather than directly adding chlorine to the pool, with a saltwater system your saltwater generator creates the chlorine as part of a regenerative process. Let’s explain. When using salt water, pool salt is added to the water which creates sodium chloride (or table salt!). The sodium chloride goes through the saltwater generator and chlorine gas is created. While initial costs of using saltwater as a sanitizing method are greater due to the purchase of a saltwater generator and the associated costs of running the generator, many people find the long-term costs to be lower. Additionally, many people prefer saltwater sanitizing because it involves fewer chemicals, which is more gentle on the skin and can be better for people with allergies or asthma.
UV sanitizers rely on ultraviolet light that goes through the filtration system and destroys the DNA or RNA of bacteria, algae, and other contaminants. While this system doesn’t totally eliminate the need for chlorine, pool owners who invest in a UV sanitation system use far fewer chemicals as part of their pool maintenance than traditional sanitation methods. Because UV light becomes less effective over time, you will need to eventually replace the system.
Pool ionizers are an additional sanitizer option that uses silver and copper ions to target bacteria and contaminants in the water. The silver ions specifically target bacteria, while the copper ions mainly act on algae in the water. These systems are usually connected directly to the pump and filter systems. Pool ionizers don’t replace other sanitizers but can be used in addition to other methods. Additionally, pool ionizers can stain your pool if too many ions are released.
Whichever method you choose, sanitizing your pool is a central element of pool maintenance and absolutely necessary to keep your pool clean and safe.