New Pool? Tips for Getting Water Ready for Swimming

You wanted a pool, longing to jump into cool water after a hot day, splashing with your family on the weekends, or floating around with a cocktail after work. So, you researched. You planned and consulted. You purchased, you landscaped, and you waited.

Congratulations on your new pool! A pool full of new water isn’t safe to swim in right away. To get the most out of it (and protect your investment), you need to prepare it before welcoming swimmers. pHin team put together what you need to know to get your water safe and ready for swimming:

Assemble your tools.

Every pool owner should have a standard set of tools they use to test and treat their pool water. That includes:

  • A water test kit
  • Pool brushes and cleaning tools
  • Chemicals
    • Chlorine or salt, depending on your system
    • Baking soda
    • Muriatic acid: One of the chemicals used to lower pH and total alkalinity in pools. Follow the instructions on the label, and make sure it is compatible with your pool; some muriatic acid can’t be used in hot tubs or with fiberglass, vinyl, or painted pools.
    • Sequestering agent: Iron and copper can build up in your pool. Sequestering agents help prevent staining and scaling by suspending the metal particles in solution.

Test the pool water.

Take your first water measurements with test strips to get the pH, chlorine, and total alkalinity levels of the water. You can purchase a test kit at your local pool store, or online.

Safe water should have pH between 6.8 and 7.2, and total alkalinity between 70 and 80 ppm.

There is a range for an optimal pH, which should then be raised between 8 7.1 and 7.7 for chlorine pools and 7.0 and 7.5 for salt pools. Lower pH provides better sanitizing benefits. At the same time, this will raise the total alkalinity. For example, concrete pools should have total alkalinity between 80 and 120 ppm, where painted, vinyl, or fiberglass pools should be between 125 and 170 ppm.

Remember, whenever you’re adding chemicals to your pool, use extra caution to prevent them from touching your skin or eyes, by using gloves or goggles. Keep the chemicals secured and stored safely away from children and pets.

Grab your scrub brush.

To get the water balance right, you’ll need to keep your pool clean.

As a best practice, brush the pool often using a nylon brush. Particles, leaves, or dirt can get stuck in corners, steps, and other crevices, so make sure they get extra attention. You can also use a pool skimmer to catch leaves or bugs that accumulate on the surface overnight.

After the pool is balanced, you may want to add algaecide. Always check with your manufacturer to make sure it’s compatible with your pool, how much to add, and when it would be safe to swim.

Let the water settle.

Your pool water needs time to run through the system. Allow the pump to run for 1-2 days, and, as you add chemicals through the process, you may need to wait a few days in between to allow for stabilization.

You should also wait until the chemicals settle before using a heater or vacuum. If you don’t wait, it could interfere with the pool’s curing time, which can cause long-term damage. Some experts recommend letting your pool cure for 21 days, but it’s best to check with your manufacturer or local pool expert to determine the most suitable time-frame.

Set your pool care routine.

Once your pool is open and ready for swimming, you need to set a routine to keep it safe. Schedule weekly water test strips and chemical adjustments.

If you’re brand new to pools, testing, and chemicals, technology like the pHin Smart Water Monitor can remove the guesswork of water care. Instead of testing just once a week, pHin gives you a clear picture of your water quality in real-time. The device takes over 1,000 measurements a week (few pool owners can match that by hand!), and sends alerts, reminders, and chemical dose instructions in the app. See what users think of pHin.

Why and How Do We Shock Our Pools?

Seasoned pool owners know shocking is important to water care. When new pool owners research maintenance tips, they quickly find the advice: “Shock your pool. Shock your pool. Shock your pool.”

But, why do we shock?  

Regular pool shocks are critical to keeping the water safe, and to maintaining balanced water.

The main reason you need to shock is to get rid of the chloramines in the pool, which can be responsible for eye irritation and an ammonia smell. Shocking is an extra boost to burn off of bacteria so that the free chlorine can do its job.

Chlorine or bromine sanitizers can get overworked and need to be removed from the pool. This could be after a heavy rainstorm, lots of kids in the pool, or a pool party. Using a non-chlorine shock is the first step to eliminating bacteria, and doesn’t disrupt your chlorine or bromine levels, so your water can remain balanced.

How do you shock?

  • Check the label: If you have shock for a chlorine pool, carefully read the instructions to know how long the manufacturer recommends waiting before you can swim.
  • Set a schedule: Shocking your pool should be done each week – and it can be as simple as tossing a pod in the water. There are many brands that offer shock, so find what works best for your pool, or consult a local pool retailer or service technician.
  • Pick a time: Shock your pool when it’s not going to be occupied. These chemicals aren’t stabilized, so you may have to stay out of the water for at least a few hours to let the shock spread and start working, depending on the type of shock you’re using. Evenings or late afternoons work, or if you’re not a morning swimmer, maybe your shock can be in the morning.

In addition to pool shocking, make sure you check your pool water balance regularly. The right water balance keeps your pool safe to jump in anytime, and it can be simple. Pool experts created the pHin Smart Monitor, a system that measures your pool water chemistry, sends you alerts, and helps with chemical dosing. 

Need more pool know-how? Check out our Pool Chemicals 101 guide.

The 9 Common Hot Tub Questions

Hot tubs are a great way to unwind in the privacy of your own home or backyard. Whether it be with family, friends, or even just by yourself after a long day, your hot tub helps melt away stress and lets you relax. Since you never know when opportunity will strike, you want your tub to be ready whenever the mood strikes. This can be difficult if you don’t know how to maintain your spa, but caring for your tub should be just as easy as relaxing in it. Here are the top hot tub questions to consider.

1) How Often Should I Clean My Filters?

You want to thoroughly rinse your filter with fresh water every other week. A garden hose works great for this, since it easily dislodges hair and most other materials from the filter. You should also soak your filter cartridge in a filter-cleaning compound every three to four months, as well as whenever you change your water. Keep two filters on hand – one in the spa and a clean, dry spare. This allows you to pop in the spare while soaking the main filter. Then, after you rinse the cleaning compound off after the original is done soaking, you can replace it and clean the spare. Your filters last longer and you get to keep enjoying your hot tub.

2) How Often Should I Drain My Hot Tub?

The answer mainly depends on how often you use the tub and your sanitizing system. However, draining and refilling your spa every three to four months is a good schedule to follow to ensure that contaminants and solids that dissolve in the water do not become excessive, which makes it difficult to maintain proper sanitation.

3) Why is My Water Cloudy?

Cloudy water in your spa usually means one of two things: either the filtration system is failing to clean smaller particles out of the water or bacteria are growing in your spa. If it is a problem with the filtration system, products that act like a coagulant to trap the dust and dirt should help. Just make sure to pull out and clean your filters once the hot tub is clean, otherwise the coagulants can break down and reintroduce all the dust and dirt they just collected. If it is bacteria you need to act fast and use a double dose of both chlorine and non-chlorine shock.

4) Can I Use Pool Chemicals in My Hot Tub?

It might seem like a good idea to just use pool chemicals for your hot tub, but that is a big mistake. Pool chemicals are much stronger than those meant for a spa and can cause serious damage to your tub. When it comes to buying the chemicals for your spa, remember that you get what you pay for. Cut-rate products are more likely to include fillers and additional chemicals that can cause issues with your water and the filtration systems. A quality product keeps your hot tub running well for years to come. In addition, product labeling differs between pool and hot tub chemicals, particularly as regards acceptable EPA guidelines. Chemical overdosing is very common when you use products specifically intended for a swimming pool in your hot tub.

5) Should I Use Bromine or Chlorine as a Sanitizer?

The chemicals that you use to sanitize your hot tub really come down to personal preference. Chlorine has a stronger odor, but is a very effective sanitizer. However, chlorine can also cause colors to fade, whereas bromine does not. Bromine also causes less eye, skin, and nose irritation and can be an effective sanitizer in its own right when administered properly in a two-part form.

6) Can I Get a Rash From My Hot Tub?

Yes, but it typically means that something is wrong with your chemical routine, not the tub. Skin rashes can be caused by both a surplus of chemicals and a lack of chemicals. For example, pseudomonas folliculitis is a skin rash commonly known as “hot tub rash.” It occurs when hot tub water is not properly sanitized. It is important to make sure the chemical balance of your water is exactly where it needs to be. This is where your pHin device comes in handy. But, when in doubt, drain, clean, and refill your spa.

7) How Should I Care for My Hot Tub Cover?

Twice a month you should remove the cover and wipe the entire surface with a cover cleaning agent. You only need a few squirts, and make sure to use a clean, damp cloth when you wipe it down. To guard against odors and bacteria growth, clean the underside of your cover with a mixture that is one part bleach to nine parts hot water. You may also use a cover cleaner such as 303 Aerospace vinyl cleaner and preserver. These products are available at most local pool and spa retailers.

8) Why is My Hot Tub Green?

Your hot tub should never be green; this means that there is bacteria growth in your spa. Drain the water and scrub every surface with a chlorine solution, then rinse the tub out with water. Refill your spa and shock the water with a dose of chlorine and non-chlorine shock. Remember, you should use your hot tub if the water is not crystal clear.

If the problem persists even after you sanitize the tub, your water may contain excess copper, which attacks the plumbing and equipment. Similarly, chromium may turn the water a lime green Jello  color. Proper water chemistry, especially pH, balances chromium and copper levels in your hot tub water.

9) Why Doesn’t My Hot Tub Get Hot?

The most common culprit when your hot tub goes cold is the filter. When the filter gets clogged, the heater shuts off because it needs water flow to be able to operate properly. Pop out your filter and give it a thorough rinse and soak in a cleaning solution. If your filters are over two years old, it is probably time to replace them. If cleaning the filter does not bring back the heat, turn the heater off for about 15 minutes. If it is still not working when you turn it back on, it is most likely time for a service call. Another common cause of heater failure is scale buildup on the heater core or element, typically caused by not using a stain and scale control. Scale buildup on the heater element of only 1/20” can reduce the heater’s efficiency by 40 percent!

To ensure the water in your pool or hot tub stays balanced, consider pHin. It constantly monitors your water and tells your smartphone what you need to do to keep the water in your pool and hot tub healthy. Use it with your own chemicals for flexibility or get our single-dose, pre-measured chemicals delivered to your door. If you need someone to service your equipment, Pool Service on Demand connects you to local, qualified pool techs.

The Importance of Collecting a Water Sample to Test

It will almost always be easier to avoid water chemistry issue than it will be to solve it. Eliminating something like an algae bloom once it already colors the water is no simple task. Once the walls are stained and the equipment corroded, the damage is done. Even worse is treating contamination. By the time swimmers or soakers complain about infections and rashes from contaminated pool or hot tub water, it is too late to prevent the spreading of disease. But, using proper sampling techniques and monitoring the chemical content of the water frequently helps you avoid costly, time consuming problems. It is incredibly important for pool operators to be familiar with good water testing kits and techniques.

Use a Sample Container

When conducting a test poolside, many people will just fill the four-in-one test bottles directly. This is perfectly fine provided you thoroughly rinse the bottle prior to collecting samples in order to eliminate any contamination and the pool’s circulation pump is running. Repeat the rinsing process between pH, alkalinity, and chlorine tests.

If you use a pool supply store to test your sample, most typically require eight ounces of water for testing. Some pool stores offer a free sample bottle. If yours doesn’t, make sure that you use a container that both meets the volume requirements and is free of contaminants. Thoroughly clean any repurposed container. Never use an empty chemical bottle, since it may throw off your sample, or pickle jars, since the salt and vinegar will never fully wash out. Also avoid coffee and juice containers as they can affect the pH reading.

Where to Gather Your Sample

Just as important as what you put your water sample in is where you get the water sample from. You don’t want to skim along the top, as that water is not an accurate representation of the entire pool. The recommended level to take your sample is 12 to 18 inches below the surface of the water, or about elbow-deep. Avoid the skimmer, return areas, and anywhere near a floating chlorine feeder to keep from getting an inaccurate chlorine reading. And, if your pool has varying depths, take the water sample from the deep end, which is less affected by temperature.

When to Take Your Sample

Something that many people don’t consider when taking a water sample is timing. Do not take a water sample if you’ve added any chemicals to the pool within the last 12-48 hours. While that may seem like a fairly large time-frame, there are a multitude of factors that may cause a discrepancy, such as the size of the pool and what chemicals you added. Most pool professionals should be able to tell you when to retest your pool’s water based on its specific circumstances. Rain also makes a difference. If it is currently raining, about to rain, or has just finished raining, do not take a water sample. After a rainstorm, wait at least eight hours to take a water sample.

Testing Your Sample

If your tests require using tablet reagents, do not touch the tablets when removing them from their foil packets. If they get wet or the foil packet tears, discard them. When using dip and read test strips, replace the bottle immediately after use; the strips can become reactive with moisture in the air. Pay attention to timing, as colors can change if you wait longer than the specified time. Follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully, since many involve more than one step.

Your samples should be fresh; taking a sample in the morning and coming back to it after going to work or running errands is not ideal. And, if you take a sample and it rains soon after, then that sample is no longer an accurate reflection of the pool.

Ensure that your testing instruments are properly calibrated and do not expose them to high humidity conditions, drop them on the pool decking, or submerge them unless they are fully sealed. It is a good idea to purchase wide range test kits since dilution testing can be a complicated and precise process.

Working with a Pool Store

If this whole process is new to you, be sure to provide basic information to your pool store, such as pool size (in gallons), pool type (fiberglass, concrete, etc.), sanitizer (chlorine, salt system), and anything that has been done to the pool in the last 48 hours.

If you want to avoid all of these hassles and ensure the water in your pool or hot tub stays balanced, consider pHin. It constantly monitors your water and tells your smartphone what you need to do to  keep the water in your pool and hot tub healthy. Use it with your own chemicals for flexibility or get our single-dose, pre-measured chemicals delivered to your door. If you need someone to service your equipment, Pool Service on Demand connects you to local, qualified pool techs.

Do Pools Need More Chlorine When It’s Hot?

Do Pools Need More Chlorine When It’s Hot? Chlorine is a necessity for keeping your pool clean, free of bacteria, algae and viruses. Without it, your pool water can become murky, green, and even unsafe. However, too much also leads to trouble. To keep pool water safe and clean, chlorine should be maintained within a specific range. Too much chlorine can irritate the skin, eyes, and even lungs, while too little leaves you with a potentially unhealthy pool. What’s more, chemical needs change depending on the time of year, since heat and UV rays affect chlorine. To maintain the proper balance, consider the following factors.

What Is Chlorine Demand?

Pool service technicians measure two types of chlorine: combined chlorine and free chlorine.

  • Combined chlorine is the fraction of the chlorine that has reacted with organic matter, such as ammonia and nitrogen compounds and is, essentially, tied (“combined”) up. When your pool smells like chlorine, generally it is not because there is too much chlorine in the water but rather due to chloramines, the chemical compounds that result when chlorine meets organic material.
  • Free chlorine is the fraction of the chlorine that hasn’t yet reacted with organic matter; it is still able to disinfect the water.

High levels of combined chlorine indicate that there are too many foreign particulates in your pool water and free chlorine is the chlorine that needs to be replenished. It is important to remember that things like heat, increased bather load, and rain or wash-ins increase your chlorine demand.

How Do Heat and Light Affect Chlorine?

Free chlorine isn’t just lost when it interacts with organic matter; it is lost when it interacts with sunlight as well. Chlorine forms hypochlorite ions in water, which break apart when hit by ultraviolet radiation, releasing chlorine gas into the atmosphere. The light from the sun can reduce pool chlorination by 90 percent in just a few hours. This is why many pool service technicians add a stabilized chlorine and use a chlorine stabilizer when necessary to maintain the conditioner levels.

Temperature also has an effect on chlorine, as some bacteria and organisms grow better in warmer environments. When temperatures increase, it uses up free chlorine more quickly, potentially turning your pool into a swamp.

Rule of Thumb: For every 10-degree Fahrenheit (6 degree Celsius) rise in temperature above 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees Celsius), you should add as much as 50% more chlorine to your pool water to maintain appropriate levels of free chlorine. This is especially true for those hot tubs that are not always covered, as they tend to run warmer.

Adjusting to Meet Chlorine Demand

It can take more than a week for your pool to recover from an algae outbreak or sudden water cloudiness. Here are a few things to keep in mind to help avoid any loss in the use of your pool:

  • Test Water Frequently: When conditions that require more chlorine arise, you will be able to see your sanitizer disappearing when you test the water. You don’t have to be a certified technician or water chemist to be able to test and know the condition of your pool water. Purchase some dip-strips to easily test your water and take care of any algae or cloudiness before it begins.
  • Inform Service Providers of Pool Parties: While an increase in bathers definitely has an impact on your water’s chemicals, you can minimize that impact. Informing your service technician of any plans you may have involving your pool allows your tech to take preventative steps and keep your pool clean and safe. Don’t wait until the last minute to let your service tech know about your upcoming pool party. They need to find time in their schedules to help you get your pool ready in addition to their regular commitments.
  • Monitor the Pool after a Storm: Even light rainfall can dilute your water and offset the chemical balance of the pool. In addition, be on the lookout for anything that might have gotten washed into the pool, such as fertilizer or other lawn / plant chemicals, as well as leaves and debris blown in by the storm. Some of these may actually render your sanitizer or other chemicals ineffective, so be on the lookout.
  • Prevention is Always Easier: It is easier to simply maintain well-balanced pool water than to clean cloudy or green water. Consistent testing and monitoring ensures that your water stays clean and safe to use, whereas ignoring it can leave you without a pool until you or your technician figure out exactly what is going on.

If you’re looking for an easy way to ensure the water in your pool or hot tub stays balanced year-round, a pHin smart monitor constantly analyzes the water and automatically sends exactly what you need to keep your pool and hot tub healthy. Do you need someone to service your equipment? Pool Service on Demand connects you to local, qualified pool techs.

Your Guide to Chlorine and Bromine Hot Tubs

Your Guide to Chlorine and Bromine Hot Tubs. When you type “bromine or chlorine for a hot tub” into Google, you get about 205,000 search results in just half a second. The age-old debate between chlorine and bromine for hot tubs continues. Is one better than the other? Should you consider using bromine tablets? And if so, what do you have to gain?

Both chlorine and bromine are popular hot tub sanitizers but they get the job done differently. Let’s look at the pro’s and con’s of each.

1. Maintenance

Chlorine hot tubs require much more active maintenance and attention than bromine hot tubs. Without constant attention, chlorine hot tubs are much more likely to turn cloudy or green.

In addition, pH levels can often rise quickly in hot tubs and bromine is less exposed to these pH fluctuations. Chlorine, on the other hand, can’t handle large swings as efficiently as bromine, requiring frequent attention.

2. Efficiency And Effectiveness

Chlorine acts faster than bromine but dissipates quicker because it breaks down faster in high water temperatures. Once all the chlorine is used up, however, it requires frequent additions. On the other hand, bromine tablets take longer to dissolve, and once the active bromine has killed off unwanted organisms, dormant bromine salt remains behind, which can be reactivated into active bromine over and over. This makes bromine an active sanitizer for a longer period of time.

3. Water Temperature

The sweet spot for chlorine is between about 65 and 99 degrees. It quickly turns into vapor at around 100 degrees. While bromine is less effective at temperatures below 75 degrees, it thrives in hot water environments, especially over 100 degrees.

Hot tubs are, well, hot, small and typically have more people in them at the same time relative to their size. It is said that “4 people soaking in a typical hot tub equates to approximately 160 people in a backyard swimming pool due to chemical demands”. These factors make bathers perspire more, resulting in an increased amount of sweat and oils, and higher demand for sanitization. Bromine is better suited than chlorine to handle the buildup of these waste materials in hot water.

4. Cost

Many people choose chlorine because it’s less expensive at first. Although bromine can cost 20% or more than chlorine, it can stay longer in your water due to its ability to be reactivated after it has killed all the bacteria. This means that in the long run, you’ll use less bromine and hence, will pay less.

If you live in an area that gets a lot of sunshine all year round, costs related to sun protection may also play a role in your decision. Chlorine can be protected from the sun if you add the right amount of stabilizer to it. Bromine is broken down by the sun faster, requiring you to add bromine to compensate for the UV breakdown. However, when bromine is broken down by the sun’s UV, it leaves behind dormant bromine salt (sodium bromide), which can be reactivated by additional bromine or non-chlorine shock to perform additional sanitization.

5. Personal Considerations

Chlorine has been the subject of many jokes and urban legends. Some people with sensitive skin may find chlorine to be more irritating than bromine. Experts say that bromine protects the eyes and skin better, and emits less odor than chlorine.

 

For Chemistry Lovers

We’ve asked our chemistry expert to give his pick between bromine and chlorine for hot tubs.

This is what he had to say:

Bromine! It remains effective in a wider range of pH levels (7.0 – 8.4) than chlorine (7.4 – 7.8), and therefore, it can better protect your water from bacteria and viruses. Also, bromine in itself is a strong sanitizer. At a high pH level of 7.8, only about 25% of chlorine is active, but bromine remains efficient. And its byproducts, bromamines (a combined substance), produce their own sanitizing action, making bromine an even more powerful bacteria and virus killer. Add to that, that bromine already in your water can be reactivated using potassium monopersulfate after it has killed the bacteria. Reactivated bromine means less chemical use and bigger cost savings for you in the long run.”

Using Bromine Is Easy

Using bromine tablets in your hot tub is simple:

No need to drain your hot tub: you can get started with bromine right away. There’s no need to interrupt your hot tub usage for several days to drain and refill your hot tub. This also means that if you change your mind later and want to switch back to chlorine, you can easily do so.

Get the chemicals you need: To help provide the healthiest water care option and further simplify hot tub care, we will send you the chemicals you need at the time of shipping so you can start using bromine in your hot tub.