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Did you know it costs $250,000 in chemicals and utilities alone to maintain an Olympic-regulation swimming pool for just one year? That’s why we generally don’t advise people to put a 12,300 square foot, 750,000 gallon pool in their backyard – unless they’re really hoping they’ll get to host the next Summer Olympics.

A 15’x30′ inground pool only has about 20,000 gallons of water. That’s far more manageable, but you’ve still got to take care if you want to enjoy maximum summer soaking fun. Proper pool maintenance includes cleaning the pool regularly, making sure its water circulates correctly, and balancing its pH level.

Maintaining the correct pH balance in your pool is a little less intuitive than cleaning it. Skimming leaves out of the water is simple enough, but balancing the pH involves chemistry. Fortunately it is simple chemistry, so even if you fell asleep in high school whenever the teacher brought out the periodic table, you can still easily master the pH balancing act!

What Is pH?

pH is a scale used to measure how acidic or alkaline a water-based liquid is. The pH scale runs from zero to 14; a liquid with a pH of zero is as acidic as possible, whereas a liquid with a pH of 14 is as alkaline as possible.

For context, battery acid is as acidic as it gets with a pH of zero. Orange juice has a pH value of 3. Pure water is perfectly neutral with a pH level of 7, and at the far end of the spectrum is liquid drain cleaner with a pH level of 14.

Why Your Pool’s pH Level Is Important

Ideally, your pool’s pH level will fall between 7.4 and 7.6. It is no coincidence that the pH inside your own body falls within this range.

When your pool’s pH level gets too low (acidic), swimmers will suffer stinging in their eyes and nose. Acidic water also destroys the body’s natural protective oils, which leaves skin dry and hair brittle. Acidic water also gradually destroys pumps, ladders, vinyl liners, and anything else it comes into contact with. That gets expensive quickly!

Pool water with a high (alkaline) pH can harm the human body just as badly as acidic water. Alkaline water also makes chlorine less effective, and it creates mineral deposits to give water a cloudy appearance. A high pH will furthermore accelerate wear to a pool’s vinyl liner.

In a nutshell, pool water that isn’t balanced to a pH level of 7.4 and 7.6 is uncomfortable, dirty, and harmful to the pool itself. So how do you prevent that unfortunate state of affairs? Why, by balancing your pool’s pH level, of course!

How to Balance the pH Level in Your Pool

First things first, you want to measure the pH level of your pool water. This is extremely easy: simply select an area of your pool that isn’t next to the skimmer, fill a pool water test vial to its specified level, add phenol red indicator, and mix the vial well. If the solution matches the correct color on the test vial’s decal, your pool water has a balanced pH. If the solution turns a color that the decal indicates is too acidic or alkaline, then it’s time to take action.

You may also use a test strip instead of the vial method. Just submerge the strip about 18″ deep for 10 seconds. Without shaking it, let the test strip change color until you can compare it against the strip’s packaging.

Naturally, you’ll want to add different substances depending on whether your pool water’s pH is too low or too high.

  • Low pH: Sodium bicarbonate (aka baking soda)
  • High pH: Muriatic acid (aka “pool acid”)

Sodium bicarbonate powder can be poured one cup at a time into the skimmer or around the edge of the deep end. Muriatic acid can be poured one quart at a time around the deep end. Either substance will diffuse throughout the pool water without mixing.

Whichever substance your pool needs, add only one unit to the water per application. Then wait an hour or so and measure the water’s pH again. If the test vial or strip reveals your water’s pH still falls outside of the 7.4 to 7.6 range, repeat the process until you get the right color.

Balancing your pool’s pH level really is that easy! And Valhalla Spas & Pools makes it even easier by offering all the chemical supplies you need in Bismarck, ND to keep that pH level perfect. As a matter of fact, we’re happy to keep your pool’s pH level perfect for you – as well as regularly clean it and make sure its water is always circulating correctly. Just give us a call and the only thing you’ll have left to do with your pool is enjoy it.