pool chemicals for dummies

Pool Chemicals for Dummies – Pool Chemicals 101

When it comes time to take care of your pool, there are several different chemicals that can play a part. You'll need to make sure the pool is clean and algae free, and also well balanced so that anyone who goes for a swim is comfortable. Some types of chemicals you might run into are:

  • w​​​​ater balancers;
  • sanitizers;
  • flask
  • flask
    shocks and oxidizers;​​​​
  • supportive chemicals.

This article is here to give you a brief overview of the kinds of chemicals you might need. You can consider it a lecture in Pool Chemicals 101.


The most commonly used sanitizing chemical is chlorine, which is used to aid in breaking down any unwanted dirt and debris in the pool. It comes in liquid, granular and tablet form, but if your pool happens to get a lot of sunlight, it would be a good idea to get a form that is listed as “stabilized.” 

What that means is the chlorine also has cyanuric acid mixed in with it, which keeps it from breaking down under UV rays. Typically, the stabilized version of chlorine will be available in the tablet version, and sometimes in granular.

Chlorine can be incredibly helpful in keeping your pool clean. Without it, the debris that gets into your pool won't be broken down and the bigger chunks can cause a clog the plumbing system setup for your pool. It can also cause the pump to have to work harder, which can be hard on it.

Water balancers

There are several water balancers you'll need to keep your pool running at tip-top shape. These include sodium carbonate, which will raise the pH level in your pool as needed, as well as sodium bisulfate, which can work simultaneously to lower the pH and the alkaline level.

You may also need sodium bicarbonate if you need to raise the alkaline level in the pool. Another chemical that you may need is calcium chloride, which will raise the overall hardness of the pool water.

Most of these chemicals are available in powder form. The only one that stands out in that matter is calcium chloride, which is available in a granular form.

It's extremely important that with each of these chemicals you pay close attention to the directions and be sure to use them safely. You should also make sure you use the correct amount listed in the instructions for each chemical, as it can be difficult to bring the chemicals back into balance.


Algaecides are useful chemicals that keep algae from making a home in your pool. There's little need to explain why nobody wants to swim in an algae-filled pool.

One of the most prominent algae-killing chemicals is known as quaternary ammonia, or “quats” for short. Quats is typically found in liquid form and in concentrations from between 5% and 50%.

You need to be especially careful with this chemical because if you manage to overdose your pool with it, it can lead to a foam forming on top of the pool water.

Chemicals like these are very useful, but can also be dangerous. It's wise to make sure you wear gloves and any other protective equipment you feel necessary in order to stay safe. If you find that you have an existing growth of algae that is being particularly stubborn, you can also use ​polyquats as another method to break it down and force it out of your pool.


Oxidizers are used to help the sanitizing chemicals in the effort to keep a handle on any bacteria or algae that may begin or try to grow in your pool. They provide a shock to the swimming pool that disrupts anything that may be growing within it and giving the chlorine an extra boost.

One example of a commonly used oxidizer is sodium di-chlor. Sodium di-chlor is strong and quick to dissolve. It gives your regular dose of chlorine a quick bit of added power to get the leading edge over any bacteria that might have managed to fight against the chlorine alone thus far.

Sodium-di-chlor is available in in granular form​ and should be used at about one pound per 10,000 gallons of water when used in this way. Typically, this chemical is already stabilized, meaning it has the cyanuric acid to ensure that the chlorine doesn't break down under UV light.

Supportive chemicals

Supportive chemicals are chemicals that play a smaller part in aiding the cleanliness of your pool but are still important on their own. There are four main types of supportive chemicals, including clarifiers, metal removers, stain and scale inhibitors, and as mentioned in earlier parts of this article, cyanuric acid.

Clarifiers are used to help clear cloudy water. People typically enjoy swimming in water that is clean and clear, so chemicals like this are used in creating that aesthetic appeal.

Metal removers are able to deactivate copper, iron and other unwanted metals that may be causing a problem in the pool. Stain and scale inhibitors control stains that may be caused in the water by minerals.

Lastly, as mentioned earlier, ​cyanuric acid​ helps to protect chlorine from breaking down too quickly under the UV rays of the sun.


Overall, there are a number of chemicals that you may need in order to keep your pool clean. Each pool chemical is important in its own right and needs to be used correctly in order to keep your pool clean, clear and enjoyable for anyone who wants to swim in it.

Articles like this exist to help you get a handle on which chemical you need to use to solve a given problem. If you find you need extra help, you're sure to find knowledgeable employees in any local pool supply store to help answer your questions.

With regard to all of these chemicals, make sure to always wear some kind of protective gear to keep them out of direct contact with your skin, and always make sure to follow the directions. 

One final word of advice: when purchasing your pool chemicals you can save by buying them in a bundle rather than separately. Common bundles you will find offering great value are ​Pool Opening (Spring Start-up) Chemical Kits​ and ​Pool Closing (winterizing) Chemical Kits​. Happy swimming!

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