Remember that chemistry class you took in school? Now you finally need all that information! As you work to maintain the correct chemical mixes in your swimming pool, one important measure is alkalinity.
This refers to alkaline substances such as bicarbonates and hydroxides that are present in the pool water. Alkalinity measures the ability of your pool water to neutralize acids and bases while also maintaining the right pH level. The goal of all of this, of course, is to keep the water clear and safe for your friends and family.
This article will break down the topics of the balancing act between alkalinity and pH levels, the causes of high alkalinity, and why it’s important to bring it down.
Alkalinity and pH: A Chemical Balancing Act
Alkalinity and pH work closely together and this synergy can be seen when the pH levels increase or decrease in your pool’s water. Alkalinity is one factor that keeps your pH levels from either being too high or too low. When they are in balance, the alkalinity stabilizes the pH and the pool chlorine can do its job to sanitize the water at safe levels. So keeping the total alkalinity in check in your pool’s water also helps to maintain consistent pH levels.
The pH level tells you how alkaline or acidic your pool’s water is on a scale of 1 to 14. If the pH reading is on the low end of the scale, the alkalinity will fall, too. If the pH reading is too high, the alkalinity goes up. Low alkalinity doesn’t offer your pool’s water enough buffering to stabilize the pH. While high levels of pH reduce the effectiveness of the chlorine in the water.
It is so important to keep the alkalinity and pH levels balanced within the expert-recommended ranges for several reasons. If the levels go much higher or lower, your water’s chemistry will negatively affect your pool’s ability to sanitize. Your pool’s equipment can also be damaged by both high alkalinity and pH levels.
If you’re wishing you had paid more attention in that chemistry class, all you have to remember is this: Get a good pool water testing kit and regularly monitor the pH and alkaline levels!
Causes of High Alkalinity in Your Pool
Once the levels of alkalinity in your pool get too high and the pH is also affected, it’s helpful to know what caused that disruption in the water chemistry. Then you will have a better idea of the necessary steps to take to bring the chemicals back into alignment.
One of the primary causes of high alkalinity is other pool chemicals (or the lack thereof), such as:
Cyanuric acid, often referred to simply as CYA, is a chlorine stabilizer and is often the culprit in high total alkalinity. CYA is used to stabilize the chlorine in the pool and keeps chlorine from evaporating due to the sun’s UV rays. However, chlorine causes acidity in the pool, too, so CYA acts as a buffer to that acidity.
Many people use trichlor chlorine, which has a pH of around 3, to sanitize their swimming pool water. When trichlor chlorine is used to sanitize the water, it makes it more acidic. But because it’s stabilized, it contains cyanuric acid. And the CYA buffers the acidity in your pool water.
Low Sanitizer Levels
When there have been many people in the pool over a short period, the alkalinity and pH are affected, especially if the chlorine levels get low. People leave contaminants behind in water that has low chlorine levels, which then disrupts the pH levels as well as the alkalinity of the water.
Pool shocks that are chlorine-based have high alkalinity already. So, when you shock your pool on a regular schedule, both the pH and the alkaline will go up.
Consequences If Your Pool Alkalinity Is Too High
There are many consequences of high alkalinity due to the synergy between alkalinity and your pH. Since almost everything in your water is affected by the pH levels, high alkalinity can cause lots of issues. We have already mentioned several, such as higher pH and impaired sanitization of the water. Your pool equipment, including your filtration system, can also be damaged.
Here are some other consequences of high alkalinity:
Scaling and Cloudy Water
Scale formation and staining happen when there are excess minerals, like calcium, in the pool water. Scale then builds up on the pool walls and other surfaces. This scaling is usually white or tan, has a rough or gritty texture, and can build up and restrict water flow inside pipes. That, in turn, puts extra strain on your pool’s circulation and filtration system.
You also know now that high alkalinity causes high pH. pH that has gotten too high leads to cloudy water, something that is not appealing to your guests or family.
May Irritate the Skin and Eyes
High alkalinity and pH levels can also lead to itchy eyes and skin for those using your pool. Fabrics used in many bathing suits are weakened, too, as are items like goggles and other similar swimming pool items. That’s not how you want bathers to remember afternoons in your pool!
High alkalinity and pH levels in a pool are difficult to change, but not impossible. It just takes some patience. It isn’t a quick fix and can sometimes take a week or more.
Learn How to Easily Lower a High Alkalinity Level in Your Pool
As mentioned above, the alkalinity helps your pool water neutralize bases and acids, which also affects the pH levels at the same time. For the person in charge of pool maintenance, this becomes a balancing act so that the water is clear and safe for your friends and family. It’s important to know why the alkaline gets high in a pool and what the consequences are of not correcting it.
The chemistry involved in this balancing act of alkaline, pH, and all the other chemicals that go into keeping your swimming pool safe can seem confusing. Your biggest task is to test the water frequently so you know what you’re dealing with. Beyond that, there is help!
The creator of Pool School Videos, Mike Steele, also known as “The Pool Doctor,” is now sharing his knowledge and experience from his 30 years as a pool maintenance professional. He has put together 20 online, self-paced videos that offer easy-to-understand insider information about everything related to pool care. The videos provide clear guidelines for easier, cheaper, and more effective DIY pool maintenance unlike you’ll find anywhere else online. After purchasing Pool School Videos, they are available 24/7 for your use any time you want.
Your purchase also gives you access to our private Facebook group where you can ask all the questions you have about alkalinity, pH, and any other pool maintenance topic. You will then get a personal response within 24 hours!