Here’s How To Lower pH Levels In Your Pool (Quick & Easy)

When your pool chemistry levels get out of whack, it can take some time and energy to get them balanced. 

And your pH levels are certainly no exception.

In fact, when pH level is too high, it will throw everything off, including the effectiveness of your chlorine.

But there are a few ways you can use to fix it, and in this guide, we'll go over everything there is to know about lowering pH in your pool.

What is pH?

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Water’s pH level is just a measure of “total acid-alkalinity balance.”

Simply put, it determines whether your pool is acid or alkaline (base).

It's important to remember that pH can measure anywhere from 1 to 14, but pool’s ideal ranges are 7.2-7.6. 

The lower the number, the more acidic your pool is, and the higher the number, the more alkaline. And 7 is completely neutral, being right in the middle of the scale.

But what does this mean? 

Acidic water can corrode your equipment, cause etching on your pool surfaces, and irritate your skin and eyes. But water that is too alkaline can cause scaling and cloudy water.

Let’s take a closer look...

Why should you lower your pool's pH balance?

If your pool has a pH balance that constantly gets a little too high, you could start to notice some pretty significant problems.

It can even be dangerous for swimmers, killing the chlorine benefits and posing some serious health concerns.

Here are some things you might see:

  • Skin and eye irritation
  • Scaling
  • Clogged filters and pipes
  • High chlorine demand
  • Cloudy water

Clogged filters and scaling may not sound like a big deal, but when you consider that it can affect circulation and put a strain on your pool equipment, you might start seeing dollar signs.

Imagine, for example, that you get some severe scaling in a pipe, which causes your water not to be able to move through it at the same speed. 

In this case, your pump is still pushing water through your pipes just as fast as it was before, but now your system can’t quite handle it.

This can cause pipes to burst or your motor to burn out, both of which can result in some pretty expensive repair bills.

Why is your pool's pH balance high?

Normal pH range is considered anything between 7.2 and 7.6, 7.4 being ideal. But, it’s not always easy to keep it there.

An occasional spike in the pH balance isn’t too much to be concerned about, but if you're constantly battling keeping it in range, you could have a bigger problem.

The pH level is an extremely unstable factor in water and one of the hardest to keep under control; this is simply because it is affected by almost everything that enters the water.

But some of the main causes are:

  • High alkalinity. When total alkalinity is high, then it will also raise the pH levels almost 100% of the time. These two factors are very intertwined and when one is off, the other follows. (Read: How to lower alkalinity in your pool).
  • Improperly measured chemicals. It’s extremely important to err on the side of caution when adding chemicals to adjust any factor, but if you recently added something to raise your pH or alkalinity levels, it's possible you added too much and sent it to the other side of the scale.
  • Pool shock. Shocking your pool is important, but if you're using cal-hypo (calcium hypochlorite), it can raise your pool’s pH levels. Don’t stop shocking your pool, but do test all your chemistry levels consistently, especially after shocking.

Products to help lower pH levels

There are two main chemicals normally used to lower pH levels in pools: sodium bisulfate and muriatic acid.

Both can cause damage to the pool surface and your skin, so it’s important to use caution with either one, including wearing clothing that fully covers your body, along with gloves and goggles. 

You'll also usually find these chemicals in products called something like “pH Reducers” or “pH Minus”. If you're particular about which you use, be sure to check the labels before buying. 

Sodium bisulfate

Sodium bisulfate, or dry acid, as it's usually called, comes in a fine powder form, so it’s important not to use it on a windy day. 

Even though you still need to be careful with it, it's actually a much milder chemical than muriatic acid, and it's a little safer to use and to store, so some people prefer to use this one.

Muriatic acid

Muriatic acid is also known as hydrochloric acid, and it's the same acid some people use to acid wash tiles with extreme calcium buildup, and it has a lot of commercial uses as well, such as pickling steel and dissolving rock.

It comes in a liquid form and is a strong chemical you should always use with caution.

How to lower pH levels using sodium bisulfate

If you choose to use a sodium bisulfate product to lower your pH or alkalinity levels, be sure to use some precautions.

Try not to use it on a windy day so that the powder won’t blow back onto your skin or eyes, and get down close to the water when adding it to get as much of the product into the pool as you can, rather than into the air.

Then take the following steps:

Step 1. Test ph and alkalinity

The pH level should be 7.2-7.6 and alkalinity should be between 80 and 120 ppm. If you've determined the levels are high, it’s time to get to work lowering them.

Step 2. Measure your chemicals

Read the manufacturer’s instructions to determine exactly how much product to add based on how much you need to raise the levels.

Most experts recommend adding about ¾ of what's recommended initially. It’s always easier to add more than to correct the chemistry if you’ve added too much.

Step 3. Add the chemical

Pour the powder straight into your return jet sites, where the water enters the pool, and avoid adding it to the skimmer.

For above-ground pools, you'll probably need to circulate the water yourself and spread the chemical around with your hands.

Step 4. Allow the chemical to dissolve

Allow the filtration system to circulate the chemical; it should dissolve completely within about 15 minutes as long as your filtration system is working well.

Step 5. Re-test and repeat as needed

You don’t have to retest the levels immediately, but do make sure you test them within 24 hours.

If your pH and alkalinity levels test in normal range, then you're done. But if they're still high, repeat the process, adding about ¾ of what the instructions call for each time.

Read: How to choose the best pool test kits

How to lower pH levels using muriatic acid

We already talked about the dangers of misusing muriatic acid.

So, be sure to cover your body completely when using it, and break out the rubber gloves and goggles.

Also, even though it's not a powder, it’s still a good idea to try to use it on a calm day to avoid blow back.

Step 1. Test pH and alkalinity

The pH level should be 7.2-7.6 and alkalinity should be between 80 and 120 ppm.

If you've determined the levels are high, muriatic acid will help you lower them.

Step 2. Measure your chemicals

Read the manufacturer’s instructions to find out exactly how much product to add based on how much you need to raise the levels.

Step 3. Add the chemical

You can do this a couple of ways with muriatic acid.

One way is to turn off the pump and pour the liquid a small, steady stream at the deep end of the water: this allows the acid to go to the bottom of the pool so that it is not just floating on top. You can then turn the pump back on and allow it to circulate.

Or you can pour it into the pool by the return jets and let your pump circulate it throughout the water. For above ground pools, you'll need to add the acid slowly in various spots so that it's not all concentrated in one area. Then, while wearing gloves, you can circulate the water manually.

Step 4. Allow the chemical to dissolve

Allow the filtration system to circulate the chemical.

It should be well-distributed within a few hours.

Step 5. Re-test and repeat as needed

Retest your pH and total alkalinity in 4 hours. If your pH and alkalinity levels test in normal range, then you're done.

But if they're still high, repeat the process, adding about ¾ of what the instructions call for each time.

Tips for keeping pH levels balanced

Although pH is a pretty unstable factor in your pool chemistry, it's possible to keep it balanced most of the time. You just have to stay on top of a few pool maintenance tasks.

  • Test your pool chemistry twice a week. Or if you've had issues with pH balance, test it every day until you get it under control. This may seem like a giant pain the in you-know-what, but it only takes a few minutes of your time, versus the hours you could have to spend correcting problems. 
  • Keep your pool clean. Since even things like dirty leaves can affect your pool’s pH balance, keep it as clear from debris as you can. Use a pool skimmer to clear out the junk every day. It’s a great way to make the kiddos earn their allowance!
  • Check your filtration system regularly. If your pool filter is doing its job, it will take a lot less elbow grease to keep the water clean and balanced.
  • Shock your pool regularly. Most experts recommend once a month, but you should do it more often if during times of high usage or weather changes. Shocking the pool helps restore all the chemistry levels to normal.

Bottom line

After you've stabilized your pool’s pH level or if you're having a lot of trouble doing so, go ahead and test your complete pool chemistry to see if you need to add chlorine or correct something else as well.

Stay on top of keeping your pool cleaned and well-maintained so that fewer problems arise.

But when they do, check in with us for the best solutions!

Pool Care Guy
 

Hi guys! My name is Mike, aka Pool Care Guy. I'm here to help you make sure your pool is clean, healthy, and pristine. Most of all, I'm here to guide you along so you spend more time swimming in your pool than you do cleaning it!