If your pH dips below normal range in your pool, your plumbing may start to erode and your swimmers will start to complain with itchy skin and burning eyes. Talk about ruining summer fun!
To raise the pH levels in your pool, try adding sodium carbonate (soda ash) or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) until your pool's pH levels are between 7.2 and 7.8.
If your pH levels are a little low, keep on reading: in this ultimate guide on pool water pH, we'll go over what pH is, why pH balance is important, what causes low pH, and how to raise pH levels in your pool.
What is pH in a swimming pool?
The pH balance in swimming pool water is a measure of how acidic or alkaline it is.
Scientifically, it stands for “potential hydrogen,” or a substance’s ability to attract hydrogen ions. Cool, right?
But, you probably just want to know what it means for your pool…
The pH scale goes from 0-14, with 0 being the most acidic and 14 the most basic.
Most experts agree that the optimum pH range for swimming pools is 7.2-7.6, with 7.4 being perfect.
If the water is too acidic, it can cause damage to your pool and some pretty serious irritation to your eyes and skin.
But if the pH level too basic, it can cause scaling and murky water, which isn't the best for swimmers.
Why pH balance in pools is so important
As you can tell, off-balance pH levels can cause some issues for your swimming pool. For example:
>>Related: How to lower pH in your pool
What causes low pH in a pool?
Because pH in pool water is such an unstable factor, many things can affect it.
But when the pH level is low, it is usually caused by things like rainwater or debris getting into your pool.
Total alkalinity in the pool is sort of the stabilizing factor for pH, so it’s important to test this level every time you test your pH levels.
When alkalinity is off, pH is almost always off in the same direction as well.
Signs of low ph level
Keeping your pool's pH balanced is super important, but sometimes you might notice a few signs that the pH is too low without even having to measure it. If you're seeing some funky stuff like corroding metal fixtures, etching on pool surfaces, or cloudy water, you might be dealing with low pH levels. We've got a whole list of other things to look out for below, so you can keep an eye on your pool and fix any issues before they get out of hand.
- Corroding metal fixtures: Low pH levels can cause corrosion of metal fixtures such as ladders, handrails, and pool equipment.
- Etching of pool surfaces: Acidic water can lead to etching of plaster, concrete, and other pool surfaces, making them rough and potentially damaging their appearance.
- Wrinkling of vinyl liners: Low pH levels can cause vinyl liners to wrinkle or become brittle, reducing their lifespan.
- Cloudy water: Acidic water can cause calcium to precipitate out of the water, leading to cloudy water and potential damage to the pool's circulation system.
- Fading swimsuits: Low pH levels can cause swimsuits to fade more quickly due to the increased acidity.
- Increased algae growth: Low pH levels can contribute to an environment more conducive to algae growth.
- Increased maintenance costs: Addressing the various issues caused by low pH can lead to increased maintenance costs over time.
How to raise pH levels in your pool in 5 steps
Now you know what pH is, why it’s important and what affects it, but next comes learning how to correct pool pH.
Raising your pool’s pH levels is not a terribly difficult process, but if you have never done it before, you may not know how to raise the pH in a pool and it can be intimidating. We are here to help you learn how to raise pool pH. And remember, it can take some time to raise pH in pool water so don't get discouraged.
Follow these steps to get your pool pH levels back in balance:
Step 1. Test your pool chemistry levels
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If you think your pH levels are off, chances are you’ve already checked the pool chemistry to make sure. If not, go ahead and test them now to see exactly how far off the pH is in your swimming pool.
Ideal pH levels in your pool are between 7.2 and 7.6, with 7.4 being optimum.
So if your pH measures anything below 7.2, the pH level is low, and you need to take the steps to raise it and get your pool water back in balance.
Step 2. Calculate the amount of water in your pool
You probably know how many gallons of water are in your pool, but if you've just bought a home with a pool or something like that, you may not know the size of your pool. If this is the case, you might have to do a little math to determine how much pool water you have.
Don’t panic, though. It’s easy to calculate the amount of pool water you have. Just plug your pool size numbers into one of these formulas:
Rectangular or square pools: length x width x depth x 7.5 (if your pool has more than one depth, use the average pool depth)
Round pools: diameter x diameter x depth x 5.9
Once you know how much pool water is in your swimming pool, you can calculate the amount of soda ash you will need to adjust the pH level.
Step 3. Measure your chemicals
There are several chemicals you can use to address low alkalinity and raise low pH levels. Sodium carbonate (soda ash) is the most common chemical used to raise pH and total alkalinity in pools. It takes about 6 ounces of soda ash for every .2 pH points you need to raise 10,000 gallons of water.
For example, let’s say the pH in your pool measured 7.0 and you have a 20,000 gallon pool. In order to raise the pH level to 7.2, you would start out adding 12 ounces of soda ash to the water. Make sense?
(points needed to raise/2) x 6 oz = amount of soda ash to add
This is just an expert estimate, meaning that it will get you pretty close, but sometimes you may need to add a bit more soda ash to get your pool pH level in the correct range.
Step 4. Add your chemicals to the pool
In a five gallon bucket, add clean water and then your measured soda ash.
Slosh it around a little bit to get it mixed and then pour it around the perimeter of the pool. This helps ensure that the soda ash mixes with the pool water.
Make sure your pool pump is on during this time so that the soda ash will be well-circulated throughout all the water.
Step 5. Test the pool water again to measure pH levels
Wait about an hour and then test your pH and alkalinity again. If the pH level is back in balance, then your job is done.
>>Read: How to balance your pool water
But if the pH level is still off, you'll have to repeat the process, adding as much soda ash as you need in order to get the water pH level in normal range.
The water in your pool will be a little cloudy when adjusting pH levels, but it should clear within a few hours or so.
>>Read: How to clear cloudy pool water
If you're still having problems getting the pH balanced, you could have other issues with the pool water that are throwing the pH level off.
Test all the pool water levels to see if there is another problem. Correct chlorine and calcium hardness levels if needed and test the pH again.
Also, make sure your pool is as clean as you can get it, since leaves and debris will cause it to be unbalanced. Prioritize pool maintenance and if you continue to have issues with your pool pH level, you may need to call in a professional pool service to help you troubleshoot.
Learn more about does chlorine raise or lower ph.
How to raise pH naturally
Raising the pH of your swimming pool naturally might be a bit challenging, as most common methods involve the use of chemicals. However, there are a few ways to attempt raising the pH without resorting to chemical additives. Keep in mind that these methods might not be as effective as using pool chemicals, and you should always monitor your pool's pH levels closely to ensure they remain within the recommended range. Here are some ideas to consider:
- Aerate the water: Increasing water movement through aeration can help raise the pH slightly by releasing carbon dioxide from the water. You can achieve this by running water features, fountains, or waterfalls, or by pointing the pool's return jets upwards to create more surface agitation.
- Use baking soda: Although not completely natural, using baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is a milder alternative to pool chemicals. Baking soda can raise both the pH and alkalinity levels, helping to stabilize the water.
- Allow sunlight exposure: Sunlight can help to break down and dissipate pool chemicals, which may contribute to a slight increase in pH over time. Make sure your pool gets adequate sunlight, but keep in mind that this method may not be sufficient to achieve significant changes in pH levels.
- Remove acidic debris: Keep the pool clean by regularly removing leaves, grass, and other organic debris, which can contribute to lower pH levels as they decompose.
- Use crushed coral or oyster shells: Adding crushed coral or oyster shells to your pool's filtration system can help raise pH levels naturally. These materials slowly dissolve, releasing calcium carbonate into the water, which can help increase pH.
Bottom line on how to increase low pH levels in your pool water
The best way to save yourself time and energy in keeping your pool balanced and safe for swimmers is to stay on top of maintaining the water every day.
Each day, you should be skimming out leaves and debris from the pool surfaces. Each week, you should be testing all the chemistry levels and making sure everything is balanced in the water. And each month, you should be shocking your pool and vacuuming and brushing thoroughly to give it a deep cleaning. All these pool maintenance tips will help ensure that your pool remains safe and fun for swimmers.
Occasionally, your pool levels will become out of balance despite your best efforts, but all these things will help you maintain the proper levels so that you are not spending all your time correcting issues that could have been avoided.
And that’s what pool maintenance is all about!
Hi, I’m Matt Harper, the founder of poolcareguy.com, a site I started with one simple mission: to help people around the world clean and take care of their pools and hot tubs on their own, without the hassle.
I’m not a professional pool cleaner and don’t have any formal training, I’m just an average guy who loves hanging out by his pool and hot tub and taking care of it. After many years on the job, I’ve become quite good at it.
On this website I will be teaching you absolutely everything I know about pools and hot tubs.