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, 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?
The pH balance in 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 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 it’s too basic, it can cause scaling and murky water.
What pH balance is so important
As you can tell, off-balance pH levels can cause some issues. For example:
- Low pH irritates the skin and eyes. It can also irritate the mucous membranes in your nasal cavity. This is because acidic water will strip away your body’s natural oils.
- Low pH corrodes equipment. Everything in contact with acidic water is basically being worn away, which is why if left unchecked, it will corrode your plumbing, accessories, liners and other equipment.
- Unbalanced pH kills chlorine’s power. Whether it’s low or high, unbalanced pH is the super-villain of your pool’s germ-fighting hero. In this scenario, you can add all the chlorine you want and your pH levels will render it useless.
- High pH clouds the water. While cloudy water in and of itself is not necessarily unsafe, it does usually signal an underlying issue. And besides, no one wants to swim in murky water!
>>Related: How to lower pH in your pool
What causes low pH?
Because pH is such an unstable factor, many things can affect it.
But when it’s low, it is usually caused by things like rainwater or debris getting into your pool.
Total alkalinity is sort of the stabilizing factor for pH, so it’s important to test this level every time you test your pH levels.
When it is off, pH is almost always off in the same direction as well.
How to raise pH in 5 steps
Now you know what pH is, why it’s important and what affects it, but next comes learning how to correct it.
Raising your pool’s pH levels is not a terribly difficult process, but it can take some time.
Follow these steps to get it back in balance:
Step 1. Test your chemistry levels
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 check them now to see exactly how far off the pH is.
Ideal pH levels are between 7.2 and 7.6, with 7.4 being optimum.
So if your pH measures anything below 7.2, you need to take the steps to raise it.
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. If this is the case, you might have to do a little math.
Don’t panic, though. It’s not too hard to calculate. Just plug your 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)
Round pools: diameter x diameter x depth x 5.9
Step 3. Measure your chemicals
Sodium carbonate (soda ash) is the most common chemical used to raise pH and total alkalinity in pools. It takes about 6 ounces 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. 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.
Step 4. Add your chemicals
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.
Make sure your 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
Wait about an hour and then test your pH and alkalinity again. If they’re back in balance, then your job is done.
>>Read: How to balance your pool water
But if they’re still off, you’ll have to repeat the process, adding as much soda ash as you need in order to get it in normal range.
The water will be a little cloudy, 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 that are throwing it off.
Test all the 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.
The best way to save yourself time and energy in keeping your pool balanced and safe is to stay on top of maintaining it every day.
Each day, you should be skimming out leaves and debris. Each week, you should be testing all the chemistry levels and making sure everything is balanced. And each month, you should be shocking your pool and vacuuming and brushing thoroughly to give it a deep cleaning.
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!