As you dive into the world of pool maintenance, you may find yourself struggling to recall all that you learned about chemistry in high school. Alkalinity, basicity, and pH levels sound very complicated, and it’s difficult to visualize how off-balanced levels will impact your pool equipment and swimmers.
What does pH do for your pool? The pH level denotes the degree of activity of an acid or a base (alkali) in your pool’s water. When you are checking your pool’s chemical levels, you’re checking the pH levels. The scale runs from one to fourteen, with one being extremely acidic and fourteen being extremely basic. The ideal pH level for your pool is 7.5, but anywhere in the range of 7.2 to 7.8 is acceptable, but you should keep a close eye on those levels.
Low levels in pH means your pool water is acidic. High levels of acid in your water can have some very expensive and uncomfortable effects. In this article, we’ll explore the dangers of low pH levels and some tips on how to raise your pool’s pH levels.
The Consequences of Low pH
If you’ve ever bitten into a lemon or any other sour, citrine fruit, you’ve probably been warned that the acid from the fruit will eat away at your tooth’s enamel. The same thing applies to your pool when the pH levels are too low.
Acid is highly corrosive, meaning it eats away at the materials it comes into contact with. That sounds scary, but what does it mean?
It’s Harmful to Swimmers
If your pool is too acidic, you’ll hear complaints from your swimmers first–the water stings their eyes, nostrils, and will dry out their skin and hair. Swimmers with more sensitive skin will complain of itching and may even experience redness. While these aren’t fatal or cause long-term effects, they make swimming in your pool uncomfortable and unenjoyable.
It Damages Equipment
Just like acid corrodes at your skin and hair, it does the same to your pool equipment. Acidic water eats away at metal surfaces, such as your favorite pool equipment: ladders, pool lights, rails, and even the metal in your pumps, filters, and heaters. This amount of damage on this wide array of equipment can be costly if you don’t balance the levels early on.
The acid in the water will also deteriorate plaster, stone, grout, and pool tiling. Vinyl surfaces aren’t safe either—the water will make it brittle, causing it to crack and even tear. As all of your equipment and materials break down in the acid, the dissolved minerals can stain your pool and cause cloudy pool water.
It Creates a Cesspool
Speaking of cloudy pool water, low pH in your pool water decreases the amount of working chlorine. Without chlorine to sanitize your pool properly, bacteria and algae can sneak in and have a field day. So long, crystalline oasis, and hello, backyard swamp. Bacteria and algae can make your pool hazardous to swim in, attract insects and other unsavory wildlife, and can be expensive and time-consuming to remove.
Luckily, low pH in your pool isn’t a death sentence. You should be testing your pool water weekly, at an absolute minimum. If you use your pool frequently, we recommend testing multiple times per week, if not daily. By frequently testing your pool water’s pH levels, you can catch discrepancies or low levels before irreparable damage is done.
Want to know how to raise the pH in your pool naturally? The trick is inexpensive and highly accessible: baking soda.
Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is naturally alkaline with a pH rating of eight. By adding baking soda to your pool, you raise both the pH and alkaline levels. This results in stable, clear pool water.
Want an insider’s secret? Even if you opt for a chemical solution to raise your pH, nearly all of the commercial pool products for raising alkalinity use baking soda as their main ingredient. So, skip the fuss, save a few bucks, and buy your baking soda in bulk.
Depending on your pool’s size, you can sprinkle in anywhere between 1.5 pounds to ten pounds of baking soda in your pool. Let it dissolve and circulate through your pool’s filtration system (this can take anywhere between six and twenty-four hours) before testing your pH levels again.
The Bottom Line
Low pH levels can result in unsafe swimming conditions, pool corrosion, deterioration of equipment, and hazardous bacteria and algae growth. Luckily, it’s easy and inexpensive to raise your pH levels using baking soda.
We recommend you test your pH levels multiple times per week, or daily if you are working to return your pH level to the recommended 7.5 target. For more expert tips and tricks about pool maintenance, check out our other posts!
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.