Using Baking Soda vs. Soda Ash in Your Pool

Written by Michael Dean
May 22, 2023

baking soda vs soda ash

As a pool owner, you’ll want to do everything you can to keep your swimming pool in the best shape possible. Part of keeping a healthy pool is ensuring your chemical levels are balanced. You’ve likely heard that baking soda and soda ash are both useful for maintaining healthy pH levels and total alkalinity. However, don’t fret if you’re confused about when you should use each of them.

In this guide, I’ll give you insight into using baking soda or soda ash to help you keep your pool in tip-top shape.

Main Takeaways

  • Baking soda should be used to raise both pH and total alkalinity levels
  • Soda ash should be used if you aim to raise the pH level only

When to Use Baking Soda

When determining whether to use baking soda or soda ash to balance out your pool’s pH and total alkalinity, it’s essential to understand what these numbers should look like.

The ideal pH level for your pool is 7.2 to 7.8. That way, the water maintains a good balance of an ideal pH for disinfection without hurting your eyes and skin.

Total alkalinity correlates with pH because the higher the pH, the more alkaline (or basic) the water. Alternatively, the lower the water’s pH is, the less alkaline (or acidic) it’ll be. Nevertheless, as you’ll soon learn, the pH and total alkalinity balance can be thrown off.

If you want more information on the ideal ranges for different chemicals, check out my complete guide on swimming pool water chemistry.

Now, let’s look at how pH and total alkalinity correlate to you and your pool when using baking soda.

Use Cases

Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) has a pH of eight, so it helps increase your pool’s pH and total alkalinity if you’re struggling to keep the water above the minimum 7.2 pH mark.

Baking soda works best to increase your pool’s total alkalinity more than the pH number itself.

By increasing the total alkalinity of your pool water, you’ll prevent your pool and body from experiencing the following issues:

  • Corrosion of pool tiles
  • Deteriorating pool fixtures
  • Dry skin
  • Brittle hair

It’s worth noting that most total alkalinity and pH-boosting products at your local pool shop have baking soda as their primary ingredient. So feel free to pass on those expensive products and head to your nearest Costco to load up on baking soda instead.

Arm & Hammer Baking Soda

Good old fashioned Arm & Hammer pure baking soda is a great option.

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I may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at zero additional cost to you. This in no way impacts my research process or opinions.

Side Effects to Watch Out for

Adding too much baking soda can damage your pool because it’ll make the water’s pH level rise too high. Swimming water that has a high pH level can damage your pool in the following ways:

  • Create scaling build-up
  • Make the water cloudy
  • Cause stains that are difficult to remove

Because of this, you must check the pH level of your pool the same day you add the baking soda. That way, if you discover it made the pH level rise too much, you can negate the impact with muriatic acid before the negative side effects set in. I have an entire guide on using muriatic acid in your pool that you can also read.

Tips for Adding Baking Soda Effectively

Get ready to buy baking soda in bulk; for it to work effectively, you’ll need to use approximately 1.5 pounds of baking soda for every 10,000 gallons of water in your pool. Let me put that into perspective for you—even a small above-ground pool often holds over 13,000 gallons of water. For more exact measurements for your pool, use my alkalinity calculator.

Although you can technically pour dry baking soda straight into your swimming pool, I recommend mixing it with water first to form a thin paste. That way, you can smooth out clumps before pouring the substance into your pool, helping it disperse faster.

While I’m on the topic of dispersion, a little trick is to pour any substances you’re using to maintain your pool by the return jets. That way, it’ll move the baking soda around your pool faster.

Nevertheless, you can expect it to take around six hours for the baking soda to mix into your pool entirely. After these six hours, you should retest the total alkalinity and pH of your water.

If the numbers aren’t as good as you want them to be, continue adding more baking soda until you’re satisfied with the results. However, be careful not to add too much so that you don’t run into adverse side effects.

When to Use Soda Ash

Like baking soda, soda ash (sodium carbonate) helps raise the overall pH and total alkalinity of pool water. However, the difference is that soda ash does a better job of addressing pH levels than total alkalinity.

Therefore, if your pool suffers from a lower pH more than lower total alkalinity, soda ash is the best option for you.

Use Cases

Soda ash has a massive pH level compared to baking soda; it ranges between 11.3 and 11.7.

Nevertheless, its ability to raise pH levels compared to total alkalinity is starkly different. For example, for every 10,000 gallons of water, you can expect soda ash to increase your pool water’s pH by 0.2. In contrast, it’ll only increase alkalinity by around five parts per million.

For this reason, soda ash should be your go-to substance when your pool suffers from low pH levels.

In The Swim pH Increaser - Granular 100% Sodium Carbonate (Soda Ash)

If you want to order online, In The Swim makes a reliable pH increaser (a fancy name for soda ash).

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I may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at zero additional cost to you. This in no way impacts my research process or opinions.

Side Effects to Watch Out for

The side effects of using too much soda ash in your pool water are similar to using too much baking soda, as too high of a pH level will damage your pool in the same way.

However, it’s worth noting that you may encounter a side effect of soda ash even if you use the proper amount, and that’s cloudy water. While murky water won’t damage your pool, we can all agree that no one wants to swim in it.

Cloudy water from adding the correct amount of soda ash can occur under the following circumstances.

  1. You didn’t mix the soda ash in water before adding it to your pool.
  2. You poured calcium chloride into your pool at the same time that you added the soda ash.

Of course, as I covered in the baking soda section, cloudy water can also occur if you add so much soda ash that it raises your pool’s pH too high. In this case, you’ll need to use muriatic acid so that the pH returns to a healthy range.

Tips for Adding Soda Ash Effectively

Grab your goggles and gloves—unlike baking soda, soda ash can harm your skin if it touches you because of its high pH level.

Once you’re ready, fill a bucket with pool water and measure the soda ash. You’ll want to use six ounces of soda ash for every 10,000 gallons of water in your pool.

Use a paint stick or any other object you can stir with to dissolve the soda ash in the water. Then, pour the solution into your pool. As with baking soda, an excellent location is by the return jets.

However, anywhere in your pool will do well, provided you avoid the skimmer, since that’ll filter out and dilute the solution.

Like baking soda, six hours is a good time to wait before testing your pool’s pH and total alkalinity levels. When in doubt, it’s best to add less soda ash than you think you need and slowly test and add more from there.

If you need more tips on testing, read my guide on how to test your pool water, and make sure to grab one of the best pool water testing kits.

Get My Free Pool Care Checklist

Download my free, printable pool maintenance checklist to help you accomplish regular pool care tasks for any type of swimming pool.

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Wrapping Up

The bottom line is that if you’re suffering from low pH and total alkalinity levels, baking soda and soda ash can help you restore the proper balance in your pool water.

However, if your pool has a bigger total alkalinity issue, baking soda is more helpful in tackling the problem. Alternatively, soda ash will do a better job of helping you increase the water’s pH levels.

Questions? Shoot me a message.

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