How to Use Conditioner in Your Pool

Written by Michael Dean
June 12, 2024

swimming pool layout for maintenance

Lots of pool chemicals help keep your swimming pool safe and clean to swim in. One such chemical you may encounter is conditioner. Pool conditioner is a fairly important chemical that you’ll need to use to help maintain the chlorine levels of your pool.

But what exactly is pool conditioner, and how do you use it? I’ll go over all this in detail below. Let’s dive in!

Main Takeaways

  • Pool conditioner, also called stabilizer or cyanuric acid, is a pool chemical that protects the chlorine from the sun’s UV rays.
  • Pool conditioner works by forming a weak bond with chlorine and absorbing the UV rays themselves.
  • To use conditioner, make sure to dilute it in a bucket of 5-gallon beforehand.
  • You should add conditioner to your pool when you start up your pool, after heavy rain, after draining the pool, and more.

What Is Pool Conditioner?

You might not have heard of swimming pool conditioner before, but you may be more familiar with this chemical’s more common names: stabilizer or cyanuric acid (CYA). You use conditioner to keep your chlorine levels stable.

Chlorine can dissipate quickly under the sun’s UV rays on its own. This is where the pool conditioner comes in. This chemical acts as a sunscreen for chlorine, protecting it from evaporating.

Note that not all types of chlorine need the addition of pool conditioner. There are two main types of chlorine: stabilized and unstabilized. If you use a stabilized chlorine like trichlor or dichlor, there is already a level of cyanuric acid in the chlorine, so you don’t need to add pool conditioner on top of the chlorine. On the other hand, if you use unstabilized chlorine, you will need to add pool conditioner separately to protect your chlorine.

How Pool Conditioner Works

So, as you should know by now, pool conditioner helps to maintain the effectiveness of chlorine in pools. But how does it work?

As mentioned, chlorine can dissipate rapidly without protection, losing up to 90% of its effectiveness in just a couple of hours on a sunny day! Pool conditioners work by absorbing UV rays, shielding the chlorine molecules, and preventing them from breaking down too quickly.

The active ingredient in pool conditioner is cyanuric acid. The cyanuric acid forms a weak bond with free chlorine when added to pool water. But don’t worry; this bond does not stop the chlorine’s ability to sanitize the water. What it does do is make the chlorine more resistant to the sun’s UV rays. In short, the conditioner creates a protective barrier around the chlorine, allowing the molecules to remain active and effective for longer.

The trick is to maintain the right levels of CYA in the water. Your pool’s CYA level should be between 30 and 50 ppm. If you go below the recommended range, your chlorine won’t be properly protected. And take care not to go above the range either; if you go above, this can lead to reduced sanitizing ability!

How to Use Conditioner in Your Pool: Step-by-Step Process

As with any other pool chemical, it’s important to be cautious when adding conditioner to your pool. Don’t simply pour it in and hope for the best. Here’s my handy step-by-step process for using conditioner in your pool:

Step One: Test the Water

First, let’s determine exactly how much conditioner you need to add by checking your pool’s CYA levels. As previously mentioned, your CYA should be at 30 to 50 ppm. Check the manufacturer’s instructions to determine how much conditioner to add.

Step Two: Dilute the Conditioner

Before diving into this step, make sure to wear proper protective gear!

Once you measure the correct amount of conditioner, grab a 5-gallon bucket of pool water. Then, pour the measured amount of conditioner into the bucket of water. Do not pour the water onto the CYA; this can cause splashback!

Step Three: Pour the Conditioner into the Pool

Then, slowly pour the conditioner into the pool. Depending on your conditioner (read the manufacturer’s instructions!), you’ll either pour the diluted CYA into the skimmer or directly into the pool.

Step Four: Run the Pump

You’ll need to run your pump to allow the conditioner to mix into the entire pool. Cyanuric acid can take a while to fully dissolve, so to avoid patches of the water not having enough stabilizer, run the pump for at least 8 hours to help it circulate.

Step Five: Retest the Water

As a final step, retest the cyanuric acid levels of your pool with a test strip or liquid drop test kit. If the levels are still below 30 ppm, repeat the above steps to adjust. However, if the CYA levels are higher than 50 ppm, you’ll need to do a partial drain and refill to get the levels back on track!

When to Add Conditioner to Your Pool

Cyanuric acid is one pool chemical that doesn’t need to be added or adjusted very often. But when exactly do you need to add it? Of course, if you test your pool water and find the levels are below 30 ppm, you’ll need to add conditioner, but when is this likely to happen?

When You Start Up Your Pool

The first time you fill up or start up your pool, you will need to add all the usual pool chemicals to make the pool safe to swim in. This means you’ll also add conditioner since there’ll be zero CYA present in the water. After adding the chlorine, protect the initial doses of chlorine with conditioner to establish a stable and effective chlorine level from the very beginning!

After Heavy Rain or Partial Drain

Always test your pool water after a bout of heavy rain. Heavy rain can dilute the chemicals present in the water, including cyanuric acid. This is especially important if you had drained some of the pool water beforehand to prepare for the storm.

Similarly, if you replace a significant amount of water at any point due to leaks or maintenance, the CYA concentration will decrease, so you may need to add some conditioner to your pool.

After Draining the Pool

While I recommend avoiding draining your pool when possible, there may come a time at some point in your pool’s lifetime when you’ll have to drain it fully to clean it. After this, you’ll replace the water, after which you will need to rebalance all the chemicals in the water, including CYA.

Periodically During the Swim Season

While you shouldn’t have to add conditioner to your pool during the swim season, you should always test the water’s chemical levels, including CYA. The levels can change due to various factors, such as splash-out and evaporation. So, always keep an eye on your chemical levels and add more CYA if the levels drop below 30 ppm.

When Using Unstabilized Chlorine

If your choice of chlorine is an unstabilized chlorine, such as sodium hypochlorite, don’t forget to add pool conditioner to protect the chlorine from the sun! But always check the CYA levels beforehand to ensure you are adding the right amount to protect your chlorine without hindering its ability to sanitize your swimming pool.

When Opening the Pool

Is it finally time to reopen your pool after closing the pool for the winter? One of the first steps any pool owner should take is to test the water. Adjust the CYA levels if necessary at this point, as the levels can change over the winter months.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is Pool Conditioner Necessary?

Not always! Your pool’s CYA levels should be between 30 and 50 ppm. If you test the water and the CYA levels are below this range, you should add pool conditioner to your pool. You may not ever need to add pool conditioner if you use stabilized chlorine. But if you use unstabilized chlorine like liquid chlorine, you will need to add pool conditioner and keep the levels topped up. 

Are Pool Conditioner and Stabilizer the Same Thing?

Yes, they are! Pool conditioner and stabilizer are interchangeable. The active ingredient in both is cyanuric acid, the chemical that helps protect chlorine from the sun’s UV rays.

Can You Swim After Adding Pool Conditioner?

I recommend waiting around 12 to 24 hours after adding pool conditioner before jumping back into the pool. This is because cyanuric acid needs a bit of time before it can fully dissolve in the water, especially if you use a granular form of CYA, which can cause skin or eye irritation if not fully dissolved.

Keep Your Chlorine Protected with Conditioner

Pool conditioner is a must-have chemical in any pool owner’s arsenal. Without it, your chlorine will essentially become useless in just a matter of hours, making you waste time and effort trying to maintain the correct chlorine levels. Conditioner completely changes the game by protecting the chlorine from the sun. Just make sure to maintain the right levels to take advantage of the benefits of this amazing pool chemical!

Do you have any more questions regarding pool maintenance and chemicals? Give me a shout!

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