Keeping your pool clean is essential for ensuring it is safe and sparkling throughout the season. Among the various chemicals used for pool sanitation, bromine is a popular choice due to its effectiveness in killing bacteria and controlling algae growth. However, there are times when the bromine levels in a pool may become too high, leading to potential health risks and water imbalances.
In this article, I will go over how bromine levels get too high and why this is bad news, how to lower bromine levels, how to test for bromine, and more. Let’s dive in.
- Bromine levels can get too high in a pool due to adding too much bromine, lack of sunlight, and unbalanced pH levels.
- High bromine levels can lead to skin and eye irritation, respiratory issues, and corrosion.
- To lower bromine levels, dilute the water or simply wait it out.
- To test bromine levels, use a test strip or a liquid test kit, or simply take a sample to your local pool store.
How Bromine Levels Get Too High In a Pool
Bromine levels in a pool should lie between 3 and 5 ppm or 4 and 8 ppm for spas. However, in some cases, you may be dealing with too-high bromine levels. Here are some reasons why bromine levels might become elevated in a swimming pool.
The number one culprit to too much bromine in a pool is overdosing. Adding too much bromine to the pool water can lead to high bromine levels. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions or consult a pool professional to determine the appropriate dosage based on the volume of the pool and the current levels of bromine. Overdosing can occur if you accidentally add too much bromine or fail to measure the dosage correctly.
Lack of Sunlight
Adding slightly too much bromine in a pool that doesn’t get much sun can lead to high bromine levels. This is because bromine, like chlorine, breaks down in the sun’s UV rays (at a much higher and faster level, in fact!), which is why bromine is generally better suited for indoor pools and spas.
However, if you accidentally add too much bromine to an indoor pool, the sun won’t be able to help you break down the high bromine levels.
Unbalanced pH Levels
Bromine’s effectiveness as a disinfectant is influenced by pH levels. The recommended pH range for a pool is typically between 7.2 and 7.8. If the pH is too high (alkaline), bromine becomes less effective, and you might need to use higher concentrations to achieve proper sanitation. And as the pH is adjusted to its optimal range, the accumulated excess bromine becomes more active, leading to high bromine levels. Regularly testing and adjusting the pH of the pool water is essential to maintain the appropriate balance.
Why High Bromine Levels Is Bad News In A Pool
High bromine levels in a pool can pose a range of problems that affect both the pool water’s quality and the health of swimmers.
Skin and Eye Irritation
Bromine, like chlorine, is a strong oxidizer that can cause dry, itchy, and red skin at too-high levels. Prolonged exposure to high bromine levels can also lead to eye redness, burning sensations, and discomfort. These symptoms can significantly detract from the overall swimming experience and make it unpleasant for pool users.
When bromine levels in the pool water are excessively high, the volatile compounds released into the air can irritate the respiratory system. Swimmers may experience coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
Prolonged exposure to high bromine levels can have detrimental effects on pool equipment. Bromine is a corrosive substance, and when present in excessive amounts, it can corrode metal components, such as pool heaters, ladders, and handrails. Additionally, elevated bromine levels can cause damage to pool liners and tiles, leading to costly repairs and replacements.
How to Lower Bromine in a Pool
The good news is that lowering the bromine level in your swimming pool is generally pretty easy. Here are a couple of the best methods.
Best Method: Wait
The simplest way to lower the bromine in your pool is to wait for it to degrade. This works well if the bromine levels are only slightly elevated, as you can simply wait for the bromine to naturally degrade over the next day or so. Keep the pool or spa uncovered and allow the water and bromine to evaporate. If you’re using an automatic bromine dispenser, you should also remove it from the water.
Regularly test the water to monitor the bromine levels and hold back on adding additional bromine or bromine-containing compounds until it’s appropriately balanced again.
Allowing the sun to take care of your bromine overdose is not viable if you have an indoor pool. Also, if your bromine levels are WAY over the recommended level, it may take several days for them to balance.
Another option for lowering bromine levels is to dilute the pool water by partially draining the pool and refilling it with fresh water. Diluting the water will reduce the concentration of bromine and allow you to balance the sanitizer.
After diluting, rebalance all chemicals if needed, including pH, total alkalinity, calcium hardness, and bromine.
Use Sodium Thiosulfate
Sodium thiosulfate is sometimes called a chlorine or bromine “neutralizer.” This chemical breaks down the sanitizer in your pool, effectively removing it from the water. I don’t recommend using sodium thiosulfate unless you need to lower the levels quickly. It is easy to add too much sodium thiosulfate to your water and shift from an overdose of bromine to an underdose.
How To Test Bromine Levels
There are a few different ways to test bromine levels, including using test strips, a liquid test kit, or a pool water testing service.
Bromine test strips are widely available and usually come with color-coded pads that react to the bromine in the water. You can simply dip the strip into the pool water and compare the color to the color chart to determine the bromine level. Easy!
Note: some hot tub test strips will test for both bromine and chlorine.
Liquid Test Kit
Liquid test kits offer a more precise measurement of bromine levels but can be a bit more complicated to use. To test your bromine levels using a liquid test kit, collect a water sample in the vial, add the provided reagents (and the correct number of drops according to the manufacturer’s instructions), and mix them. The color of the liquid indicates the bromine concentration, and you can compare it to the provided color chart to determine the exact bromine levels.
Go to a Pool Store
A final method to test your bromine levels is to take a water sample to a pool supply store to get tested.
Bromine vs. Chlorine
Bromine and chlorine are both commonly used as sanitizers in swimming pools, and each has pros and cons.
- Stable in high temperatures: Bromine is more stable than chlorine in higher water temperatures. It retains its sanitizing properties and effectiveness in hot tubs and spas, where water temperatures are typically higher. Bromine is typically most effective in water temperatures above 75 degrees.
- Dissipates more slowly: Bromine dissipates more slowly (exception: UV rays dissipate bromine faster than chlorine), which means that bromine levels can remain elevated for a longer time.
- Less odor and irritation: Bromine has a milder odor than chlorine and is less likely to cause strong chemical smells or eye and skin irritation.
- More expensive: Bromine is typically more expensive than chlorine, which can make it a less economical choice for large pools or spas.
- Kills contaminants more slowly: Bromine takes longer to activate and establish its sanitizing effect compared to chlorine.
- Breaks down more quickly under the sun: While both chlorine and bromine break down under the sun’s UV rays, bromine breaks down much faster, making it more suitable for indoor pools.
- More affordable: Chlorine is generally more affordable than bromine, making it a cost-effective choice for pool and spa sanitization, especially for larger bodies of water.
- Readily available: Chlorine products, such as tablets, granules, and liquid solutions, are readily available and easily accessible at pool supply stores, making it a convenient choice for pool owners.
- Versatile: There are many different types of chlorine. This versatility allows pool owners to choose the most suitable chlorine product for their specific needs and preferences.
- Strong smell and irritating: Chlorine can produce a distinct chlorine smell and cause eye and skin irritation, especially if levels are not properly regulated.
- Must be applied more frequently: Chlorine dissipates more quickly, so regular monitoring and reapplication to maintain proper sanitizer levels is needed. The exception to this rule is UV light, as bromine dissipates much faster than chlorine in this case.
- Less effective at warmer temperatures: Chlorine is most effective at temperatures below 75 degrees.
All in all, both bromine and chlorine are effective sanitizers when used correctly and in the right amounts! Deciding between the two often depends on factors such as water temperature, personal preferences, budget, and your specific wants and requirements.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Does baking soda neutralize bromine?
No, baking soda does not neutralize bromine. Baking soda acts as a pH buffer, helping to stabilize the water’s pH and prevent rapid fluctuations. It does not directly affect neutralizing or removing bromine from the pool water.
Does bromine raise or lower pH?
Bromine is slightly acidic at a pH level of around 4, so if bromine levels are high, it can slightly lower the pH of your pool. When this happens, you’ll need to use sodium carbonate or sodium bicarbonate to raise your pool’s pH.
What is a safe bromine level in pools?
The recommended bromine level is between 3-5 ppm for pools and between 4-8 ppm for spas.
Now you know the different methods to effectively lower bromine in your pool, restore water balance and prevent associated issues such as skin and eye irritation, respiratory issues, and corrosion. With proper care and attention, you can create a clean and healthy pool for your friends and family to enjoy.
If you have any questions about bromine, pool chemistry, or anything pool-related, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’ll be happy to help!