How To Raise Your Pool’s Alkalinity

Written by Michael Dean
August 25, 2023

pH scale next to a swimming pool

Maintaining a clean, safe, and sparkling swimming pool is no easy task. One of the biggest challenges is balancing all the chemicals in the pool. Alkalinity is one of these key chemical levels. As a pool owner, you may need to raise or lower their alkalinity to ensure the levels are in the right place.

In this article, I will cover how to raise pool alkalinity and why this is an important chemical level to keep track of.

Main Takeaways

  • Low alkalinity water is acidic and can corrode your pool surfaces and accessories and even harm swimmers.
  • Adding baking soda to low alkalinity is an easy and effective way to raise your alkalinity.
  • Soda ash will only slightly increase the alkalinity but will substantially raise the pH, while baking soda does the opposite.

Why Does Pool Alkalinity Matter?

Alkalinity does not refer to a specific chemical but rather the properties that certain chemicals give water. Alkalinity is used to neutralize acidic properties. Maintaining the alkalinity in a swimming pool is key to maintaining a healthy chemical balance.

The water pH levels range between one and 14 pH. A lower pH means the water is more acidic, while a higher pH means the water is more alkaline.

Acidic pool water can irritate the eyes and skin. While alkaline pool water will not proactively kill bacteria and algae, making the water unsafe to swim in.
This is why it is important to test your water’s alkalinity and understand how to regulate the pH levels in your swimming pool.

For more on alkalinity, read my entire article on total alkalinity in your pool.

Risks of Low Alkalinity

Pool water with low alkalinity is considered acidic. Acidic water is corrosive and will eat away the walls of your pool and damage any metal objects, such as ladders, pool cleaners, and filters. Low alkaline water will also be uncomfortable for swimmers as it will irritate the eyes, nose, and skin. In extreme cases, it can even cause chemical burns. It is important to pay attention to the pH levels to prevent your family from swimming in acid!

What Causes Low Alkalinity?

Your pool water can become low in alkalinity for several reasons. A drop in alkalinity is something that most pool owners will experience. It can be a reasonably easy fix, but it is important to figure out the cause to prevent low alkalinity in the future.

Muriatic acid or other dry acids are definitely effective for cleaning your pool. But they significantly impact the water’s pH levels, which must be accounted for when treating the swimming pool. Overuse of these acids can cause the water to become unbalanced.

Another common reason your water’s alkalinity will drop is heavy rain. Rainstorms can alter the swimming pool’s pH level because the additional water dilutes chemicals or because the rain is slightly acidic.

How to Raise Alkalinity In Your Pool Without Raising pH

Equipment checklist:

Step 1: Test the Water

The first step when doing anything with your pool’s chemical levels is to test the water to calculate how much of a certain chemical is needed. The ideal total alkalinity range is 80-120 ppm.

Step 2: Add Baking Soda to Balance the Water

If the alkalinity is low, you need to add baking soda. The quantity of baking soda to add to the pool differs depending on the reading and the volume of your pool. A general rule is to add 1.5 points of baking soda per 10,000 gallons of water in your pool, but you can also use my alkalinity calculator to determine the amount to add.

Arm & Hammer Baking Soda

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

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Step 3: Keep the Filter On, Allowing the Baking Soda to Circulate

After the baking soda is added to the water, let it dissolve in the pool for about 8 hours. During this time, keep the filtration system on, so the baking soda moves around the pool.

Step 4: Test the Water Again

The last step is to carry out a final pool test. You need to check if the alkalinity levels have reached the optimal range. If they are still low, repeat the process once again.

Here’s a short video explaining all the steps I covered above.

What are Alkalinity Enhancers?

Alkalinity enhancers are a common chemical available for purchase at pool stores. But if you look at the ingredients of these enhancers, you will notice the main ingredient is sodium bicarbonate, which is more commonly known as… drum roll please – baking soda!

Here’s a photo from my local Leslie’s pool supply store, which markets sodium bicarbonate as “Alkalinity Up.”

Leslie's Alkalinity Up

Alkalinity Up is just a fancy name for baking soda! Here's a good option from Leslie's Pool Supplies.

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In reality, using plain old baking soda is a good DIY alkalinity booster. Plus, it’s cheaper and has the same effect as store-bought alkalinity enhancers.

Baking Soda vs. Soda Ash

While they sound similar, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and soda ash (sodium carbonate) serve slightly different functions when reaching the proper total alkalinity and pH levels in your pool.

Baking soda will only moderately raise the pH level and is used to raise the total alkalinity. Soda ash is the opposite, used to increase the pH, and will only slightly raise alkalinity.

So, depending on what you want the effect on your water to be, you can add either add baking soda or soda ash.

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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Final Thoughts

Part of owning a pool is learning to maintain the pH balance in the water. And raising your alkalinity will inevitably be a part of this.

Luckily, there are easy ways to alter the alkalinity of your swimming pool. In no time, you’ll be enjoying cleaner, safer pool water with the correct chemical balance.

For more info on pH levels, be sure to read my article on how to raise pool pH levels.

Have questions? Don’t hesitate to ask!

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