Keeping your pH levels balanced in your swimming pool is a big part of pool maintenance. But if you’re new to swimming pool chemistry, you might wonder what to do when you recently tested the pH level in your pool and found it lower than it should be. If this is the case, don’t worry! Raising the pH is a super easy fix.
In this article, I’ll walk you through how to raise pH levels and maintain them in the proper range to keep your pool safe.
- You should maintain proper pH levels, as unbalanced pH can negatively impact chlorine effectiveness, leading to unsafe swimming conditions and skin and eye irritation for swimmers.
- Low pH can be caused by a heavy rainstorm, overuse, improper use of chemicals, or dissolved bodily fluids.
- To raise pH levels, use soda ash or sodium bicarbonate.
What Is the pH in Your Pool?
pH is the measure of hydrogen ions in a liquid, like the water in a swimming pool. pH is measured on a scale from zero to fourteen, with one end (zero) representing an acidic solution and the other (fourteen) representing a basic solution.
A perfectly neutral solution, like pure water, falls in the middle of the scale at a pH of seven. Pool water is mixed with chemicals, primarily chlorine, to kill bacteria and maintain sanitary swimming conditions. Since pool water contains chemicals, it will not be a perfect neutral. An ideal target for optimal pool water is a pH of 7.4, which is slightly basic.
How to Raise pH Levels in Your Pool
Maybe you noticed something off with your pool water, or it was just time to test the water. You run the test, and the pH is low. You retake it to be sure – and again, it is low. What steps can you take to raise the pH level and get it back in balance?
- Test your pH and alkalinity levels.
- Add soda ash if you need to raise the pH level by a large amount but don’t want to affect your alkalinity much, or
- Add baking soda if you only need to raise your pH by a small amount but want to increase your alkalinity.
- Allow your pool water to circulate for several hours.
- Aerate the water if needed.
Test Your pH Level
Testing your pH level is the best way to keep track of your pH level. You should regularly test your pool’s pH level at least 2-3 times a week. There are two main ways to test the pH level of your pool: by using a liquid test kit or a test strip.
Liquid Test Kit
Liquid testing kits are a convenient and effective way to measure the pH level of your pool. Simply take a sample of your pool water and add a few drops of the testing reagent. The color of the water will change, and you can match it up with the chart to determine if the pool’s pH is between 7.2 and 7.8, with an ideal range of 7.4 to 7.6. Liquid testing kits provide accurate results and allow you to take necessary corrective measures to maintain the proper pH balance for a safe and enjoyable swimming experience.
Test strips are a quick and simple way to test the pH level of your pool. Just dip a test strip into the pool water and compare the color changes on the strip to the corresponding pH chart provided with the test kit. Test strips are easy to use and provide a rapid result, allowing you to assess quickly whether your pool’s pH is within the recommended range. They are also portable and convenient for on-the-go testing.
The downside of test strips is that they are not as accurate as liquid testing kits. They also have a relatively short shelf life, so you will have to replace them more often.
As I dive into my advice below, pull up my pool pH calculator to help you follow along.
Calculate the Volume of Your Pool
When adding soda ash or baking soda to the water to balance the pH, it is easy to overdo it and go from a low pH problem to a high pH problem. It is important to determine whether you are adding the right amount of chemicals to your pool to balance the pH level.
To calculate the volume of your pool, simply use my pool volume calculator.
Option 1: Add Soda Ash
Soda ash is a strongly alkaline material that dissolves well in water and leaves behind a minimal trace. Soda ash has a pH of around 11-12. Adding soda ash to your pool water will raise the pH level significantly but will have less of an effect on the alkalinity.
Step One – Calculate how much sodium carbonate is needed. Do not exceed two pounds per 10,000 gallons of water.
Step Two – Make sure the pump is working to circulate water.
Step Three – Distribute the soda ash evenly across the entire surface area of the water.
Step Four – Allow the pool to circulate water for at least one hour before retesting.
Use my pool pH calculator to ensure you add the right amount of soda ash to your water to balance your pH levels.
Pool Mate makes pH Plus, which is just a fancy name for soda ash (sodium carbonate). I've used this product a lot, and it's very effective.
Option 2: Add Baking Soda
Total alkalinity is the sum of all basic materials in the water. Low total alkalinity can cause significant and random fluctuations in pH levels (read more about their relationship in my pool pH vs. alkalinity article). If you are having trouble with a low pH reading and have low total alkalinity as well, use baking soda instead. You can easily test your alkalinity levels using a test kit.
Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) is similar to soda ash. It is used in swimming pools to raise the total alkalinity (you can also use other products around your house to clean your pool). Add 1.4 pounds of sodium bicarbonate per 10,000 gallons of water and allow the pool to circulate before testing again. Use my total alkalinity calculator to figure out the exact amount.
Aerate the Pool Water (If Needed)
When adding alkalines does not work, aerating the water will. The process takes much longer than an hour, sometimes even days, but it does work. Aerating the water can be done by turning on water features, pointing jets towards the surface, or adding aeration pipes above the jets.
Why Your Pool pH Balance Is Important
Swimming pool water is treated with chemicals to disinfect and oxidize. An optimal pH balance is essential to maintain sanitary swimming conditions and the longevity of pool equipment. Although some other chemicals have been introduced into the market, chlorine is the most common chemical used to treat swimming pools.
Maintaining an optimal pH is important because it can impact the effectiveness of the chlorine and ultimately lead to unsanitary swimming conditions. In addition to health, it is also essential for swimmers’ comfort – the optimal pH for swimming pools is the same as the human eye and mucous membranes. Unbalanced pH can lead to itchy and irritated skin and eyes for swimmers.
And if swimmers’ health, safety, and comfort are not enough, pH balance is essential for the longevity of the pool facilities and equipment. Overly acidic pool water is corrosive and will lead to the breakdown of equipment like pumps, ladders, and diving board structures. Unbalanced pH levels also wear down the pool liner, requiring more frequent replacements.
What Causes Low pH Levels
Low pH levels lead to several issues from maintenance headaches like premature erosion of grout and corroded fixtures like ladders and diving boards. Low pH causes pool liners to become brittle and crack. It also causes discomfort for swimmers, like burning eyes and itchy skin.
In most cases, low pH levels are caused by natural factors like a heavy rainstorm, overuse, and improper use of chemicals. Natural rainwater has a pH of 5 – 5.5, so it is naturally acidic. A substantial amount of rainfall can alter the pH of pool water to become more acidic.
pH levels might also drop after hosting a large pool party. Dissolved bodily fluids can lower pH levels, so if you have had a lot of swimmers in your pool recently, this could be the culprit.
The other main reason pH levels in your pool may be low is due to improper use of chemicals. It is easy to add too much muriatic acid, cyanuric acid, or other acidic substances that can knock your pH levels out of whack.
So, ensure you test your water frequently and add the right amount of chemicals to your water!
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Frequently Asked Questions
What are the common signs of low pH in a pool?
The most telltale signs of low pH in a pool are skin and eye irritation in swimmers, etching of the plaster grout and concrete, and the corrosion of pool equipment and accessories. If you notice any of these signs, test your pool water. If the pH level is below 7.2, you should raise it.
What happens if the pH is too low in your pool?
Low pH can cause rashes and irritation of both the skin and eyes in swimmers. Acidic water also may wear out your bathing suits as well as damage the surfaces of the pool and the accessories like ladders, jets, and other pool toys. Low pH will also inevitably lower the alkalinity of your water, making your pH more volatile and large fluctuations in pH more common.
Does adding chlorine raise pH?
Unstabilized chlorine is an alkaline substance with a pH of between 11 and 13, so when added to a pool, it tends to raise the pH level. On the other hand, stabilized chlorine is more balanced or even acidic. Dichlor has a near-neutral pH, and trichlor has a very low pH level of around 3. So, adding stabilized chlorine will not raise your pH level and, in some cases, will even lower it.
Does pool shock raise pH?
Pool shock is a highly alkaline substance. This means when you shock your pool, you will likely raise your pH and alkalinity levels. However, as the pool shock dissipates, your pool water’s pH level should naturally stabilize.
Low pH Is an Easy Fix
Raising the pH level of a swimming pool is as easy as adding more alkaline materials. Soda ash and sodium bicarbonate are two common alkaline products that can raise pH levels in a pool. Remember that optimal pH levels for a swimming pool are between 7.4 – 7.6! If you overshoot it and need to bring your levels back down, read my guide on how to lower your pool pH level.
Questions? Shoot me a note!