What To Do If You Add Too Much Muriatic Acid To Your Pool

Written by Michael Dean
March 4, 2023

adding muriatic acid to a swimming pool

As a swimming pool owner, you can sometimes feel like you’ve also enrolled in a job as a chemist, with so many different chemicals to test for and adjust. One of the chemicals you encounter regularly is muriatic acid. Although you may handle it with care, there may come a time when you accidentally pour too much muriatic acid into your pool.

In this article, I will go over what happens if you add too much muriatic acid, how to know you’ve added too much, and how to fix it.

Main Takeaways

  • Adding too much muriatic to your pool can damage your pool equipment, distort your pool’s pH levels, and cause health hazards for swimmers.
  • You should be able to ascertain that there’s too much muriatic acid in the pool if you smell pungent, acrid fumes from the pool area and if your pH and alkalinity levels are low, among other telltale signs.
  • Wait for at least 24 hours to let the pool pump circulate the water after you’ve added muriatic acid before you jump back into the pool.

What Happens If You Add Too Much Muriatic Acid to a Pool?

The short answer to this question is simple: when you add too much muriatic acid to your pool, your pool’s pH is disturbed, and the water becomes more acidic. Pools are meant to be controlled environments with water that can remain clean and safe for swimmers. Too much or too little of the necessary chemicals can wreak havoc on both swimmers and your pool equipment. And this is the same case with muriatic acid.

Unbalanced pH and Alkalinity Levels

Muriatic acid lowers the pH level of pool water. If you add too much of it, the pH level can drop below the recommended levels of 7.2 to 7.6. Low pH levels can cause skin and eye irritation, damage pool equipment, promote bacterial growth, and make the pool unusable. Furthermore, alkalinity levels must be between 80 to 120 ppm (parts per million).

Health Issues

A highly acidic pool also causes significant skin, eye, and respiratory issues for swimmers—redness, itching, chemical burns, a burning sensation, dryness, and difficulty breathing—these are just a few health hazards that might pop up.

Corroded Pool Equipment

When you add too much muriatic acid, various issues can spring up. For instance, you risk significant corrosion and damage to the pool’s walls, floors, tiling, and equipment because of the increase in acidity in the pool. This means the acid can slowly eat the metal parts, such as ladders, pumps, and filters, causing them to deteriorate faster than usual.

The bottom line is that too much muriatic acid in your pool is not good news.

How Do You Know If You’ve Added Too Much Muriatic Acid to Your Pool?

As a dangerous and highly corrosive substance, you must be careful about how much muriatic acid you add to the pool. If you suspect that you’ve added too much muriatic acid, the best way to test this is by testing your pool’s pH and alkalinity levels.

But before you test the water, make sure the pump has run for a good couple of hours so that the muriatic acid has properly dispersed and mixed with the pool water. Otherwise, you risk getting a false high reading if you take a sample from a concentrated section of the pool.

To test the water, use a liquid drop test kit or a test strip. As mentioned, the recommended levels for pH and alkalinity are:

  • pH: between 7.2 and 7.6
  • Alkalinity: between 80 to 120 ppm

If your pH and alkalinity are too low, it’s a surefire sign that you’ve added too much muriatic acid.

Muriatic acid emits strong fumes that can be harmful if inhaled. If you smell a powerful odor around the pool area, it could indicate that you have added too much muriatic acid. The smell can be described as acrid and highly pungent. If you think this is the case, back away immediately and wear a protective mask to avoid inhaling more of the chemical.

If you suspect that you have added too much muriatic acid to your pool, it is important to take immediate action. If you’re unsure what to do, reach out to a professional for immediate help and steer clear of the pool area in the meantime. But thankfully, you can easily fix too much muriatic acid in your pool by yourself.

Step-By-Step Guide: What To Do If You Add Too Much Muriatic Acid To Your Pool

Here’s my handy step-by-step guide to help when you have added too much muriatic acid to your pool.

Step 1: Test the Water and Get Ready

Use a pool water test kit to check the current levels of the pool’s pH and alkalinity to get an idea of where to start. Assuming you’ve already done this, it’s best to wear gloves and proper protective gear. Make sure to cover your eyes, nose, and mouth, and wear full-cover clothing.

Step 2: Add Sodium Bicarbonate

If the pH level is too low, you can raise it by adding sodium bicarbonate to the pool. Sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda, is naturally alkaline, with a pH of 8. When you add baking soda to your pool water, the pH and the alkalinity levels increase. Calculate the recommended amount of sodium bicarbonate based on your pool size and the present pH and alkalinity levels. You can use my pH calculator and alkalinity calculator to get to the recommended levels.

Step 3: Allow it to Circulate

Turn your pump on. Let the water circulate the baking soda in your pool to raise the pH and alkalinity levels. You need to make sure it spreads and dissolves as much as possible. Run the pump and allow the water to circulate for several hours before retesting the levels.

Step 4: Add Water or Repeat if Needed

If alkalinity and pH are still too low after adding sodium bicarbonate and running your pump for a few hours, you could try partially draining and refilling the pool using a submersible pump and a garden hose. This will dilute the acid concentration and raise the pH level. Conversely, you can add more baking soda.

Step 5: Monitor the Water

After adjusting the pH level, continue monitoring the water to ensure it remains within a safe and healthy range. Test the water regularly, especially before getting in, and make any necessary adjustments to maintain a pH level between 7.2 to 7.6 and an alkalinity level between 80 to 120 ppm. If muriatic acid levels are still too high after 24 hours, consult a professional on what to do next.

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When Can You Swim After Adding Muriatic Acid To Your Pool?

Muriatic acid is a toxic and hazardous substance. Small splashes of it on bare human skin can cause severe chemical burns, so when handling muriatic acid, you must take care to wear proper protective gear. Similarly, you can’t jump back into your pool immediately after pouring in the muriatic acid. You have to be patient and wait for the chemical levels to recede to normal. Generally, it’s okay to swim in a pool after 2 or 3 hours, but this depends on the amount used and the size of your pool. Whatever you do, before you dip a single toe in, retest the water for pH and alkalinity again. Only venture into the water once you’ve established it is safe for human use again.

Do you have any more questions about muriatic acid in your swimming pool? Drop me a line; always happy to help.

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