For those individuals who don’t know what alkalinity is, it’s a method for determining how resistant the water in your pool is to neutralize the acid. In simpler terms, alkalinity serves as a buffer which stabilizes pH levels. Maintaining these levels are important because it’s an essential step in keeping the water in your pool sanitized amongst other things.

To determine what your pool’s alkalinity level is, you can purchase several different kinds of kits at most home improvement stores. They’re easy to use and not too expensive.

When you test the water in your pool, your alkalinity levels should be anywhere between 80 to 120 parts per million (ppm). If your alkalinity levels are too high, then your pH levels will also be affected. For the record, your pool’s pH level should never exceed a pH level of 7.8.

When the pH level of the water in your pool exceeds 7.8, the water is too soft, and as a result, your chlorine may quit disinfecting and sanitizing your pool water. In addition to this, a high pH level can also cause several unnecessary problems. So, what are the effects of high alkalinity levels, what’s the cause, and what can you do about it?

The effects of high alkalinity in pool water

Like mentioned above, when your pool water alkalinity level is off, it can also throw the pH levels off causing an array of problems. One of the most common issues is making your chlorine ineffective. As a result, you’ll have to use more and more. This can get quite expensive.

For anyone who doesn’t know, chlorine is an active chemical that sterilizes the water in your pool. This is an essential step in keeping your pool clean for everyone who uses it.

In addition to this, high alkalinity levels can also cause issues like red and irritated eyes, dry skin, itchy scalp, and even earaches.

Besides just physical problems, high alkalinity levels can cause cloudiness in the water, circulation issues, excess wear and tear on your filters, and algae and calcium build up.

Now that you know the effects of high alkalinity levels, what is it that specifically causes alkalinity levels to rise so much?

What causes high alkalinity in pool water?

There are quite a few reasons why the water in your pool is experiencing high levels of alkalinity. Once you understand what is causing the problem, then you can then start fixing the problem.

One of the most common reasons why alkalinity levels are so high in pools is because of too many chemicals. This is usually the result of human error. However, for people who live in a geographical area that experience acid rain, this can be a common problem. The acid rain can continuously change your pool’s pH level.

Another reason why the alkalinity in your pool may be too high could be the result of both sweat and lotion. Crazy huh? The reason being is because sunscreen has a lot of chemicals in it, and when you spread it on your body and then sweat in the sun, these chemicals get into the pool and change the pH levels. This is also the case for soaps and body washes too.

A third reason why the alkalinity of your pool water may be too high could be attributed to a sudden rise in the temperature of the water. If the morning temperature is quite brisk and then it gets much warmer throughout the day, the alkalinity level of your pool water may increase by quite a lot.

Lastly, your local municipal water source may be the reason your alkalinity level may be so high. These companies often use water with a much higher alkalinity level as a way to help keep the pipes from corroding and becoming rusty. By adding that water to your pool, you may be throwing off the pH level by quite a lot. It’s good to check with your local municipal water company to see what the actual alkalinity of the water is.

Testing the alkalinity level of your pool water

If you re unsure if the alkalinity level of your pool water is much too high, then you’ll want to invest in a pool testing kit. These kits are usually affordable and typically can be purchased at most home improvement stores.

One popular brand is the Taylor Complete FAS-DPD Chlorine test kit. It costs about $60 and can be used multiple times. This is just one of the several brands sold today. There’s many more to choose from. However, many people warn against using test strips due to their inaccuracy. It’s essential that you spend the money and get a good kit, and Taylor makes very accurate kits recommended by many professionals.

The instructions listed below are based on using the Taylor Complete FAS-DPD Chlorine test kit. If you’re using a different brand, follow the steps listed below with the instructions provided in your kit. Most kits are used about the same, so there shouldn’t be a huge difference.

  1. Get a good sample. Put your arm much below the surface of the water to ensure you get a decent sample. You’ll also want to stay away from your returns.
  2. Wait for 45-minutes after the skimmer has been running to test your sample. This will guarantee the water is all mixed up. What you’re trying to do here is get a true sample.
  3. Do the tests in order. Most pool testing kits have an order of tests listed somewhere in the kit, either on the box or the instructions. By going in order, you’ll minimize mistakes and increase the accuracy of the kit.
  4. Fill the test bottle included in the kit with a sample.
  5. From here, follow the instructions in the kit you purchased. If you’re using the Taylor Complete FAS-DPD Chlorine test kit, take Reagent #7 and add 2 drops, and then add 5 drops of Reagent #8.
  6. Swirl the solution in the test bottle.
  7. If you’re using the Taylor Complete FAS-DPD Chlorine test kit, your sample should turn green. If you’re using another kit, refer to the instructions.
  8. Lastly, take Reagent #9 and add one drop at a time until your sample turns pink. For a good sample, it takes about 8 to 10 drops. Once you know how many drops it took, take that number and multiply it by 10. For instance, if it took 9 drops to turn the sample pink, then you multiply 9 by 10 which equals an alkalinity level of 90. Since your alkalinity level should be around 80 to 120, that’s a good sample.

This is how you successfully do an alkalinity test. If your sample did demonstrate a high alkalinity level, then you’ll need to lower it. How do you lower your pool’s alkalinity level?

Lowering the alkalinity of your pool

When the alkalinity level of your pool water needs to be lowered, there are a few ways you can go about doing this. One of the most common is using chemical muriatic acid. This product is usually sold at most home improvement stores and is fairly easy to use. If you’ve never used muriatic acid before, then follow the instructions listed below:

  1. The first thing you should do is to turn off the pump for your pool. Once the pump if off, you’ll want to wait at least an hour to get started. This will give the water enough time to quit moving.
  2. Make sure you read the directions on the bottle. Different products will require different amounts of acid to lower the alkalinity level to below a level of 120 ppm.
  3. Following the directions, add the correct amount of muriatic acid, and mix it in according to the instructions outlined.
  4. When you pour your muriatic acid in, make sure you pour the substance into the deepest area of your pool.
  5. Wait for about an hour.
  6. Turn the pump back on and let it run for a minimum of 5 hours.
  7. Retest the pH levels again for accuracy.

This is just one method of lowering your pool’s alkalinity level. You can also use a product called sodium bisulfate. Just like with muriatic acid, you need to read the instructions, know how much to add and follow all the necessary steps listed above.

Can you swim in a pool with a high level of alkalinity?

Like mentioned above, a pool with a high alkalinity level can cause dry and irritated eyes, ear aches, dry skin, and an itchy scalp. So, it’s best not to swim if you think that the alkalinity level of your pool is high. If you have to, wear goggles, use ear plugs, and limit your time in the pool. Above all, get the alkalinity level of your pool where it needs to be as soon as possible. It’s good for your health and the longevity of your pool.

Josh Hurd

Josh Hurd has been freelance writing since 2006. He attended the University of Akron, graduating with a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing.
Josh Hurd
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