Why Do You Use Pool Chemicals?

In Blog, Chemistry by Aaron Donohue

Day to day it is my job to help clients find/fix problems, sometimes the problems are electrical, other times they are mechanical, but the problems that are most intriguing are chemistry related.

There are a few “general” reasons for chemical problems springing up, they can range from clients not knowing what another operator/guard has done on a different shift, to what patrons are doing when nobody is looking, like throwing chlorine packets into the skimmers (and yes, it happens).

The biggest reason for chemistry problems however often comes from a lack of knowing “why” a chemical is being added. The issues arise when incompatible chemicals are used too close together, or when the side effects of certain chemicals interfere with another chemical. Solving these problems requires a bit of detective work, a lot of research and a lot of patience (on everybody’s part).

I had a client ask me a few weeks if we could sit down to go over the chemicals we recommend they use so that she could have a better understanding of what she was doing, and more importantly, why she was doing it.

I see chemicals as a means to an end, in the perfect world we wouldn’t need them, but the world is not perfect and neither is aquatics! I do, however, urge minimalism with respect to chemicals, the fewer you can use to prevent a problem the better.

Generally speaking, the process I follow before recommending a chemical is three stages;

Stage 1 – Identification: using the symptoms reported, pool & controller logs and pictures where applicable, I work to identify the underlying cause of a problem. Once I have a good idea of what is going on (which can occasionally take some trial and error with specific chemicals) I move on to creating a treatment and finally a long term plan.

Stage 2 – Treatment: During the treatment phase I seldom focus on treating the symptom (like foam is a spa) unless those symptoms are causing the pool to be shut down or unsafe. I work with the operator to create a plan that allows the treatment to take place with minimal impact on operation while keeping the treatment cycle relatively quick.

Stage 3 – Prevention: Once the problem has been dealt with, I move on to create a preventative maintenance plan. Each plan is customized to the pool/spa and its specific usage patterns and issues. The goal is to prevent large issues by keeping the small ones from growing out of control (e.g. – prevent metals from building up, and you don’t get metal staining…)

Working to understand the “why” to the equation allows us to help operators create and implement solutions not Band-Aids.

Next time you go throw something in to the water ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?”