How to Balance Your Pool’s Water pH

By Tyler Hipsher, Owner & Operator of Tyler’s Pool & Home Care

In our last segment we discussed Chlorine, pH, Total Alkalinity and Stabilizer (Also known as Cyanuric Acid or CYA) and how each of these affect water quality in swimming pools. In this segment we will discuss how to adjust your pool water if the chemicals are either too high or too low.

Just to catch up, pool water should test in the following ranges:

  • pH (7.2 – 7.8; 7.5 is ideal)
  • Total Alkalinity (Concrete Pools 80 – 120) (All other pools 120 – 170 PPM)
  • Cyanuric Acid; Stabilizer – CYA: (30 – 80 PPM)
  • Chlorine (3.0 – 10.0 PPM)

We’ll start with pH, which is the measure of how acidic or basic the water is. When pH is lower than 7.2 you will want to raise it to the specified range. You can do this affordably by simply adding fresh water to you swimming pool. Fresh water in the Omaha area has a pH reading of nearly 8.0. So by adding fresh water, you will be able to raise the pH without adding expensive additives to the water. This method also helps clear up cloudy water and cool the water temperature during the hot summer months.

If pH registers over 7.8 there are 2 different solutions to your problem. First, if the pH is just slightly over 7.8, either 7.9 or 8.0 you should not need to take any additional action. Chlorine, rain water, and even human skin cause the pH of the water to drop naturally. If your pH is over 8.0 you then will need to add pH decreaser (sodium bisulfate). You add this directly to the deepest part of the pool at a rate of 1 lb. for every 10,000 gallons of water.

Next is total alkalinity, or the water’s ability to resist change in pH. When the Total Alkalinity is too low, the pH level can fluctuate and the pool water can become corrosive.  When the Total Alkalinity is too high, the pH will be high and scale will form on pool surfaces and equipment.

To raise total alkalinity to the desired level you need to add Sodium Bicarbonate, which is fancy speak of baking soda. To lower total alkalinity you add muriatic acid or dry acid/pH Reducer, the same chemical that also lowers pH. It is important in this step that if you add to much you will lower your pH along with your Total alkalinity. To counteract this measure, add fresh water when trying to lower your TA.

Now it is on to your stabilizer or cyanuric acid, which is used to keep chlorine from dissipating too quickly. If you stabilizer or CYA test is below the desired levels you will need to add cyanuric acid. Always add this to the deepest end of the pool, add the required amount of acid to a 5 gallon bucket of water and then add to the swimming pool. Do not add directly to the pool water.

If your stabilizer (CYA) is too high you can lower it by add fresh water to the swimming pool. Fresh water again is cheaper than a CYA decreaser that most pool chemical supply will try and sell you. It also helps clear cloudy water and decreases the water temperature in your pool.

Finally, we can talk about chlorine or sanitizer. While chlorine is important, I choose to talk about it last. You need to have your other 3 water tests in the correct range first, it will not matter how much chlorine you add if your pH is too low or you don’t have enough stabilizer.

Chlorine is relatively simple to raise or lower. To raise you sanitizer level quickly you can add shock, which is a granular form of chlorine that dissolves quickly in water. A simple rule of thumb is 1 lb of shock for every 10,000 gallons to raise the level 1.0 PPM. When adding shock you add 1lb of shock to a 5-gallon bucket of water and mix and then add. If you need to lower your chlorine level simply drain some water from your swimming pool and then add fresh water.

As you can see, about half the time you can use fresh water to increase or decrease chemical levels in your water to get the desired range. Instead of buying expensive chemicals which can cause additional cloudiness to your pool water I always recommend using fresh water. It is more cost effective, helps clear cloudy water, and cools the temperature of the water as well.

For more information regarding water balancing & testing please see our detailed information in “Water Balancing” Blog.

Here are some more tips & tricks to keeping your pool clean…

Tyler’s Pool & Home Care is a fully licensed and insured Pool, Lawn, Snow Removal and Home Services company located in Omaha, NE. We provide professional swimming pool, lawn care and snow removal services to the greater Omaha metropolitan area. Tyler’s Pool & Home Care is a locally-owned and operated business working to provide superior service to Omaha homes and businesses. Call Tyler’s for Omaha snow removal, pool cleaning and maintenance, lawn care and landscaping, light home repairs including painting and carpet cleaning


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