APCO Pools Specialties, Inc.

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Swimming Pool Maintenance: What’s Wrong With My Water?

Sometimes having a pool means trying to diagnose something that’s gone wrong in the water. Maybe swimming in the pool isn’t pleasant, or maybe it’s emitting a strange smell. Sometimes you’ll need to call in a swimming pool maintenance specialist to help, but fortunately there are times when you’ll be able to tackle the problem yourself.

Pool maintenance problems can come from a broad variety of sources, particularly if you live in the suburbs or near wooded areas. Leaf litter in your pool can stain the water. Storm runoff can carry pollutants. Small animals (or large ones) can fall into the pool and drown.

But these are problems whose solutions are obvious. Sometimes swimming pool maintenance problems can be harder to figure out.

For instance, if swimming in your pool makes your eyes burn or irritates your skin, the problem could stem from any of a number of sources. It might mean:

Your pH balance is off. If your pH balance is off, the water in your pool may be too acidic (or not acidic enough). If your pool is too acidic, it can burn your eyes and nose and fade your swimwear. It can corrode metal pipe fittings, ladders and pump connectors. If you don’t have a vinyl pool liner, and your pool is made of plaster or some other easily-corroded materials, it can dissolve the walls and floor of your pool, creating optimal conditions for algae growth.

Your water is too hard. Water becomes “hard” in the presence of too much calcium or magnesium. Most municipal water supplies are maintained in a way that discourages buildup of these chemicals, but if you live in a house with old pipes or if your water comes from a source that isn’t treated, your water can become hard. It’s easy to solve; any pool supply store will sell water softeners as well as testing strips that reveal how much you need to add.

Your total alkalinity is off. This is closely related to pH balance, as the alkalinity of water can rise if the pH is off. If your total alkalinity is too low, your pool will become acidic, with all the problems that entails. If it’s too high, the water will become cloudy and the chlorine you add to your pool will become useless as a disinfectant. As with other problems, you can solve this one by purchasing testing strips and the requisite chemicals at a pool supply store, but lowering a high alkalinity is a time-consuming process, so it’s important to keep a close eye on your pool’s chemical levels, checking them at least once every two weeks.

Your pool has too little chlorine. This is counterintuitive. If you can smell chlorine, that doesn’t mean there’s too much in the pool — it means there’s too little. What you’re smelling are chloramines, which form when pool contaminants like sweat and tiny bits of leaf litter and other yard waste are only partially broken down. A strong smell of chlorine probably means you have to add more.

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