Creating a Pool Chemical Maintenance Routine

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The best way to keep your pool clean, clear and sparkling is through preventative maintenance rather than through treatment of problems. Happy pool owners understand that the key to a beautiful pool lies in an efficient and consistent maintenance routine.  If you can fix the problem before it exists, you’re well on your way to clean, comfortable pool water.  Follow this chemical maintenance schedule to make sure you’re taking the right steps toward the perfect pool!

swimming poolChemical testing

First things first.  To prevent problems in pool cleanliness and clarity, you must first know what chemical levels to look for and how to test for them. Talk to your pool provider about how to buy and use testing strips, and follow their instructions to seek an accurate reading. When you know your chemical levels, you will be able to manage them on a regular basis.

Chemical maintenance

After reading your test strips, you’ll need to administer the appropriate chemicals to keep your pool water balanced. There are four basic components of pool water that need to be regulated: pH, total alkalinity, calcium hardness and chlorine. To regulate each component, there are specific chemicals and dosages that need to be applied to your pool.


The pH of your pool should be tested one to two times a week. pH is tested two ways—one test looks for high levels of pH and the other detects low levels. Typically, you will want your pH levels to fall between 7.4 and 7.6. To correct a pH imbalance, a pH increaser or decreaser chemical will need to be used.  Follow dosage instructions from your pool provider to administer the right amount of chemical, dependant on your levels.

Total alkalinity (TA)

Total alkalinity is important in keeping pH levels stable and should be tested weekly. If alkalinity levels are low, pH will not stay in the proper range, corrosion is likely and swimmer irritation is possible. When TA is too high, you’re likely to experience cloudy water or scale. Alkalinity levels should be between 60 and 150 ppm (parts per million), and anything out of that range should be treated with the chemicals recommended by a pool professional. Low alkalinity is usually the problem and is indicated by cloudy water.

Calcium hardness (CH)

Calcium hardness is simply the calcium content of your pool water. CH levels should be checked when opening your pool for the season and then on a monthly basis, as imbalanced calcium levels can cause problems in the pool shell or circulation system. Acceptable CH levels will be between 200 and 500 ppm.  Pool water with a CH level below 200 ppm is able to corrode pool equipment, and levels above 1,000 ppm create cloudy water and scale. Your pool supply dealer will know which products to use if your calcium hardness is not in the proper range.


Chlorine levels should be tested daily and kept between 1.0 and 1.5 ppm. When chlorine levels are low, notify your pool supply dealer to make sure you get the right chemical for the job. To maintain the proper chlorine level, use chlorine tablets in the basket of your skimmer, which dissolve slowly to distribute the chemical.

Superchlorination, or shock treatment, is the addition of chlorine to pool water in larger-than-normal amounts. This process burns off chloramines caused by chlorine’s reaction with organic contaminants and acts as a general preventive or corrective measure for common pool water problems. Consult your pool supply provider before adding shock to your pool, and make sure your pump and filter are running when you apply the treatment. It is recommended to shock your pool once a week at sundown, seeking a free available chlorine (FAC) level of 1-4 ppm. You may also want to shock your pool:

  • When opening and closing your swimming pool
  • After large loads of swimmers
  • After strong wind and rain storms
  • During periods of extreme heat, humidity and sunlight
  • When swimmers complain of burning eyes
  • When unpleasant odors become obvious
  • When signs of algae growth appear
  • When water is hazy or cloudy
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Becky Cunningham

Becky Cunningham is a contributing writer for Swimtown Pools, an online pool supplies retailer that carries more than 3,000 products including chemicals, liners, filters, covers and more.