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The Ultimate Pool Chemical Cheat Sheet

pool chemicals

If you’re new to pool maintenance, having to deal with the plethora of pool chemicals that you need to keep in storage can be a bit overwhelming. But don’t worry — the more maintenance you do, the easier it gets! Below is the most complete pool chemical cheat sheet to help you through your journey to having the cleanest and safest pool of the neighbourhood. 


Chlorine is often perceived as the most important chemical when it comes to pool sanitation, because of its antiseptic properties. It lowers the risk of algae and bacteria growth, and makes the pool safe to swim in. Because chlorine tends to break down much faster in hot weather and regular pool use, consider checking your chlorine levels more often on bright sunny days. 

Desired Range

Aim to keep your chlorine levels between the 1.0 to 4.0 ppm. Any lower, and the water will turn green, emanate a strong chlorine smell, cause rashes on the skin, and irritate the eyes. Any higher, and the water may bleach your liner/bathing suits, and will cause skin irritation. 

Types of Chlorine 

Tablets: 1” or 3” tablets dispensed in floaters or in an in-line chlorine feeder .

Salt: Added to water in conjunction with a Salt System.


Your pool’s pH levels determine whether or not your chlorine is functioning properly. Because of this, maintaining your pH levels is crucial for swimmers’ health. If your pH levels aren’t within the range of the human eye and mucous membrane, then your pool water might cause irritated eyes and skin to those swimming in it. 

Desired Range

Aim to keep your pH levels between 7.2 and 7.8. Any lower and you my have to deal with corrosion of metal pool equipment as well as irritation of eyes, nose, and throat. Any higher and you’ll be dealing with a loss of effectiveness of the chlorine. In order to raise the pH, get pH Up products. Similarly, get pH Down products in order to lower it. 


Alkaline is a great way of ensuring that your pH levels aren’t bouncing all over the place. It’s a chemical that will allow your chlorine and pH levels to remain stable, so you won’t have to use as much. This is especially useful when we’re going through a chlorine shortage! 

Desired Range

For salt systems, aim to keep your alkalinity between 80-120 ppm. For chlorine tablet systems, aim to keep it between 100-150ppm. If you don’t stay within these ranges, you risk having to deal with metal stain as well as water discolouration. Keep in mind that you should never add more than 5lbs of alkaline at a time or within 12 hours of a shock treatment. 


Pool shock is basically just extremely concentrated chlorine, but can also contain algaecide. It’s used for maintenance and should be added to your pool once you notice that the water is getting cloudy or green. It can also improve the amount of free chlorine. It can be added directly into the water.

Types of Shock 

There are two different types of shock: liquid and granular. Liquid shock is added in front of return jets in the deep end of your pool. Granular shock, on the other hand, should be dissolved in water before being added. If you’re feeling iffy about adding such high levels of chlorine, you can substitute your shock treatment for oxidizer. It’s a non-chlorine shock and is a great option for those wanting to avoid chlorine. It also acts very quickly as well. 


Stabilizer, also called chlorine stabilizer or cyanuric acid, stabilizes the chlorine in your pool and helps your sanitizer last longer. This means that you won’t have to add chemicals to clean your pool as often. Your pool will be clean for a longer period of time. 

Desired Range

Ideally, your stabilizer should be within a range of 50-80ppm for a saltwater pool. As for chlorine pools, you should only add 1lb for every 4000 gallons. Should your stabilizer be lower than the recommended range, your chlorine won’t be effective for as long. Too high, and you’re going to have to go through the arduous process of fixing a chlorine lock. 


Algaecide helps you remove or prevent algae from growing in your pool. Oftentimes, when your pool water starts to grow algae, it can be pretty difficult to get rid of it. Although algae itself isn’t dangerous for swimmers’ health, it does promote bacteria that can be harmful. Algaecide can be added to your pool on a weekly basis on order to avoid your water turning green. It can be directly added into the water. 

Types of Algaecide 

There are many different types of algaecide:

  • Algaecide 30 is best used for above-ground pools
  • Algicil is best used for unground pools.
  • Algae Hunter is best used when your pool has just been opened for the season. 
  • Silver Algaecide is best used for white algae. 

Metal Removers

Metal removers are used to prevent metal stains from building up. It removes heavy metals in the water through the filter, so that your water is kept squeaky cleans. This is important because heavy metals can lead to stains once you add your chlorine to the water. They can also affect your pH levels. 

How to add metal removers

There’s no level you can measure when it comes to adding metal removers to your pool. However, if you notice that you do have a lot of heavy metals and you’re adding metal removers for the first time, add 1 quart per 10,000 gallons of water. If you’d like to keep your metal levels low, then 6 ounces per 10,000 gallons every other week will do the trick. Before adding it to your pool, be sure to balance your pH and alkalinity levels and keep your chlorine higher than 2 ppm. 


Calcium, or calcium chloride, is a hardener that will help you reduce stains. It’s typically used on vinyl above-ground pools. It’s always a great idea to avoid excessive calcium in your pool as it can result in white, scaly buildup. 

Desired Range

It’s best to maintain your calcium levels above 150 ppm. In order to ensure that you don’t have excessive amount of calcium in your pool, be sure to balance your chemical levels on a weekly basis. 

If you still feel overwhelmed by the amount of chemicals you need to use in your pool, contact a professional. Your pool professional can clean your pool for you on a weekly basis or offer you a training session so that you know exactly what to do should your chemical levels fluctuate to ranges you don’t know how to fix.

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