General Pool Care Questions...


Swimming Pool, Spa & Hot tub Water Chemistry Terms & Glossary
Here's an alphabetical listing of the terms we use to describe, diagnose & treat swimming pool water problems. 


Acid - product used to LOWER pH and Total Alkalinity.  A common acid used in swimming pools is Muriatic Acid.  Due to its extremely corrosive nature, we recommend using a DRY acid such as BioGuard Lo 'n Slo instead.  Dry acids are safer to use & store in residential settings.  Something known to be acidic in nature has a pH value of less than 7.0.

Algae - microscopic, single cell plants found virtually everywhere.  Various strains range in color from yellow to dark blue-green.  For more detailed information on algae found in swimming pools plus how to prevent or treat it, click here.

Algicide or Algaecide - chemical products used to kill, prevent or control algae.

Alkali - a term used to describe water having a pH value greater than 7.0.

Bacteria - microscopic organisms found everywhere, some of which may be harmful to people (pathogens).

Balanced Water - the state of the pool water where the components are in their proper ranges for optimal comfort, clarity, and sanitizer effectiveness. Components include pH, Total Alkalinity, Calcium Hardness, Total Dissolved Solids.

Biguanide - the common generic term used when referring to a class of pool & spa sanitizers whose active ingredient is PHMB (poly hexamethyl biguanide).  These sanitizers are often times referred to as being non-chlorine or non-bromine or chlorine-free or bromine-free. BioGuard Soft Swim is a biguanide.

Bio-film (biofilm or bio film) - a build-up of slime, greases & oils on pool surfaces, ladders, filters, piping that form a breeding ground for bacterial & algal problems. Bio-films are often the result of scum-lines allowed to get out of control.
More information here.

Breakpoint Chlorination - the point at which a specific quantity of chlorine product is added to a pool destroy ALL chloramines present, determined after running a proper Chlorine Demand test (normally the total amount of chloramines times 10 of the amount of Free Available Chlorine, per 10,000 gallons) .

Bromine - a halogen element used in place of chlorine as a sanitizer in swimming pools and spas.

Buffer - to prevent large fluctuations or shifts in the pH level.

Calcium Hardness - the amount of dissolved calcium present in pool & spa water.  Low levels of calcium hardness can and do promote corrosion and deterioration of pool surfaces, including vinyl liners, and pool and spa equipment.  High levels promote the formation of scale, clogging pipes & scaling pool surfaces.  (Ideal ranges: Vinyl Pools 175 - 225 ppm; Concrete / plaster finish Pools 200 - 300 ppm). 
Water hardness in the United States 

Cartridge or Filter Element - a filtering media using a porous, replaceable element.  Dirt, debris & particles are removed from the water when they pass through the cartridge.  Loose debris can normally be hosed off, however greases & oils must be chemically removed by soaking the cartridge (i.e. Strip Kwik, Soft Swim Filter Cleaner)

Chelant - a chemical used to "tie-up" heavy metals such as iron, copper, manganese or calcium to prevent staining & scaling.  Can also be referred to as a sequestering agent.

Chloramine or Combined Chlorine - a chemical substance formed when a chlorine molecule combines with organic waste such as sweat, urine, ammonia (and other nitrogenous compounds) causing a strong, pungent odor and irritation to bathers' skin, eyes and/or mucous membranes.  Chloramines have almost no sanitizing value when compared to Free Available Chlorine.  Click here for further
information on chloramines.

Chlorine - one of the 5 members of the halogen family of elements.  Chlorine is the most widely used, bacteria and algae killing product for swimming pools and spas.  Found in 2 forms: Organic - stable toward UV rays and therefore longer lasting and Inorganic - which are susceptible to UV degradation and less convenient for pool use.  Please note:  Inorganic compounds make effective Shock treatments.

Chlorine Demand - the amount of chlorine required to be added to the water before a free chlorine residual can be maintained.  Almost anything entering the water (including rainfall or fresh-water fill ups) can contribute to chlorine demand. Click here or
more information.

Chlorine Residual - the quantity of chlorinating product present in the water, available to kill bacteria & oxidize swimmer and/or environmental waste entering the pool.  This residual is what is left after the Chlorine Demand has been met.

Copper Cyanurate - (sometimes known as purple cyanurate) a chemical reaction caused by high levels of Cyanuric Acid (CYA) dissolved copper in the swimming pool water. Most often seen or noticed at spring pool opening. Click here for more information.

Copper Sulfate - a chemical (usually an algaecide) used to kill & control algae growth in swimming pools.

Corrosion - pitting, etching or erosion of pool equipment & surfaces caused by LOW pH and/or other chemical imbalances.

Cyanuric Acid (CYA or triazinetrione) - chemical added to pool water to "stabilize" chlorine.  Helps prevent degradation of chlorine due to UV light. Too high a level (over 100 ppm) of CYA can lead to high Total Dissolved Solids or interference of chlorine or in certain cases, Copper Cyanurate.

Diatomaceous Earth (DE) - a powdery filtering media composed of the skeletal remains of plankton.

DPD - a testing reagent (typically in tablet form) used to measure chlorine or bromine.  #1 tests for Free Available Chlorine, #3 tests for Total Chlorine, #4 tests for Combined Chlorine.

Effluent - water that flows OUT of a filter or pump. Influent - the water entering a pump, filter, heater or pool.

Enzyme - special, naturally occurring (although there do exist man-made and natural enzymes) molecules that "eat" or "digest" organic waste that is not easily filterable or to be oxidized. 

Filter - a device that removes particulate matter from a swimming pool utilizing a "porous media".  The e commonly used filters are Sand, Cartridge & DE.

Filter Cycle - the time between filtering cleanings or backwashings.  The longer, the better.

Filter Sand - Sharp, graded silica or quartz of uniform size, used as a filtering medium.  #20 (45-55 mm) is the industry standard grade of filter sand.  DO NOT USE BEACH OR PLAY SAND IN A FILTER.

Flow Rate - the measure of the volume of water passing a given point during a specific time period, typically expressed in gallons per minute.

Free Available Chlorine (FAC) - (hypochlorous acid) the chlorine residual in pool water that is NOT combined & therefore able to kill bacteria and control algae entering the water.

Gunite - a type of "concrete" finish sprayed on pool surfaces.

Impeller - the most important part of the pump.  The impeller's rotating veins create the suction into the pump & flow through the rest of the filtering system.

Inorganic Chlorine (Unstabilized Chlorine) - a form of chorine NOT containing a carbon atom that is very susceptible to UV degradation (i.e. Calcium hypochlorite, lithium hypochlorite, sodium hypochlorite).

Make-up Water - fresh water used to fill or "top-up" a pool or spa.  Oftentimes referred to as "source water".

Nitrogen - an element that can combine with chlorine & produce chloramines (ammonia).

Organic Chlorine - a form of chlorine CONTAINING carbon including CYA.  Organic chlorines are not as susceptible to UV degradation (i.e. Sodium Dichloro or Tri-chloro).

Organic Matter - most any living organism or their waste, including leaves, bugs, urine, perspiration, cosmetics, bird droppings, etc. containing carbon in their material composition.

Oxidize (Oxidation) - a chemical process used to remove undesirable organic & inorganic compounds from pool water.

Ozone - a gas containing 3 oxygen atoms.  More typically used in spas.  Very unstable and has a short "kill-life".  Normally used as a supplement to chlorine or bromine in controlling bacteria.

pH - a measurement of the acidity or basicity of a solution.  pH is measured on a scale from 0 to 14.  Under 7.0, the solution is considered Acidic.  Over 7.0 is considered Basic.  The ideal range for swimming pools & spas is 7.4 to 7.6; this level provides the best swimmer comfort as well as optimal, efficient use of chlorine & bromine.  To learn how water balance affects you & your pool, click here

pH Decreaser (minus) - a generic term for chemicals that LOWER pH (acid)

pH Increaser (plus) - a generic term for chemicals that INCREASES pH (soda ash)

Phenol Red - a liquid reagent used to measure pH.  Most accurate in a range of 6.8 to 8.2.

Plaster - a type of interior finish on a pool.

ppm (Parts Per Million) - a unit of measure for chemical application.

Precipitate - Solid particles forced out of solution by a chemical reaction.  Normally settle out or give a "cloudy" look to the water.

Primary disinfectant - those products having EPA approval for factually killing bacteria or sanitizing.

Quat (quarternary ammoium compound) - a family of chemical compounds applied to water to kill or prevent algae.

Reagent - chemical testing solution used to test chlorine, bromine, pH, Total Alkalinity, Calcium Hardness, etc.

Scale - mineral deposits that form on pool surfaces & equipment normally due to excess calcium in the water.  Scale more typically forms in heated water rather than cool water.

Scum-line - the build up of greases, oils, dirt, organic and inorganic waste that accumulates at the water line of a pool or spa, usually sticky or gummy in nature, sometimes difficult to remove with normal cleaners, dark in color.  Scum-lines will lead to Biofilms if not treated.

Shock Treat (shock, shocking, Burn Out Treatment) - the addition of an oxidizing chemical to the water with the purpose of destroying chloramines or other undesirable compounds.  Download a FREE brochure to learn about shocking.

Skimmer - a device in the pool that aids in the removal of floating debris (leaves, bugs) being taken into the filter system. See "how a pool works"

Sodium Bromide - a chemical used to treat algae. (products such as Yellow Out, Yellow Treat, Mustard Free, Defense or Drive Out) should be done cautiously, and definitely NOT in biguanide (SoftSwim or Baquacil) treated swimming pools.  Adding sodium bromide (as little as 0.5 ppm) to pools treated with chlorine can cause high chlorine demands and will cause the chlorine to become unstable, increasing chlorine consumption.  Since sodium bromide cannot be removed from the water, you effectively transform the pool to a "bromine" treated pool.  Unfortunately, many consumers may not be aware of the increased chlorine demand and may not check chlorine levels as often as necessary. This could result in a drop in the chlorine level leading to subsequent Algae blooms.  For more detailed information on algae found in swimming pools plus how to prevent or treat it, click here.

Superchlorination - the addition of large quantities of chlorine (usually unstabilized chlorine) at a rate of 3 to 5 times the normal shocking dosage in order to destroy chloramines, kill bacteria, and to kill algae.

Total Alkalinity (TA) - a measure of the pool water's ability to prevent pH "bounce" or fluctuation.  TA measures the amount of carbonates, bicarbonates, hydroxides, and borates in the water.  To learn how water balance affects you & your pool, click here

Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) - the measure of all of the dissolved matter in the water.  TDS over 1500 ppm may interfere with the pool sanitizer's ability to control bacteria & algae.

Turbidity - cloudy condition of the pool water

Turnover Rate - the time it takes in hours to circulate the entire pool's galonage or volume. Not necessarily the pool's actual water.  Let us explain...

White Water Mold - a form of mold that forms on pool surfaces. Click here for detailed information.

Winterizing - the procedure for protecting pools from winter weather.  This includes physical as well as chemical protection.  See the Winterizing section for more details.


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