The complete guide to Liquid Chlorine
Chlorine is a huge piece of the puzzle when it comes to cleaning and maintaining your pool, but figuring out exactly how much chlorine – and what kind of chlorine to use – isn’t always super straightforward or obvious.
Believe it or not, there are a lot of different kinds of chlorine available for cleaning and maintaining pools – including liquid, granulated, stabilized, and unstabilized chlorine – and you’re going to want to know exactly what you should be used in each specific situation going forward.
That’s why we have created this quick guide, though.
By the time you are done with the details below, you’ll know exactly how to make the most of everything that liquid chlorine has to offer.
You’ll know why liquid chlorine is so important, you’ll know the difference between stabilized and unstabilized chlorine, and you’ll have a much better idea of how much liquid chlorine you should be using – and why you want to stay with liquid options versus powder/granulated choices.
Let’s get right into it!
What Exactly Is Pool Chlorine to Begin With?
Chlorine is the number one chemical that responsible pool owners use to keep their swimming pools clean, sanitary, and disinfected.
The odds are pretty good that if you have ever swim in a pool (or even just walked by one on a warm summer day) you have smelled chlorine in action. It has a very strong, very obvious chemical odor that can even be a little bit irritating if you’ve used too much – but you know when a pool has chlorine in it, that’s for sure.
What you might not know, though, is that chlorine is available in a couple of different formats and a couple of different choices. Some are better than others (for a variety of different reasons), but we are going to focus primarily on liquid chlorine moving forward.
Stabilized and Unstabilized Liquid Chlorine
Liquid chlorine (sodium hypochlorite) comes in a couple of different forms, predominantly stabilized versus unstabilized options.
Stabilized chlorine is little more than chlorine that has been mixed with cyanuric acid.
Cyanuric acid can also be sold separately as a pool chemicals stabilizer, and it’s a hugely important piece of the puzzle when you want to make sure that your swimming pool is just as crystal-clear, just as clean, and just as healthy as humanly possible.
You see, the moment that you add straight chlorine to your pool the ultraviolet rays of the sun are going to immediately go to work on breaking it down and destroying it before it ever has a chance to scrub and clean your pool water.
In fact, some researchers believe that up to 50% of the chlorine you add to a swimming pool will be destroyed almost immediately – inside of 15 minutes – and the other 50% is going to be destroyed not all that soon after.
With cyanuric acid, though, you’re able to create a chemical bond that fights back against UV damage. This significantly extends the capabilities of chlorine to clean and scrub your pool water (sometimes by twice as long), helping you to get a lot more value for your money but also giving you the opportunity to put less chlorine and fewer chemicals into the pool water that you are going to be swimming around.
It’s always (ALWAYS) a good idea to use stabilized chlorine whenever possible if your swimming pool is going to be exposed to ultraviolet light for an extended amount of time. This means that every swimming pool short of those that are 100% indoors should be using stabilized liquid chlorine more often than not.
Unstabilized liquid chlorine, on the other hand, definitely has a purpose as well.
You see, if you are adding too much cyanuric acid to your swimming pool over short amounts of time the CYA levels can build up significantly – and at that point, you lose all of the chemical binding benefits that this stabilizes chlorine would have brought to the table.
All of a sudden your stabilize chlorine becomes unstabilized chlorine, but it has an even shorter effective use life because of the high levels of CYA in the water.
This can produce a chemical level in your swimming pool called “chlorine lock” – and when that happens your pool is going to have readings are very low chlorine levels no matter how much extra liquid chlorine you are pumping into it.
That means that all of your chemical readings are going to be thrown off. It doesn’t take much for your pool to become a chemical soup that people are swimming around in, exposing them to some pretty serious health risks when your chlorine levels are through the roof without you even knowing it.
In that eventuality, unstabilized chlorine should be added to give your pool a shock treatment – this is what almost all shock solutions are made predominantly of – so that you can get those chemical levels back to balance.
Using Liquid Chlorine
Right out of the gate, it’s important to mention just how potentially dangerous it can be to use liquid chlorine in its “raw state” if you aren’t careful.
We are talking about a chemical compound here that is between four and six times more potent than your average gallon of bleach and it is classified as a hazardous material for a real reason.
Should you come into any direct contact with liquid chlorine it’s important that you rinse off your skin ASAP. Leaving it on your skin for even just a short while can lead to serious chemical burns that are very difficult to treat and take a long time to heal.
Some folks even take to wearing rubber gloves and protective eyewear when working with liquid chlorine and that may not be a bad decision for you, either.
Another thing you’ll want to remember when using liquid chlorine is that because it so frequently isn’t stabilized (is not combined with cyanuric acid) you’ll want to make sure that you are adding it to your swimming pool after the sun has gone down.
This will dramatically improve the overall effectiveness of the chlorine itself, helping you to maximize its potency and its potential that would have otherwise been destroyed because of the UV light we highlighted earlier.
As a general rule you’ll want to try and make sure that you are keeping your swimming pool clean and safe with chlorine levels that are about 1 ppm (that’s your Free Chlorine Levels). Anything higher than that can start to cause serious skin irritation as well as eye irritation – especially when you get closer to 3 ppm.
You’ll want to slowly add the right amount of chlorine to your pool with the pump running, dumping the liquid chlorine into the deeper end of the pool and allowing everything to circulate overnight.
Just How Much Liquid Chlorine Should I Be Adding?
The first piece of the puzzle here is to figure out exactly how many gallons of water your swimming pool holds on a regular and consistent basis.
There are a lot of online calculators and formulas you can use to help you figure that out, and it’s important that you get as accurate a number as possible. Ballparking this figure isn’t going to help.
As we mentioned earlier, if you aren’t incredibly accurate with the amount of chlorine you’re putting into your pool a whole bunch of things can go wrong and people can get seriously hurt.
After you have figured out just how much water your swimming pool holds you’ll then be able to use the formula on the liquid chlorine bottle to calculate how much needs to be added. The overwhelming majority of chlorine products for swimming pools are intended to treat about 10,000 gallons of pool water, so if your swimming pool is larger than that you’ll want to make sure that you get a couple of bottles.
It’s also not a bad idea to run pH tests and chlorine tests on your swimming pool before you go dumping more chemicals into the water. This helps you better understand what your chlorine levels really are (especially throughout the day as these levels change) and help protect against over shocking your swimming pool and irritating people’s skin and eyes while they swim.
The Benefits of Liquid Chlorine Versus Powder Chlorine
There are a couple of different reasons you’ll want to choose liquid chlorine over powdered and granular chlorine, not least of which is that you get a lot more control over the amount of chlorine that makes it into your swimming pool.
Liquid chlorine can be more easily measured, has a lower pH level when it is in liquid form, and is generally a lot less expensive than granular or powdered chlorine is.
On top of that, liquid chlorine doesn’t come stabilized right out of the box. That means you can add stabilizer whenever necessary or use it and it’s unstabilized form factor at night to avoid pumping even more chemicals into your pool and you are comfortable with.
At the end of the day, as long as you are keeping track of pH and alkalinity levels before you apply any kind of chlorine to your pool you should be good to go!