What Chemicals Do I Need for My Pool? | Ultimate Guide to Keeping Your Water Clean & Healthy

Legs dipped in the pool

One of the most important questions any pool owner must ask is What chemicals do I need for my pool? In order to keep your pool fresh, clean, and safe for swimming, you’ll definitely need to learn a bit about pool chemistry.

The more diligent you are about learning the proper chemical balance of your pool, the better off you’ll be when it comes to regular pool maintenance and the long-term life of your pool.

In this article, we’ll cover the importance of pool testing (read about digital pool water testers here), pool maintenance kits, necessary chemicals, and more. You’ll find here everything you need to know to maintain the pristine quality of your pool water and equipment. If you have an above ground pool, you will also need a good above ground pool vacuum to get rid of larger debris before applying the chemicals.

Read on for all the essential information, tips, and tricks for hours of summer swimming fun. Once your pool is crystal clear, get a few accessories, like one of the pool slides we reviewed here and have a splash!

What Chemicals Do I Need for My Pool?

Given the range of pool chemicals available, it can be a daunting task to make sense of what you do and don’t need. We’re here to make the process a bit simpler.
First, let’s take a brief overview of the main types of chemicals you will encounter. There are four categories of chemicals you will need to keep your pool in top shape. Keep in mind that this first list just an overview; we will dive into many of them more thoroughly later in this article.


As the name suggests, these chemicals sanitize and disinfect your pool water. You always want to keeps levels of chlorine (check out our recommended pool chlorine tablets review post) or bromine levels constant in order to promote clean and safe water for swimmers.


Oxidizers also sanitize and disinfect pool water, but they are secondary. They should be introduced to the water roughly every three weeks, as they kill algae and bacteria.
They often come in the form of powdered or liquid “shocks”—more on pool shock treatments later.

Water Balancers

These are chemicals that, as the name implies, maintain your water’s balance, including chlorine, pH, cyanuric acid, and calcium hardness levels. They are very useful for balancing out chemicals when one or more becomes to highly concentrated in your pool’s water.

Specialty Chemicals

There is a wide variety of specialty chemicals available for many maintenance purposes. They include clarifiers, enzymes, stain removers, and algaecides, just to name a few. These chemicals may not be necessary for everyone’s pool water situation, so it’s important that you do some research on them to see if each one might be beneficial to you.

Choosing the Type of Chlorine

Perhaps the single most important chemical you need to learn about as a pool owner is chlorine for pools. Chlorine is used in pools because it is both cheap and incredibly effective when it comes to killing algae and bacteria. 

Chlorine can come in many forms, but the most cost-effective way of implementing it into your pool water is through simple chlorine tablets. These can be added to a pool floater to prevent contact with skin and to promote proper circulation throughout your pool.

The most important thing to keep in mind when shopping for chlorine is to ensure the chlorine you choose is stabilized. Stabilized chlorine, which includes the either the active ingredient Dichloro or Trichloro, will prevent the sun’s UV rays from burning off your chlorine. Otherwise, you will definitely need to add a stabilizer like cyanuric acid to prevent this unwanted chlorine burn off.

Adding Chlorine to the Pool

To keep your pool chlorine levels at the recommended 3 ppm, you can introduce it to the water in the following forms: powdered or granular chlorine, chlorine tablets for pool, and salt chlorine generator (which converts table salt into pool chlorine).

By far the most popular way to add chlorine is with chlorine tablets, which take a lot of the guesswork out of determining how much chlorine in a pool is needed. Adding chlorine to your pool is simple with chlorine tablets for pools. 

Beyond adding chlorine in this manner, you will also want to be aware of how to shock a pool. A pool shock treatment involves adding much more chlorine to the pool water to ensure effective sanitization. But how much liquid chlorine to add to pool for effective shocking? You’ll want to add about 2-3 times the normal amount of chlorine to thoroughly sanitize the pool water, depending on the current ppm chemistry of your pool water.  

If you notice green pool water after shock treatments, the likely culprit is excessive levels of certain chemicals. Stabilizer, for instance, can prevent your chlorine shock from killing off algae and bacteria. To remedy this, you’ll need to go through a process to reduce levels of stabilizer in the pool water. 

Choosing Cyanuric Acid

Cyanuric acid is an effective water stabilizer. Its main function is to prevent the sun’s UV rays from burning off the chlorine in your pool.

It may not be necessary for every pool owner, but how much stabilizer to add to pool is mostly determined by the status of your water. If you’re starting out with fresh water, cyanuric acid might be a good choice. 

However, you want to keep your cyanuric acid levels between 30 and 50 ppm. If these levels rise above 50 ppm, you can simply drain some water from the pool and refill with fresh water to balance it out.

Maintaining pH in the Pool

Second only to maintaining proper chlorine levels in your pool is keeping pool pH at the proper levels. pH measures the balance of acidity and alkalinity in your pool. When the acidity is too high, it can damage metal components, and if the alkalinity is too high, water can become cloudy and equipment can develop scale. 

To maintain proper pH balance, you can do the following things:

  • If pH is too high, add muriatic acid or sodium bisulfate.
  • If pH is too low, add sodium carbonate or sodium bicarbonate.

If you neglect to maintain a proper pH balance in your pool, you run the risk of everything from green scum to major damage to your pool. This kind of damage can be costly—even impossible, in some cases—to repair. For instance, if pH is too low, you can run into issues like pitting, etching, and delaminating in your pool’s surfaces. No one wants to see their investment come to ruin like this! So do your due diligence and keep your pH in balance, so you won’t have to face any unfortunate surprises down the road.

Testing Your Freshly-Filled Pool Water

Pool water testing is essential to maintaining the chemical balance of your pool. There are a few different options for how to test your pool water. 

  • Pool water test strips
  • Liquid test kits
  • Digital (or electronic) pool testers

There are pros and cons to each of these options, but the most accurate and easy to use testing systems are clearly digital testers. 

While they are certainly pricier than the other options, they are much easier to use and provide precise digital readings, while the other tester options available, like test strips, tend to give general ranges. 

Moreover, they tend to provide readings for elements that the other tests cannot. This is especially true for testing for salinity, a crucial feature of water testing if you have a salt water pool. 

It is crucial that you test your pool often, even after balancing. Most experts recommend that you test your water once a week. However, to ensure the best results and a safe, sparkling clean pool all summer, you’ll want to test at least two to three times per week. Stay on the safe side and let your inner-chemist shine through!

Pool Start-Up Chemical Targets

If your pool is brand new or newly refilled, you will need certain pool startup chemicals. So, in addition to the necessary pool hardware, and a good pool maintenance kit, you’ll also want to get the chemicals needed for pool start up.

The following list lays out the various chemical targets you want to reach when you first start up your pool:

  • pH: 7.2-7.6
  • Free Chlorine: 1.0-3.0 ppm
  • Cyanuric Acid: 30-50 ppm
  • Total Alkalinity: 80-120 ppm
  • Calcium Hardness: 180-220ppm

Now, with those in mind, you’ll also need to know how to put chemicals in pool for first time. The important thing to know is that you should introduce chemicals one at a time and use something like a large brush to disperse the chemicals throughout the pool.

A further tip on circulating the new chemicals is to keep your pool filter pump on and running throughout the process. 

When considering chemicals for pool start up, you might want to look into pool start-up kits. These include all of the necessary chemicals for getting your pool ready for summer fun. These convenient start-up kits take all the guesswork out of pool preparation and maintenance. 

Sanitizers and Oxidizers

As mentioned above, sanitizers and oxidizers are your primary and secondary disinfectants and sanitizers. Sanitizers come in the form of chlorine tablets, for instance, and they can be added to floaters or installed in a chlorinator to disperse throughout your pool, without having to worry about skin coming into contact with the tablets.

Oxidizers, on the other hand, are what you use for pool shock treatments. Every 2-3 weeks, and when first starting up your pool, you should perform a shock treatment. There are a few options for products to use as shocks: lithium shock, calcium hypochlorite shock, and chlorine-free shock. 

  • Lithium shock will dissolve quickly, allowing you to swim right after treating your water.
  • Calcium hypochlorite shock is great for sanitizing your pool quickly to kill algae.
  • Chlorine-free shock also allows you to swim immediately after treatment, as it doesn’t leave any residue and burns clean.

Water Balancers

These chemicals are vital for maintaining the proper chemical balance in your pool water. The following list lays out the different kinds of balancers and when to use them.

  • Alkalinity Increaser: TA increasers like granular sodium bicarbonate effectively lift alkalinity levels. It is important to do this if your TA drops under 80 ppm.

  • pH Increaser: Granular soda ash is an effective pH increaser that you should use if pH levels drop below 7.2 ppm.

  • pH Reducer: A pH reducer like granular sodium bisulfate (dry acid) suppresses pH levels that have risen past 7.6 ppm.

  • Chlorine Neutralizer: If the chlorine in your pool becomes too highly concentrated, add a chlorine neutralizer, like granular sodium thiosulfate.

  • Calcium Hardness Increaser: If your calcium hardness levels are sub-150 ppm, add a calcium hardness increaser, like granular calcium chloride.
  • Specialty Chemicals

    As if these laundry list of essential chemicals didn’t make your head spin enough, there are a whole host of other specialty chemicals to consider for your pool as well. This list will give you the facts you need to know to determine if any of them will be necessary for your pool.

    • Clarifiers: These chemicals, which include things like flocculants, cause small particles and debris to clot together, forming larger pieces that your pool filter can trap.
    • Algaecides: These are necessary if you have a problem with algae growth. While pool shock treatments kill algae, you’ll want an algaecide to prevent return growth.
    • Enzymes: These chemicals are great for breaking down organic contaminants like oils and other odors.
    • Stain Removers: If scaling, stains, and colored water have plagued your pool, you’ll definitely want to look into getting a stain remover to bring back your pool’s pristine appearance.

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