How to maintain a pool for dummies - Basic Pool Maintenance & Chemistry 101

Practising proper pool chemistry is important and easy. In this guide, we will provide you with everything you need to know to keep your pool clean and clear!

How Do You Learn Pool Chemistry?

There is no magic formula to learning pool chemistry or learning about pool chemicals. But the good thing is it's not an exam. You can have a printed cheat sheet and nobody will care. Just practice a lot and always have a guide and you'll get the hang of pool chemistry as you go along.

Practice, practice, and more practice.

What Should My Pool Chemistry Be?

  • pH: 7.4 to 7.6
  • Alkalinity: 100 to 150 ppm
  • Calcium Hardness: 175 to 225 ppm and 225 to 275 ppm for plaster pools
  • For Chlorine or Salt Water Pools: 1 to 3 ppm (I recommend you keep it at 3 ppm)
  • For Bromine Pools: 3 to 5 ppm
  • For Biguanide Pools: 30 to 50 ppm
  • For Mineral System Pools: 0.5 ppm of chlorine

Water Balance

Your pool water is delicate, and in order to reach perfect pool harmony, it must be balanced. Just like Goldilocks, it musn't be too soft, it musn't be too hard, it has to be just right!

Balancing your pool means keeping the pH of the water between 7.4 and 7.6, which is slightly above neutral on the pH scale.

There are 3 main ingredients to keeping this balanced:

  • pH levels
  • Alkalinity levels
  • Calcium hardness levels

pH Levels

The Ideal pH Level ranges from 7.4 to 7.6

pH alone is unstable. Rainwater, swimmers, and just about anything that enters the water can affect the pH level. When pH is low, it means your water is acidic, and when it’s high, you water is basic.

To give you an idea of how pH works, our tears are pH neutral. If they had a low pH, it would burn when we cried. And if the pH was high, it would dry out our eyes.

Always keep a good supply of pH Increaser on hand because this pH levels can change frequently. We suggest monitoring your Alkalinity levels as well if you're having pH balance problems as adding Alkinity Increasers raise the pH level of your pool as well, talk about hitting two birds with one stone!

Alkalinity Levels

The Ideal Alkalinity Level ranges from 100 ppm to 150 ppm

Alkalinity is a pH buffer, meaning it helps to keep the pH from drastically moving up and down the pH scale by absorbing major changes to the waters before affecting the pH.

It’s also a good idea to keep a hefty supply of alkalinity increaser on hand since Alkaline levels can fluctuate quite easily.

Calcium Hardness

The Ideal Calcium Hardness Level ranges from 175 ppm to 300 ppm

Without calcium, your water will become hungry for it and seek to fulfill it’s appetite by feasting on your pool’s plaster, and anywhere else it can get it. This is basically what calcification on your pool walls and floor is.

Adding calcium hardness to your water will help protect your pool walls and equipment in the long run. However, too much calcium can cause scaling and other issues.

How to Keep Your Water Balanced

It’s important to keep your eye on your pH and alkalinity levels – at least once a week – by using a home test kit or test strips.

To keep your pool balanced, you need to keep these chemicals on hand:

  • pH Increaser
  • pH Reducer (hydrochloric acid)
  • Alkalinity Increaser


You’ll notice I didn’t mention alkalinity decreaser. Most major pool chemical companies do not produce it and here are the reasons why:

  • If your pH and alkalinity are low, alkalinity increaser will raise both. You may need to add a little pH increaser if the pH doesn’t reach 7.4 – like fine tuning an instrument.
  • If your pH and alkalinity are both high, pH decreaser will lower both.
  • If just your alkalinity is high, your pH will also be high and you can use pH decreaser.


If your pool is properly balanced at all times, it will make your pool’s sanitizer work more effectively – especially chlorine.


The most common form of pool sanitizer is chlorine, but there are others you can use, including:

  • Salt
  • Stabilised Chlorine
  • Minerals

Chlorine Levels

The Ideal Chlorine Levels ranges from 1 ppm to 3 ppm

Chlorine is an extremely effective bacteria and algae killer, and cost effective.

There are a few ways you can introduce chlorine into the pool water, including:

Chlorine Alternative - Sparkle Purifier

This is a chlorine alternative. It’s an effective sanitizer for swimming pools and even makes the water feel smoother.

These chemical packages are more expensive than traditional chlorine-compatible chemicals, and they come in granular/powder or tablet form.

Mineral System

The Ideal Chlorine Level when using a Mineral System is 0.5 ppm

Silver and copper minerals are introduced to the water by an mineral system that resembles a chlorinator. These minerals work to sanitize the water, but they are much slower than chlorine.

A mineral system is NOT a complete chlorine alternative as chlorine is still required – but only a small amount as backup.


What is Pool Shock?

When a chlorine particle attacks and kills bacteria, or other organic material in your water, it turns into chloramine or chlorine that isn't active and does not kill bacteria anymore. This particle just floats around in your water until it can be oxidized and broken apart.

What is Breakpoint Oxidation?

To reach breakpoint oxidation, the chlorine reading must be 10 ppm over your combined chlorine reading.

Your chlorine has two readings: free chlorine (FC) and combined chlorine (CC). Free chlorine refers to the chlorine that is free and available to kill.

NOTE: Pool shock products are made with unstabilized chlorine or no chlorine at all. They will go in, do their job, and get eaten up by the sun’s UV rays very fast. That’s why it’s important to shock your pool at night or dusk, and let it work for 8 hours (with the pool running) throughout the night.

Other types of Pool Chemicals

If you only used pH products, alkalinity products, calcium products, sanitizers, you could keep a clean and healthy pool all year long. However, there are a few more products you should be familiar with in case you need or decide to use them.

Cyanuric Acid or Stabilizer

Most chlorine products you add to the water will be stabilized chlorine. However, if you start with fresh water, you might want to add some cyanuric acid (aka water stabilizer) as a stabilizer base so that the chlorine doesn’t get burned off by the sun’s UV rays so quickly. This chemical will protect your chlorine from the sun.

Cyanuric Acid Reducer

There will be times where your cyanuric acid levels will be higher than where they're supposed to be and this can actually cause a problem especially when it comes to pool chemicals. There are a number of ways to reduce cyanuric acid since they don't go down by themselves, but if you're in a hurry, there's always a Cyanuric acid reducer that you can use to treat this problem.


Algaecide is a algae preventative. There are certain algaecides on the market that claim to kill algae, but the best killer is chlorine.

Use algaecide as a backup. If your chlorine levels dip down, and you don’t catch it in time, the algaecide will keep the algae at bay until you can get the chlorine back up.

If you’re currently having an algae problem in your pool, algaecide may not be your best option. Thankfully, we have a solution to help you get rid of algae and keep it from coming back. Click the button below to open our guide on how to get rid of algae for good.

Clarifier and Floc

A water clarifier helps by bringing all those tiny particles that are making your water cloudy and combining them into bigger particles that your filter will have a better chance of filtering out.

Floc or Flocculant, grabs those tiny particles, brings them together, and sinks them to the bottom. With pool floc, you will have to manually get those particles out of your water by vacuuming to waste.

Stain and Scale Remover

If you have metals in your water, like copper and iron, you can use a metal remover or stain and scale remover to keep those metals in solution so that your filter can filter them out.

If metals come out of solution that can attach themselves to the walls and other parts of your pool and produce unsightly stains.

In a Nutshell...

To maintain a safe and healthy swimming pool, you need to keep your pool chemicals at the following levels:

  • pH: 7.4 to 7.6
  • Alkalinity: 100 to 150 ppm
  • Calcium Hardness: 175 to 225 ppm and 225 to 275 ppm for plaster pools
  • For Chlorine or Salt Water Pools: 1 to 3 ppm (I recommend you keep it at 3 ppm)
  • For Bromine Pools: 3 to 5 ppm
  • For Biguanide Pools: 30 to 50 ppm
  • For Mineral System Pools: 0.5 ppm of chlorine

Make sure to practice good pool circulation and filtering, and keep your pool cleaned by vacuuming and skimming frequently.

SEE ALSO: How To Maintain Chemicals In Peak Season


Here are all the products featured on this page

The 3 Cs of Pool Care: Cleaning, Circulation, and Chemicals

Over the years, we have developed a useful repository of blog posts, guides, and articles that deal with all aspects of pool maintenance. Click on any of the buttons below to open our collection of posts grouped by topic.

Need more information on chemicals? We have in depth guides on each of the pool chemicals we supply on our site. Everything from HOW to use them, WHEN to use them, and most importantly, when NOT to use them.

Need more help on pool maintenance? Don't know where to start? Don't worry. Mr. Pool Man has got you covered. We have in-depth articles on all aspects of pool maintenance. Just click the button and choose the pool maintenance topic that you want to read up on.

Note: This blog is a rough indication of advice for an average sized pool and average dosing recommendations. Mr Pool Man always recommends getting your water tested by a pool professional before adding any type of chemicals for your own safety, or giving us a call on 1300 511 901 or contacting us if you are unsure. Mr Pool Man does not take any responsibility for incorrect dosages

Want to keep your pool chemical levels at their right levels while not using your pool? Consider purchasing a Daisy pool cover from the Mr Pool Man online pool shop.

Thinking of minimizing chemical use and expense for your pool during winter? Check out our Winter Saving Money Tips for Pools here.

Do you have any questions about this topic or the featured products? No worries, we're here to help! Drop us a question down below and we'll get back to you ASAP.

Happy swimming :)

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Jo Burgess

Excellent site – learning so much about our pool maintenance as we had little knowledge of how to deal with unforeseen issues – much appreciated and valued .

Ross Campbell


Outstanding website for understanding the sometimes complex nature of balancing your water .. in my case for a swimming pool. Much appreciated.


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