How to Test and Balance the Waters
Most pool test kits come with instructions in the lid of the kit. Always follow instructions for the particular kit you are using as there are several different kinds that use different color metric systems. I like the “Taylor” kits that use a red color table to indicate ph and chlorine (disinfectant) levels.
The test kit comes with a plastic dual chamber vial. The larger side is for testing PH and the smaller side for testing chlorine levels. When you take your water samples you always want to dip the test tubes in upside down, elbows length, and then flip the vials over so you are getting a water sample that is not from the surface of the water. This way you get a more accurate reading of what is in the body of water. Splash out enough water to the top line that is marked on each vial. 5 mL of water is used for the ph side and 3 mL of water for the chlorine side.
For testing the PH drop five drops of R-4 into the 5 mL chamber. For the chlorine test drop five drops of R-1 and 5 drops of R-2 reagent into the 3 mL chamber. It is kind of funny that the smaller side gets two sets of drops but this is how it is and may the oddness help you to remember. Always use the caps that come with the kit to mix the reagents with the water samples. You never want to use your hands to cover the tops as that would contaminate your tests. Be as accurate as possible as to the amount of water in the vials and the amount of drops added.
Purples are alkaline, yellows acidic, and reds are mostly ok. You want to test and balance your ph first. The Ideal ph is 7.6. At 7.4 to 7.8 you are ok but 7.6 is the target. If your ph is to low that is acidic you will want to raise the ph with a “ph up” such as soda ash. If your ph is too high that is alkaline you will want to lower it with a “ph down” such as muriatic acid. Ph that is too low or too high can literally eat your pipes. Water will seek out its own balance and will take material from wherever it needs to in order to balance itself. Also disinfectant effectiveness can be blocked by ph’s that are off. This is why testing and balancing ph is always first priority.
For chlorine you want at least one parts per million chlorine. I like to keep my spas a little bit higher for chlorine at about three to four parts per million because it is a smaller body of water and the average person sweats about one pint of sweat into the water every thirty seconds in a spa. There are other reasons I like my disinfectant levels a little higher that you can learn about in my book Kung Fu Maintenance but I will spare you the details here.
Now when you are doing your chlorine test if you see your drops turn red for a second and then go clear real fast this is because there is too much chlorine in the water and it is bleaching out the test. This is what happens when there is over ten parts per million of chlorine in the water. To remedy the situation you need to either dilute the water or use a chlorine neutralizer.
If it is a spa with the chlorine to high and you have a pool nearby then you could just transfer the water to the pool so you are not throwing away your chlorine. Empty one fourth to one third of the water. Refill the spa than retest and repeat the process, until you have lowered your spa at least below eight and preferably below five parts per million before reopening the pool or spa for use.
If you use a chlorine neutralizer make sure to retest the body of water for ph levels as well as chlorine as many of the chlorine neutralizers will drop the ph levels significantly and you will need to add soda ash or another “ph up” to maintain the ph levels. It is all fun and games till someone’s hair gets turned green (or white). Always follow manufacturer’s instructions when using chemicals. Wear appropriate personal protective equipment such as gloves and or safety glasses. It is also a good idea to read MSDS sheets before handling chemicals and to carry a copy of the sheets with you when servicing your pools.
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