Maintaining proper water chemistry ensures a safe, clean, and enjoyable swimming experience in your backyard pool. However, keeping track of the various pool chemicals and their ideal ranges can be overwhelming, especially for new pool owners. To help simplify your pool maintenance routine, we’ve created the ultimate pool chemical cheat sheet.

We’ll break down the essential pool chemicals, their functions, and the optimal ranges to maintain balanced water chemistry. We’ll also provide tips on how to test your water, adjust chemical levels, and troubleshoot common pool water issues. By the end of this article, you’ll have a handy reference to keep your pool water sparkling clean and safe for swimmers.

Pool Chemical Cheat Sheet

The Essential Pool Chemicals

Before diving into the ideal ranges, let’s briefly review the key pool chemicals and their roles in maintaining water balance:

  1. Sanitizer (Chlorine or Bromine): Sanitizers kill bacteria, viruses, and other harmful microorganisms in your pool water. Chlorine is the most common sanitizer, while bromine is often used in hot tubs and indoor pools.  A popular brand for this is In The Swim Stabilized Chlorine Tablets.
  2. pH Balancers: pH is a measure of your pool water’s acidity or alkalinity. Maintaining the proper pH range is essential for swimmer comfort, equipment longevity, and sanitizer effectiveness. You’ll need pH increasers (soda ash or sodium carbonate) and pH decreasers (muriatic acid or sodium bisulfate) to adjust the pH level.
  3. Alkalinity Increaser: Total alkalinity (TA) acts as a buffer to help stabilize the pH level and prevent sudden fluctuations. Sodium bicarbonate, or an alkalinity increaser, raises the TA when it’s too low.
  4. Calcium Hardness Increaser: Calcium hardness (CH) refers to the dissolved calcium in your pool water. Maintaining the proper CH level helps prevent corrosion and scaling in your pool equipment. Calcium chloride, or a calcium hardness increaser, raises the CH when it’s too low.
  5. Shock Treatment: Shock treatments, such as chlorine shock (calcium hypochlorite) and non-chlorine shock (potassium monopersulfate), eliminate contaminants, clear up cloudy water, and restore sanitizer levels quickly.
  6. Algaecide: Algaecides help prevent and control algae growth in your pool. They work in conjunction with sanitizers to keep your water clear and algae-free. Here is our favorite algaecide.

Pool Chemical Cheat Sheet: Ideal Ranges

Now that we’ve covered the essential pool chemicals let’s dive into the optimal ranges for each parameter to maintain balanced water chemistry:

Parameter Ideal Range
Free Chlorine (FC) 1-3 ppm
Bromine 3-5 ppm
pH 7.2-7.6
Total Alkalinity (TA) 80-120 ppm
Calcium Hardness (CH) 200-400 ppm
Cyanuric Acid (CYA) 30-50 ppm

Note: ppm = parts per million CYA, or pool stabilizer, helps protect chlorine from being broken down by the sun’s UV rays in outdoor pools.

Testing Your Pool Water

Regular water testing is essential to maintaining these ideal ranges. Test your pool water at least once a week, or more often during heavy usage or adverse weather conditions. You can use test strips or liquid test kits to measure the levels of each parameter.

  1. Test Strips: Dip the pool test strip into the pool water and compare the colors on the strip to the provided chart to determine the levels of each parameter.
  2. Liquid Test Kits: Follow the pool chemistry test kit instructions to collect water samples and add the appropriate reagents. Compare the resulting colors to the provided chart to determine the levels of each parameter.

Adjusting Chemical Levels

Adjusting Chemical Levels

If your test results indicate that one or more parameters are outside the ideal range, you’ll need to adjust the chemical levels accordingly:

  1. Sanitizer: If the FC or bromine level is too low, add the appropriate amount of sanitizer according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If the level is too high, allow the pool to sit uncovered until the level drops naturally or partially drain and refill the pool with fresh water.
  2. pH: If the pH is too low, add pH increaser (soda ash or sodium carbonate). If the pH is too high, add pH decreaser (muriatic acid or sodium bisulfate). Always follow the manufacturer’s dosage instructions and retest the water after allowing the chemicals to circulate for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Total Alkalinity: If the TA is too low, add alkalinity increaser (sodium bicarbonate). If the TA is too high, you can lower it by adding pH decreaser (muriatic acid or sodium bisulfate) in small increments, as this will also lower the pH.
  4. Calcium Hardness: If the CH is too low, add calcium hardness increaser (calcium chloride). If the CH is too high, the only way to lower it is by partially draining and refilling the pool with fresh water.

Shock Treatments and Algae Prevention

Besides maintaining the ideal ranges for each parameter, regular shock treatments and algae prevention are crucial for keeping your pool water clean and clear.

  1. Shock Treatments: Shock your pool weekly, or more often during heavy usage or after rain storms, to eliminate contaminants and restore sanitizer levels. Follow the manufacturer’s dosage instructions and allow the shock to circulate for at least 30 minutes before swimming.
  2. Algae Prevention: Add algaecide to your pool according to the manufacturer’s instructions to help prevent algae growth. Brush your pool walls and floor regularly to remove any algae spores and keep your pool looking pristine.


By following this pool chemical cheat sheet and maintaining the ideal ranges for each parameter, you can ensure your pool water remains balanced, clean, and safe for swimmers. Remember to test your water regularly, adjust chemical levels as needed, and perform routine maintenance tasks like shock treatments and algae prevention.

Keep this cheat sheet handy as a quick reference guide for your pool maintenance routine. With a little knowledge and effort, you can confidently manage your pool chemistry and enjoy a perfect swimming experience all season long.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What happens if I swim in a pool with unbalanced water chemistry? Swimming in a pool with unbalanced water chemistry can lead to various health and comfort issues, such as eye and skin irritation, respiratory problems, and even gastrointestinal illness. Unbalanced water can also damage your pool equipment and surfaces, leading to costly repairs.
  2. How often should I shock my pool? As a general rule, you should shock your pool once a week to maintain clear and sanitized water. However, you may need to shock more frequently during heavy usage, after rain storms, or if you notice signs of algae growth or cloudy water.
  3. Can I use household chemicals to balance my pool water? you should never use household chemicals to balance your pool water. Pool chemicals are specifically formulated to maintain proper water chemistry without harming swimmers or damaging pool equipment. Using household chemicals can lead to dangerous reactions, health hazards, and costly damage to your pool.
  4. What should I do if I accidentally add too much chlorine to my pool? If you accidentally add too much chlorine to your pool, the best course of action is to stop adding more chlorine and allow the level to drop naturally over time. You can speed up the process by partially draining and refilling the pool with fresh water or using a chlorine neutralizer according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Avoid swimming in the pool until the chlorine level returns to the ideal range of 1-3 ppm.
  5. How do I prevent algae growth in my pool? To prevent algae growth in your pool, maintain proper sanitizer levels, brush your pool walls and floor regularly, and use an algaecide according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Ensure your pool has adequate circulation and filtration, and address any water balance issues promptly. Additionally, shock your pool weekly and after heavy usage or rain storms to eliminate contaminants that can contribute to algae growth.