If you own a pool, you know how costly it can be to keep it clean. Pools require a form of sanitation to keep bacteria and algae from growing in the water you swim in. Skip this important step and your pool will get cloudy and turn unsightly colors, and of course it will be unsafe to swim in.
Something that the pool stores might not tell you is that a lot of pool chemicals have the same ingredients as certain household products. Take bleach for instance; bleach is made with chlorine. So, can you put Clorox in a swimming pool instead of using chlorine from the pool store?
The simple answer is “yes”, but there are some important things you need to know first.
Is it safe to swim in a pool with bleach?
At the right levels, it is just as safe to swim in a pool with bleach as it is with traditional pool chlorine. The important thing is to have a good pool test kit and test your chlorine ppm to make sure you are staying within safe levels.
This applies to bleach and all other forms of chlorine.
You may run into times when you need to hyper-chlorinate, or shock, your pool to kill algae. Other reasons to hyper-chlorinate your pool could be finding a dead animal in your pool, or helping your pool water recover from a recent storm.
The levels of chlorine required to shock your pool are well above the range that is safe to swim in. At these times, you should keep your pool pump running and wait until your chlorine level drops to normal range before entering the pool.
How does bleach compare to swimming pool chlorine?
There are a few different types of chlorine available for use in a swimming pool. Some chlorine comes in the shape of a puck, some in the form of granules, and some in liquid form. They also have different ingredients.
This comes in a powder or granular form that can be mixed with pool water. Calcium hypochlorite will add calcium to your pool, as well as chlorine.
Dichlor and Trichlor
You will usually see this in the shape of pucks or tabs that are meant to float around in the pool water and slowly dissolve. They may also be used with an automatic chlorinator.
Trichlor contains CYA (pool stabilizer) as well as chlorine, which can be okay for a while, but eventually the CYA will run higher than wanted. The only way to reduce the CYA level is to partially drain your water and add fresh water back in.
Household bleach contains sodium hypochlorite (chlorine), water, and a small amount of salt. It does not add any other chemicals to your water as long as you use the unscented/original variety.
This has the same ingredients as bleach, but in a higher concentration. Liquid chlorine can be found at pool stores or the pool section of stores like home improvement and superstores. It is sometimes labeled as liquid pool shock.
As you can see, there are various options for chlorinating your pool. Bleach is actually a great option because it effectively sanitizes pool water without adding any additional chemicals that can mess with the overall pool chemistry.
What’s the difference between chlorine and bleach?
Standard bleach and liquid chlorine are the same, except for the concentration of chlorine.
Liquid chlorine has a higher percentage of chlorine per bottle than bleach does. Chlorine is generally around 10% to 12% chlorine, while bleach can run anywhere from 5.25% to 8.25% chlorine. This means that if you use bleach instead of chlorine, you will need to use more to get the same sanitation levels.
Whether you buy bleach or liquid chlorine, check the percentage of chlorine listed on the label and dose accordingly.
How does chlorine work to sanitize the pool?
There is a chemical reaction that occurs when chlorine dissolves in water. This reaction releases hypochlorous acid and hypochlorite ions, which oxidize the microorganisms and bacteria in the water.
It does this by attacking the lipids in the cell walls and destroying the enzymes and structures inside the cell. This process renders the microorganisms and bacteria harmless.
Is all Clorox bleach the same?
Clorox carries several different formulas of bleach. The kind you should use in your pool is unscented and without extra ingredients AKA the “original” formula.
Of course, you do not need to stick with brand name bleach. There are several generic brands of bleach available that may have better pricing.
For any bleach that you use, be sure to check the percentage of available chlorine (or sodium hypochlorite). Plug that number into your app configurations (see below) so it can correctly calculate how much you need to use.
How much bleach should you use?
The amount of chlorine you need in your pool depends on several factors, including the size of your pool, your cyanuric acid level, and how quickly your chlorine is used up from the sun and contaminants.
As you can see on this chart provided by Trouble Free Pool, the higher your CYA (cyanuric acid) level, the higher your FC (Free Chlorine) ppm should be.
Continue to test your water regularly to make sure that your pool chemistry is keeping on track. An example of a good pool water test kit is the Taylor K-2006.
Once in a while, you may end up getting a splash of bleach on your hands, here are our tips on how to get rid of the smell.
Is it more cost effective to use bleach than chlorine?
Finding the best deal can be a matter of what is available in your local area and for what price. One thing that you want to remember is that the price of household bleach may look like a better deal than liquid chlorine until you factor in the strength of the chlorine.
A gallon of liquid chlorine will take up less space and may cost less than two gallons of bleach, for example.
Of course, if you’re comparing household bleach to chlorine pucks or granules, bleach may be comparatively cheaper.
Can you use bleach to close the pool for winter?
Here in Michigan, stores tend to stop selling chlorine before we get our pools closed for the season. To make things harder, pool stores also have shorter hours in the fall. This makes it more inconvenient to buy pool chlorine from them if you work the same hours they do.
Luckily, since bleach can be used in the pool, you can use bleach to bring your pool water to shock level before closing it for the winter.
Doing this, along with adding the proper amount of polyquat 60 to your pool water before closing, and adequately covering the pool with a winter cover should help you uncover a clean pool in the spring.
Are there other household items you can use in the pool?
Bleach isn’t the only household product that can be used in a pool instead of pool chemicals. Some other common household products that can be used to keep your pool balanced are borax, soda ash, baking soda, muriatic acid, and citric acid.
The apps I mentioned above will tell you how much of each (except citric acid) to use to get your desired results.
Let’s take a look at how you can use each of these products.
Borax & soda ash
Borax and soda ash can be used to raise the ph level of the pool water. Borax can be found with the laundry detergent in most stores. Soda ash can also be found with laundry detergent, labeled as Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda.
To use either in a pool, dissolve it in a bucket of water and pour it in front of the return.
If your Total Alkalinity is low, you can sprinkle baking soda across the perimeter of the deep end to raise it. Some stores offer bigger boxes of baking soda than the size you would use in your fridge, which can be helpful when using it in a pool.
Muriatic acid can be used to lower the ph and total alkalinity in the pool water. It is a fairly dangerous chemical which requires eye, skin, and breathing protection. Its fumes are very powerful and if you get the liquid on your clothes, it will destroy them.
That being said, muriatic acid works great for lowering the ph level of your pool water when handled properly. It can be found in most hardware stores, either in the paint, outdoor, or pool department depending on which store you go to.
To use muriatic acid, wear eye protection and a respirator mask. Stand over the pool’s return and very slowly pour the liquid in the path of the return jet while it is running. Keep the pool pump running for at least 30 minutes after pouring.
It is best to use less than you think you need, test the water, and repeat as needed. The amount used will depend on the number of gallons of water in your pool and how far the ph needs to be lowered.
If you need to lower your Total Alkalinity and your ph, you can do both with muriatic acid. To do this, first turn off the pool pump and wait until the water is still.
Once the water is still, slowly pour the proper amount of muriatic acid in the deep end and let it sink down to the bottom of the pool. Wait about 30 minutes before turning the pump back on.
This will decrease both your TA and ph. If the ph has gone down too far, you can aerate the pool water to increase the ph without bringing the TA back up.
Ascorbic acid, citric acid, or vitamin C
These acids can be used to release iron stains from pool surfaces, along with metal sequestrants. You can spot test by placing a vitamin C tablet over a stain and checking after a few minutes to see if the stain has released in that spot. If so, your stain is from iron in the water.
Ascorbic acid or citric acid can be added to the water and/or directly on stains to remove these tough iron stains. Check here for specific instructions and to find out how this will affect your pool chemistry.
It is especially important to raise the chlorine level very slowly after doing a citric acid treatment.
Bonus tip: If you have a lot of iron in your water, these will also work well at cleaning your sinks and bathtubs!
Using Clorox, or other bleaches, in your pool is not only something you can do, but it can actually help keep your pool balance in check. Just make sure that you are using the right formula and dosages.
Don’t forget to properly store all of your pool (and cleaning) chemicals, including bleach.
I have a bachelor’s degree in Film/Video/Media Studies, as well as an associates degree in Communications. I began producing videos and musical recordings nearly 15 years ago. I am a guitarist and bassist in Southwest MI and have been in a few different bands since 2009, and in 2012 I began building custom guitars and basses in my home workshop as well. When I’m home, I love spending time with my three pets (a dog, cat, and snake) and gardening in my backyard.