Chlorine has been the most preferred sanitizing solution by pool owners for many years, and for good reason. It is the easiest to use as well as the cheapest pool treatment available.
However, chlorine is known to cause red stinging eyes, skin irritation, and allergic reactions in some swimmers. Also, there’s an ongoing chlorine crisis that leaves pool owners no choice but to look elsewhere for pool treatment options.
Read on to know more about this crisis and what you can do about it.
Chlorine Pool Alternatives to Consider During a National Chlorine Crisis
Why Do We Put Chlorine in Our Swimming Pools?
Chlorine is used in swimming pools for several important reasons. Chlorine is an algaecide, an oxidizer, a sanitizer, and it can maintain residual value in water. These incredibly important features of chlorine help maintain a clean and bacteria-free pool.
When in water, chlorine breaks down into weak acids that kill bacteria such as salmonella, legionella, E.coli, and the brain-eating Naegleria fowleri amoeba. It also attacks viruses and germs that cause diarrhea and swimmer’s ear.
Weak hypochlorous and hypochlorite acids influence the pH balance of a swimming pool. A high pH balance indicates a low chlorine content, which slows down the cleaning process. The ideal pH balance for swimming pools should be around 7.4.
Once these weak acids are done with the cleaning, they further break down into single atoms. In some cases, ammonia is added to make pools even safer for swimming.
What Every Pool Owner Should Know About the Nationwide Chlorine Shortage
Pool owners will be facing a widespread chlorine shortage as they prep their pools for the summer according to The New York Times. This will be the worst chlorine crisis the country has ever seen that is set to rock this season. Quantity restrictions have already been imposed in some parts of the country while prices of chlorine tablets in other areas have already doubled from the previous year.
The pandemic-driven swimming pool boom and a fire at a major chlorine manufacturing plant are the main causes of this nationwide chlorine shortage. Industry insiders are concerned that this crisis will likely worsen as homeowners prepare their swimming pools for the season.
With the imposed quantity restrictions and spiking of chlorine prices, homeowners are urged to find alternatives to keep their pools sanitized. With this in mind, we’ve put together a list of the most popular chlorine alternatives.
11 Chlorine Alternatives for Pool Owners to Consider
Salt is a widely used alternative to sanitize swimming pools, and for good reason. Saltwater pools use salt to produce chlorine. This process does not dry out your skin or irritate your eyes.
When saltwater passes through a salt cell, an electric charge is introduced thereby breaking down the salt into chlorine. This process runs continuously to keep free chlorine at a high level and chloramines low. Free chlorine allows the water in your pool to be clean and clear.
It is not chlorine but large quantities of chloramine that produce “chlorine smell” and irritate the skin. This makes saltwater pools an ideal chlorine alternative. Low quantities of chloramine with a balanced level of salinity in saltwater pools provide clean, healthy water that does not smell or cause irritation.
Further, salt is cheaper compared to chemicals you use in sanitizing your pool. However, salt chlorinators have cells that require occasional cleaning. You also have to replace the cells every 5 years.
Bromine is an effective water sanitizer and is often used in spas. Water that is sanitized by this naturally occurring element doesn’t need much testing. Compared to chlorine, bromine is a more convenient and more stable water sanitizer.
Bromine has a chemical property that is exactly the same as chlorine and is one of the most common alternatives in pool sanitation. While it sanitizes water quite well, it is not an ideal option since it is more expensive than chlorine.
Also, bromine needs to be used in conjunction with other additives and chemicals just like chlorine. And since bromine can be arduous to stabilize, it doesn’t work well for indoor pools.
Using an ozone generator can help reduce the amount of chlorine you use in your pool. Ozone helps break down organic contaminants in swimming pools.
Prevention of calcium scaling and creating pH neutral, soft water are some of the benefits of using an ozone generator. Moreover, an ozone generator can lower the usage of chemicals by 60 to 90%.
Yet, it is not an independent chlorine alternative and it needs to be used in conjunction with another pool sanitizer like chlorine. Chlorine breaks down organic contaminants in your pool, which results in the decrease of the available “free chlorine”.
Another drawback is that ozone gas is short-lived; it doesn’t have adequate residual capabilities. Further, ozone generators are costly as for the initial investment.
Water Temperature Reduction
Most microorganisms thrive and multiply at high temperatures. Thus, reducing water temperature to colder than normal will help slow down the growth of algae and bacteria. Also, the pace of chemicals reacting to each other tends to slow down in lower temperatures.
While this method is also not an independent solution, it does help reduce the amount of chlorine you would have to use in your pool.
However, some people are not comfortable swimming in cold water. And thus, you would have to adopt a method to reduce water temperature that is directly influenced by outside weather.
For instance, you would need to use a pool chiller if the outside weather is warm and pleasant. On the other hand, you can opt for oxygenation or aeration using fountains if the climate is cool.
Keep in mind that chillers and heaters cost more than other pool equipment options. If you have a heater for your pool, you should adjust the thermostat to a lower level whenever possible.
In brief, reducing water temperature as a pool sanitation alternative still involves using chlorine. Nonetheless, the required amount of chlorine would be reduced.
PHMB is an effective chlorine alternative solution developed by certain brands such as Softswim and Baquacil. It is not affected by sunlight. And so, it is more stable compared to chlorine.
Another advantage of PHMB is that it does not irritate your eyes and skin. Also, it does not cause corrosion to the walls and floor of your pool.
However, there are a few drawbacks when using PHMB as a chlorine alternative to sanitize your pool.
First, PHMB is a bit more expensive than chlorine, which also makes pool maintenance a bit costly.
Second, cleaning your pool filters once a month may require using an oxidizer such as hydrogen peroxide.
Third, converting to PHMB often requires draining out pool water, which might contain traces of chlorine.
Further, PHMB is known to react with chlorine. Thus, you’ll need to make sure there are no traces of chlorine on your swimming suit or skin when you’re in the pool.
UV light, as a sanitizer, can be used in conjunction with chlorine for pool water sanitation. It works by destroying germs in the water, while chlorine works by maintaining the residual effect.
UV light, on its own, doesn’t yield any sanitation residual. And thus, chlorine is still needed to stop microorganisms from reproducing at a faster rate. Much faster than pool water can be recirculated through the device and the pool.
Installing a UV light system reduces the amount of chlorine you would have to use to sanitize your pool. This also helps reduce the number of chloramines in the water.
Ultrafiltration involves using a fine sieve to remove minuscule microbes, hair, and human skin fragments, and so on after the basic filtering is done. This filter works by picking up and throwing out bacteria, organic matter, and all other suspended particles excluding the needed minimal quantity of chlorine.
Ultrafiltration consists of filter tubes with ultrathin membranes in which low-pressure water flows in a circulation loop. Within these membranes are extremely thin semi-permeable pores through which certain salts and essential disinfectants get filtered into the pool again.
In short, water is sanitized without using any kinds of chemicals. At present, this technology costs a lot for most applications. But mass production will eventually lower the cost of these systems in the years to come.
Non-chlorine shock is a chlorine alternative ideal for large-capacity indoor and outdoor pools. It works by oxidizing urine, body oil, sunscreen, and other organic pollutants. Thus, it allows chlorine to work effectively by keeping chloramines at their lowest possible level.
An outdoor pool doesn’t benefit much from non-chlorine shock than an indoor pool because sunlight naturally helps oxidize organic pollutants. This is why non-chlorine shock is widely used in an area with little-to-no sunlight like an indoor pool.
Non-chlorine shock is used in hot tubs and spas to burn up or oxidize dead organic matter and allow the sanitizer to kill bacteria and algae.
Unfortunately, it is not an independent pool sanitation solution as it can not sanitize pool water on its own. It will need another pool sanitizer such as chlorine or bromine.
Mineral Water Pool Systems
Mineral water pool systems use natural minerals (popularly known as metals) such as silver and copper to zap algae and other microorganisms. Silver has long been known as a mineral with antibacterial properties, while copper is known to be an algaecide.
Mineral water pool systems use cartridges that contain antibacterial minerals. Algae, bacteria, and other contaminants are instantly destroyed once the water that carries them passes through a mineral water pool cartridge.
You can easily attach the cartridges to the existing PVC pipes of your pool system. Moreover, these cartridges are low on maintenance.
However, replacing a cartridge can be expensive and larger pools need replacement more often. Besides, you still have to use chlorine or bromine since this is not an independent chlorine alternative. That said, using a mineral water pool system as a water sanitation method helps reduce the required amount of chlorine by 50%.
Pristine Blue was developed as a proprietary technology by Earth Science Laboratories. The main component of this technology is copper sulfate pentahydrate, which is about 19.8% of the total active ingredients.
As a pool sanitizer, Pristine Blue technology relies on the positively charged ions of copper to deactivate negatively charged bacteria as well as other germs in the pool. While it is a highly effective option, it is also very expensive as for the initial investment.
Copper-silver ionization is arguably the best chlorine alternative so far. This technology is a cost-effective option that produces a clean and healthy pool. Additionally, it doesn’t yield residual chemicals that irritate your eyes and skin.
Generally, copper-silver ionization comes with test kits, an electronic control unit, and a copper electrode. This ionization process involves releasing metallic ions into the water using a low-voltage electric current.
Positively charged ions in copper are attracted to the negatively charged bacteria and algae. These positively charged ions kill by penetrating the cell membranes of microorganisms.
There is no shortage of these copper ions as long as the water is recirculated. Moreover, these positively charged ions are not affected by sunlight. And thus, there’s no need for a stabilizer.
This pool sanitation alternative differs greatly from chlorine, bromine, and other salt systems since it is pH neutral. Further, copper ionization systems are easy to install and low in maintenance. They can also be retrofitted to any existing chlorine-treated indoor and outdoor pool.
Contact Pleasant Pools to Discuss the Best Pool Maintenance Options
Need help deciding which chlorine alternatives will work best for your pool? Stop by your local Pleasant Pools branch to speak with our pool experts today.
Pleasant Pools is a premier swimming pool and spa supply and construction company offering a wide range of pool services in central Oklahoma. From pool renovation to selling pool accessories, we got you covered. Contact us today to get started.