Is the pH level in your saltwater pool too low?
Not sure what chemicals to use, or how to raise it without upsetting the balance of your water?
This article will explain when to be concerned about low pH, how to raise the pH in your saltwater pool, and how to do so without also raising alkalinity.
What pH is Considered too Low?
The pH level of water is measured on a scale of 1 (very acidic) to 14 (very basic), with 7 being neutral.
The optimal pH level for a pool is slightly basic at 7.2 to 7.8.
That means anything below 7.2 would be considered too low for a saltwater pool, with the side effects becoming increasingly more severe at lower pH levels and extended periods of time.
How to Raise pH In a Saltwater Pool (Fastest Way)
Follow these 5 steps to raise the pH in your saltwater pool using common household products:
1. Test Your Water
Before doing anything, use a test strip or liquid test kit to get readings on your starting pH level and total alkalinity.
Your starting pH level is important because it tells you how much you need to raise it, but any adjustments to pH will also influence alkalinity so you need to be mindful of how this changes during the process.
Remember, your pH level should be between 7.2 and 7.8, and your total alkalinity between 80 and 120 parts per million (ppm).
2. Pick the Right pH Increaser
The two most common ingredients used to increase the pH level in pools (including saltwater pools) can be found in most kitchens or laundry rooms.
They are soda ash and borax.
While both are effective at raising pH, they differ in how much impact they have on your total alkalinity.
Which one you should use depends on the results you took away from the last step, particularly in the alkalinity reading.
For example, if your alkalinity is well below 80ppm, use soda ash to bring both pH and alkalinity up, but if your alkalinity is already above 80pm, you’ll want to use borax instead.
Note: If you would prefer to raise pH without having any impact on alkalinity, see the next section on using a process called aeration (much slower).
3. Calculate the Correct Dosage
Whether you’re using soda ash or borax, you’ll have to run some numbers to figure out how much to add to your pool.
For this part, you’ll also need to know your pool volume, or how much water your saltwater pool holds. As long as you know your measurements, you can use this calculator to get a specific number in gallons.
Next, head over to this pool chemistry calculator.
Simply plug in your test results from step 1 along with your pool volume, and the calculator will tell you exactly how much product to add to reach your target pH and alkalinity.
To give you an idea of how this compares, soda ash raises alkalinity roughly twice as much as borax for the same increase in pH.
4. Add the Soda Ash or Borax to Your Water
Once you’ve measured out the correct amount of soda ash or borax, simply add it to your pool water.
It’s a good idea to broadcast the powder in the deep end of your pool, particularly near a return jet as this will help circulate it. You’ll also want to keep your pump running for about an hour to give it time to fully distribute and dissolve.
Note: It may be worth measuring out slightly less than you think you need, waiting, retesting, then adding the rest if needed.
5. Test Your Water Again
The final test is just to ensure your levels have increased as expected, as you may have miscalculated along the way.
If you only used a partial dosage, you’ll also want to test before adding the final amount. This will allow you to get a good read on how much impact the soda ash or borax is having on your water.
How to Raise pH In a Saltwater Pool (Natural Way)
If you’re looking for a natural way to raise your pH, or you simply don’t want your total alkalinity to be affected, this section is for you.
Specifically, you’re going to utilize a process called aeration.
Aeration is essentially exposing your water to oxygen in the air, which causes it to outgas carbon dioxide, which drives up the pH level.
While the surface of your pool water is always exposed to oxygen, bubbling or churning the water will force more of your water to make contact with the air, which will increase the rate of outgassing.
Analogy: It’s surprisingly similar to shaking a can Coca-Cola; the more you shake, the more fizz you lose. And yes, that fizz is carbon dioxide.
To aerate your water, you have a few options:
- Keep your pump running overnight
- Turn on your water features
- Throw a pool party (lots of movement in the water)
- Angle your return jets towards the surface
- Buy yourself a ()
As a side note, your saltwater generator also aerates the water during the chlorine-making process, which is why they often have a higher resting pH level compared to traditional chlorine pools.
Bear in mind, raising your pH this way is noticeably slower than using chemicals, so expect to wait at least a day or two for any significant changes.
Let the Numbers Guide You
Raising the pH level in a saltwater pool is a simple enough fix, it’s just a matter of testing your water and choosing an appropriate method.
Do you go with a measured dose of soda ash or borax, thereby also raising total alkalinity, or do you take the slower, more isolated approach by aerating your water for several days?
Answer: The numbers will tell you.