How To Remove Phosphates From A Pool
- Add a Phosphate remover containing Lanthanum
- Remove and replace the water from a low-phosphate supply
Phosphates and Nitrates are in your pool, all the time, you cant see them or taste them, but they are there. To keep them at bay, keep your pool as clean as possible, and keep your water balanced, including a constant chlorine residual. Be careful with fertilizers as you apply them, and if your pool is prone to flooding from surrounding planter beds, do what you can to mitigate the possibility of overflowing into the pool.
How Long After Adding Phosphate Remover Can You Swim
Youll notice that immediately you add the phosphate remover to the water in your swimming pool, the water becomes cloudy. The good news is that this cloudiness dissolves and clears within twenty minutes to one hour. It is recommended that you wait for at least one hour before jumping into the pool.
Kill Rate Vs Growth Rate
Sanitization is essentially a match between the killing rate of the sanitizer vs. the growth and reproduction rate of a given contaminant. All living organismsincluding microorganismsneed phosphates to build new cells and grow.
As long as the kill rate stays ahead of the growth rate of say, algae, there will be no outbreak. But if the growth rate meets or exceeds the sanitizers rate of kill, an outbreak is the result. This is when pools turn green.
The conditions necessary for an algae outbreak include weakened or low levels of free available chlorine , and/or an abundance of micronutrients like phosphates. An abundance of micronutrients creates a condition in water called eutrophication. Eutrophication is when there are so many nutrients that algae can take over a body of water and starve out other organismseither by blocking their sunlight, or simply by dominating the ecosystem. Heres a photo of Lake Eries algae bloom in the summer time:
The sanitization battle needs to be won. Swimming pool health and safety depend on it. So there are two sides of the battle that can be worked on.
Boost the Kill Rate
We should do everything within reason to optimize chlorine efficiency and its killing speed. We need to get rid of as many factors that weaken chlorine as possible. We strongly recommend supplementing chlorine to handle bather waste, either with a secondary system like UV or Ozone, or with enzymes to break down and digest non-living organics.
Slow the Growth Rate
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What Does Phosphate Have To Do With A Swimming Pool
When testing your water chemistry, most check for sanitizer and pH. Others testing for commercial pools and on a weekly basis for homeowners include tests for alkalinity, calcium hardness, and cyanruic acid. There are many other tests out there including cooper, iron, salt, TDS, nitrates, and phosphates. But why are we testing for phosphates? Phosphates are mostly inorganic materials that have the potential to feed and encourage algae growth in your swimming pool, as well as cloud your water. Algae needs sun, water, air, and a food source such as nitrates and phosphates to flourish. That is why a swimming pool is the perfect environment for algae to bloom!
But you say that you dont add phosphates to your pool. So, how are they getting into the pool? Your pool is in an open environment subject to sun, water from rain, air, and algae food that can be introduced in many ways. These phosphates are present in your landscaping and fertilizer materials that can be introduced through wind and water run-off by means of rain or your own backyard watering efforts. Those phosphates can be deposited from environmental debris that enters in pool in the form of leaves and tree droppings. Also, you may be unknowingly adding phosphates to your water if you use any chemicals that contain phosphoric acid or phosphorus materials, or if your fill water has phosphates in it .
Preventing Phosphate Buildup Without A Phosphate Remover
So, what do you do if you want to get rid of your swimming pools high levels of phosphates, but you dont want to purchase a phosphate remover? What then?
One of the best methods for preventing excess phosphate growth is to take care of your pool as best you can. Balance your chemical levels on a regular basis . If you live in an area thats constantly sunny and you have high phosphate growth, you should be brushing your swimming pool regularly to prevent algae buildup too.
If you ever see things like bugs, sticks, leaves, frogs, or other debris, get rid of it as soon as you notice it. In order to be more on top of eliminating waste as quickly as possible, empty your pools skimmer baskets regularly. This will help you get rid of that harmful junk quicker while also encouraging water circulation.
On the other hand, if youre ever doing lawn work outside, be very mindful of your surroundings. You dont want grass, fertilizer, or other debris ending up in your swimming pool and contributing to the high phosphate levels.
Although its entirely up to you as the pool owner if you want to use a phosphate remover or not, its essential to realize that there are other options from algaecides to chlorine to other sanitizers so dont feel boxed in by the idea of a phosphate.
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Why Do I Have Water Bugs In My Pool
Generally, you will only have water bugs in your pool for a few reasons.
- the water chemistry is out of balance
- there are algae in the water or on pool surfaces
- the pool water is stagnant
- the skimmer box is not functioning correctly
- the pool pump is not operating long enough each day
- the chlorinator is not generating enough chlorine
- there is a freshwater pond nearby
Water bugs need a food supply in the pool to survive.
The most common food supply for herbivorous water boatmen bugs is algae.
There will only be backswimmers in the pool when there are other bugs for the backswimmers to feed on.
Dangers Of Too High Phosphate Levels
High phosphate levels may affect your health if it is too high. More importantly, it will affect how you manage your pool. High phosphate levels feed algae and promote algae growth, which in turn makes it more difficult and expensive to kill the algae and keep your pool chemistry balanced. High phosphate levels also use up chlorine quickly, making it even more difficult to kill the algae and keep your pool clean.
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What Causes Phosphates In Your Pool
Phosphates naturally occur in nature. Any biomass such as insects, flowers, leaves, seeds, skin, hair and other organic material will contain phosphates. When organic matter decays in your pool the water absorbs some of those phosphates.
Your local town water supply usually contains small concentrations of phosphates. If you are using an alternative source of water such as a dam, stream or well the phosphate levels may be significantly higher. Even rainwater may contain some phosphates.
Pool chemicals such as scale & stain removers and metal sequestrants contain phosphates.
Therefore, its not possible to completely eliminate phosphates from a pool but you will want to monitor the concentration to ensure it is not too high.
What About Salt Water Chlorinators
In addition to the general debate about phosphates, you may have seen some websites mention that phosphates can cause salt water chlorinators to malfunction. Interestingly, at least one article that says this is a problem is published on a site that contains advertising by one of the main companies that produces and sells phosphate remover.
Aside from any potential biases, though, the fact is no scientific studies have been done, which means no verifiable, objective data exists to support this theory.
Some pool owners may claim that phosphates are to blame for their chlorinators being unable to produce appropriate amounts of chlorine. But what if its the other way around? What if the pool contains more phosphates because the chlorinator is not producing enough chlorine in the first place to kill the contaminants and organisms that produce phosphates?
We dont know for sure because, again, no scientific studies of this possible phenomenon exist, and we dont have access to a large enough number of pools to test it ourselves.
So until we see hard evidence, were going to stick with our advice that a phosphate remover is unnecessary, even in a salt water pool.
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If your pool water is green and cloudy, it is possible that the phosphate levels in your pool are too high. Having too many phosphates in your pool can make algae growth more likely and makes it more difficult to maintain proper pool chemistry. Read on to learn more about phosphates, why maintaining low phosphate levels are important, and how to lower the phosphate levels in your pool.
The Verdict: You Really Truly Do Not Need A Phosphate Remover
If youve stuck with us to the end, hooray! Now we can feel good about all that time we spent reading scientific journal articles, and boning up on the history of detergent.
But we feel even better about providing you with information that will help you save money, and will put your mind at ease about how you maintain your pool.
Focus on the three most important algae fighterssanitizer, algaecide, and the occasional pool shockand your pool will be just fine.
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Drain And Refill Pool
The most effective and standard method is draining and refilling the pool. With this method, you will remove the old water and add entirely freshwater using cyanuric acid to protect the chlorine levels and other pool chemicals. We recommend you do partial refills/drain. Make sure to check the chemistry level before you drain and refill your pool.
How To Test For Phosphates In A Pool
How do you test for phosphates?
Common pool test kits and chemical strips dont test for phosphates. However, you can purchase pool phosphate test kits and strips which are inexpensive. If its convenient you can take a water sample to a pool shop and ask for a phosphate test.
Phosphates accumulate slowly in swimming pools so you will only need to test for phosphates every 6 months. I recommend testing at the beginning and end of the swimming season.
Most test kits or strips measure phosphate from 0 to 1000ppb.
Ideally the concentration of phosphates in a pool should be below 250ppb .
However, the concentration would need to be above 1000ppb to contribute towards significant algae growth. An unclean pool is more likely to be the cause of an algae breakout.
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My Phosphates Are Between 500ppb 1000ppb
In this range, phosphates can start causing pool problems like algae growth and cloudy water. The two products that works best for these phosphate levels are BioGuards Pool Tonic and Natural Chemistrys PhosFree.
BioGuards Pool Tonic treats up to 1000ppb with one quart, but it can cause cloudy water for up to 48 hours, so if your pool is clear and you have people coming over, Phosfree may be the better choice.
However, we have found Pool Tonic to work very well in these levels, so if the pool is already cloudy or you arent planning to use it for a couple days it is a great choice.
Natural Chemistrys Phosfree is a tried a true phosphate remover. If you have a larger pool the dosage can get high 1.5 liters treats 900ppb in 10,000 gallons of water. It will likely need to be added in a couple doses as well, since it is advised not to add more than 1.5 liter at a time. However, it will not cloud the pool like Pool Tonic, so if you want to keep the pool sparkling clear during treatment, this is probably the better choice.
Make sure when using any phosphate remover to check the filters and backwash or clean them as needed.
These products are pulling out many small particles which can clog up your filter much more quickly than usual.
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Algae in a swimming pool presents a problem for a pool owner, mainly because it makes such a mess of a pool’s water. Algae are microscopic plant forms that require water and sunlight, at minimum, to grow. A swimming pool is a perfect growth environment for algae because it gives them water and sunlight in abundance. Algae are like any other land-based plant, however, in that they need light to survive. Therefore, if you cut pool algae off from light, they’ll soon die.
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Phosphate Removers Affects Sequestrant Effectiveness
Assuming you use well water high in copper and iron. Somehow, these two metals find their way into the swimming pool. If left unchecked, the copper ions could turn your pool cloudy and green, while iron can give the pool surfaces a nasty rusty brown color.
So, you rush to the pool store and get a metal sequestrant to help get rid of them. The sequestrant is supposed to bind with the metals to prevent oxidation, thus preventing their effects on your swimming pool.
And since the most influential metal sequestrant products are phosphate-based and you add them in the same water that you added a phosphate remover, the effectiveness of the sequestrant will reduce.
The phosphate remover will lower the phosphate levels in the sequestrant, which are supposed to bond with the metal ions and prevent oxidation. That means the sequestrant will have little to no success in preventing the effect, meaning you wasted your valuable money on two fronts.
Pro Tip: If youre trying to deal with an algae problem by removing the phosphate levels in your swimming pool, it might not be as effective as you might want it to be. The algae presence is more likely to be caused by another underlying issue that the phosphate remover wont solve.
Is Removing Phosphates Even Worth It
Generally speaking, most pool owners dont need to test for or control phosphate levels in their pools. If your pool water is otherwise healthy and balanced, phosphates wont affect water quality.
If you have an algae problem, an algaecide is a much more direct and effective method of correcting it, than independently testing and trying to control phosphate levels.
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No More Ring Around The Collar
Synthetic laundry detergents contain a few primary components: a surfactant , a builder, and other ingredients like brighteners and perfumes. Were going to focus on the builder.
The builders function is to soften water and to release hard-to-clean stains and calcium buildup. Because phosphatesin particular, STPPare especially good at removing calcium deposits, the soap industry began using it as the primary builder in laundry detergents, and eventually in other industrial and domestic cleaning products such as dishwasher detergents.
The first company to create synthetic laundry detergent was Procter & Gamble with their brand Dreft®, launched in 1933. They soon found it didnt clean heavily soiled clothes very well, though, so they marketed it as a gentle detergent for delicate fabrics and baby items, which it continues to be today.
Their next experiment was much more successful. With the addition of phosphates, they created an efficient detergent that cleaned better than any formula that had come before it. The result was Tide, launched in 1946. By 1949, P& Gs production of detergent far exceeded that of soap.
As a result, laundry wasnt as difficult a chore as it once had been. It was easier to get clothes clean, and with less effort. The laundry detergent industry boomed. Everything seemed peachy keen. That is, until the late 1960s.
Benefits Of Using Phosphate Removers
The most apparent benefit of phosphate removers is that many can lower your swimming pools phosphate levels to almost nothing. Although maintaining a proper sanitizer level with frequent brushing and vacuuming is the best way to prevent algae, a phosphate remover can remove the phosphates in an effort to halt algae growth as well.
Another benefit is with regular phosphate removal, you may find your chlorine demand is reduced because the growth rate of contaminants has been reduced. Chlorine can stay ahead, and as a result, the water can stay cleaner.
Its important to note that many phosphate removers are non-toxic therefore, after using a phosphate remover, youll be able to use your swimming pool right after, unlike chlorine shock, where you have to wait sometime.
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Algae And Other Scourges
We are fairly certain that if Sun Tzu had owned a swimming pool while writing The Art of War, history would have been irrevocably altered by his seminal chapter on conquering algae. Being that no such chapter exists, well improvise. In order to understand how to defeat algae, you must understand what it needs to survive.
Algae reproduction depends completely on the presence of five key things:
Phosphates are compounds of the nonmetallic element phosphorous and are a primary food source for aquatic plants, including all types of algae. Phosphate compounds are broken down into their simplest form, orthophosphates, in one of the following three ways:
Regardless of how it happens, if phosphates are allowed to remain present in pool, spa, or pond water, they will be reduced to orthophosphates, which are the only form of phosphates that algae can digest.
Orthophosphate levels should remain below 100-125 ppb . Once levels exceed 200 ppb, algae becomes increasingly resistant to sanitizers, including chlorine shock. Excessive levels of orthophosphate, such as 1,000 ppb or more, should be brought under control with Natural Chemistry PHOSfree Extra Strength.