Many people believe that household bleach is safe to be used in pools. But the truth is, bleach can harm your pool.
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission has warned about household bleach marketed for swimming pools.
The agency warns that pool owner should not use certain kinds of bleach in their swimming pools. This is because the material does not stay on the water’s surface and can cause serious health problems to swimmers.
Household bleach is a substance that has great potential as a sanitizing agent. Used properly, it can kill bacteria and germs on a wide range of surfaces.
However, the most common use of bleach is to disinfect a pool. Unfortunately, you can’t just throw household bleach into the pool. You need to use it carefully and in the correct amount.
What is household bleach?
Household bleach has the same chemical formulas as regular chlorine, but it is an inorganic compound.
Household bleach combines hydrogen and sodium with oxygen to create a byproduct called hypochlorous acid (HOCl). This happens naturally when water breaks down into its essential elements in chemistry-speak.
The hypochlorous acid produced forms during the processing of military or industrial bleaches where low-cost acetate is added as a catalyst.
This product can also be made from natural brine, water that has been drawn through sodium hydroxide (sodium carbonate) and activated with an acid such as sulfuric acid or acetic acid.
While the HOCl in bleach does have some antimicrobial properties, it loses potency after about two weeks if it isn’t renewed with fresh hydrogen peroxide (HO).
The US Environmental Protection Agency set the suggested usage rate at ten gallons (40 liters) per 25,000 square feet of swimming pool area for non-acid hard surface pools.
This is about 1/4 ounce or a tablespoonful an hour over twenty-four hours and can be gradually increased to 80 ounces or 2 tablespoons every half hour. This depends on how often you open your eyes, bathroom breaks, and such.
Types of household bleach
There are two types of household bleach: regular chlorine bleach and oxidizer bleach. Regular chlorine bleach comprises hydrogen gas and sodium chloride. Oxidizer bleach on the other hand is made up of oxygen gas and sodium chloride.
The difference between the two types is that regular chlorine bleach reacts with water to create hypochlorous acid (HOCl).
In contrast, oxidizer bleaches react with organic matter such as bacteria, fungus, or algae to develop free radicals or chloramines.
Both types of bleach react with free oxygen to produce the toxic formaldehyde and malodor gases. They often cause a burnt plastic smell on contact or after a short time in the air.
Advantages of household bleach
Regular household bleach is more effective at killing germs than other kinds of chlorine. It is also faster acting, which means it will kill growing bacteria in the pool before they have a chance to make their way into your airway and lungs.
Regular household bleach can act quickly because it is chlorine, sodium chloride, and water mixture.
Bacteria are more likely to be killed by the slower-acting hypochlorous acid. They have less time to react before they become damaged cells or even die outright than bacteria that live in stagnant pools where levels of oxygen drop below 16 ppb.
Can you put household bleach in a pool?
You can only bleach a pool with an automatic chlorine generator. Using bleach to sanitize your swimming pool is not recommended.
It may cause damage, discoloration, and staining of the plaster or vinyl liner in your swimming pools.
If you use household-grade bleaches instead of chlorine tablets, you will need to check the strength of bleach by using a pool test kit or by testing your water for chlorine.
If discoloration, staining, or other damage is noticed after using bleach in your pool, have it professionally cleaned by an experienced and professional swimming pool contractor.
Because bleach can make your pool cloudy, if it cannot be removed, the pool or spa should be drained and cleaned.
If you have a professional cleaning company do your weekly maintenance service on your swimming pools, this is where they can use bleach as a part of their disinfecting process.
A proper chemical test must always be performed before using bleach or other chemicals. This is to ensure that the water is pure and safe for your family.
How does household bleach work in a pool?
For household bleach to work effectively in a pool, you need to measure the chlorine levels in your pool.
Then adjust what you are using based on that measurement.
Household bleach works effectively by combining with free oxygen, a process called oxidation. The mixture of sodium hypochlorite (bleach) and water is heated to 212 °F so the bleach gets oxidized.
Chlorine gas is released from the mixture and combines with oxygen, forming hypochlorous acid (HOCl).
It reacts rapidly in sunlight or as soon as it contacts any water source, such as a pool; however, HOCl can only be produced for about 30 seconds under normal conditions.
How to use household bleach safely in a pool?
It would be best if you never used too much bleach or left it in a pool when you are not there. To get the best results and make sure that your family is safe, follow these guidelines:
Use an approved chlorine test kit to measure how strong a dose (ppm) of household bleach will kill harmful bacteria in your pool.
To determine how much household bleach you need to use:
- Measure the chlorine level of your pool first.
- Please read the label on a bottle of household bleach and add 1/4 teaspoonful for each 50 ppb (1 ppm) that it says is needed to ensure that you are using the proper amount.
- If you need to use the entire bottle, be sure that no one is around when adding it.
Household bleach can sanitize a pool if the chlorine level is low. Be sure that you don’t have people around when adding the bleach, and test the water for chlorine before using it.
If damage occurs after using household bleach in a pool, have it professionally cleaned by an experienced and professional swimming pool contractor!