How to soften pool water

Do you live in an area with hard water? Maybe the water you get from your local water supplier is hard, or perhaps you source your water from a well on your property.

Either way, if you’re dealing with hard water, you know that it can be a bother for you, your appliances, and your pool.

In this article, we’ll discuss living with water hardness in pools – what it can mean, how to measure it, and what to do about it.

What Is Hard Water?

Water can be categorized as hard or soft water. Hard water is simply water with high mineral content. When rain or groundwater comes into contact with limestone, chalk, or gypsum, it picks up calcium and magnesium, giving it a higher mineral content than otherwise.

Not surprisingly, hard water is especially common in places that source their water supply from groundwater. If you get your water from a well, chances are good that you have at least slightly hard water, requiring a well water softener system.

In the U.S., hard water is particularly common across the Southwest and Midwest regions, although it is not limited to those areas.

Although in most cases hard water is perfectly healthy to drink, it can have a variety of negative effects on you, like drying out your hair and skin, and your appliances and leaving limescale buildup in your hot water tank.

In pools, hard water is sometimes referred to as calcium hardness.

Effects of Hard Water In Pools

Man cleaning the tiled floor of swimming-pool

So what does hard water mean for your pool? Similar to other appliances, hard water can lead to limescale build up around your pool and in its filtration system. Not only does the scale build-up look bad, it can also damage pool components and equipment if it’s not dealt with promptly.

More specifically, limescale build-up in piping can lead to a low flow of water coming out of the filtration system, as well as a clogged up filter. The excess minerals can also cake on to other equipment like heating coils.

Hard water can also appear cloudy, altering the color of the water in the pool. This can make your pool look dirty and less appealing.

Moreover, hard water in your pool can cause irritation and drying of your hair and skin, if you’re going for frequent dips.

Measuring Water Hardness In Pools

Before you go about softening your pool water, it’s important to get a precise measure of the hardness of the water in your pool.

The ideal range of hardness depends on the type of pool you have. If you have a fiberglass or vinyl liner on your pool, then you should keep a lower water hardness level, usually around 175-225 parts per million (ppm). If you have a concrete or plaster pool, ideal hardness levels are in the 200-275 ppm range.

The easiest way to measure the water hardness in your pool is to invest in a hardness test kit, which comes with individual strips that you can easily dip in your pool to get a weekly reading.

Simply dip the end of a test strip in the pool water for a few seconds until it changes color. Then pull out the test strip and compare the new color on the end of the strip with the legend in your test kit. As a general rule, pool water that is harder than 300 ppm should be treated to make it softer.

Softening Pool Water

Once you’ve determined that your pool water needs to be softened, it’s time to take action.

The first option to make your pool water softer is to drain some water and add some new, fresh water. Start by turning off your pool. Then drain just a few inches of water from your pool with a pump.

If you have access to a fresh (not hard) water source, use that to replace the drained water. Otherwise, you can use the garden hose, assuming it is softer than the water in the pool.

Once the water levels are back to normal, turn the pool pump back on and let the water circulate for 8-12 hours before testing the hardness once again.

If replacing some water doesn’t work well, you can try using a chemical water softener.

Once you purchase a pool softener agent, fill a five-gallon bucket with water from your pool to about half its capacity (about half full). Then, add the chemical softener to the bucket according to the size of your pool and the instructions given by the manufacturer of the softener. Mix the water and softener solution, and pour the bucket back into the pool, and turn the pump back on.

Re-test the hardness level of your pool after about 24 hours to check if your pool is now in the appropriate range, or if it needs more softening.

Hard Water In Your Pool

Hopefully, we’ve not only provided you with some information about what can happen when hard water in pools goes untreated, but also given you some tools to fight back and overcome it, so that you can go back to doing what pools are all about – enjoying some swimming!