What is Free Chlorine, Combined Chlorine, and Total Chlorine?
May 01, 2021
Maintaining a clean and safe swimming pool requires more than just regular skimming and scrubbing. Proper pool sanitation is crucial to prevent the spread of waterborne illnesses and to keep swimmers healthy. Chlorine is the most commonly used disinfectant for swimming pools, but it’s important to understand the different forms of chlorine and how to maintain their levels.
Free chlorine is the chlorine that is readily available to kill bacteria, viruses, and other harmful organisms in the water. It is the most effective form of chlorine in maintaining pool sanitation. When free chlorine levels are too low, the water becomes a breeding ground for harmful pathogens. However, high levels of free chlorine can cause skin and eye irritation and even damage pool equipment.
When free chlorine combines with contaminants in the water such as sweat, urine, and feces, it creates combined chlorine. Combined chlorine is also known as chloramines and has a strong odor and causes eye and skin irritation. It is ineffective in killing harmful bacteria and other pathogens. Combined chlorine must be oxidized to break it down and safely remove chloramines from the water. This process is known as shocking the pool.
Total chlorine is the sum of free and combined chlorine levels in the pool. It is important to monitor total chlorine levels to ensure that free chlorine levels are not too low and combined chlorine levels are not too high. Total chlorine levels should be maintained within the range of 1-4 parts per million (ppm).
How Does Chlorine Work in a Pool?
Chlorine works by releasing hypochlorous acid (HOCl) and hypochlorite ions (OCl-) into the water. Hypochlorous acid is the most effective form of chlorine in killing bacteria and other harmful organisms. When HOCl combines with contaminants in the water, it creates chloramines or combined chlorine. To maintain proper pool sanitation, the level of HOCl must be greater than the level of contaminants in the water.
Proper pool maintenance and sanitation require regular testing of chlorine levels and adjusting them as needed. Chlorine levels should be tested at least twice a week during the swimming season and more frequently during periods of heavy use or hot weather. Chlorine should be added to the pool slowly and incrementally to avoid overchlorination.
Why Should Pool Owners Care About Chlorine Levels?
Pool owners should care about chlorine levels because chlorine is the most common and effective disinfectant used to kill bacteria, viruses, and other harmful microorganisms in the pool. These microorganisms can cause a range of illnesses and infections, including diarrhea, swimmer’s ear, skin rashes, and respiratory infections. By maintaining proper chlorine levels, pool owners can help prevent the spread of these waterborne illnesses and keep their swimmers healthy.
In addition to maintaining pool sanitation, proper chlorine levels also help protect the pool itself. High levels of chlorine can cause corrosion and damage to pool equipment, while low levels can lead to algae growth, staining, and other water quality issues. Regular testing and adjustment of chlorine levels can help prevent these problems and extend the life of the pool and its equipment.
Finally, pool owners have a responsibility to ensure that their pool is safe and healthy for swimmers. Proper pool maintenance and sanitation, including maintaining appropriate chlorine levels, is essential to fulfilling this responsibility and providing an enjoyable and safe swimming experience for everyone who uses the pool.
Where to Get More Help
Demonstrably, maintaining proper levels of free chlorine, combined chlorine, and total chlorine is essential for pool sanitation and the health of swimmers. Understanding the different forms of chlorine and how chlorine works chemically within a pool will help pool owners and operators maintain a clean and safe swimming environment. And don’t forget, there is no substitute for professional pool maintenance, especially when it comes to chemicals. Contact Island Leisure for a no obligation chat about how we can help today.