Many tell us balancing their pH, Total Alkalinity and hardness is the most difficult part of owning a pool or hot tub. No one wants to be a weekend chemist. The truth is, we humans are built with all the tools needed to determine if there’s something not quite right with our water.
Whether we realize it or not, our eyes, ears, nose, mouth and skin are constantly gathering data, and those natural-born senses are infinitely more sophisticated than man-made information-gathering implements. If we pay attention, we can use these skills to help suss out water chemistry issues.
That may sound overly simplistic, but one of the primary obstacles to achieving pristine water conditions is that it’s our nature to ignore what our senses are telling us. It happens in an infinite number of ways for different reasons: pushing aside your back pain to get your work done, averting your eyes when you drive by a neighbour’s house who never cleans the piles of trash on the lawn, tuning out traffic noise so you can sleep or learning to ignore unpleasant smells you routinely experience — like the chlorine smell of your pool or hot tub water.
As the cliché goes, the first step in fixing a problem is realizing you have one. As problem-solving tools, our senses point us in a direction that will make the use of test kits and other diagnostic methods more efficient and effective. With that in mind, let’s look at the sensory tool belts most of us walk around with from time we’re born.
This one is easy. If the water is not clear, if there is visible dirt and debris floating in the water or on the floor of the pool or hot tub, if there are dead bugs (or live ones in and around the water), these all are indications of various chemistry issues. The same is true for visible corrosion, staining, scale or rust on surfaces and components. Bottom line: don’t ignore what you see.
This is a little more tricky. Pool systems are, or at least should be made to run silently, so when you hear louder than usual mechanical noises coming from the equipment, it’s almost certainly time for a service call with a qualified technician. Some noise is normal so you need to become accustomed to the sounds of the system operating properly.
But there’s another level that is all about hearing what people say about their experience. Children are especially good at this. It pays to listen to what they tell you. Phrases like “It stinks,” “My eyes burn,” or “My skin itches,” are powerful indicators that you have too much “bad chlorine” called chloramines in the water. This is chlorine that has bound up with bacteria, body oils and other debris so it is ineffective and needs to be broken up and filtered out by adding a shock to the water.
This is the easiest to sense in that you can’t miss the familiar chloramine smell which is your first indicator that the water needs help. It could be coming from your source water that may be treated with monochloramine but most likely it means your sanitizing system isn’t keeping up with the demand placed on the water from people and debris.
Making sure you have a robust sanitizing system (like FROG) installed on the pool is one thing to look into. Or there could be other measures, such as paying more attention to kids showering prior to entering the water, encouraging bathroom breaks and keeping the pool covered when not in use.
Pool surfaces and components are created to be smooth and easy on the skin. If you find rough patches on the surface or abrasive edges on components like rails or ladders, something’s not right. Good chance the water is not balanced properly, and corrosion is occurring. If surfaces feel slimy that’s a clear sign of algae forming.
Touch certainly comes into play after you get out of the water, as well. Dry, rough or itchy skin, or red and burning eyes, should never be part of the aquatic experience.
When water is clean, properly sanitized and balanced, when it’s odorless and tasteless, when it’s a comfortable temperature and, most of all, when it looks beautiful, there are no distractions to one’s enjoyment.