There are five main categories of pool chemicals

Do not believe everything you hear or read about pool chemicals. This is especially true if what you’re hearing or reading sounds too good to be true. A lot of information about pool chemicals is not intended to inform you as a pool owner. Rather, it is intended to solicit you as a consumer. In other words, the information is not really information. It is sales scripting to sell more chemicals.

We will help you with your pool chemicals.

Water Chemistry

Maintaining optimal water chemistry is never as easy as adding “a pound of this” or “a quart of this” or “a scoop of that” periodically. The reality is that maintaining optimal water chemistry will take time and effort on a consistent basis. But with regular chemical testing, correct chemical adjustments, and adhering to a fairly simple and straightforward maintenance schedule, it really is minimal time and effort. It will be even easier – so much easier – with proper sizing of your equipment and plumbing.

While there have been some advances in pool water chemistry, the basics have remained constant. There is not one single “miracle chemical” that will provide you with optimal water chemistry and total water clarity. But, as long as you are able to understand the basics of water chemistry and pool chemicals and then be able to apply these basics to our climate and source water as well as your personalized use of your pool, then you will be able maintain optimal water chemistry and clear blue water.

The only way to maintain optimal water chemistry for your pool is to continually make sure that  your required chemical levels are within their ideal ranges.

While discussions about water chemistry and pool chemicals can be fairly complex subjects, they can be simplified…somewhat.

It will be easier for you to understand pool chemicals if you put them in 5 categories:

  1. Sanitizer.
  2. Oxidizer.
  3. Balancer.
  4. Maintenance.
  5. Treatment.

While these 5 categories are not technically endorsed as “the 5 chemical categories” by the swimming pool industry, the strategy works if you place the chemicals in these 5 categories.

Let’s explore each category.


​A sanitizer will destroy and remove bacteria, pathogens, organisms, algae spores, dirt, debris, particles, and other contaminates from pool water as well as at least somewhat oxidize organic matter in the pool water so that the end result is clean, clear, and safe water. You will have a choice of sanitizers. You will only use one sanitizer from this list:

  • chlorine – there are two types of chlorine:
    • chlorine tablets.
    • granular chlorine.
  • salt (which is converted into chlorine):
    • this is a saltwater pool.
    • this requires a salt generator.
  • mineral-chlorination:
    • paired with just trace amounts of chlorine.
    • this requires a mineralizer.
  • ​UV-chlorination:
    • paired with just trace amounts of chlorine.
    • this requires a UV sterilizer.
  • bromine:
    • available in tablets only.
    • contains some chlorine as an active ingredient.
  • biguanides:
    • the only 100% alternative to chlorine.
    • not compatible with some traditional chemicals.

When your chosen sanitizer is maintained at even its lowest acceptable value (contingent that your water is also balanced), then any bacteria, pathogens, organisms, algae spores, dirt, debris, particles, and other contaminates that try to invade your pool water will be eliminated almost instantaneously.


An oxidizer will remove organic matter (such as ammonia, nitrogen, and other organic compounds) from the pool water that the sanitizer could not remove alone. Once the sanitizer is engaged with such organic matter, it will become occupied with this organic matter to the point that its sanitizing potential will be severely lessened, if not completely diminished. The only way to again free the sanitizer from this organic matter is to oxidize the water.

The only way to fully oxidize the water is by shocking the pool. Shock is an oxidizer. This is why shocking the pool is so important.

In its simplest terms, an oxidizer will revive your chosen sanitizer. So when you shock the pool, you are revising your chosen sanitizer.

Shocking the pool is required regardless of the sanitizer you use.


The term “balance” or the phrase “water balance” as they pertain to a swimming pool refer specifically to the pH, Alkalinity, and Hardness level of the water all being within their respective ideal ranges. When the pH, Alkalinity, and Hardness levels are all three within their ideal ranges, then the water is said to be balanced.

The chemicals that are used to adjust the pH, Alkalinity, and Hardness levels of the water are collectively known as water balancers (or water balancing chemicals).


While every pool needs to be sanitized, oxidized (by shocking the pool), and balanced, the use of some maintenance chemicals is also recommended. These chemicals will help prevent potential water clarity issues and problems. I know…another cost. Seemingly, yes. But these maintenance chemicals will save you money. You will use less sanitizer and oxidizer. And you will have less wear-and-tear on your filter. Additionally, it is always much easier, much less time-consuming, and much less expensive to prevent potential water clarity problems than it is to treat actual water clarity problems. Therefore, the use of maintenance chemicals should also be used as part of your maintenance schedule.

The common maintenance (preventative) chemicals include:

  • Phosphate Remover – will reduce the amount of phosphates in the water to help prevent algae.
  • Algistat – a derivative of an Algaecide that will also help prevent algae.
  • Sequesterant – will help prevent discolored water and perhaps stains or scale formation.
  • Clarifier – will help prevent cloudy water.
  • Enzyme – will help prevent a build-up at the surface (waterline) of the pool.

Contrary to popular belief – for whatever reason – the maintenance chemicals are not just another way for a pool company to get your money. They have a job. And they do that job very well. And you just need to add a little bit each week.


Even with proper sanitizing, proper oxidizing (shocking), proper water balance, and the proper use of certain maintenance chemicals, at times, water clarity will suffer. Some examples include the outbreak of algae, cloudy water, discolored water, stains, scale formation, or a build-up at the surface (waterline) of the pool. Even the most tenured pool owners have encountered – and will continue to encounter – these and perhaps other water clarity problems. For this reason, various treatment chemicals are also available to help treat actual water clarity problems. These treatment chemicals will help restore water clarity. It is important to remember, though, that the various treatment chemicals do rely on an ideal sanitizer level and ideal water balance of the pH, Alkalinity, Hardness levels. Some even rely on additional and increased shocking.

You can do everything right, yet still experience water clarity issues and problems. But, if you are doing everything right, then this should be the exception rather than the norm. If it does occur, treatment chemicals will help restore water clarity.

You might not have to use any of the treatment chemicals all pool season. But you might need them. They’re available if needed.

Understanding the pool chemicals

If you place the pool chemicals in these 5 categories, then it may make it easier for you to understand the various pool chemicals. You will know what the chemical does. You will know how to test the chemical (if applicable). And you will know which chemicals to add, when they need to be added, how they need to be added, how much needs to be added (based on the gallons of water in your pool) and any other information about each of the various pool chemicals.

We hope this helps.

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Pool Chemicals

Being a contractor, we operate from a shop, not a store. While we do not sell chemicals, please let us know if you have questions about them. We’re happy to help.

And if you need pool work, let us know how we can help. If we are working on your pool and you need some chemicals, we’ll bring them to you at our wholesale cost. It’s just another benefit of doing business with us.

Call us at 402-341-8132 or send us an email to or submit a short form to discuss your pool and schedule free onsite consultation.