/ by /   Pool Ownership, Water Quality / 0 comments

How Phosphates Affect Pool Water

Safe pool water begins with good chemistry. That’s why we want to introduce you to phosphates – a type of mineral salt that affects your pool water quality. Because it’s a food source for algae, it can create a number of problems in your pool. See why you should pay attention to phosphate levels in your water. You can also watch our Splashy Segment Understanding Phosphates.

The Power of Phosphates

Just like many chemical compounds, phosphates can be either helpful or harmful. Inside our bodies, they combine with calcium to help strength our bones and teeth. We eat certain foods that contain phosphorous, which converts into phosphate when it combines with oxygen. You can even find phosphoric acid in soft drinks like Coca-Cola and Pepsi!

Phosphates also naturally occur in plant matter, which is why they so easily find their way into your pool. They can even be found in rainwater. If you live in a rural area, they’re often used as a farm fertilizer.

But there’s a problem when phosphates hang out in your pool. Phosphates are considered a limiting nutrient because they cause eutrophication. Eutrop-i-what? It’s when water becomes clogged with minerals and plants that choke out animal life. A pond full of algae with no fish is a classic example.

This same issue can occur in your pool too. Thankfully phosphates aren’t dangerous to humans, but algae absolutely loves to eat them. And when algae has an abundant food source, it will bloom quickly.

Algae + Phosphates = Trouble

What happens when algae goes crazy? It burns through your chlorine, for starters. The less chlorine you have, the less protection your water has. This is a special concern for salt pool owners because phosphates cling to salt cells. When that happens, it essentially shuts down your chlorine generator.

Algae will also gunk up your filters, cling to pool surfaces, create murky water, and slow down your pump circulation. Plus this little plant is home to microorganisms that can be toxic to humans and pets – it’s not anything you accidentally want to swallow.

The tricky part with phosphates is that you can’t prevent them from landing in your water. Even if you consistently cover your pool, phosphates have an unsuspecting accomplice – humans. You can thank your sunscreen and makeup for introducing phosphates into your pool water. Even the water you use to fill your pool might have phosphates in it as many cities use this element to protect pipes from corrosion.

The good news is that staying on top of phosphates is similar to algae protection. A strong combination of manual cleaning, testing, and a phosphate remover will go a long way.

  • Clean clean clean – Stay on top of scrubbing, skimming, and vacuuming. Routinely spray off your filters as well.
  • Use your pool cover – This will help deflect phosphate sources from rainwater and plant debris. Pay attention to weather forecasts as well. Better yet, get into the habit of covering your pool whenever it’s not in use. Don’t have one yet? Read our post on all the reasons why a pool cover is essential.
  • Add a phosphate remover – These formulas are based on the gallonage of your pool. We carry multiple brands for both traditional chlorine and salt systems.

Keep in mind that regular test strips don’t react to phosphates. We carry phosphate-specific strips, though they aren’t a quick-dip type. Your best peace of mind is to drop off a water sample and we’ll test it for free.

If you need a water quality refresher, read our posts on algae, maximizing chlorine, and balancing after a pool party.