Saturday, September 21, 2013

Can I Use Clorox Bleach in my Pool?

Regular Unscented Bleach
I started doing pool service when I was 16 years old back in 1988. I took a break from the industry and did some Real Estate Investing and ran a small business for awhile. But I always loved working outdoors and so I decided to do pool service again. So I have about 15 years of practical experience in the field. My specialty has always been water chemistry as I was formally trained by an experts in the field. So I am well versed in most of the chemicals that are on the market today and I have used and tested a lot of different products. So when you hear those in the industry discourage and even slander anyone who uses bleach in their pool, you may think that it is not a product that you should use. In fact as you read this article you will find that using bleach and only bleach is a safe and smart choice. There is a lot of ignorance surrounding household bleach and the use of bleach in a swimming pool. Here is a video I made that goes in more detail on using Clorox bleach in your swimming pool:


Typical Pool Chemicals
If you walk into your local pool store you will get a whiff of the beautiful smell of pool chemicals. I am not sure how the employees can work in these stores without wearing a mask. Technically most of the chemicals on the shelves are meant to be stored outside and not in a 1,000 sq ft enclosed display area. I park my service truck outside because the chemical smell is so bad, plus everything in my garage would rust as a lot of the chemicals are strong oxidizers. But I digress here. My main point is that you will see a lot of chemicals. If you stand back and think about it for a minute and look at things logically - as Spock would say, "It doesn't seem logical Captain that a 15,000 gallon body of water circulating and filtering would require such massive amounts of chemicals. Logic dictates that this is some mass Romulan conspiracy."  Well maybe not exactly but you get the point. Do you really need all those chemicals? The answer is NO in most cases. There may be specific cases where you will need a Phosephate remover or a Metal Sequestering Agent but for 95% of pools you don't need anything but Chlorine, Acid and pH Down (occasionally you will need Alkalinity Up & an Algeacide).


So let me touch on why there are so many different types of sanitizers on the market and if they are actually necessary. You need to add a sanitizer to your pool in order to kill bacteria and disease causing organisms. The most popular type of sanitizer is chlorine.

 Strictly speaking to the homeowner who does their own pool you will only need to use bleach or liquid chlorine. All the other chemicals where at one time created for the pool service professional but now are marketed also to the homeowners. The advent of Conditioner in 1956  revolutionized the swimming pool industry. Before that time you had to add liquid chlorine once or twice a day as in the peak of Summer as the Sun would destroy 90% of it within two hours. Now that most pools use conditioner to help protect the chlorine from the Sun's UV rays, maintaining a good chlorine level is much easier.

For the pool service industry it allowed us to go from daily service to weekly service thus increasing the amount of pools one company could service tenfold. So since we no longer needed to go everyday to a pool chemicals where created to help maintain a good chlorine level all week long. The two most popular and widely used are now Trichlor 3" Tablets and Dichlor. Both of these are about 50% Stabilizer (conditioner/cyunaric acid)  and the rest a chlorine product.  Cal-Hypo and Lithium Hypochlorite are marketed mainly as a pool shock product. I use a combination of Liquid Chlorine, Dichlor, Trichlor Tablets and Cal-Hypo on my pool route for various reasons, chiefly because it is convenient for me since I only go to each pool once a week.

For the homeowner who is at his/her house all week you don't need all of these chemicals. With a Conditioner level of 30 ppm-50 ppm using bleach or liquid chlorine is all you need. I know this sounds like I am talking out of both sides of my mouth but let me explain further.

Here is a video on testing your Conditioner Level:


Sodium Hypochlorite Formula
The chemical in bleach is the same chemical found in liquid chlorine sold by you local pool store or hardware store. Bleach is just weaker by volume than liquid chlorine. Typically liquid chlorine is 10-12% Sodium Hypochlorite where bleach is about 5-6%  Sodium Hypochlorite. Adding Sodium Hypochlorite to the pool water makes HOCI which is the disease and organism destroying element in chlorine. HOCI is the disease killing chemical that is EPA approved and the one that has proven to be the most effective. It kills everything on contact and will completely sanitize your pool if added and circulated though your filter within hours. So in fact bleach is the same as liquid chlorine only weaker. So if you go into a pool store and the sales clerk tells you that using bleach will stain your plaster yellow over time or cause ammonia to form in your water and make it cloudy just shake your head and walk out. Ignorance is bliss as they say. So to clarify:  bleach is liquid chlorine and both produce HOCI.


So those who say that you can't use bleach only with the proper conditioner level will have a hard time arguing their case against the growing use of salt water systems. Basically what a salt system does is produce the equivalent of one gallon of 10% liquid chlorine each day and in the process creates HOCI which kills all the bacteria and disease causing organisms in the water. It is like adding bleach to your pool each day without you having to actually add anything as the salt system generates chlorine. If you have a salt water pool you will not need Trichlor tablets, Dichlor, Cal-Hypo or Lithium Hypochlorite. The salt generating systems are killing the chemical companies and I really like them because you won't need to handle any chemicals on a weekly basis. So I will argue that if you think you can't keep a pool sparkling blue with bleach, then the salt generating systems are also not effective. This of course is far from the truth.

To learn how a Salt Water System works watch this video:


A boat load of Trichlor Tablets...
Just about everything we use in the pool industry is a carcinogen or causes lung disease with long term improper exposure. From the test kits to the D.E. filter element to Trichlor Tablets - all are harmful with long term exposure. I go back to the beginning of this article where I mention the chemical smell in any pool store you enter. That smell should tell you something as it emanates from sealed containers. I take precautions like always wearing a nitrate laced glove whenever I touch any chemical product (including my test kit). I also wear a mask when applying chemicals to the pool. Most of the danger is not disclosed since it is classified as an industrial hazard.  Meaning long term exposure only effects those in the pool industry who handle the chemicals on a daily basis. Still, a carcinogen is a carcinogen.   You will find a warning about lung disease on the back of the bag of Dichotomous Earth (D.E.) in super small print and you will see a warning on the bag of Cal-Hypo warning you not to breathe the fumes as it causes nose and lung irritation. Bottom line, pool chemicals are dangerous.

Bleach on the other hand is odorless and perfectly safe to pour in your swimming pool. I wear gloves anyway when I add liquid chlorine since I am overly cautious anyway. Bleach is the safest sanitizer for the homeowner and if you don't want to handle dangerous chemicals in your backyard just use bleach or invest in a salt water system.


I now realize that the industry that I am in is very hazardous to my health. I was careless in my younger years and didn't wear gloves or really take things seriously. It wasn't until my hands started to develop chemical sores and burns that I realized that everything I was handling was killing me. I also started to develop chemically induced allergy symptoms. So I am now overly cautious and starting next Summer I will only be working part-time out in the field. I had a plan and it was spawned due to the chemical hazards that I experienced.

I have been actively working the Dave Ramsey Financial Plan over the last seven years with my wife and will be completely debt free with three paid for houses. I didn't take vacations, buy a new car or have much of a life in the process. But the end result is that since I have been working like a madman I can semi-retire next year and live off of our investments. So no worries here for me. But I am way off subject now. So to restate the main point of this article:

You can and should use bleach if you are a homeowner who is maintaining their own swimming pool. I hope that clarifies things for you. And if you want to watch my "Getting Out Of Debt Rant" here is that video:

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Do I Need a Pool Service or Can I Take Care of My Own Pool?

Huntington Pools & Spas Showcase House Pool 2008

There are Pros and Cons for both options. Since I service pools for a living I am a little biased but I will start by taking the opposite position first and you can weigh the decision of doing it yourself. There are some benefits of doing your own pool.

If you have been to my YouTube Channel: mrdgvb1 you will find lots of Do-It-Yourself videos that I have created. One of the videos is on "Getting Out of Debt" which is one of my passions for people. Here is that video:

 I hate Debt as it destroys marriages, keeps you from becoming wealthy and makes only one person rich - the banks that hold all the notes. Debt steals your freedom and makes you a pseudo employee of the Bank. So I am for saving money when it comes to doing your own pool. And if you don't hire a pool service you can save $800-$1,000 a year. That is a lot of money that you can put towards paying off your credit cards, student loans and car payments. You can also reinvest a portion of that savings and purchase a good automatic pool cleaner and maybe new pool equipment to keep your pool looking great. Pool Service is a luxury item and if your budget is already tight and in the red, then hiring someone to do your pool is a bad idea.

A typical green pool that I clean-up
If you service your own pool and don't do it right your pool can end up looking like this. There are a few things you need if you plan on servicing your own pool -time, chemistry knowledge and functioning pool equipment. If any three are missing you pool will turn on you.

You need time to properly check and balance your pool. If you work 60 hours a week or have commitments out of work that you do each week and hardly step in your backyard then you don't have the time to do your own pool. You will also need time to clean your filter and make sure everything is running correctly. And you will need time to fix any problems with the pool right away.

Taylor K-2005 Test Kit
You will also need to know the basics of how to check and balance your pool properly to keep it sparking blue. There are just four basic things you will need; chlorine, some Conditioner to protect your chlorine from the Sun, pH Up and a base to raise the pH if it gets too low. I recommend a good test like this Taylor K-2005. It will test your Chlorine, pH, alkalinity, Calcium Hardness and Conditioner level. A good test kit is a must have if you want to keep your pool from turning green on you.

Good pool equipment
 If your pool equipment is old and not functioning properly you will have a battle on your hands to keep your pool looking blue. It is essential that your pump and filter be in top shape if you plan on doing your own pool. I suggest replacing your pump or filter right away if they are not working correctly. It will save you a lot of money on pool chemicals as you battle algae and a green pool. It is just must easier to bite the bullet and put in new equipment then to try and keep the old stuff running. Your pool will be much easier to maintain with good equipment. And make sure you put the correct size filter on your pool otherwise you will have water clarity issues. Half the battle in maintaining your pool is the equipment.

Solar Breeze
The last thing I would suggest is to invest a few hundred dollars in a good automatic pool cleaner. This will save you time in cleaning your pool each week and will keep the pool clean all week long. There are a lot of options on the market today and I have extensive reviews of automatic pool cleaners on my YouTube Channel. It is a large upfront investment but a good cleaner will save you hours each month and you will be glad you invested in one.

These are  some things to keep in mind if you want to do your pool yourself. It can be done if you have all these elements in place. If you feel more comfortable hiring someone here are some suggestions.

B.M. Wemple Pool Service Central Florida

If you find that you are not up to the challenge of servicing your own pool then hiring a pool service is a good option. But like anything you need to do proper research to find a good qualified pool service company. Here are some tips for you so you won't get burned by a flaky company or inexperienced pool guy.

The best place to get a good pool service is a referral from a friend or neighbor who already is using a pool service company. Just searching the internet or the phone book (does anyone still use one?) can be a bad choice. There are a lot of good qualified pool service companies but also a lot of shady ones. Make sure the company at least has a business license in your city or neighboring city. If they have a contractors license even better. The thing to really look for is if they carry Liability Insurance. This is a sure sign that they are legitimate and won't simply just disappear on you. I carry a total of $4 million dollars of Liability Insurance and it cost me over $1,450 a year for my policy. If you are interviewing pool guys and they don't carry Liability Insurance I would pass on them. Not that anything is likely to happen with your pool but it is just a reassuring thing if the person doing your pool is committed enough to carry the proper insurance just in case the unthinkable does happen.  They should also be able to provide you with some names and numbers of customers whom they service currently. Basically you are venting this person thoroughly so you won't have any issues. I unfortunately get lots of calls from people with green pools who already have a weekly pool service. That is basically like hiring a housekeeper who leaves the house messy and dusty each week. Not good.

There are benefits to hiring a large service company verses a sole proprietor and drawbacks to both. A large service company usually will charge more but they will have a dedicated repair service and billing department so you will more than likely get a higher quality of customer service. The problem is that the pool guy that is back there one year may be a different guy the next. There is no guarantee that the pool guy they send out will stick long term.

The individual pool guy is a good choice since you will get to know him better and he will be the same guy you see year in and year out. They may not be very speedy with repairs and problems as with a larger company. But the regular pool guy, if he is good, is someone whom you will trust. Customers leave their back doors open for me so I can get in their house when they are not home to adjust their automated control panels for them. I take the trash cans in for some of my customers and even help them when their cars won't start. All part of the job ;)
Huntington Pools & Spas Pasadena Showcase Pool 2005


I would hope that you can take care of your own pool or at least give it a try before hiring a pool service company. It can be frustrating at times and you may be wondering why you even have a swimming pool. But it can be done. If you find that you can't handle it then hire a qualified pool service.
We would be more than happy to take care of your pool for you. After all that is how we make our living. Someone has to do it ;)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Where Can I Buy My Swimming Pool Supplies?

I get this question a lot on my YouTube Channel and since I don't sell any products myself people tend to trust my unbiased opinion. If you are an "Old School" type buyer then you will get your supplies from a brick and mortar store. I will cover the online stores also.


Malins Pool Supply Chino, Ca
This is your best retail choice in most circumstances. You local pool supply store will stock and carry a wider variety of pool products than the large corporate pool stores. In most cases they also run a pool service company out of the store so the staff will have practical hands on experience. The owner usually is a pool man with several years of experience. They will also be honest about the products they sell since there isn't a huge incentive for pushing one product over another. So if you are looking for a good automatic cleaner, they will sell you the one that they think is best and not the one with the largest mark-up. They also usually don't try to up-sell you products you don't need. They want your return business and they also want you to call them if you run into a problem that is too big for you to do on your own. So they are usually customer service centered, plus they live in your neighborhood.

Leslie's Pool Supplies
In my area the largest corporate pool store is Leslie's pool supply. One thing you will notice is that their prices usually will beat your local Mom & Pop Pool Store. They can buy 10,000 Kreepy Krauly cleaners and thus keep their mark-up low. So as a price point you will do well here. They also make their own chemicals which are top notch and comparable to other major brands. The drawbacks are that most of the staff are trained in a board room and have little or no hands on pool service experience. They only know what they learn from the managers who also might not have any real service experience. So the knowledge base is on the low side. They are basically a retail store. They also try to up-sell you products that you probably don't need. Again, think retail. The managers make a commission on total store sales so if you go in looking for a basic automatic cleaner for $300, don't be surprised if they try to push you to buy a $1,200 robot cleaner. Leslie's pool serves it's purpose in the market - they are a retail pool supply store. You also can't get liquid chlorine at these stores which is a preferred sanitizer over the bags of shock.

Pinch-A-Penny is found back on the East Coast and are not in the Western area of the country. They are similar to Leslie's pools in that they have over 200 locations, but they are a franchised pool store so there is a good chance the owner of the store has some real practical pool service experience. They also boast that their staff is the highest trained in the industry. The prices in the store are very good and you can get a large variety of products. I still lean towards the smaller Mom & Pop type pool stores but you will do okay if you have to shop in these larger company type stores. Both Leslie's and Pinch-A-Penny have extensive websites so if you don't have one near you, you can still order products online.

Home Depot
This would be my last choice for you if you are shopping for pool supplies. The selection is usually limited to one brand. I know Walmart uses just Kem-Tek which is not a bad brand but you are limited to no choices basically. Finding someone with even limited knowledge of a product will be a problem. You will just have to stand there and read the package for yourself. You can also not get any equipment or automatic cleaners from these stores. They carry just the basic pool supplies and you will probably have to go to one of the above mentioned places anyway, so just forgo these stores. Plus, the chemicals &  stock is usually not very fresh which matters when buying your pool chemicals.


Many pool products are now AmazonPrime items so they are very safe to purchase and return if you don't like the product.. It is a great source for pool supplies and I have ordered from them. I like their generic pool cleaner parts from China as they work great and are super cheap.  I personally love and last year I spent over $2,700 buying stuff (my wife is shaking her head). I am also in the Top 500 of reviewers on I just caution you that if you are unsure and don't know exactly what you need it is better to go to your local pool store. is a great choice if the price point is your only concern.

This is also a great choice for online shopping. Pool Supply World also has an extensive YouTube Library of the products they sell and go beyond just making a sale. They try to educate the consumer so that you will make the best possible purchase. They also allow you to post reviews of a product which is a great way to also make sure you are getting a good quality product. You can see their YouTube Videos here: They are almost as good as my YouTube videos ;).
I like these two suppliers because they are again not just trying to unload products on you but try to help you make the best purchase for your dollar. They know that pool supplies are expensive to begin with and don't want you wasting your money on something that wouldn't suit your pool needs.

So these are your buying options for the Do-it-Yourself type. Again I don't sell any products myself so I am offering you an unbiased guide here. Hope you found this helpful.


Sunday, September 1, 2013

What is the Best Type of Automatic Cleaner for Your Pool - Pressure, Suction or Robot?

Zodiac MX8
Choosing the right automatic cleaner for your pool can be challenging and picking the wrong one in the same respects can be frustrating and disappointing. The majority of pools will do fine with a traditional suction side cleaner with few exceptions. That is why  suction side cleaners are the most popular and for good reason. Most of the newer pools will come with a side port connection - a pre-plumbed suction line near the middle of the pool where you can connect a suction side cleaner. You can also use a suction cleaner directly in the skimmer which many people do. If working correctly it will leave the pool bottom spotless. The drawbacks of a suction cleaner are that the skimming of the surface is not as great as suction is being diverted to the cleaner, it doesn't look very nice with hoses in the pool and large debris can clog it up and stop it. But for the most part a suction cleaner would be most peoples 1st choice for their  pool.

Polaris 280
Next up would be a pressure side cleaner. Their are two types, one that is plumbed into your pool with a booster pump and a dedicated return line. The other type of pressure cleaner will use your existing return line plumbing. The pressure side cleaner hooked up to a  booster pump is probably the best type of pool cleaner you can get. It will pick up large debris and also leave your skimmer at full power to effectively clean the surface while the cleaner takes care of the bottom. But you will need to have this type of pressure cleaner plumbed in when the pool is constructed or remodeled. A pretty major drawback. The second type of Pressure Cleaner will use the pool's existing threaded return lines. It will work pretty good except with the return jets restricted and one being used for the cleaner, the surface is not skimmed very well. But it is a good choice if you have lots of large debris that falls in the pool and settles on the bottom.

Dolphin Diagnostic 

Solar Breeze Robotic Surface cleaner
The last type of automatic cleaner to hit the market over the last few years is the robotic type of automatic pool cleaner. They basically work like your house vacuum. You would plug it in and drop it in your pool. A motor propels it across the bottom and it captures dirt and debris in a mesh bag. Most will work for a three hour period and then turn off. You basically will have to turn it on each time you want to clean your pool. The traditional robot cleaners are pretty expensive, 2 or 3 times the cost of a suction type cleaner. They are also very heavy to remove from your pool and may not clean as well as a suction and pressure side cleaner. But people like the convenience of them and it does allow the skimmer to work at full strength which helps keep the surface clean. A less traditional robot cleaner is making gains in the market and that one is the Solar Breeze. It has a motor but it is powered by Solar Panels on the top. The Solar Breeze will run all day long and into the night skimming the surface of your pool.  It is an intriguing and innovative use of the robot cleaner technology. It also has no hoses or cords which makes it a very unique cleaner.

So which cleaner is right for you? It really depends on the type of debris, how large your pool is and a personal preference. That question is more easily answered  on a one to one basis so you can consult your local pool service company, pool store or post your pool information hear and I will be happy to suggest one for you. I service over 100 pools a week at over 70 of them have an automatic cleaner of some type in them.

See also my post on the Top Ten Automatic Cleaners of 2013