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Chlorine vs. Chlorine Alternatives In Swimming Pools

Crystal clear blue water is what everyone wants to see in their pool. Maintaining its pristine quality is a routine that tackles bacteria, algae, and organic compounds while keeping pH levels and calcium in check. Between chemicals, mineral systems and more, there are plenty of ways to keep your pool water clean. Whether you’re adding chlorine to your swimming pool water or considering chlorine alternatives for pools, read our tips for further insight.

Using Chlorine

Used in just about every public pool and water park in America, Chlorine is the most popular pool chemical by far for a reason. When it comes to keeping pools clean, it’s the standard often used to measure all of its alternatives.

Chlorine in swimming pool water is a popular choice due to its moderate comparative cost, and because it effectively treats a variety of contaminants. Chlorine is a sanitizer that eliminates bacteria and other microorganisms. It’s an oxidizing chemical that breaks down ammonia and organic contaminants that could come from people or animals. Chlorine is also an algaecide, meaning it targets and inhibits the growth of algae and other flora.

However, chlorine does have its drawbacks. It’s known to irritate eyes, and creates that familiar, sometimes overpowering “pool smell” when reacting with ammonia and organic compounds. Its effectiveness also breaks down over time when exposed to the UV rays found in sunlight, so it’s necessary to constantly re-apply more to your pool as needed to maintain optimum levels of effectiveness.

Maintaining a level of free available chlorine in your swimming pool water of 2-4 ppm (parts per million) will treat most contaminants, but it may be necessary to apply a strong dose to shock the pool if the chemistry becomes too far out of balance or for some cases of algae growth.

Choosing a Saltwater Pool

Many people choose a salt water pool because of the desirable ocean-like properties of the water. The salt naturally inhibits certain bacteria, the water can feel softer, and swimmers are naturally more buoyant. Salt cells actually create chlorine by exposing salt to an electric charge.

Salt cells and associated parts are an expensive initial investment, but the salt is typically less expensive than other pool chemistry. These cells will require occasional cleaning, and replacement every 3-5 years.


Bromine is another great chlorine alternative for pools, usually used in hot tubs and spas due to stability at higher temperatures. Although it does not produce the same irritation and redness as chlorine, it is more susceptible to breaking down when exposed to UV rays from sunlight. It can be up to twice as expensive to operate a pool with bromine, so it is most commonly used if someone in the family is allergic to chlorine.

Ionizer Mineral Systems

As with ozone generators, Ionizers have a low capacity for contaminants and usually cannot keep a pool clean completely by themselves. They are becoming more popular, as they reduce the need for other chemicals and operate with low maintenance. A low voltage current feeds trace amounts of minerals like silver and copper into the water to control algae and bacteria. The minerals used can also become noticeable and may create harmless deposits on the skin and hair of swimmers.


Short for polyhexamethylene biguanide, PHMB is a powerful disinfectant against bacteria. It’s less irritating to the skin and eyes than chlorine, and is less damaging to vinyl pool surfaces. Using PHMB will require a separate algaecide and regular cleaning for your filter.

PHMB does not mix well with chlorine. If you’re switching your primary chemistry from one to another, you’ll need to completely drain your pool and wash your bathing suits.

Chlorine & Alternatives

Whether you choose chlorine for your swimming pool water or an alternative sanitizer, do your homework and consider what’ll be best for you and your family. Compare costs and think about long term maintenance. When you’ve done that, feel free to contact us!