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Thread: Poly 60, borax and algea

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    Default Poly 60, borax and algea

    I am in my 7th season of pool ownership. The first 5.5 I was a slave to the pool store. Last summer, I finally came around and saw the light. I now finally understand the relationship between CYA and Cl.

    My prior routine was to begin the season with A LOT (40 to 60 pounds) of "Optimizer" (Disodium Biborate Pentahydrate) at the beginning of the season. Regular Borax is Sodium Tetraborate decahydrate. The rationale for this was never really clear to me but the container says that it "works to suppress algea and increases sanitizer efficency" and "enhances water clarity." I must say that water was really crisp and sparkled.

    Then, add a little CYA. Use 3 to 4 tri-clor in the skimmers per week. One or two bags of LiHClO3 ($$) and the liquid algacide that they were selling that year. These have always been Bioguard products.

    I have never had any real water chemisty problems until last spring when I was told that there was something that was consuming my Cl because my Cl levels were always low. They did a "chlorine demand" test and had me add 40 bags of LiHClO3. Needless to say, that didn't end well. I didn't trust my insticts on that one, but prior they had served me well.

    Any way, I have no issues with most of the priciples being discussed here, except for three. These are probably my hang-ups, but please bear with me and feel free to offer your opinions.

    1. Should I continue to use a large start-up dose of borax? I have read the discussion on the china shop and tend to believe the benefits of borax.

    2. Should I continue to use some algacide? I have read everthing about the evils of some of these products, but, in my experience I have not had any real problems prior. I have never had an algea bloom despite occasionally having a FC level of zero during the season.

    3. Should I go cold turkey on the tri-chlor or is it okay to continue? I work way too much. As such, my water often goes untested for a week to ten days. I have seem to have done well with the tri-chlor. Now, I know the relationship between CYA and Cl, and will be more aware and will follow.

    Thanks in advance for your help.
    25,000 IG vinyl Utopia pool

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    chem geek is offline PF Support Team Whibble Konker chem geek 4 stars chem geek 4 stars chem geek 4 stars chem geek 4 stars
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    Default Re: Poly 60, borax and algea

    Sodium Tetraborate Pentahydrate
    Borax Pentahydrate
    Sodium Biborate Pentahydrate
    Disodium Tetraborate Pentahydrate
    Disodium Biborate Pentahydrate

    All of the above are synonyms for the same chemical. It is very similar to, but not identical to, Sodium Tetraborate Decahydrate that is found in 20 Mule Team Borax. The only difference is that the Borax contains more water attached to the borate. This just means accounting for that difference in terms of dosage (it takes a little more Borax).

    If you were consuming a lot of chlorine, then you may have had a nascent algae bloom -- not yet visible, but using up lots of chlorine. Do you have any idea what your CYA level was when this happened? What kind of filter do you have and do you backwash regularly (not for cartridge, of course)? Do you have significant rains that cause overflow of pool water or significant splash-out?

    I'll try and answer your questions as best I can. Some don't have unique answers and you'll have to make some decisions based on your own situation.

    1) Borax is both a pH buffer and an algaecide. It also makes the water sparkle, as you noticed. It may not have been at sufficiently high enough quantities in your pool to be a fully effective algaecide. We recommend 30-50 ppm as you know and the detailed thread you referred to has links to EPA and other documents that describe the levels needed to kill various algal species.

    2) It sounded like you were using algaecide before between the Optimizer (albeit, possibly in too low quantity) and "liquid algaecide" at least part of the time. Anyway, the short answer is that IF you maintain minimum FC levels appropriate to CYA levels (see Ben's Best Guess CYA chart), then you do not need an algaecide. However, in your situation since you aren't around often to monitor chlorine levels, then an algaecide is probably needed. I just don't know if having the 30-50 ppm Borates will be enough by itself to keep algae away at 0 ppm FC. I don't think we have enough experience with that. The use of PolyQuat 60 on a weekly maintenance basis (perhaps every other week) is most likely to keep away the algae even with no chlorine, but it's not cheap (but not as expensive as the Lithium Hypochlorite you were using at one point). Obviously, at 0 ppm FC, bacteria can thrive so you have to dose with chlorine and wait several hours (I estimate) before you go swimming again.

    3) You need to test your CYA level to answer that question, but I suspect it's too high and you'll have to partially drain/refill and yes, go cold turkey. That leaves the problem of having some source of chlorine that will automatically be maintained when you go away. There are several options as follows:

    a) You can use slow-dissolving Cal-Hypo tablets (though perhaps someone else can comment if they are really as good at slow-dissolving as Trichlor). That will raise CH, but that's not as bad as raising CYA and you only have to use it when you know you won't be able to add chlorine (or you can just partially drain/refill when it builds up too high -- maybe only once per year).

    b) You can use chlorinating liquid or bleach in an automated injection system using a peristaltic pump. These are not common, but they have been used successfully.

    c) You can add salt to your pool and get a saltwater chlorine generation system (SWG).

    There may be other options I haven't thought of and others on this forum may have better suggestions.

    Richard
    Last edited by chem geek; 05-09-2007 at 01:15 AM.

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    Default Re: Poly 60, borax and algea

    Quote Originally Posted by chem geek View Post
    Sodium Tetraborate Pentahydrate
    Borax Pentahydrate
    Sodium Biborate Pentahydrate
    Disodium Tetraborate Pentahydrate
    Disodium Biborate Pentahydrate

    All of the above are synonyms for the same chemical.
    Thank you for clearing this up.

    Quote Originally Posted by chem geek View Post
    If you were consuming a lot of chlorine, then you may have had a nascent algae bloom -- not yet visible, but using up lots of chlorine. Do you have any idea what your CYA level was when this happened?
    Over the past several years, I have had multiple readings with 0 FC. I have never had an algea bloom. So, I suspect that my combination of borax and algacide were helpful in keeping my water clear.

    But, since I was a slave to the poolstore, I was never instructed on the importance of CYA. I just know that every spring it was zero because they always had me add more.

    Quote Originally Posted by chem geek View Post
    What kind of filter do you have and do you backwash regularly (not for cartridge, of course)? Do you have significant rains that cause overflow of pool water or significant splash-out?
    Go to http://www.desjoyaux.com/index2.htm to learn about my pool.

    I am in NE Ohio and we get 40 to 50 inches of rain a year. The golf course that I play at did not turn on the sprinklers last year because it did not go more than 3 days without rain. Last year was the wettest summer on record.

    Plus, I have three boys and get a lot of splash out...and I had a leak at the heater plumbing last summer.

    Quote Originally Posted by chem geek View Post
    c) You can add salt to your pool and get a saltwater chlorine generation system (SWG).
    I have come to realize that this is the best option. Hopefully, I will be able to afford one with the money that I am going to save on pool chemicals.

    Thank you for your informative response.
    25,000 IG vinyl Utopia pool

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    Default Re: Poly 60, borax and algea

    Here is where I take serious issue with Richard. I think worrying about borates and lithium chloride is totally the wrong strategy for you NOW:

    Start simple, follow the simple and IF that doesn't work well for you, only THEN move on to alternatives.

    1) Test your water. Test it yourself. Get a good FAS-DPD test kit. You can have TaylorTechnologies or Leslie's on-line overnight their kit (K-2006C or FAS-DPD Chlorine Service Test Kit) to you.

    2) Review those numbers. Typical ideal maintenance #s are:
    pH: 7.3-7.6
    T/A: 80 - 125ppm
    Calcium: 200 - 400ppm
    CYA: 30 - 50ppm
    FC: 3 - 5 ppm
    CC: 0 - <.5ppm

    Where are you deviating? Notice I didn't include borate levels...right now they aren't relevant. Clearing your pool is.

    3) Start by adjusting your pH. Since you have an algae bloom, your chlorine will be more effective in the 7.0-7.5 range (no lower, no higher).

    4) Now SHOCK your pool. Shock it hard and check that shock level 3x a day until it's clear. Use bleach or liquid chlorine to shock--don't use anything else for now.

    5) Your shock level depends on your CYA level. See the "Best Guess Table" for that.

    6) Vacuum and brush your pool everyday until it clears. Vacuum to waste to get the junk OUT.

    7) Add a LARGE container of POPP everyday. That's Pool Owner Patience and Persistence. It may take a week or two to clear--yeah, that long. Longer if you don't follow these simple steps relentlessly.

    This is still the first best way to clean up an algae ridden pool. Do NOT worry about Borates, Phosphates or algaecides or anything ELSE for now.

    GET YOUR POOL CLEAR FIRST!

    Remember: When your are up to your "waist" in alligators it is difficult to remember that the objective was to drain the swamp!

    ONCE you get your pool clear and swimmable THEN can you worry about prevention that makes it harder to get in this situation.
    Carl

    16'x40' rectangle 19K gal AG vinyl pool; ; Hayward T210 sand filter; Hayward 2 Speed Superpump 1hp pump; hrs; PS 233; PF:6.3

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    Default Re: Poly 60, borax and algea

    This is the cleanest (no pun intended) and most straightforward start-up advice I have read. Thank you for your input.

    Quote Originally Posted by CarlD View Post

    ONCE you get your pool clear and swimmable THEN can you worry about prevention that makes it harder to get in this situation.
    Once, my pool is clear, do you think I should dose my pool with borax?

    The Bioguard store would normally have me use 40 to 60 pounds/season. They never really tell me about levels (I guess this chemisty stuff is too complex for us common folk). I must say, my water really did sparkle.

    Then, is Poly 60 beneficial for us less then dilligent people?

    I am aware that Cl is what really kills algae, but my past experience has been that my pool would tend to drift in the low range. That may have been because I was brainwashed and taught incorrect methods for maintainence. Hopefully, this summer, I will test more often and feel safe in adding bleach daily if needed.

    But, would it be okay and not harmfull to use some Poly 60, or other product?

    Richard has convinced me to get off the tri-clor...it just seems like a leap of faith, when in truth...it is a leap of science...
    25,000 IG vinyl Utopia pool

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    DavidD is offline Registered+ Widget Weaver DavidD 1 star
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    Default Re: Poly 60, borax and algea

    adesalvo,

    I'd like to make a comment here. You keep worrying about a possible algae bloom when your FC floats down to 0 and you are wanting to add Borax to help prevent the algae when this happens. I believe you are loosing sight of the big picture here. When your FC gets down to 0, what is sanitizing your pool?

    For your kids sake, keep the FC up and don't worry about adding Borax as an algaecide until you get a handle on the chemistry of your pool. It really is not that complicated and you appear to have a good start. Also, though a SWG makes adding chlorine manually a less frequent chore, it is NOT a "turn it on and forget it" solution.

    Dave

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    chem geek is offline PF Support Team Whibble Konker chem geek 4 stars chem geek 4 stars chem geek 4 stars chem geek 4 stars
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    Default Re: Poly 60, borax and algea

    David, Carl and I are all right, though about different interpretations of your post. I said in my post

    ... the short answer is that IF you maintain minimum FC levels appropriate to CYA levels (see Ben's Best Guess CYA chart), then you do not need an algaecide.

    Carl said,

    Start simple, follow the simple and IF that doesn't work well for you, only THEN move on to alternatives.

    And David said,

    When your FC gets down to 0, what is sanitizing your pool?

    I had incorrectly assumed that you were either unable (due to work) or unwilling to maintain your FC levels by regular testing and daily addition of chlorine (or chlorine addition around twice a week if you get yourself a pool cover) so I gave you alternatives, but letting the chlorine get to 0 isn't good. Using algaecide is "insurance", but maintaining the pool regularly is far better. And as I and others pointed out, only the chlorine disinfects, the algaecide doesn't do that.

    Sorry I got off track. Carl and David are absolutely right that maintaining your pool by keeping appropriate FC levels (relative to CYA) is the important thing to focus on. If you do that, then you won't need an algaecide. Does it hurt to use one anyway? It hurts mostly your pocketbook. Is it needed? No, not if you maintain FC levels. Can you use it on occasion when you believe you will be lapse in maintenance for whatever reason? Yes, but try and find a way to keep the FC levels up regardless (that's when the slow-dissolving alternatives *might* come in handy).

    Richard

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    waterbear is offline Lifetime Member Sniggle Mechanic waterbear 4 stars waterbear 4 stars waterbear 4 stars waterbear 4 stars
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    Default Re: Poly 60, borax and algea

    To answer your question about the borax, ONCE YOU GET YOUR POOL CLEAR AND THE WATER BALANCED then worry about adding borax. You don't need to use optimzer, plain old borax from the laundry aisle of the grocery store will do exactly the same thing! Order a tube of AquaChek borate test strips from the internet if you can't find them locally and see where your borate levels are. I suspect the strip will turn tan which is the highest reading it has. Start diluting your test sample with distilled water and recheck until you see a low borate reading using Carl's "shot glass method" until you get an idea where your borate levels are. If you have been dumping in Optimizer each season without testing the levels I suspect you already have more than enough borates in your pool. Too high a level probably is not a problem so don't worry about it too much. If you find that what I suspect is true then you have proof that the best way to maintain your pool is the methods suggested on this forum. Borates can be helpful and I have them in my own pool but the cannot solve problems from improper water maintenance! It really only takes a few minutes each day to keep your water perfect.

    The reason the bioguard store doesn't bother to tell you about the levels is that they want to sell you the Optimzier each season! (Classic example of being "pool stored") Sorry, but too many pool stores just want to sell unnecesary chems to increase their profit margin. We sell Proteam Supreme where I work (Exactly the same as Optimizer) but I do tell my customers that use it it is basically a one time addidtion that might need to be bumped up from time to time because of backwashing, splashout, etc since the only way to reduce the level is to remove water and replace it. My own borate levels have been steady for going on two years now.

    For the shot glass method dilute your sample with the same amount of distilled water (a shot glass of each), test and multiply the test reult by 2. If you still test at the highest reading then take 2 parts of distlled water and 1 part of pool water, test, and multiply the result by 3. If still testing at the highest level use 3 parts distilled water and 1 part pool water and multiply the test results by 4. If still high do it again with 4 parts distilled water and 1 part pool water and multiply by 5.

    Edit: There is nothing wrong with using Lithium hypochlorite, it is unstablized chlorine just like bleach is and will have minimal impact on your water just like bleach but is it the MOST EXPENSIVE form of chlorine you can buy and, othe than the convenience factor of being a powder, really offers no advantages over bleach.
    Last edited by waterbear; 05-09-2007 at 12:42 PM.
    11.75'x23.75' kidney 6.5K gal IG fiberglass pool/300 gal acrylic spillover spa combo; Aqualogic automation/SWCG; Pentair Clean and Clear 150 cart filter; 1.5 hp uprated 2 spd Pentair Whisperflo pump; PF:17
    Retired pool store and commercial pool maintenance guy.

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    Default Re: Poly 60, borax and algea

    Quote Originally Posted by chem geek View Post
    1) Borax is both a pH buffer and an algaecide. It also makes the water sparkle, as you noticed.
    Richard, that's the first time I've heard that borax makes the water sparkle. Any idea of the mechanism behind it or the concentration at which it occurs?

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    Default Re: Poly 60, borax and algea

    Lots of good advice here.

    I'm not much up on borates, but on paper it looks like a good idea IF, as Waterbear says, you test for it.

    Polyquat isn't necessary but what it can do is keep an algae bloom from starting if you neglect your pool and FC goes too low (below the minimum value for your CYA level). It's kind of a safety net. It can be VERY expensive but if you hunt you can find it for anywhere from $10-$15/a quart. One quart should be enough for most of a summer. I use a second quart when I close. If I need to get the Polyquat RIGHT NOW, I'll pay as much as $20, but not a dime more. You can buy it cheap at the end of the season and it keeps, no problem.

    It may be called Mustard Algae treatment, Black Algae treatment, whatever. I look for the ingredients and the price. "Poly....<something>... 60%" is the stuff even if they call it Daffodil Fertilizer!

    I like to add about an ounce or two a week. Two ounces a week in a healthy, clean pool is all you need, and, again, that's 16 weeks or a summer on 1 quart.
    Carl

    16'x40' rectangle 19K gal AG vinyl pool; ; Hayward T210 sand filter; Hayward 2 Speed Superpump 1hp pump; hrs; PS 233; PF:6.3

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