Swimming Pool Shock The Right Way In 6 Easy Steps

Easy Pool Shock Treatment and Chlorine Safety. Best Way To Learn Pool Chlorine Shock For Swimming Pool Care and Maintenance. 

Swimming Pool Shock

Once you understand what pool shock is and the proper steps to take, the entire process will seem very easy and can be done when your pool needs it.  Want to avoid mistakes when dealing with above ground, salt water swimming pools and in ground swimming pools? Some really good questions to ask when shocking your pool are these:

  • Why should I shock my pool?
  • The pool store said to "put some shock in it". Should I?
  • Is there such thing as too much shock?
  • Is super chlorination right? 

Here are the real answers every pool owner needs to know.

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The Right Way To Shock A Pool Shock

What Is Pool Chlorine?

Chlorine's job is three-fold:  Sanitize, oxidize, and kill organic matter in the pool.  Let's just keep it simple and say it "kills stuff" namely, organic matter.  This can be anything that is found in your pool such algae spores, bacteria, swimmer's waste like sweat and spit, grass clippings, leaves, bugs, etc..  The chlorine readings you have in your pool are the following:  

Free Chlorine (FC) is the amount of active chlorine in your pool water.  You want your water’s FC level to be between 2 - 4 parts per million (ppm) so the chemical can do its job.

Total Chlorine (TC) is the sum of FC and CC in your pool.

Combined Chlorine (CC) is the chlorine that’s been used. It’s still in the water, but it doesn't register as active chlorine. 

FC - TC - CC.  Wait. What?

Types Of Pool Shock

While pool shock is really a process, not a product, we'll still go on the current verbiage that is known to most pool owners. 

Calcium Hypochlorite

Also known as cal hypo or chlorine granules, this kind of pool chlorine has been used for decades and is one of the least expensive and convenient ways to chlorinate your pool. 

Features

  • Most concentrated versions can contain between 65% and 75%  available chlorine
  • Calcium hypochlorite should be dissolved in a bucket filled with pool water before you add it to your pool.
  • Places that have hard fill water may not want to use calcium hypo.  It can raise the hardness of the pool water. 

Sodium Hypochlorite

Also known as bleach.  A very efficient and cost effective to chlorinate your pool.  Sodium hypo can contain between 8.5% and 10.5% per 1 gallon.

Features

  • Easy to apply and very effective at killing organic matter
  • Can be added to a bucket filled with pool water but not required
  • Can be used in any environment and pool condition
  • I use and recommend it

Lithium Hypochlorite

Granular chlorine that is fast acting and dissolves quickly, much faster that calcium hypochlorite.  

Features

  • Can contain up to 35% available chlorine
  • Its higher price doesn't make it a good choice for chlorination and does nothing more than regular bleach

Dichlor & Trichlor Stabilized Chlorine

The actual names of these are Sodium Dichloro-S-Triazinetrione (dichlor) which contains between 58% and 62% active chlorine. TriChloro-S-Triazinetrione (trichlor) is more common in chlorine tablets and contains upwards of 90% active chlorine. 

Features

  • They typically contains higher levels of chlorine 
  • Can be used to shock the pool under certain circumstances 
  • You typically don’t have to dissolve it ahead of time.
  • Both add CYA/stabilizer to the pool 

Non-Chlorine Shock

I'm not a big fan of non-chlorine shock products, but it's worth a look.  Non-chlorine shock normally contains potassium peroxymonosulfate as the ingredient.  It's a fast, inexpensive pool shock alternative.

Features

  • No dilution needed.  You can add it directly to your pool water. 
  • Dissolves quickly 
  • Higher price than bleach
  • It only oxidizes the water.  Basically you're paying twice the amount for a product that only does half the job. 

Non-Chlorine Shock Videos

How Often Should You Shock Your Pool

This is an area of debate, but after being in the pool business since 1999 and clearing up over 700 nasty green and cloudy pools in 3 different states, I can say with much confidence that weekly "shocking" your pool is unnecessary.  Maintaining the proper water chemistry and a residual chlorine level of either 2 - 4 ppm or 3 - 5 ppm is normally more than enough to kill organic matter in the pool.

That being said, you may want to shock your pool under certain circumstances, such as after:

  • Heavy pool use 
  • A severe rainstorm 
  • An accident in the pool such as vomit or fecal matter 

How To Shock Your Pool

Always remember it's safety first.  Before you begin: make sure your filtration system is properly working and all of the other readings are in line; the pH, total alkalinity, and hardness.

To start you'll need:

  1. Pair of heavy duty rubber gloves
  2. Goggles
  3. Pool chlorine.  I prefer liquid chlorine over calcium hypochlorite, especially if you have hard water levels.  
  4. Large bucket
  5. A stir stick or pool pole

You'll want to shock your pool either in the late afternoon or early evening to allow the chlorine to do its job for the longest amount of time.

  • Scoop out as much debris as possible.  The only thing you want soaking up your good pool shock is the water.
  • Fill the bucket up about 1/2 full of water
  • Add the correct amount of pool chlorine into the bucket.  It's 1 gallon of liquid chlorine per 10,000 gallons of pool water.
  • Stir the mixture with a good stir stick (PVC pipe works nicely)
  • Broadcast it around the perimeter of the pool starting in the deep-end and working around.  Be sure the filtration system is running and everything is working properly.
  • Test the water approximately 10 hrs later to be sure your super-chlorination was successful

It must be stated here that shock is absolutely NOT a product we buy.  It's a PROCESS we do.  Regardless of what anyone has told you. Regardless of any product you've seen at your pool store with the name "Shock" on it. 

The packages of shock are nothing more than stabilized or unstabilized chlorine.  They're not SUPER chlorine.  Or MEGA chlorine.  Or PLUS anything.  In fact, the chemicals added to "stabilize" the chlorine can cause a whole host of costly problems for your pool!

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What Are Chloramines?

Chloramines (combined chlorine) are when your pool chlorine (sanitizer) comes into contact with organic matter (swimmer waste, sweat, urine, etc...).

The pool chlorine kills the bacteria and organic matter and we all know what happens when an organism dies, it releases gas. This is the chlorine smell when you enter a pool area. This can also result in a high chlorine demand and high free available chlorine.  Too much chlorine may cause a swimming pool rash or a chlorine rash.

How Does Your Pool Get Chloramines?

Far too often people say that too much chlorine is used when the opposite is true. There’s not enough pool chlorine to take care of the waste, bacteria, and contaminants in the pool or the effectiveness of the chlorine has been compromised.

Chloramines are the result of insufficient free available chlorine to kill organics in the pool. This usually results in that “chlorine odor” or smell and may result in a higher residual chlorine demand. 

Problems With Chloramines (Combined Chlorine)

  • Red, burning eyes
  • Burning sensation in the nose, throat and lungs
  • Dry, itchy skin and dry hair
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Asthmatic bronchitis
  • Chronic cough
  • Coughing up mucus
  • Your asthmatic bronchitis might flare up, especially in younger children
  • Bad chlorine smell

Super-Chlorinate Your Pool

In dealing with combined chlorine, the best and most cost effective way to get rid of them is to use a good pool shock and literally “blast” them out of the pool with a high dose of pool chlorine.  This is also called “super-chlorination”.  Normally, you’ll want to bring up the chlorine level 10 times per every 1ppm of pool chlorine, or a 10:1 ratio.  Get a good water testing kit for accurate pool water testing.  There are also many non-chlorine shock products on the market, such as potassium monopersulfate.  MPS does not shock the pool in the same way as chlorine does.  It will not beak down chloramines already in the water. 

It’s an “all or nothing” approach, so don’t skimp on the pool chlorine.  When you super-chlorinate your pool you must go all out and pool shock it all at once, not over a few hours or days. Using less or skimping on pool chlorine will only make your swimming pool problems worse and the chloramines and bacteria will only get stronger and more resistant to future pool shocking treatments.  Remember, you must use your pool chlorine and “slam it” or the chloramines, bacteria, and contaminants will return. 

"The Universal Laws of Pool Chemistry and Physics That Apply Equally To Every Outdoor Chlorine and Salt Pool In The World."

My friends, the above quote is one of the most important parts of your swimming pool chemistry.  There's not one outdoor chlorine or salt pool in the world that doesn't bow to the Universal Laws of Pool Chemistry and Physics.  If you're having problems with your swimming pool chemistry, you're not alone.  Thousands of pool owners just like you have the same issues every Summer.  But there's nothing wrong with you.  You're NOT wrong. What you're TOLD is wrong.  The information you're getting about your pool simply goes against the Universal Laws of Pool Chemistry & Physics that apply equally to every salt and chlorine pool in the world.  Any advice given to you about your pool will either CONFIRM or CONTRADICT these applicable laws.  

Folks, this is absolutely 1st Grade stuff.  Easy beyond belief!!  If you can add chlorine, sweep, and empty the skimmer basket, you can have a perfect pool!!  

Chart - Superchlorinate Your Pool

Ways To Control Combined Chlorine

You cannot eliminate chloramines or that pool chlorine smell altogether by simply shocking the pool. 

However, you can take steps to contain them by trying a combination of the following:

  • Good filtration
  • Good pool water chemistry and swimming pool care
  • Good circulation
  • Good ventilation (mainly for indoor pools and spas)
  • Volcanic Ash retains the ammonia from chloramines in the filter rather than in the pool
  • Boost the pool chlorine level up 1.0 ppm-2.0 ppm from your normal level prior to having a heavy bather load
  • Require all swimmers to take a hot soapy shower prior to entering the pool. This is one of the best and easiest ways to reduce chloramines up to 50%.
  • Drain and refill (up to 1/3 of your pool volume) with fresh water
  • Nicely ask people to use the restroom prior to entering the pool
  • You can vacuum the bottom at least once per week and brush the steps and sides of the pool on a daily basis

For the indoor pool at the YMCA, I have reduced my pool shock and experienced a vast decrease in the chloramines by adding two high powered fans at the deep end of the pool.  We turn them on "high" blowing over the pool and toward the exhaust fan.  We started doing this when we close at night, and I gotta say this little extra step sure does work.  We still need a good pool shock every now and then, but it has reduced the amount of pool chlorine and the frequency of the pool shocking.  While a heavily used indoor pool may never be totally free of chloramines and bacteria, taking charge of the situation with a correct pool shock and doing these steps can greatly reduce both chloramines and your frustrations.

For salt water swimming pools I would recommend you turning off your salt chlorine generators before a pool shock.  The added amount of pool chlorine to a salt water pool may burn up you salt cell which will cost you in the long run.  Just turn on the salt generator when the shock is over and the chlorine reaches a safe level of 2 - 4 ppm.  Obviously with natural swimming pools you would never add any kind of pool shock.  Well, there you have it.  Everything you need to know about having a successful pool shock.

Good luck and keep swimming. 

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