How To Work Safely With Pool Sanitizers Like Chlorine and Ozone
Keeping the water fresh in your swimming pool or hot tub can be a tough job. Oftentimes you even have to work with chemicals like chlorine and bromine and ozone. This article focuses on how to avoid common mishaps that can occur while working with sanitizer-related components and chemicals.
When used properly, residual sanitizers including pool chlorine keep swimmers safe from germs and bacteria in the water. You’ve probably heard by now that adding supplemental sanitizers like Advanced Oxidation Process (AOP) and ozone systems can significantly reduce chemical demand, destroy chlorine-resistant contaminants, and prevent chloramines.
If you haven’t worked with sanitizers long, it’s not always obvious how to operate them safely or work with the chemicals and components that make up these systems. Some parts—including UV bulbs and ozone modules—require special handling and proper disposal. And there are multiple chemicals you come in contact with while working with supplemental pool sanitizers.
Take a look at the info below that will help keep you and those around you safe while keeping pools sanitized. For the purpose of this article we will avoid discussing sanitizers that have not been approved for use in all recreational aquatic applications.
🛑 Always read the instructions included with pool products, equipment and chemicals. Consider hiring an electrician or other professional for projects that you aren’t familiar with or you don’t feel comfortable performing.
Chlorine Safety Storage & Handling
Pool chemical erosion feeders work by slowly dissolving pre-formed tablets of pool chemicals and gradually releasing them into the pool water. Ideally, this produces a steady residual sanitizer which keeps the pool water safe, clean and clear.
We know it’s not always practical to wear all the recommended personal protection equipment (PPE), especially in hot-weather conditions. However, we do recommend at least wearing gloves and shielding your face any time you are handling chemicals to avoid the occasional splash or unexpected whiff of gas that can happen out in the field.
Chemicals are inherently dangerous and the safe handling of them should not be taken for granted. Keep the following in mind with all chlorine-related projects:
- Never mix trichlor with bromine, with calcium hydrochlorite (cal-hypo), with other forms of concentrated chlorine, or with other chemicals
- Never put cal-hypo in slow-dissolving chlorine erosion feeders
- Never use oil or grease with trichlor or bromine as this may result in fire
- Use caution when removing caps or lids to avoid inhaling fumes
Engineered for variable-speed pumps, Powerclean Tab Ultra erosion feeders provide full flow over the tabs inside the feeder to ensure even distribution of residual chlorine throughout the pool water, with pump speeds as low as 20 GPM. An offline model comes with molded plastic clamps and adapters for large soft tubing or hard pipes—making it the perfect solution for existing pool setups.
IS OZONE GAS UNSAFE FOR POOLS & SPAS?
We made a recent video to help set things straight about ozone use as a supplemental sanitizer. If you’re more of a reader, check out the text here. First off, ozone has been used as a pool sanitizer by DEL since the 1970’s. Despite its longevity in the water treatment game, we continue to hold on to common misconceptions about ozone technology and its use as a safe, effective pool & spa sanitizer.
Supplemental Sanitizer Component Safety
Added sanitizers including AOP, ozone, UV systems and salt chlorine generators (SCGs) all help reduce overall chemical usage in the pool. That’s great news for pool owners and pool pros! But, there are a few things to consider when it comes to safely working with supplemental sanitizers.
Some of these systems use glass lamps as part of their germicidal UV component. AOP and UV systems contain ultraviolet (UV) lamps that, if not handled properly, can burn the eyes and skin. They’re also made of glass and can break or become damaged during replacement. That’s why it’s important to wear gloves and shield your face while working with them.
Again, we know protective gear isn’t always readily accessible. Donning the proper skin and eye protection while working with sanitizer equipment goes a long way. “I want to go to the ER in the middle of my work day!” said no one ever.
You should also avoid touching the UV lamp glass with bare hands. Oils from your hands can cause “hot spots” on the UV lamp and shorten its life. Always use a soft clean cloth or clean cotton gloves to handle glass components inside sanitizer systems.
Ozone systems have been around since the 1970s. Despite its longevity in the industry, some of us still struggle to put our faith in the highly effective pool sanitizer technology. We discuss this more in our Ozone Myths article here.
Installed properly, there should be zero ozone present in the air with supplemental ozone systems, but there is always the possibility. For indoor applications and pools with covers, we strongly recommend installing an MDV or Mixing Degas Vessel to avoid potentially trapped ozone gas under the cover.
Ozone tubing contains nitric acid which is toxic and can be discharged inside the tubing. Wear gloves while servicing ozone tubing and check valves to avoid harm. Ozonators and UV systems also contain low pressure mercury lamps (LP Hg lamps) and should be managed in accordance with disposal laws. Visit www.lamprecycle.org to find out more about recycling lamps and bulbs from pool equipment.
Safety With Salt Cells / Chlorine Generators
With a salt chlorine generator and in typical pool use, you won’t have to handle chlorine because you’re making it onsite within the unit itself. Barring some sort of emergency, you would only need to use non-chlorine shock.
And, if you’re installing chlorine generators in conjunction with AOP or ozone—a smart choice by the way—always plumb after the supplemental sanitizer system. This helps prevent the trapped accumulation of hydrogen gas, which can be dangerous if inhaled in high concentrations.
For the same reason, you’ll also want to plumb AOP or ozone after an erosion feeder. A Mixing Degas Vessel (MDV) unit is recommended between the supplemental sanitizer and the feeder if you’re installing as a retrofit and a tab feeder cannot be relocated,
Some systems require muriatic acid for cleaning the salt cell—the part that makes chlorine for the pool water. Working with acid can be dangerous, not to mention a major time suck. If ignored, calcium build-up between the cell blades can permanently damage a salt cell and require replacement.
Newer systems are designed to prolong the life of the salt cell and don’t require acid to keep clean. In a properly maintained saltwater pool, you can eliminate the need for harsh chemicals entirely with Powerclean Salt.
The latest design has individually-powered, wider placed cell plates that help minimize calcium build-up. This, along with the included cleaning tool, makes Powerclean Salt easy to clean and service. Muriatic acid may also be used for pH control, but from a sanitizer perspective you won’t need it with Powerclean Salt.
This is only a basic overview of the types of dangers associated with pool & spa water treatment. For more in-depth information on how to stay safe with pool care, visit the CDC’s Pool Chemical Safety page and the PHTA website. And follow all manufacturer instructions and safety guidelines included with any pool & spa sanitizers and equipment you work with.