You’ve heard it all your life. A well-balanced diet includes plenty of the right vitamins and minerals for you to be healthy. But what about the health of your pool? Turns out, a pool mineral system may be just what your pool needs to be clean, clear, and sanitized.
Before you make the leap to a pool mineral sanitizer, though, make sure you understand how it works, and what some of the benefits—and drawbacks—are so you know what you’re getting into.
What is a Pool Mineral System?
Simply put, it’s an alternative sanitizing method for your pool. Just as you can use chlorine, bromine, or a few other options, certain minerals also work to clean pool water. Namely, silver and copper.
Wait a minute, are they minerals or metals? The answer is yes.
Silver has antibacterial properties, and has been used to clean water since the days of the Roman empire. Copper is a known algaecide, which is why it’s used in so many of the algaecides available for pools and hot tubs, and why some pool manufacturers add it to their pool mineral systems.
Pool minerals use silver and sometimes copper to prevent bacteria and algae from making themselves at home in your pool. Some mineral products also include zinc, which is a known antibacterial, and is even sometimes used as an antibiotic.
Finally, pool mineral sanitizers may also contain limestone, which absorbs chlorine acid, and helps maintain a stable and more neutral pH level in the water.
Does all this mean pool mineral systems are better than chlorine or bromine? Just like anything, they have their pros and cons.
Pool Mineral Sanitizer Benefits
You have a few really good reasons to switch to a pool mineral system.
The Water Will Be Softer
If you’ve spent any time in a chlorine pool, you know you come out of it feeling like a dried prune. Your skin is dry and possibly itchy, and your hair feels like straw. Not to mention, that nice bathing suit you bought may fade, bleached out by the chlorine.
Water sanitized with minerals is softer and gentler on your skin, hair, and swimwear. You’ll notice it when you’re swimming because the water has a silky feel. And you’ll notice it afterward when you don’t have to empty a bottle of lotion to restore your skin’s moisture.
It Will Reduce Wear on Pool Equipment
If chlorine is harsh on your body, what do you think it’s doing to your pool equipment? Sure, the pump, filter, and every other piece are made to withstand exposure to chlorinated water day in and day out. But still, over time, that chemical wears on plastic and moving parts.
Because minerals make the water softer, the equipment that stays wet all the time isn’t subjected to that abuse. It may even work better and last longer, which can save you money.
Your Pool Will Need Less Chlorine
When you switch to a pool mineral sanitizer, you can use a lot less than you would if chlorine or bromine were the only sanitizer in the pool. This also means you’ll avoid having to deal with chloramines and their telltale “pool smell.”
Pool Mineral Sanitizer Drawbacks
You’d be hard pressed to find any reason to completely avoid a pool mineral system. Just be aware of a few considerations.
You Still Need Chlorine or Bromine
A pool mineral sanitizer alone isn’t enough to keep your water fully sanitized. You’ll need to supplement with chlorine or bromine to kill bacteria and viruses, and prevent algae blooms.
You May Spend More Money
Pool mineral systems often cost less than chlorine or bromine. But because minerals alone can’t fully sanitize pool water, you’ll have to buy two chemicals to do it.
True, you’ll be using a lot less chlorine, so it’ll probably last longer, so you may actually spend less than if you used chlorine alone. Of course, this also depends on factors like your pool’s volume, bather load, and how well you manage your pool’s chemistry.
You know how when a penny oxidizes, it turns that sickly green color? Well, when copper oxidizes in pool water, it can leave yucky green stains on your pool’s interior.
Plus, if your water source has a high copper content, the possibility of stains is even higher. A lot of pool mineral sanitizers tout themselves as being stain free, but just to be on the safe side, use a hose filter when filling your pool to prevent at least some of those metals from making it into your pool.
If you do start to notice stains, once you’ve cleaned them, you can also use a metal sequestrant to prevent it from happening again.
Once you’ve weighed the pros and cons, if you decide a pool mineral sanitizer is for you, it’s easy to make the switch.
Pool Mineral System Types
Another advantage of pool minerals? There’s no measuring, and no gloves needed to handle them. You’ll find three forms available.
One of the easier options, all you have to do is lower the dispenser right into the skimmer basket. Minerals are released into the water as it flows into the skimmer and over the dispenser.
Some in-skimmer devices last about six months, and can sanitize pools that hold up to 25,000 gallons.
Also a super-easy option is a little dispenser that just floats around your pool, leaving a magical trail of minerals behind it. OK, maybe not magical. But cleaner, for sure. Simply connect a cartridge that holds both minerals and chlorine, and turn it loose. When the chlorine is empty, the dispenser will turn on its side, letting you know it’s time to replace the cartridge.
The second-easiest option, all you have to do is connect a mineral cartridge and either a chlorine or bromine cartridge to a floating dispenser, and then let it float in your spa. The minerals are released at a constant rate to keep the water clean.
One cool benefit—you’ll know it’s time to replace one or both of the cartridges when the dispenser turns on its side. Frog makes one specifically for soft-sided pools in addition to their regular one, so if you have an above ground or Intex pool, you can still get in on the mineral sanitizing action.
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This one’s a little more involved because it connects to your pool’s plumbing system, but if you have a little know-how, you may even be able to install it yourself. The great thing about it is that it can easily be installed into existing plumbing systems. This is important, too, because the dispenser needs to remain accessible so you can change the cartridge when necessary,
It works on the same principle as the other two varieties, releasing minerals and chlorine into the water as it passes through the cartridge. No measuring, no spills.
Whatever type you choose, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
How to Use a Pool Mineral System
This isn’t like converting from chlorine to a salt water pool. Remember, you’ll still need to use some chlorine or bromine with the mineral system. That actually makes the switch to a pool mineral system easier. Just allow the chlorine level to drop to at least 0.5 parts per million (ppm) before adding minerals. For bromine, let it drop to at least 1 ppm.
Test Water Hardness
If you’re starting with an empty pool (which is more likely if you have an above ground or Intex pool), test the hardness of your water source. If it’s above 225 ppm (275 for a concrete or plaster pool), use a hose filter when filling the pool.
This is always a good idea when filling or adding water to your pool. The filter will also remove and reduce other minerals, such as copper.
Test for Metals
Before using a pool mineral sanitizer, you also need to know what kind of metals your water source contains, and how much. The types of strips or kits that test for metals usually measure safe levels for drinking water.
To get the levels you need, take a sample of pool water to your local pool store for testing. If the metal—especially copper—levels are high, add a metal sequestrant to the water after you fill the pool.
Balance the Water
Start by testing the water to get baseline levels with test strips or a liquid test kit. Follow the same order you go in any other time you test and balance your pool: alkalinity, pH, calcium hardness. They should be in the following ranges:
Total Alkalinity: 100 ppm to 150 ppm, with 125 ppm being ideal
pH: 7.4 to 7.6, with 7.5 being ideal
calcium hardness: If you have a concrete or plaster pool, shoot for 200 ppm to 275 ppm. For any other type of pool, aim for a range of 175 ppm to 225 ppm.
Tests for 7 important chemistries in seconds: Total Hardness, Total Chlorine, Total Bromine, Free Chlorine, pH, Total Alkalinity, and Cyanuric Acid.
Add the Minerals
Once you get the water balanced, you can add the pool mineral sanitizer to the skimmer, the floating dispenser, or the in-line system.
Regardless of which type of pool mineral system you’ve decided to use, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to make sure you change the cartridge when necessary.
Add the Supplemental Sanitizer
Whether you’ve decided to use chlorine or bromine, measure and add a little at a time—testing in between—until it reaches the correct level:
Chlorine: 0.5 ppm
Bromine: 1 ppm
How to Shock a Mineral Pool
You’re already using pool shock at least once a week, right? That won’t change when you start using a mineral sanitizer, or any other kind of sanitizer, for that matter. If your pool is being used often and by a lot of swimmers, or you notice a problem like cloudy water, you’ll want to shock it more often. What may change is the type of shock you use.
When you first add minerals to your pool, use chlorine shock to kill any bacteria and clear up the water. When you start shocking on a regular basis, non-chlorine shock may be the better option.
Remember, you want the chlorine level to remain low to let the minerals do their job. Chlorine shock can possibly raise the level above 0.5 ppm. It will eventually dissipate, sure, but why wait for that when you can just use non-chlorine shock?
You can still use chlorine shock on occasion. In fact, you really should to keep bacteria, viruses, and algae at bay. Just remember to always test the water after shocking, and balance as needed.
Ready to Make the Switch to Minerals?
Still not convinced? You could always try a pool mineral system to see how you like it before committing to it permanently. An in-skimmer or floating device would be best for a trial run. Don’t make any changes to your plumbing if you’re not sure you’re going to keep it that way.
Then, if you decide a pool mineral sanitizer isn’t your cup of tea, you can always go back to chlorine. But we’re betting once you get a feel of that silky soft water, you’ll wonder what took you so long to switch to minerals in the first place.
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