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Thread: Turning Your Green Swamp Back into a Sparkling Oasis

  1. #1
    Administrator JasonLion's Avatar
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    Turning Your Green Swamp Back into a Sparkling Oasis

    Note: For a condensed version of this article, please read Defeating Algae found in the Pool School area.

    Turning Your Green Swamp Back into a Sparkling Oasis


    Did you take the cover off in the spring, or just come back from a vacation, and discover a green swamp where your pool used to be? Getting rid of algae is a chore that even the most experienced of us have to face sometimes. With proper preparation, some concentrated attention for a couple of days, and then a few minutes a day of follow up, you can turn your pool back into the sparkling oasis you remember.

    This guide is written for people who have a serious green algae problem, murky green water that has been that way for days or months or years in an outdoor pool. While many of the same principles apply to other kinds of algae, brand new green algae outbreaks, and indoor pools, there are differences in those situations which I won't be going into here.

    Background

    There are two crucial things to understand about getting rid of algae. First, algae is constantly growing. If you pause before you have gotten rid of it all, it will bounce right back, and any time and chemicals you invested will be wasted. Fighting algae is a race: you need to kill the algae faster than it grows back. If you give algae a few hours without chlorine it will be growing back and you will be losing ground. To get rid of algae reliably on the first attempt, you need to hit it hard and follow up carefully to be sure you got it all.

    Second, the free chlorine level you need to target depends on the CYA level. The higher the CYA level the more free chlorine it is going to take. If you don't have any idea of your CYA level, you risk either not using enough chlorine, and failing to get rid of the algae, or using too much chlorine, and causing corrosion in all metal parts or shortening the life of your liner.

    Be Prepared

    There are several things you need to be sure of before you start. First, the pump and filter need to be working. You need to have the pump running 24/7 during the entire process to make sure the chlorine gets everywhere, or you might not get all of the algae. Before you start, be sure you know how to clean/backwash the filter, and what the filter's pressure reading is when the filter is clean.

    Second, you need to know your CYA level. If you just got back from vacation you should know what the CYA level was before you left. If the pool has been closed over the winter (or longer), the CYA may have vanished over the winter and you will need to test it.

    Murky water will cause the standard turbidity test (fill till the black dot disappears) to read higher than what is actually there. You can partially compensate for this by filtering the water sample through a coffee filter before testing. If the water is cold you should allow it to warm up to room temperature before testing CYA. It is also possible to use test strips or to take a water sample to the pool store and have them test it. In any case, don't depend on a CYA test done while you have algae. While it is good enough for what you need to do to get rid of the algae, it should be retested after the algae is gone.

    It is important that the CYA level not be zero. If CYA too low, you will lose too much chlorine to sunlight, and the algae will be able to get ahead of you. If your CYA level is below 30 you should add CYA/stabilizer to around 30 ppm by putting it in a sock in the skimmer (or you can use dichlor if you have some on hand and know what you are doing). Don't pour CYA directly into the skimmer, since you will be cleaning/backwashing the filter, and any undissolved CYA will be wasted, as it can take CYA up to a week to dissolve. Remember to retest CYA and adjust as needed once the algae is gone.

    It is also important that the CYA level not be too high. If CYA is too high cleaning up the pool will take really huge amounts of chlorine and quickly becomes impractical. If a reliable test shows that your CYA level is above 90 you should replace water to bring the CYA level down to 90 or lower before continuing.

    Once you know your CYA level, look up the corresponding FC shock level. You can use PoolMath to do this. Enter your CYA level in the Now column and then look at the blue Suggested FC Levels section towards the bottom. Or, you can use Chem Geek's Chlorine/CYA Chart or Ben's Best Guess chart.

    Third, you really really want to have a FAS-DPD chlorine test kit. The FAS-DPD test is able to measure FC and CC up to very high levels. You need that in order to be certain that you got all of the algae. The TF Test Kits TF100, Taylor K-2006 kit, and Leslie's Chlorine FAS-DPD Service Test Kit all contain the FAS-DPD chlorine test. TF Test Kits, Taylor, and a few others also sell the FAS-DPD test separately. While it is possible to fight algae without this test, it involves a lot of guess work and extra chlorine.

    Fourth, you need to have enough chlorine on hand, lest you end up running out to the store to by more every half hour. I strongly recommend bleach, but cal-hypo, dichlor, and lith-hypo can all be used if you are aware of their down sides. (Remember, you will be using a lot of chlorine, so the negatives of dichlor, cal-hypo, and lith-hypo can be quite significant.) At a minimum, I would suggest having four times the amount needed to bring your pool to shock level. The longer it has been since the pool was clear the more chlorine you may need, so plan accordingly. You can use PoolMath or BleachCalc to calculate the amount that corresponds to shock level for your pool.

    Fifth, adjust the PH to between 7.2 and 7.4 before you start. The PH test is not reliable at high FC levels, and the PH often goes up, so start it off a little on the low side. The FC level is going to be high for several days, so you need to get the PH right before you start.

    If the pool has been sitting unattended for longer than one winter you should also spend some time in advance pulling everything solid you can get hold of out of the water. Using a skimmer net on a pole you should be able to fish out most of what is in the water, even if you can't see what you are doing.

    If you regularly have issues with metals, or have recently used a copper based algaecide, or regularly use a ionizer/mineral system you need to take additional precautions to avoid metal stains. While shocking the pool the PH will temporarily go up more than it might usually, which can cause any metals in the water to deposit as stain the pool surface. If you suspect there may be problems with metals you should lower the PH down very close to 7.0 before starting and add some sequestrant to prevent metal staining.

    If you have a SWG, chlorine tablet dispenser, or Liquidator, you will still need to use another chlorine source for killing off the algae. All of those devices are designed to add chlorine slowly and steadily over many hours. To kill algae, you need to put lots and lots of chlorine in all at once. The SWG, tablet dispenser, or Liquidator can be very helpful in the follow up stages to maintain shock level, but for the initial couple of chlorine applications you need to use another chlorine source.

    Hit Hard

    Begin your efforts when you have as much time as possible, preferably several hours in a row, to work on the pool. You will also need time to follow up at least twice a day for the next several days. The more concentrated time you can spend, the quicker the entire process will go. Set the pump timer/pool automation system to run the pump continuously, and leave it running 24/7 until the water is completely clear. Now you are ready to start killing the algae.

    Add enough chlorine to bring the pool up to shock level. Wait half an hour. Then test the FC level, and add enough chlorine to bring the FC back up to shock level. Repeat this cycle: test, add chlorine, wait, as many times as you have time for, or until the FC level remains nearly at shock level after a one hour wait.

    The very first time through the cycle you can assume that the FC level starts at zero. After that you want to test the FC level and only add as much chlorine as needed to bring it back up to shock level. PoolMath is very handy for this since you can enter your pool size, the test result in the Now column, and shock level in the Goal column, and it will tell you how much bleach to add.

    The first few times the FC level is likely to be either zero or quite low. Once the FC level is still a substantial fraction of shock level after half an hour, you can switch to waiting one hour between tests.

    If you don't have a test kit that can reliably measure high FC levels you will need to do some guessing. One indicator you can use is the color of the water. As long as the water remains a rich green, wait one hour and then assume that FC is zero. The algae will start turning gray or white when the FC level starts holding.

    During the first half hour wait, get a skimmer net and remove everything solid that you can from the pool. If the algae has only been growing for a couple of days that might not be very much, but if the pool has been closed for a while there may be lots of leaves and other debris in there. Be as through as you can, given that you probably won't be able to see what you are doing.

    Once the green starts to fade you should brush the entire pool. It is important to brush everywhere while the FC level is high. That means ladders and steps as well as the entire pool surface. Algae can survive high chlorine levels if it has formed a biofilm on a surface. By brushing, you disrupt the biofilm and expose the algae to the chlorine. Continue brushing once a day until the algae is all dead.

    After several cycles, possibly quite a few cycles if the pool has had algae for a very long time, the FC level will be falling only slightly after an hour's wait. At that point, you can bring the pool back up to shock level one last time, and then move on to the follow up stage. If you are doing all this in the morning, and the CYA level is below 60, you should check the FC level one more time in the mid afternoon and bring it back up to shock level if needed.

    Follow Up

    To make sure you got all of the algae, it is important to maintain the pool at shock level until testing shows that all the algae is gone. Continue testing the water at least twice a day (morning and evening) and bringing it back up to shock level if needed. Algae can be hiding in obscure places, like lighting niches or under a ladder or in the plumbing. Continued high FC levels will kill all of the algae eventually. It is also important to brush the entire pool once a day until the algae is completely gone.

    To see if you got all of the algae, measure the FC level after sunset and then measure it again very early in the morning. If the FC remained stable (within 0.5 of the same reading) overnight, and the CC level is 0.5 or lower then all of the algae is gone. If you don't have a good test kit, you should maintain shock level until the water is completely clear and sparkling.

    Once most of the algae is dead, the water will turn milky or gray instead of green. It can still take the filter up to a week to clear the water from this point. A DE filter can often do it in a couple of days, if you backwash it frequently enough.

    While that is happening, you should keep an eye on the filter pressure and backwash/clean the filter any time the pressure goes up by 8 PSI. DE filters will often need to be backwashed a couple of times a day for the first day or two. Sand and cartridge filters will usually last a couple of days between cleanings. If in doubt, clean/backwash the filter extra times rather than risk letting it get clogged up.

    If you are in a huge hurry, and have a sand or DE filter, it is possible to do a flock treatment to clean up the dead algae after the FC level holds steady overnight. Flock treatments can often clean up the water overnight, but I don't recommend them. They are an additional effort and expense, they don't always work completely, and they increase the risk that the algae will come back.

    Getting algae is a pain but sometimes unavoidable. Every pool and every situation is a little different. If there is something I didn't cover, or you have questions, or things don't go exactly the way I described, feel free to start a new topic in the Algae - Prevention and Treatment section and get advice tailored to your specific situation. If you are properly prepared, hit hard, and follow up thoroughly, you can have the pool cleaned up in under a week and be back to enjoying your sparkling oasis!
    Last edited by jblizzle; 01-28-2014 at 09:37 AM.
    19K gal, vinyl, 1/2 HP WhisperFlo pump, 200 sqft cartridge filter, AutoPilot Digital SWG, Dolphin Dynamic cleaning robot
    TFP Admin. Creator of PoolMath and Pool Calculator. Other handy links: Support this site, TF Test Kits, Pool School

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    Great Job Jason and at the time people will need it. You are spoiling us big time.
    Thanks Again
    Ric W.
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  3. #3
    Senior Member SeanB's Avatar
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    An instant Sticky! Well done.
    TFP Founder

    My Pool: 13K gal IG gunite with 7' spa, Pentair Cartridge Filter, Intellichlor IC40 SWG, Polaris 280 Cleaner, TF-100 Test Kit w/ salt test.

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    Newb question

    this applies to SWG pools also?
    IG Liner
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  5. #5
    Mod Squad JohnT's Avatar
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    Re: Newb question

    Quote Originally Posted by Teed
    this applies to SWG pools also?
    Yes. You are usually better of shutting of the SWCG during the cleanup because it just uses up cell life and doesn't add chlorine fast enough to help much. Otherwise, everything holds true. Don't forget that most SWCG pools run at a higher CYA level than non-salt generator pools, so shock levels will be higher.
    TFP Moderator
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    Excellent....excellent...now I feel I know less....Thank you very much, very nice complex but simplified knowledge.
    1st class !!!!
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    Jason,

    I referred someone to your sticky (see this thread), but they ended up having some problems so I have some suggestions.

    First and foremost, please start out saying that one should have a good test kit such as the Taylor K-2006 or the TF100. Test strips are generally not accurate and starting out with invalid data can be a big problem. [EDIT] Whoops -- I see that you DO say that in the Be Prepared section -- I guess that just wasn't done in this case. [END-EDIT]

    Second, if the accurately measured CYA level is very high, say above 80 ppm, then it is usually best to do a partial drain/refill since that will need to be done eventually anyway and it will take too much chlorine otherwise or take too long.

    Third, though your sticky is oriented to pool opening, the general algae clearing problem could have someone that already used a copper-based algaecide so note that if that is the case then adding chlorine causes the pH to rise which can cause copper staining and green water. Probably lowering the pH first is a good idea before adding the chlorine, especially in this case. Adding a metal sequestrant at some point will also like be needed.

    Fourth, remind people that every pool situation is different and that they should check in at TroubleFreePool with progress reports every 2-3 days. This is especially true if the clearing process is particularly slow or seems to get stuck.

    Thanks,
    Richard
    16,000 gallon outdoor in-ground 16'x32' plaster pool; Pentair Intelliflo VF pump; Pentair IntelliTouch i9+3s control system; Jandy CL-340 square foot cartridge filter
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  8. #8
    Administrator JasonLion's Avatar
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    Richard, thanks for the suggestions. I made some updates to address your concerns. Hopefully this will help smooth out the process for people who have algae problems in the future.
    19K gal, vinyl, 1/2 HP WhisperFlo pump, 200 sqft cartridge filter, AutoPilot Digital SWG, Dolphin Dynamic cleaning robot
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    Jason,

    Thanks. It almost sounds like Goldilocks where the CYA shouldn't be too low (near zero) or too high -- it needs to be juuuuuust right! It turns out that the person with the pool problem in the thread I linked to now may have no CYA at all -- the opposite problem I was thinking. Finding out the CYA level is really really important. If one doesn't have a test kit, then seeing a very large drop in FC during the day and a smaller one at night is probably a clue of too low CYA. One other problem that is possible is losing CYA over the winter and ending up with ammonia that takes a LOT of chlorine to get rid of (though this situation is more rare -- one can also lose some CYA and the ammonia apparently dissipates). If one sees that adding chlorine results in a rapid drop in FC and formation of CC even within 10 minutes of adding chlorine, then that's a sign of ammonia in the water. Again, thanks for updating the sticky.

    Richard
    16,000 gallon outdoor in-ground 16'x32' plaster pool; Pentair Intelliflo VF pump; Pentair IntelliTouch i9+3s control system; Jandy CL-340 square foot cartridge filter
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    Green Free

    Jason,
    I'm new to TFP - I found the site when researching methods to get rid of green slime. Your advice worked perfectly. I am now swimming in a crystal clear oasis! Thank you for taking the time to write such an easy to follow method for killing algae.
    18x36 inground vinyl w/steel walls
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    Re: Turning Your Green Swamp Back into a Sparking Oasis

    Hi Jason,

    Great post. I finally had time to look closely at my pool today (greenish for weeks even with pump running regularly). I never looked at the filter before today. What a sight when I opened it up. It was solid green! I hosed it down and cleaned it out and restarted the pump. After adding about 3 gallons of chlorine and the pump running for several hours, I could definitely notice a difference. However, It's a good thing I read your article, otherwise, I would have made a couple rookie mistakes.

    1. Didn't know I should run it 24/7. I'll turn it back on in the morning.
    2. I was going to wait til the water cleared up more before testing. I did by the TF testkit. Now I'll test it tommorrow for CYA.

    Thx.
    -Rich
    20k Gallon IG, Hayward 1.15HP RS750 Pump, Purex Triton Nautilus FNS 48 DE Filter, Polaris 280 w/ PB4-60 Booster Pump.

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    Senior Member launboy's Avatar
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    Re: Turning Your Green Swamp Back into a Sparking Oasis

    In your sig you say you have a DE filter. Not trying to insult your intelligence, but you did add new DE right? Just making sure because you didn't mention it.

    Good luck getting it nice and blue again,
    Adam
    18' x 42" Intex Easyset Pool, with 16' x 52" deep end in the middle. Approx. 5500 Gal.
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    Re: Turning Your Green Swamp Back into a Sparking Oasis

    Yeah, I added DE. I followed the filter's manual on manually cleaning the filter. Even the deep end is clearing up now. Now I just need to keep it going.
    20k Gallon IG, Hayward 1.15HP RS750 Pump, Purex Triton Nautilus FNS 48 DE Filter, Polaris 280 w/ PB4-60 Booster Pump.

  14. #14
    Administrator JasonLion's Avatar
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    Re: Turning Your Green Swamp Back into a Sparking Oasis

    Quote Originally Posted by dc_dick
    Even the deep end is clearing up now.
    Congratulations!
    19K gal, vinyl, 1/2 HP WhisperFlo pump, 200 sqft cartridge filter, AutoPilot Digital SWG, Dolphin Dynamic cleaning robot
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    Re: Turning Your Green Swamp Back into a Sparking Oasis

    Is it possible to over chlorinate? I've dump tons of chlorine bleach and run the filter 24/7 and it's still green! All other factors in range. I guess I'm not brushing enough.
    Trenton, IL (St. Louis Area)
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  16. #16
    Senior Member reebok's Avatar
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    Re: Turning Your Green Swamp Back into a Sparking Oasis

    it's possible but your pool wouldn;t be green if you were. sounds like you're not adding enough. this site is all about testing testing testing, not just adding some (or even a lot) now and again. start your own thread with the info requested here pool-school/read_before_you_post
    16x32 21,000 gallon in-ground exposed aggregate, 1.5hp pump, 120 sqft catridge filter, birdcage, solar panels, aquavac tigershark qc robot.

  17. #17
    Administrator JasonLion's Avatar
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    Re: Turning Your Green Swamp Back into a Sparking Oasis

    Testing the FC level with a good test kit is by far the best way to deal with the question of how much chlorine to add. You get reliable results and don't use any more chlorine than you need to use. If testing is out of the question for some reason, there are various ways to guess how much chlorine you need to use. One of the guessing techniques is to slowly add chlorine until the water changes color. Usually it will go from green to gray, but sometimes it goes from bright green to a dull green.

    The problem with all of the guessing techniques is that you can easily use too much chlorine or too little chlorine. If you add way too much chlorine there can be metal corrosion and minor fading of vinyl liners. If you add too little chlorine, the algae won't all be killed and you will quickly be right back where you started.
    19K gal, vinyl, 1/2 HP WhisperFlo pump, 200 sqft cartridge filter, AutoPilot Digital SWG, Dolphin Dynamic cleaning robot
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  18. #18
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    Re: Turning Your Green Swamp Back into a Sparking Oasis

    How about a Baquacil pool? We haven't been able to use our pool (20k gal plaster) since early August when we returned from a weekend away to find an emerald green swamp. I've super Oxidized (4 gal at once per my local pool store's guidance), high dosed with premium algicide and maintained all other measurable attributes to specifications (Sanitizer, Ph and Alkalinity). After investing a small fortune in chemistry, I feel this is a losing battle and am on the verge to return to chlorine.

    Any ideas/suggestions??
    doityourself..
    1997 gunite white plaster 24x36 double kidney shape pool with attached spa ~25,000 gallons.
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  19. #19
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    Re: Turning Your Green Swamp Back into a Sparking Oasis

    Hi, Bob,

    Welcome to the forum. YOu will find very little encouraging advioce about baquacil. Most of us strongly advocate the conversion (return) to chlorine.

    Read a few of the post in the baquacil forum and you'll get the idea of how the forum members feel. We'll be ready to help if you decide to make the switch.
    Dave S.
    Site Owner 42k vinyl and concrete pool, 1.5hp pump, 140gpm filter, No SWG
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    Re: Turning Your Green Swamp Back into a Sparking Oasis

    Thanks for the reply, since my initial post I've gone ahead and taken the plunge (pun intended) and am in the process of conversion back to Chlorine. (It's already starting to look better). I've had it with the Baquacil experience!

    Bob
    doityourself..
    1997 gunite white plaster 24x36 double kidney shape pool with attached spa ~25,000 gallons.
    Hayward PRO DE, Sta-Rite 2 hp two speed pump, P4 and Goldline 40k salt system, G3 floor cleaner.

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