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Thread: So you want to add borates to your pool--Why and How

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    So you want to add borates to your pool--Why and How

    A few folks asked for a sticky on this so here it is. If you just want to jump to how without the why look for the blue part of this post below!

    Several companies are selling sodium tetraborate pentahydrate as a pool additive under such names as Proteam's Supreme, Bioguard's Optimizer Plus, Poollife Endure, Guardex Maximizer, and others. Several claims have been made for these products when used in a 30-50 ppm concentration such as:
    1) more stable pH
    2) Algaestatic properties
    3) reduced chlorine usage
    4) silkier feeling water--less skin and eye irritation
    5) clearer, 'sparkling' water

    Do these products live up to the claims made for them?
    A definite YES!

    Remember that all pools are different so you might see dramatic results or just a slight improvement. There are a lot of other factors that come into play. Do borates help simplify pool maintenace? Another definite YES!

    Are there any downsides to adding borates?
    I can only think of two.
    1) They are an additional expense
    2) There has been some concern of toxicity if dogs drink large quantities of water from the pool.

    I do have to say that most people find that their pools become much easier to maintain once the borates are in and several people on the PoolForum board have reported that since adding borates they have not had any mustard algae outbreaks.

    As far as dogs (or people) ingesting small amounts of pool water, that's not going to hurt then BUT if you dog things the pool is their own private giant water dish that is NOT a good thing, borates or not! There are may chemicals in our pools that are not really good for our pets to consume in large quantities! Provide fresh drinking water outside and change it regularly and it's pretty easy to teach your pets not to drink from the pool! (I know a bit about this, I have three dogs and a cat!)

    Do I feel the benefits of borates outweigh the downsides?

    A RESOUNDING yes!

    Just remember that adding borates are not going to magically cure your pH problems or algae problems and they are NOT going to relieve you of having to test and balance your water!
    They will just help make these jobs easier!


    You can also use sodium tetraborate decahydrate (20 Mule Team Borax) to achieve the same results for a much lower price.

    Here is how to do it:
    You will need a bunch of 20 Mule Team Borax and 31.45% Muriatic Acid. Don't forget some borate test strips! The LaMotte Borate test strips are the best ones I have come across.

    1. First, adjust your TA to your target value. (This is actually the hardest part of this whole procedure.) This should be around 70-80 ppm for SWGs and liquid chlorine (or bleach), around 100 ppm if you are using trichlor. The borates will cause a very slight increase in the TA when you are done.

    2. After TA is at target value adjust pH to between 7.4-7.6 (This is the second hardest part!)

    3. Figure out how much borax and acid you need. An easy way to do this is to remember that 12 oz. BY WEIGHT of borax raises 1000 gallons 10 ppm and requires 6 FLUID oz. of acid to neutralize the pH rise. This is not exact but it's close enough. Remember, we are talking about a pool, we're not making rocket fuel here!
    So, if 12 oz. of borax raises 1000 gallons 10 ppm and we want 50 ppm we need 60 oz. of borax for every 1000 gallons in our pool. Likewise, we would need to add 30 oz. of acid for every 60 oz. of borax! Here is an example:

    Let's say we have a 15000 gal. pool, then we would need 15 X the borax needed for 1000 gallons which is 15 X 60 = 900 oz. by weight. Let's convert that into pounds by dividing by 16 (16 oz. per lb. or we could write that 16 oz./lb.) That would be 56.25 lbs.
    Each box of borax weights 4.75 lbs. or 76 oz. so here is a faster way to figure out how many boxes you need:
    number of oz. needed / 76 oz. in a box = number of boxes needed so in our example we would have:
    900 oz. borax / 76 oz. per box = 11.8 boxes. Remember it's not rocket science so use about 11 and 3/4 boxes or just use 11 or use 12. You will end up close enough to 50 ppm!

    Now for the acid. we need 30 oz. per 1000 gallons to neutralize the pH rise of 50 ppm borates and we need to multiply that amount of acid by 15 since we have a 15000 gallon pool. That comes to 15 X 30 = 450 fluid (liquid measure) oz. of muriatic acid. There are 128 oz. in a gallon so we divide our amount needed in oz. by 128 to find out how many gallons of muriatic acid we will need.
    For our example this is 450 oz. / 128 oz. per gallon = 3.5 gallons of muriatic acid. If you follow along on a calculator you can see how I am rounding off to the nearest EASY measurement. Once again, REMEMBER, it's a pool, you're not working in a chemistry lab!!!!!!!! We will balance out any slight inaccuracies a bit later so don't worry. It's all good!

    Now take a deep breath, the worst is over!

    4. WITH YOUR PUMP RUNNING add 1/2 the required acid to your pool. You can pour it SLOWLY into the stream of one of your returns or dilute about 1/2 gal at a time in a 5 gal bucket of pool water and broadcast it around the pool. As soon as the acid is in put in 1/2 the borax. Just dump it in the water or pour it in your skimmer.

    5. Brush down the sides of your pool all the way around. This will create currents that mix everything. You are 'stirring' your pool water by doing this. This is a good procedure to follow when you add any chemicals to your water and want to mix them. Anyway, none of us really brush our pools enough, do we?

    6. Add the rest of the acid and the rest of the borax and brush just like you did for the first batch. You don't have to wait, just put it in when you finish brushing.

    7. Brush again!

    8. Let the pump run continuously for 24-48 hours.

    9. After 48 hours (not sooner please!) test your borates. You should be right around 50 ppm. Now test your pH, if it is above 7.6 add a bit more acid to bring it down to about 7.6. If you pH is below 7.4 you can start aerating to bring it up unless it's below 7.0, then you need to add more borax.

    10. Test your borate levels monthly. If you backwash a lot you might need to test a bit more often. When your borates drop to about 30 ppm increase them another 20 ppm to bring them back up to 50 ppm by adding the acid and borax. This time you don't have to divide it into two batches. Just make sure your TA and pH are in range then add the needed acid and borax and brush. Check your levels in 48 hours and make any minor adjustments that might be needed. If you have a cartridge filter you will find that you borate levels stay pretty stable (unless you have a leak somewhere! )

    11. Enjoy the sparkling water, the reduced chlorine demand, the pH stability, and the algaestatic properties that the borates have added to your water. The 'sparkle' has been commented on by just about everyone who has done this. The water looks almost jewel like!


    If that is too much work and you don't mind spending the money then Proteam has Supreme Plus and Haviland has Salt Support. These are both pH neutral products that do not require the addition of acid along with them. They are the only two pH neutral borate products I know of. The Salt Support also contains some CYA I believe but I have not been able to confirm this. They are more expensive than the regular borate products and MUCH more expensive than 20 Mule Team Borax but only you can decide if the convenience is worth the extra expense to you.

  2. #2
    Senior Member SeanB's Avatar
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    Thanks Evan - great work!

    FYI - for anyone whose never bought 20 Mule Team Borax, you'll find it on your laundry aisle, near the powdered detergent.
    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.

  3. #3
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    waterbear, just what are the benefits of borates supposed to be? I see you mention clearer water and reduced chlorine.....just how much of a chlorine demand reduction might we be talking?
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  4. #4
    Administrator JasonLion's Avatar
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    You can use my Pool Calculator, see the link in my signature, to calculate the amounts of borax and acid you will need.

    Borates inhibit algae growth, improve the feel and appearance of the water, buffer PH, and reduce chlorine consumption. The reduction in chlorine demand varies from pool to pool. Borates prevent algae from getting started, so you don't use up chlorine killing off the algae. In some pools that is constantly happening and borates make a large difference, in other pools algae doesn't grow much for other reasons and borates make little difference.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member midtngal's Avatar
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    What a great guide waterbear! Exactly what I need...my hand held through it all! I have a question though...right now my pool (I assume) has no borates in it since I haven't added any. If I want to raise that to the 50 ppm mentioned here and I add the 600 oz that doing so calls for, the pool calculator tells me that this would raise my pH by 6.12 and my TA by 109. So should I then add the acid to bring that back into range?? Will this affect the borates? Or are the borates s something I could add slowly over time to keep from adding all these chemicals trying to balance one or the other out?? In other words, are borates something that can be built up (like CYA)??

    Thanks so much!
    Karen
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    Thank you SO MUCH for writing this sticky. Now let me ask a couple of additional questions. I am curious why we want to have our TA and pH "where you want it" before starting the process? Now the whole reason I want to do borates is to add additional buffering to the water since I aerate a great deal and my TA has to live at 60 ppm to keep my pH between 7.4 and 7.6 for more than a couple of days. Now with the borates, I will essentially have a dual buffer system. But will my TA simply be impossible to move once borates are in place at 50 ppm? Is that why?

    Craig
    10K gallon IG gunite with waterfall; Pentair CC320P filter; WhisperFlo 2 HP pump
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  7. #7
    Administrator JasonLion's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by midtngal
    If I want to raise that to the 50 ppm mentioned here and I add the 600 oz that doing so calls for, the pool calculator tells me that this would raise my pH by 6.12 and my TA by 109. So should I then add the acid to bring that back into range??
    If you are adding borates using borax you need to add the correct amount of muriatic acid at the same time to keep the PH steady. Adding acid will not affect the borates in the water. It is very important that you rebalance the PH after adding borates. Even with borax and acid being added at the same time the balance may not come out exactly right and you need to check the PH and make any final adjustments as needed after everything has mixed for a few hours.

    The borates level is like the CYA level, it will normally only go down because of water replacement (splash out, backwashing, rain overflow) so it only needs to be checked at the start of the season and any time you suspect significant water replacement has occurred.

    Adding borax and acid will have a small effect on TA, but the borates PH buffer and the TA PH buffer are essentially independent of each other. It is still possible to change the TA after adding borates, it is just significantly more difficult.
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    Borax calculations, bleach calculator or the pool calculator

    The sticky here corresponds to "the pool calculator" calculations; ie

    for a 29059 us gal pool, and 10 ppm borate increase, we need to add 342 oz of 20 mule borax.

    The bleach calculator for an equivalent size pool(110k litres) : with 9.7 kg(or 342 oz) says the Tetraborates ppm added is 36 not 10!.
    Is the bleach calculator wrong, or does it assume a different borax additive than 20 mule borax?
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  9. #9
    Administrator JasonLion's Avatar
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    BleachCalc has a known problem with calculating the amount of borax to use to raise the borate level. Several people have confirmed that the calculation in my Pool Calculator is correct, or at least reasonably close.
    19K gal, vinyl, 1/2 HP WhisperFlo pump, 200 sqft cartridge filter, AutoPilot Digital SWG, Dolphin Dynamic cleaning robot
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  10. #10
    Member cincysaab95's Avatar
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    Re:

    Seems like an interesting concept. Is this only for SWG pools or all pools?

    Thanks.
    ____________________________________________________________ __________________
    IG VL, 18'x36'x5', Hayward S220T sand filter, Hayward gas heater, MagneTek 1HP pump, Hayward automatic chlorinator, solar cover, Kreepy Krauly. Pool was hole in the ground that I put my money into for the past 5 years but thanks to TFP that changed and I'm enjoying being a pool owner.

  11. #11
    Administrator JasonLion's Avatar
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    Re: So you want to add borates to your pool--Why and How

    Borates work equally well in any pool.
    19K gal, vinyl, 1/2 HP WhisperFlo pump, 200 sqft cartridge filter, AutoPilot Digital SWG, Dolphin Dynamic cleaning robot
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  12. #12

    Re: So you want to add borates to your pool--Why and How

    BBB = Bleach, Baking Soda, and Borax; right?

    Pretty simple.

    Borax to raise the pH w/o raising the TA. Right?

    Now you're saying that's not right, now you're saying establish a constant level of borates and keep it there.

    How do you then raise the pH? Aeration?

    And then we need to lower pH and Total Alkalinity with Muriatic Acid.

    So shouldn't the acronym be BBBAM?

    But we also need to add CYanuric Acid to stabilize the Chlorine, and to replace water to lower CYA and borates.

    So the acronym should be BBBAMCW. Yes?

    Oh, and maybe salt to make the water even more comfortable to our skin and eyes; but just a little so nothing corrodes (esp. the concrete decking around the pool -- VERY susceptible to salt corrosion).

    So now we have BBBAMCWS !

    Have I forgotten anything?

    Almost as confusing as the guys at the pool store.

    ...

    Just kidding!

    Well ... sort of.

    I just don't think we should use the BBB acronym anymore since we have obviously discovered the situation is much more complex than BBB might lead us to believe.

    BTW, shouldn't the TF100 have a borates test in it, since Borax is part of the approved method here; it's certainly expensive enough. I was surprised to find it didn't when I got mine a couple of days ago.
    -Steve, Westford, MA; 31,326 gal 21' x 41' IG Imperial 1000 Series vinyl pool
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  13. #13
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    Re: So you want to add borates to your pool--Why and How

    As a lurker I had to write and sing the praise of Borax.
    I inform, then giggle at friends and neighbors who don't listen to me. Go back to the hill and smile at my algae free, sparkly water.
    There may be leaf litter on the pool bottom, but I don't have to worry about an algae bloom, I am borated!
    What I surely don't miss is the constant brushing of the walls either.
    Yes, I still use TriChlor tabs. The hauling of bleach bottles was too much for tendonitis around the house to the poolhouse for my big pool.
    Spring opening is a snap, using Poly60% applied over the Loop Loc cover in early March. Bring up the TA, PH, run the Hayward Viper to stir it up, Shock, vaccuum to waste and ready to go in 2-3 days, maybe a day or so more if I don't devote a weekend.
    In fact when all clean I only run my filter and pump for a few hours during the night, then 6 to 8 hours , more when in heavy use on the weekends.

    My pool: Constructed 1974, concrete/fiberglass sides 22X40 ft 4ft low end 10 ft deep end. Triton Tr60 Sand filter, orginal from construction of the pool
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  14. #14
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    Re: So you want to add borates to your pool--Why and How

    Holy shizzle that's a lot of acid and borax

    Will I be able to do my laundry in my pool after

    Seriously though no eye stinging or any other ill effects?
    15,500 gal, inground gunite pool with 7 ft spa, 2 speed pump 2hp/.33hp, 3/4 hp booster pump, Intermatic P1353 timer, AutoPilot SC-48, Sand filter with ZeoBest, Heater, that I never use . . .

  15. #15
    Senior Member midtngal's Avatar
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    Re: So you want to add borates to your pool--Why and How

    Well, interesting that this topic has come up again because I was going to ask about this in the next couple of days! Since this came up in April, I have added a little Borax here and there to increase the pH by a couple of points. My reading yesterday was 50. So, like salt, it doesn't evaporate/go away?? It looks, at least in my experience so far, that you *can* add it a little at a time for accumulation. Does this sound right??

    Also, I was hoping/under them impression that it would help with the bugs in the water. During the day there doesn't seem to be a bug issue, but at night when I turn the light on....my gawd...the spiders come from nowhere! And they just seem to hop right along the water. Of course, by the next morning they're in the skimmer dead; but I sure would like to not have to swim with them at night!

    Any thoughts or opinions on what's going on here??

    Karen
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    Re: So you want to add borates to your pool--Why and How

    Bugs are hungry and looking for food. No chemical that you want to swim in will keep them out of your pool

  17. #17
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    Re: So you want to add borates to your pool--Why and How

    Quote Originally Posted by sks23cu
    Borax to raise the pH w/o raising the TA. Right?

    Now you're saying that's not right, now you're saying establish a constant level of borates and keep it there.
    Borax is used for TWO distinct uses. One is to raise the pH without as much rise in TA. It does raise the TA, but only half as much as using pH Up / soda ash / sodium carbonate. Only aeration raises the pH with no change in TA.

    The second use of Borax is having it at a higher 30-50 ppm level in the pool. To do that requires adding Borax and acid since Borax raises the pH (or one can use Proteam Supreme Plus which is pH balanced using mostly Boric Acid so no acid addition is needed). However, once you've added the Borax, you're done and don't need to add it again unless there is splash-out or dilution (say, from backwashing). The Borax for this use helps keep the pH more stable, acts as a mild algaecide, and makes the water sparkle.

    These are two different uses for Borax that are independent.

    As for BBB complexity, in practice one hardly ever has to use Borax if they are using bleach because the pH will not usually drop. In practice, one usually just uses bleach or chlorinating liquid and occasional Muriatic Acid. In my own pool I use 12.5% chlorinating liquid and that's all. Perhaps I add acid once or twice a season. I have an electric opaque safety cover so have minimal aeration which helps a lot. BBB is more of a philosophy of taking charge of your pool through accurate testing (and getting a feel for your pool) and using appropriately priced chemicals.

    Richard
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  18. #18
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    Re: So you want to add borates to your pool--Why and How

    Can this process be done more gradually? Maybe raising the borate level by 10ppm at a go instead of the full 50. I assume that it can, but I remember there being some discussion about the middle ranges of borates being a problem (in PF some time ago). Based on Evan's 15k pool example above with my pool being twice as large, 22 boxes of 20 Mule team and 7 gallons of acid is a lot of stuff to buy and haul all at one go.

    Does anyone sell borax in larger quantities than the 4lb box?
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  19. #19
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    Re: So you want to add borates to your pool--Why and How

    I just did my pool yesterday. 26 boxes and 8 gal. I just went out and bought the stuff. There is no getting around it. WalMart was the cheapest for borate. Forget the dumb check-out girl that asked " What do you use that stuff for?" Tell her to clean blood off the floors.
    Hotrod30

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  20. #20
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    Re: So you want to add borates to your pool--Why and How

    Quote Originally Posted by Hotrod30
    I just did my pool yesterday. 26 boxes and 8 gal. I just went out and bought the stuff. There is no getting around it.
    Exactly!

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