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Thread: Borax safety vs soda ash

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    Borax safety vs soda ash

    I am just learning about the BBB method and bought some borax to have on hand as our pH is looking a tad low.

    Before using it, however, I just started researching borax safety in pools and not coming up with a lot of reassurance about it being safe. It sounds like it has not been studied enough yet. I have two small boys, a 5 year old and 16 month old, and I am limit their exposure to chemicals as much as I can. Can anyone weigh in on the safety of borax? Is soda ash safer?
    7+ years, inground, 25,000 gallon, vinyl, sand filter.

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    Richard320's Avatar
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    Re: Borax safety vs soda ash

    If you're worried about it, don't use it. If you hunt for it, you might find Arm & Hammer Washing Soda in the grocery stores. It's 85% Sodium Carbonate.

    http://www.acehardware.com/product/inde ... Id=3549579
    http://www.walmart.com/ip/Arm-Hammer-Su ... z/19407690
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    Re: Borax safety vs soda ash

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard320
    If you're worried about it, don't use it. If you hunt for it, you might find Arm & Hammer Washing Soda in the grocery stores. It's 85% Sodium Carbonate.

    http://www.acehardware.com/product/inde ... Id=3549579
    http://www.walmart.com/ip/Arm-Hammer-Su ... z/19407690
    Thank you for those links, Richard. If I use soda ash, will it increase the TA as well? Really not looking to do that as when last checked the TA has been steady at around 100. A slight increase in the TA won't hurt, just as long as it won't be a significant increase. Our pH is about 7.2, maybe slightly lower right now, so looking to increase that to 7.5. Hopefully, going by the pool calculator, whatever amount of soda ash is needed to make that adjustment won't overdo it on our TA.
    7+ years, inground, 25,000 gallon, vinyl, sand filter.

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    Re: Borax safety vs soda ash

    I agree with Richard; you should use whatever makes you comfortable.

    Whether a substance is grown, mined (as is Borax), or chemically compounded (as I suspect Washing Soda is) may not make a difference, for a young small child is certainly more likely to be affected by any chemical, mineral, or organic substance.

    Anything and everything, if absorbed or consumed in high amounts, is toxic. Unfortunately, that includes chocolate, healthy foods, and even water.

    Did you know that Baby Shampoo doesn't sting babys' eyes because the manufacturers add a substance to numb the eyes, in the event the shampoo gets in there?

    It's definitely challenging to figure it all out, and make the right choices, these days, isn't it?
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    Re: Borax safety vs soda ash

    Quote Originally Posted by alanpaul

    It's definitely challenging to figure it all out, and make the right choices, these days, isn't it?
    Alan
    Yeah, trying to find the lesser of two evils is tough. I don't like chemicals at all, but they are certainly required to maintain a pool!

    I would rather use soda ash (I guess because it's the same as the conventional products used for the pool), but then again I am afraid of it causing havoc on my TA, so not sure about that.

    Then again, we are not going to be swimming this week at all, so if I were to use the borax today (because I do have it on hand), will it be less of a concern when it's time to swim, probably a few days from now, because it won't be so "fresh" in the pool? I do like the fact that borax doesn't change any other chemistry in the pool when introduced.
    7+ years, inground, 25,000 gallon, vinyl, sand filter.

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    Re: Borax safety vs soda ash

    Soda ash/PH Up/Washing Soda does increase the TA more than using borax. There have been several studies done on borax safety, though they all seem to appear in very technical contexts that you wouldn't normally find with an Internet search. The levels used in swimming pools are safe for humans with the usual 100 times safety margin. Borates are also safe for pets, however the safety margin is much smaller. They do have a slight negative environmental impact, more significant in places where contaminates tend to get concentrated in the ground water.
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    Re: Borax safety vs soda ash

    Quote Originally Posted by JasonLion
    Soda ash/PH Up/Washing Soda does increase the TA more than using borax. There have been several studies done on borax safety, though they all seem to appear in very technical contexts that you wouldn't normally find with an Internet search. The levels used in swimming pools are safe for humans with the usual 100 times safety margin. Borates are also safe for pets, however the safety margin is much smaller. They do have a slight negative environmental impact, more significant in places where contaminates tend to get concentrated in the ground water.
    Thank you. Very helpful

    Here are some questions in response that keep popping into my mind that I want to ask you guys:

    1. Do you have any of the studies you could link me to regarding the borax?
    2. Is there a way to calculate how much my TA will increase with the use of soda ash, by using the calculation of the required amount needed to raise my pH from say 7.2 to 7.5?
    3. If I use borax say today, but don't swim that day or the next few days, is it less potent?
    4. If I use borax to lower pH today and then later sometime in the summer want to use soda ash to lower pH if required (or vice versa), will that do any harm to use them interchangeably like that? (Of course not using them at the same time).
    7+ years, inground, 25,000 gallon, vinyl, sand filter.

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    Re: Borax safety vs soda ash

    1) chem geek tends to have the study links handy. Hopefully he will comment.
    2) The effects of adding chemicals section of the Pool Calculator is good for figuring out that kind of thing.
    3) There is nothing remotely like that. Borax has the effect it has. Swimming has nothing to do with it.
    4) Borax and soda ash both raise PH. If you want to lower PH use muriatic acid. You can mix the use of borax and soda ash freely as long as they are added to the pool separately and not pre-mixed together beforehand.
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    Re: Borax safety vs soda ash

    Quote Originally Posted by JasonLion
    1) chem geek tends to have the study links handy. Hopefully he will comment.
    2) The effects of adding chemicals section of the Pool Calculator is good for figuring out that kind of thing.
    3) There is nothing remotely like that. Borax has the effect it has. Swimming has nothing to do with it.
    4) Borax and soda ash both raise PH. If you want to lower PH use muriatic acid. You can mix the use of borax and soda ash freely as long as they are added to the pool separately and not pre-mixed together beforehand.
    Great stuff

    I'm sorry..For #4, I meant to say raise pH, not lower it Trying to type and think while chasing a 16-month-old around - LOL! I'm defintely on a mission of raising our pH right now.

    Regarding #3, I'm not sure if what I said made sense or not. I basically meant that if I introduce borax today, but am a tad afraid of it for the kids, if we don't swim that day but maybe the next day or so, should I feel more comfortable that the pool is not as "toxic" as when it was initially the day I introduced it? I would also predissolve it in a bucket of water before putting it in as well. It's raining here today so no one will be swimming today.

    (I am using the word "toxic" here only because I am referring to small kids. I know it's not actually toxic the way I would be using it, but to me, any chemical along with kids can be toxic. )
    7+ years, inground, 25,000 gallon, vinyl, sand filter.

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    Re: Borax safety vs soda ash

    Borate levels will be essentially the same the day you add borax as a week, or month, later. The borate level will go down very slowly over time (if you stop adding more) as water gets replaced (due to splash out, backwashing, winterizing, overflow, etc) but that effect if only significant over a whole season and not over days or weeks.

    Also, keep in mind that borate levels from using borates to adjust PH will not be anywhere remotely near as high as they are when borates are added for their direct effects. Borates are commonly sold as a water conditioner and mild algaecide designed to be used at levels 20 to 30 times higher than you would experience using borax to adjust PH.
    19K gal, vinyl, 1/2 HP WhisperFlo pump, 200 sqft cartridge filter, AutoPilot Digital SWG, Dolphin Dynamic cleaning robot
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    Re: Borax safety vs soda ash

    Quote Originally Posted by JasonLion
    Borate levels will be essentially the same the day you add borax as a week, or month, later. The borate level will go down very slowly over time (if you stop adding more) as water gets replaced (due to splash out, backwashing, winterizing, overflow, etc) but that effect if only significant over a whole season and not over days or weeks.

    Also, keep in mind that borate levels from using borates to adjust PH will not be anywhere remotely near as high as they are when borates are added for their direct effects. Borates are commonly sold as a water conditioner and mild algaecide designed to be used at levels 20 to 30 times higher than you would experience using borax to adjust PH.
    This is excellent information. That's exactly what I was looking for. Well, not exactly because I was hoping you'd say they would decrease as the days past, but that's okay. Now I can actually make a decision.

    I didn't realize that about the water conditioner and algaecide... never even crossed my mind!
    7+ years, inground, 25,000 gallon, vinyl, sand filter.

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    Re: Borax safety vs soda ash

    Quote Originally Posted by JasonLion
    2) The effects of adding chemicals section of the Pool Calculator is good for figuring out that kind of thing.
    .
    So, I see for the pool calculator you are required to put in the TA as well when determining how to raise the pH with soda ash or borax. Does this mean the pool calculator will figure out the soda ash (or borax) amount in regards to the TA (and of course the pH first and foremost) so the TA does not get out of whack and stays within normal levels? That's what it looks like to me. Just need confirmation.

    Also, this is probably a stupid question but our borate level would be 0, unless we added something ourselves with borates manually, is that correct? I don't have a borate tester with my TF100 kit (at least I don't think I do). Is a test for borates something we would need to get if we are using borax? Probably totally overthinking now, but I tend to do that a lot.
    7+ years, inground, 25,000 gallon, vinyl, sand filter.

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    Re: Borax safety vs soda ash

    After it calculates the dosage to fix pH, go down to where it says Effects of Adding Chemicals and plug it in. That will tell you the total effects. The pH change might disagree a little, ignore that. It's not taking TA into account down there.

    You won't have borates unless you added them.
    16K freeform gunite with spa; Pentair 4000 DE filter; Century Whisperflow 1 HP; Pentair Minimax heater.
    Troublefree does not mean Maintenancefree. It's like brushing your teeth: You can spend a couple minutes a day and pennies a week or go to the dentist once a year and spend several thousand dollars.
    A pool is like a pet - you have to feed it every day, even the days you don't want to play with it!

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    Re: Borax safety vs soda ash

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard320
    After it calculates the dosage to fix pH, go down to where it says Effects of Adding Chemicals and plug it in. That will tell you the total effects. The pH change might disagree a little, ignore that. It's not taking TA into account down there.

    You won't have borates unless you added them.
    I love this calculator It's awesome. I didn't even see that at the bottom.
    7+ years, inground, 25,000 gallon, vinyl, sand filter.

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    Re: Borax safety vs soda ash

    Just a thought... If you are worried about adding chemicals and don't want to raise the TA, do you have a way to aerate the pool? This will raise the pH without affecting the TA or using chemicals.
    Screened in 15,000 gallon in-ground plaster SWG pool with attached spillover style spa. Borates 0 (might bring it up to 40-50ppm this season). Econo Flo 165 variable speed pump. Raypak 133k BTU Heat Pump. Oasis Controller. Dolphin Nautilus Plus CC Pool Cleaner. Taylor K-2006 test kit.

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    Re: Borax safety vs soda ash

    Quote Originally Posted by Mavrk
    Just a thought... If you are worried about adding chemicals and don't want to raise the TA, do you have a way to aerate the pool? This will raise the pH without affecting the TA or using chemicals.
    I was actually trying to figure out what aerating the pool meant earlier today as I have seen it mentioned here before. I am still new to this and never heard of aerating before. (I never really had a part in the pool process until now.) We don't have fountains or anything like that, and we certainly won't be swimming today. Still trying to figure out the meaning of the aerating process. Very interesting.

    I actually wound up adding the soda ash at 12:00 p.m today, according to our pool size and pH goal of 7.5. About one hour ago (two hours after adding the soda ash), I checked the ph and alk. Right on target now. Ph is 7.5 and alk 100. Now, two hours later, is this where I can expect the pH and alk to stay (meaning if other factors are not introduced that would change pH)? It won't continue to go up, I assume, as I followed the pool calculator to a T.

    Also, I wanted to ask if there is a section in Pool School or some kind of rule regarding the waiting period between adding chemicals. For example, I added the soda ash today. I am wondering if we had to add liquid chlorine later today/tonight, how long should we wait before adding the chlorine after adding the soda ash? We're still coming down from shock level, so our chlorine levels are still slightly higher than normal so not sure if we will need to add chlorine or not. Have to test later on.

    Anyway, any kind of schedule out there for all chemicals and how long to wait between each? I couldn't find anything in PS or internet search definitively.
    7+ years, inground, 25,000 gallon, vinyl, sand filter.

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    Re: Borax safety vs soda ash

    pH will go up over time. How fast depends on a lot of factors. Expect things to stay steady for a couple days at least. Well, except for FC.

    pool-school/recommended_pool_chemicals recommends waiting half an hour after adding bleach or acid before adding anything else, with the water circulating.
    16K freeform gunite with spa; Pentair 4000 DE filter; Century Whisperflow 1 HP; Pentair Minimax heater.
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    A pool is like a pet - you have to feed it every day, even the days you don't want to play with it!

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    Re: Borax safety vs soda ash

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard320
    pH will go up over time. How fast depends on a lot of factors. Expect things to stay steady for a couple days at least. Well, except for FC.

    pool-school/recommended_pool_chemicals recommends waiting half an hour after adding bleach or acid before adding anything else, with the water circulating.
    Since its going to go up over time, did I set my ph goal too high at 7.5 when figuring out how much soda ash to use?
    7+ years, inground, 25,000 gallon, vinyl, sand filter.

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    Re: Borax safety vs soda ash

    Don't know. This is why we advocate testing pH daily and keeping a record. You'll learn how your pool behaves and how you need to compensate. Bottom line, you're in charge now, so just wait and see.
    33' round, 23,000 gal AG vinyl , 1HP 2spd PowerFlo Matrix downsized with 3/4HP impeller (X2), Hayward S180T 150# sand filter (X2), Hayward H250 NG heater Pool Store year 1 - $850 for 2 months; Pool Store year 2 - $440 for 2 months, TFPC year 1 - $170 for 4 months; TFPC year 2 - $95 for 4.5 months
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    Re: Borax safety vs soda ash

    Quote Originally Posted by Smykowski
    Don't know. This is why we advocate testing pH daily and keeping a record. You'll learn how your pool behaves and how you need to compensate. Bottom line, you're in charge now, so just wait and see.
    Right on So glad I found you guys. I'm looking forward to my new experience with our pool this year.
    7+ years, inground, 25,000 gallon, vinyl, sand filter.

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