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Thread: Clarifiers and Flocculants...From Another Perspective

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    Patrick_B's Avatar
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    Clarifiers and Flocculants...From Another Perspective

    Almost every day, someone here asks about Clarifiers and Flocs to solve problems, and often...why it didn't work. At TFP, we hardly if ever suggest using them because they can, and often do make things worse. I wanted to give my perspective on this and vent a little as well. To get that out of the way, it truly bothers me that Pool Stores send people home with these products having no idea whether they will work at all. From my perspective, we use these types products extensively in the water treatment industry for many, many, types of applications to clear cloudy, contaminated, and otherwise "dirty" water that is full of various suspended solids. These products work extremely well, and quite frankly these processes depend on the use of them to function. However, there are a couple of very critical and important reasons we have success with them.

    Without being too technical, these products make particles join together so that they can be removed to clear the water. They may be removed in some way such as filtering, or the water may gently pour over some device and go elsewhere, now cleared of these particles. The first reason they work is because there are products that are targeted for very specific things and types of suspended solids. The second reason, and what I want to emphasize, is that we make certain a given product will work BEFORE we put it into any given system.

    We NEVER, EVER, EVER, just dump something in hoping it will work, not ever. Should I repeat that? I won't, but that is exactly what the Pool Store or whomever is telling you to do. That is what upsets me about it. Well, mostly anyway...

    So, to make this work...we take a given sample of water we want to treat and complete what is sometime very extensive experimentation on it, usually in a lab type environment. We do it with some unusual equipment as well. This work is done with extremely precise dosages of various products until we find one that works. Sometimes, the exact right product will ruin the situation if the dosage is wrong. Sure, we have a good guess on what will work and go from there, but there are still surprises to even the most seasoned Pro's at times. This testing can be long and sometimes very tedious, but it is the ONLY way to know if something really will work, and work properly.

    I write this in hopes of shedding some light on this, particularly to someone new to Pool/Water chemistry. In my opinion it is just wrong and I think unethical to say: "Here, dump this in your pool and it should clear it right up". To me, that is irresponsible at best. We could never get away with that in our world, and treating water is how we put groceries on the table. Seeing someone get away with it really can test your patience, and I assure you that taking guesses like that will put us right out of business. I know, it's a swimming pool, but don't we all want a perfectly clear sparkly pool? I do, and based on my experience I do not, and would not put these things in mine without knowing they will work. And if you are curious, no, I would not take them and test them, because I have never had an issue that proper chemistry and good filtering didn't fix. That's my opinion, and my perspective, and hopefully it will be of value to some of you.
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    Re: Clarifiers and Flocculants...From Another Perspective

    Well said! That's why I came here & joined up. I spent lotsa $$ at the pool store & still had water issues. Knowing what I know now I believe all my issues came from sky high CYA & an undersized filter. Pool stores treat high CYA by selling you MORE products that contain CYA to clear your pool. YIKES! Are they aware of the FC/CYA issue? I don't know--but they SHOULD be. I've posted in many of my replies that the TF100 kit was the best money I have EVER spent on my pool & I will continue to do so. The second best pool investment I ever made was becoming a supporter of this site. My pool would not be as sparkly as it is without TFP. Thanks to all who have helped educate me.
    17,500 gal. ABG Doughboy Pool
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    Re: Clarifiers and Flocculants...From Another Perspective

    Patrick B,

    That is an incredibly helpful and well written post. You have "clarified" ( ) what many of us have always thought but weren't able to define the issue as well as you have.

    Your post should be required reading for every newbie but, unfortunately, most only come here after they have already made the mistake of pool store advice.

    DebbieO,

    Thanks for those very nice comments. It will always be a continual source of frustration (for me, at least) that so many newbies just don't see how important it is to understand their water chemistry.
    Dave S.
    42k vinyl and concrete pool, 1.5hp pump, 140gpm filter
    TFTestkits , PoolMath , Pool School

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    Patrick_B's Avatar
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    Re: Clarifiers and Flocculants...From Another Perspective

    Thank you both for the kind words. I appreciate the feedback and hope some folks will benefit from it.
    TFP Moderator
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    Re: Clarifiers and Flocculants...From Another Perspective

    Patrick, thank you for that perspective. Put another way, we tend to recommend products that are not only generally effective, but that have the least amount of side effects. They also happen to be economical as well. As you point out, clarifiers and flocculants have a place when used properly, but these are complex chemicals and they absolutely have side effects so though they work in some situations, they will not work in others and can make things worse in still others. For swimming pools, they are rarely needed. Usually the problem is one of either the algae not getting all killed (most notably if it is still green) or poor circulation and filtration. There are a few chemicals that form more of a colloid so don't filter well -- the use of a phosphate remover is one example where a clarifier can be needed to remove lanthanum phosphate (but the phosphate remover isn't needed in the first place).

    Also, some chemicals are simply incompatible. The most common clarifiers are cationic (positively charged) polymers. Even Polyquat falls into this category though it is more commonly used as an algaecide and it's not as powerful as typical clarifiers. Some metal sequestrant products are anionic (negatively charged) polymers such as poly acrylic acid (PAA). As described in this thread, the combination can instantly cloud the pool since the two chemicals bond to each other creating a milky precipitated mess. The good news is that it filters out rather easily.
    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
    12 Fafco solar panels; Purex Triton PowerMax 250 natural gas heater (200,000 BTU/hr output); automatic electric pool safety cover; 4-wheel pressure-side "The Pool Cleaner"

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    doc.mosi's Avatar
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    Re: Clarifiers and Flocculants...From Another Perspective

    Thanks for good info. I love my test kit (TFT-100). I feel like a mad scientist making stuff change colors by just adding different drops!

    I also love the great advice and information I get on this forum!

    18ft Round Intex Metal Frame, 7000gal, 3/4HP pump, 100lb sand filter, TF-100 Test Kit, through the wall skimmer, Baqua convert...now BBB all the way. :)

    Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS), Weber One Touch gold. (I love smoky meat) :) Saving my $$ for a Big Green Egg.

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