Added borates to pool using borax method but messed up both my pH level and alkalinity, help!

mskillens

Member
Jun 26, 2019
13
Los Angeles, CA
Hello everyone,

So this is my first time posting in here. I've been a lurker the past two months since I've taken over managing and learning everything I can about maintaining my dad's in ground swimming pool. So since I've only been working on the pool since May, I consider myself a newbie at pool maintenance and I thought I knew what I was doing. Well... I done messed up! I need some advice on what I can do to remedy the situation here. Here's the problem:

So our plaster pool with the overflow raised spa(one in my profile picture) has the tendency to have high pH(7.8-8.0) every week or two despite having Alkalinity of 90 consistently(I have a new Taylor K2006 kit I bought back in June). I would always bring pH down to 7.2 as a result because I knew it was always going to go up to 8.0 after 10 days. Anyway, so I chalked it up to just the tribulations of having a plaster pool and having an overflow from the spa. So I decided to look into buffers that would keep the pH levels more consistent over time. Another issue with this pool was the tendency to develop dark yellowish algae fairly easily over by the stairs in that dead water space. I would brush 2-3 times a week and I still would get some just starting to attach on the stairs. That's when I did a lot of research for about 6 weeks on borates, watching youtube videos, reading posts on here, etc. and decided that my pool was a good candidate for borates. Plus I wanted to see for myself a sparkling effect to improve the appearance as an added bonus.

Fast-forward to yesterday evening. I spend the afternoon all excitedly raiding Walmart and Target for borax and grab 13 boxes of the stuff(the measurement would bring my borate level for a 20,000 pool between the 30-50ppm range according to pool calculator)

Here's where I messed up, instead of using MA to offset the high pH of the borax like all the instructional videos and requests suggested, I decided, due to not wanting to make an extra trip, to just grab the Chlorox brand "pH down" dry acid containers I saw in the Walmart pool chem section. I didn't think anything of it because I figured it would do the same exact thing as MA, which is bring down the pH. I purchase 3 containers(5lbs each container) of this pH down powder after estimating that was how much I needed to offset the borax.

So I get home, I test the water one last time and here were my results before the borates were put in at 6:00PM

FC: 6.0
CC: 0
pH: 7.2
AT: 90


I was like, sweet! It's right where I need it to be and now I can add the borates! So I added half of everything first, so 1.5 containers of the dry acid into the water, brushed it up, mixed it up, waited about 7-10 minutes then started adding 6 boxes of borax to the pool, mixing it with my pole, brushing it all around. I waited about 30 minutes and at around 8:00PM, I added the remaining 1.5 containers of dry acid and 7 boxes of borax and brushed and mixed it in the pool for about 30 minutes.

Then I pat myself on the back for a job well done, and leave the equipment running(research online indicated I leave equipment running at least 48hrs)

The next morning, I wake up all excited to look at the pool, and WOWEEE, the pool definitely looked very sparkly and incredibly clear looking(not that it didn't before, it just didn't look "Super HD crystal clear" haha) I was all excited but also hoping that my pH was okay and that the dry acid stuff worked alright despite not using MA.

I go ahead and test everything with the Taylor K2006 kit. Here are my results as of 11:00AM today and I about absolutely died of horror:

FC: now 3.0(I thought... WTF? how did it decrease by half within 24 hours? Reminder that when I checked the day before, it was 6.0 or 6.4 on the 25ml test) I couldn't believe it so I did the test again doing the 25ml and it was again exactly 3.0.

CC: still 0

Now the scary part:
pH: 11.0 (whoaaaaaaaaaa, I started to sweat and feel very stressed out thinking WTF???)
TA: 140 now(me thinking, no no no no, this cannot be happening, this is crazy)

So anyway, that's the big problem now, 17 hours into the borate process and already pH and TA are too high, essentially making me feel like I totally ruined my pool and screwed up everything now.

Here are the rest of my results because I decided to just do Calcium and CYA since my test for those 4 weeks ago:

Calcium: 330
CYA(done at 12:00PM today, back to the sun, vile down to my waist) Test one: 80 Test two: 70 Test three: 70. Since this test always drives me nuts I ran it three times(using the same cloudy solution of course) and the first time I thought I didn't see the dot at 80 mark. Then I ran it two more times and I noticed that I did still faintly see the mark at 80 but it totally disappeared at 70.

So I'm going to say: CYA 80, too high but manageable .... Also just to note, I now only use liquid bleach(the 10 %pool grade stuff and took out the pucks that screwed up my CYA)

Okay fellas, so after I did the tests, I added 90oz of MA since I had one leftover jug left that wasn't quite full from last week because I was like ... I need to get this pH down, and I need it down, nooooowwwwwwwwwwww. Right? I know 90 oz isn't enough but I figured, I should just mix it in for starters, test the pH after an hour and see if there's any improvement.

So here's my newbie question: My dad usually buys and puts in the MA for me since I'm always nervous handling it.(I know, stupid right?) I just help calculate the amounts for him and he's pretty brave to just mix it in there for me. Therefore, he usually buys it for me and since he's gone all this week, I'm going to have to buy it myself.

So question, what stores sell MA? Could I just try Home Depot, ask around at Walmart?(I personally didn't see it there but maybe its hidden somewhere) or do I have to make a stop at Leslies Pool and ask for it over the counter there?

Second question, my dad said something like they(I think the pool store?) told him he needed to have a plastic crate thing to carry the MA in, or maybe he was talking about the liquid chlorine, otherwise they wouldn't sell it to him so I don't know where that crate is now(we have a blue crate that's blue and not orange out next to the pool so maybe he uses that?)

Third, how incredibly screwed am I at trying to get my pH down since borates are now introduced to my pool? Should I be stressed out today or can I successfully fix this?

Lastly, thank everyone for all your help! Hope someone can give me advice today. I'm going to do an updated test on pH now that the 90oz of MA has been in there for 2 hours. I'll provide an update of that soon.
 

crusemm

Bronze Supporter
Sep 1, 2011
207
North Texas
Home Depot sells MA as iquid in the Outdoor/pool section, usually in 2 bottle casesd. Stock up, MA doesn't go bad so any exctra wont be wasted. Also pool supply stores and sometimes you can find it at Walmart in the cleaning Hardware section. Don't stress. Recover as you can. Also, I'm pretty sure Borax drives up TA. TA is reduced by lowering pH to 7.0 using MA, aerating to raise the pH back up, and then reducing pH with MA
 

jtpipkin

Bronze Supporter
Oct 2, 2016
184
albany, ga
big box store, pool store, paint store - just get some muriatic acid and start lowering that pH - take it slowly and follow pool math. you're on it, so it will be fine. do half what you think you need, wait 30 minutes and test. Dial it in nice and slow. TA should follow, but get that pH down.
 

mskillens

Member
Jun 26, 2019
13
Los Angeles, CA
Hey guys so quick update, it looks like I over-reacted because I tested the water about 30 minutes ago and the 90 oz of MA has made a difference. It went from
pH: 11.0 earlier this morning to........ my test taken at 5:30PM which read. pH: 9.8!

I went to Home Depot and bought some safety goggles(to make myself feel more comfortable around the acid) and I did buy 4 gallons. I slowly poured one gallon after I tested the pH level at 9.8. I will test again in 30-45 minutes and see how much of a dent that made. Hopefully I get it down to 8.0 and then perhaps tomorrow I'll do one last quart or so to gently bring it back down to 7.2 again. I don't know why I over-reacted, I guess I thought I totally ruined the pool and thought it was going to be really hard to bring down the pH because of the borates.

Oh quick question:

So I said that I recorded a FC: 6.0 yesterday but today it ended up being 3.0. Was that due to the extremely high pH and TA from all the borax I put in the pool and will it go back up to 6.0 after the pH is balanced? My CC both yesterday and today is 0 and there's no noticeable algae in the water at the current time. It's also very crystal clear I'm presuming from the borates so no cloudiness. I'm wondering how the heck my FC decreased so suddenly over a span of 24 hours.

My CYA is also at a high 80 so maybe that's messing it up.



I'll keep everyone updated

10 MINUTES LATER: UPDATE!
So I tested the water just now and after adding that gallon of MA, my pH is 8.6!!! :D:D:D

So I believe all I need to get down to 7.2 if pattern follows is one more gallon of MA! Do you guys think I'm doing okay or should I wait until tomorrow morning to add the last batch of acid? Nobody is swimming so I'm not worried if water wouldn't be swim friendly if I added the second gallon this evening.
 
Last edited:

mskillens

Member
Jun 26, 2019
13
Los Angeles, CA
How did you get pH test readings above 8.2?
So basically it was bright magenta or red or whatever they call that color in the Taylor kit. I knew it was over 8.0. It was super bright and didn't relate to any of the colors on that color chart they provide you. So I did the "acid demand test" and found out it took like initially 18 drops to get back to 7.2-7.4 which is the ideal measurements. So what I did and maybe I'm dumb or stupid was I listed the measurements by 2's. so I'm aiming for 7.2.... 7.2,7.4.7.8,8.0.8.2.8.4,8.6.8.8.9.0............I knew that the acid demand test from experience, when I would get something like an 7.8, if you did one drop of that solution they give you in the Taylor kit, it would reduce by 2, so I just counted upwards. So I was like, well.... it took like 14 or 18 in that terrible case earlier today to get to 7.2 so lets just go by 2's and see where I was. Turned out, I was 11.0 and I just kept adding in MA and every gallon reduced it to like 12 I believe. So I just did the math in my pool. I guess it's just a learning experience and being attentive to your pool. I've only been at this for 2 months but maybe others that have more experience can correct me or agree with me and think I'm going the right way. Who knows, I have super low self-esteem and think I'm always failing at everything. But my pool seems to respond very well to MA even with all the borates in the pool.
 

Wobblerlorri

Bronze Supporter
Are you using PoolMath to calculate your chemical additions? It's important to add what your pool needs in the quantities it needs, not just blindly throwing chemicals at it.

I ask because you never mention PoolMath, but you say "I figure" and "I assume" a lot when you mention adding chemicals...

And I'm with you on being scared of MA! I use dry acid for that very reason!
 

Swimmingfamily

Gold Supporter
Jun 9, 2016
7
Eastern Iowa
Hi, I am with you on not liking to handle MA. That being said, have respect for it but not fear. You have educated yourself here and are learning to handle it safely. I always check the breeze to make sure the gas is blowing away from me as I pour. Pour slowly and down by the water level into measuring cup. Tip measured MA into pool by dipping cup into water, not dumping from above water line. Rinse the measuring cup and outside of bottle (with lid on) well after pouring. I do this by moving them back and forth in the pool. If you do get the fumes in your face, turn away, hold your breath for a second or 2 until the air clears or step away, don't panic.

I buy muriatic acid in the paint department of our big box home improvement store. It is near the paint thinner and pretty cheap.

Good job choosing to do this yourself with the help you find here. You are on the right place for success on this. I know because I started with a green mess, expensive advise and products from the pool store and no results a few years ago. After a couple weeks of strict slamming and a lot of reading, our pool was perfectly clear for the first time. It's a thing of beauty every morning to get my coffee and admire my sparkly clear water! Give yourself a pat on the back, you knew where to look when you thought it wasn't right. Follow the advise here and get the Pool Math app if you don't already have it...and the speed stir is the best! Good luck!
 

mskillens

Member
Jun 26, 2019
13
Los Angeles, CA
Hi, I am with you on not liking to handle MA. That being said, have respect for it but not fear. You have educated yourself here and are learning to handle it safely. I always check the breeze to make sure the gas is blowing away from me as I pour. Pour slowly and down by the water level into measuring cup. Tip measured MA into pool by dipping cup into water, not dumping from above water line. Rinse the measuring cup and outside of bottle (with lid on) well after pouring. I do this by moving them back and forth in the pool. If you do get the fumes in your face, turn away, hold your breath for a second or 2 until the air clears or step away, don't panic.

I buy muriatic acid in the paint department of our big box home improvement store. It is near the paint thinner and pretty cheap.

Good job choosing to do this yourself with the help you find here. You are on the right place for success on this. I know because I started with a green mess, expensive advise and products from the pool store and no results a few years ago. After a couple weeks of strict slamming and a lot of reading, our pool was perfectly clear for the first time. It's a thing of beauty every morning to get my coffee and admire my sparkly clear water! Give yourself a pat on the back, you knew where to look when you thought it wasn't right. Follow the advise here and get the Pool Math app if you don't already have it...and the speed stir is the best! Good luck!
Are you using PoolMath to calculate your chemical additions? It's important to add what your pool needs in the quantities it needs, not just blindly throwing chemicals at it.

I ask because you never mention PoolMath, but you say "I figure" and "I assume" a lot when you mention adding chemicals...

And I'm with you on being scared of MA! I use dry acid for that very reason!
Oh yeah, I using pool math everyday when I need to add chemicals. I'm also just using the chart in the Taylor kit booklet that has a wealth of information. I also just know my pool very well to the point that I know adding a quart of MA is going to bring the pH down a few numbers and etc. It's a very nice feeling to know the pool that well now over taking care of it these last two months.

Yeah MA is a scary chemical but I bought safety goggles, gloves and I don't have it splash anymore since I have it close to the water line when I pour it into the return jets. I remember watching my dad put it in wearing shorts and sandals and he would just stand there and spill it into the pool like it was a jug of water and I'd see these visible fumes rise up. I kept thinking... uhhhh is that the right way of doing it? and he would just shrug his shoulders and go, meh. hahah I'm not as comfortable with the stuff as he is so I dress like a chemistry student in a lab.

So quick update guys, my pH is at 7.8 so I did add one last quart of MA to bring it almost down to where I want it to be which is around 7.2-7.4 range. It looks like my pool is back to normal again because the TA was back to 90 as well.

FC: 2.5 so I'll need to bring that back up once my pH is balanced to... well I usually enjoyed having it around 6.5 what I know my CYA is 80 so maybe it should be up at around 9.0? What do you guys suggest?
 

mskillens

Member
Jun 26, 2019
13
Los Angeles, CA
Hey guys just a quick update! I spent the afternoon adding liquid chlorine to the pool and my last reading shortly after sunset was FC: 7.0. I understand that the recommended levels for CYA:80 water is going to be a little higher in the 9-11 range but at least it isn't below 6. I'll have to buy some more chlorine tomorrow to bring it up a little higher to 9-11. Thanks everyone for your valuable information! The borax debacle has now been fixed for the most part and my pool is sparkling and laser sharp clear, I can see a grain of rice on the bottom!
 
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mskillens

Member
Jun 26, 2019
13
Los Angeles, CA
Why is there rice in your pool? :)
To tell you the truth, there wasn't a rice grain in my pool, it was actually a clear visual of a small ground spider just standing there on the bottom surface of the water for some reason, I used a net to scoop it up. I also had a large grasshopper-like insect at the bottom of my deep end main drain. RIP the both of them. Fortunately, there's a brown widow alive and well underneath my skimmer lid with a spiky egg sac. It doesn't bother me as I wear gloves and I would imagine if I were a spider, it would be a fairly ideal nesting spot.
 
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Reactions: CarolineM
Jun 15, 2019
24
San Antonio TX
Its good.to realize that every chemical used in the pool industry can have side effects... irritations burns, and even have chemicals that may cause cancer. SAFETY is key when dealing with any chemicals, and never let another person push you to use something u are not comfortable with. Like Mcnauss says in the forum..dry acid can be just as dangerous as MA if not handled properly.
 

Mrmsubeck

Member
May 6, 2013
15
Houston, TX
Congrats on the recovery and your safety mindset - goggles are cool no matter what anyone says. A couple of tips that I do with regards to muriatic acid and borax (unrelated to one another).
For adding acid, I scoop up about 3/4 of a 5 gallon home Depot bucket full of water and then measure my muriatic and pour it in the bucket. Then I slowly mix with an old scrap piece of 2x4 and I tip it over slowly right over the return jet. This cuts down on the fumes and spalshing when you pour directly from the bottle and also aids a little I'm dispersing.
2. No more 20 Mule borax! I did the same thing, twice, until I found out about straight boric acid. Pool Calc will tell you how much to add. It doesn't raise your pH like that so you can dump away and not worry as much. Plus it doesn't take as much either. The only cost effective way to get it that I have found is from a company in AL named Duda Diesel. It's a biodiesel supplier, I guess muriatic acid is used in making biodiesel? I've never taken the time to look it up. It's going to feel expensive when you first look at it but it's worth it if you do the math when considering all the acid you are having to use to counter the 20 Mule plus all of your time and the stress of it. I have a pretty good sized pool so I get the 55lb buckets and it costs 92.00 with shipping and customer service is excellent. Oh and same thing with adding the boric acid, mix it in a bucket first. It will not burn you like real acid, but it just aids in dispersing. I try to keep mine close to 50 ppm.



There are multiple camps on the value if borates in your pool, but my personal experience is positive and I too like the sparkle from the borates - it makes a big difference in the look with my plaster.

Good luck!
 
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