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

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PeteMorris

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Aug 17, 2014
19
Myrtle Beach, SC
OK . . . . so now I'm even more confused. I have first hand knowledge of 4 other SWG pools within my same neighborhood, and all have to add 5 to 8 bags of salt per season. My pool does not have an auto-fill so I have to manually add water. During the summer months when the humidity is high I don't need to add more than 2 to 3 inches every 3 to 4 days. During the spring and fall when the air saturation point is lower I may have to do it more frequently.

My salt cell is less than a year old, I have had it tested and confirmed that it is generating salt. My pool is in complete day light all day long. My pool water sparkles and I stay on top of my chemical balance.

It is my impression that borates will help keep my PH in check, which is an ongoing issue, as well as reduce my chlorine usage. I've made the ASSumption that by reducing my chlorine usage, I would reduce the amount of salt that I add to my system during the course of a year.

A genuine question. If you feel that borates are way down my list right now. What should have a higher priority? I'm happy with my water quality, I don't have stains or scale issues. What should be on my list?
 

jv92red

LifeTime Supporter
Mar 7, 2013
117
SoCal
Salt cell/generators are for chlorine production not salt production. Salt level needed for your cell to operate is dependent on the model cell/generator you have. Some need a 3,500ppm level, some like mine need a 4,500ppm level. check your salt water chlorine generator manual for more info on the required level for normal operation. If you are having splash out or filter backwashing then these are the ways you would lose salt and would need to add it back into the water to maintain a specific level, you would not lose salt by evaporation.

Also, there is no direct claim that borates will decrease chlorine usage and even keep PH "in check" (not sure if you mean at a constant #?). From my understanding it will decrease the frequency of needed MA applications but not the quantity needed. For my pool with constantly rising PH I am hoping Borates will stabilize the PH drift so that I don't have to add MA every 3 days like I have in the past. I would be fine with a once a week application. Before, If I tried to add enough MA to cover me for a week my PH would be too low so not wanting to risk low PH I would dose MA to a reasonable PH level but this would only last me a few days then drift right back up to scale levels which cruds up my salt cell. Hoping Borates will help with this.
 

chem geek

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Mar 28, 2007
12,083
San Rafael, CA USA
A saltwater chlorine generator converts chloride salt into chlorine and when the chlorine is used/consumed it becomes chloride salt again. So the salt level does not change over time except from water dilution. There is some loss of chlorine from outgassing, but that should normally be fairly low.

As for borates, they could reduce total amount of acid if one didn't have the pH get as low since lower pH outgasses carbon dioxide faster. We just don't assume that is the case.
 

SunnyOptimism

Well-known member
Jun 20, 2014
860
Tucson, AZ
Borates reduce FC loss through two different secondary effects. The first is that borates have a mild algaestatic effect which reduces the burden on the FC. The second effect is that borates have been shown to increase the photo-protective properties of pool water whereby the borates combine with hypochlorous acid to form a hypochloritoborate complex which does not absorb UV light. These are secondary effects so they show up as a mild decrease in FC consumption.
 

chem geek

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Mar 28, 2007
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San Rafael, CA USA
The second effect is that borates have been shown to increase the photo-protective properties of pool water whereby the borates combine with hypochlorous acid to form a hypochloritoborate complex which does not absorb UV light. These are secondary effects so they show up as a mild decrease in FC consumption.

As described in this paper the stability constant for hypochloroitoborate is 102.25 = 178 = [B(OH)3OCl]/([HOCl][B(OH)3]). With 50 ppm Borates, pH 7.5, 4 ppm FC with 40 ppm CYA, the concentration of hypochloroitoborate ion is 178 * 6.42x10-7 * 4.52x10-3 = 5.17x10-7 so is completely negligible because the hypochlorite will be replenished from the ample chlorine available from that bound to CYA (total amount of chlorine is 5.64x10-5). If there were no CYA in the water and say 2 ppm FC, then this would be 178 * 1.46x10-5 * 4.52x10-3 = 1.17x10-5 so this effectively cuts down the amount of chlorine roughly in half so the chlorine protection effect is only applicable at the higher chlorine concentrations associated with not having any CYA in the water. It will also be more applicable when shocking though in that case borates pH buffering effect reducing the amount of pH rise from chlorine addition is more important in reducing the amount of hypochlorite ion and therefore the rate of chlorine breakdown from the UV in sunlight.

So we should not attribute any measurable reduction in chlorine loss from sunlight due to borates, at least not when CYA is present and normal chlorine levels are used. Even when there is no CYA, since the ratio of hypochlorous acid and hypochlorite ion doesn't change (so long as the pH is constant), this reduction in hypochlorite ion isn't a real benefit since at the same hypochlorous acid level achieved by raising the FC further the rate of chlorine loss would be the same as without borates. This topic had already come up before and was addressed in this post.
 

SunnyOptimism

Well-known member
Jun 20, 2014
860
Tucson, AZ
Thanks for the update and link to the previous thread. I have seen my chlorine demand decrease with the addition of borates (lower SWG percentage), but very likely due to other mechanisms described in the thread and not due to any enhanced photo protective effect.


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duraleigh

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Apr 1, 2007
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Sebring, Florida
Borates reduce FC loss through two different secondary effects. The first is that borates have a mild algaestatic effect which reduces the burden on the FC. The second effect is that borates have been shown to increase the photo-protective properties of pool water whereby the borates combine with hypochlorous acid to form a hypochloritoborate complex which does not absorb UV light. These are secondary effects so they show up as a mild decrease in FC consumption.
For years, I have watched too many newbies jump on the bandwagon of borates as the "magic bullet"...........It is not.

How in the world could you ever practically prove either of these properties? Even if they were undeniable, just how much difference in chlorine consumption could the use of borates make? Not measurable in my opinion.

I do not believe this subject has any real practical application to the maintenance of our residential pools. If you want to reduce chlorine loss in your pool, do so by keeping your pool free from algae, contaminants and maintaining the proper ration of CYA.

Add borates if you choose but not for the reasons above.
 

jvrobert

LifeTime Supporter
Aug 1, 2014
54
Mesa AZ
I went ahead and added borates to my pool a few weeks ago based on this thread. I frankly thought the "sparklier pool" stuff was probably nonsense or a placebo effect and did it mainly to help stabilize my pH and _maybe_ help a tiny bit if I ran at the borderline of FC.

At least in my pool it's very clearly more reflective, I also get like a darker blue reflection component, especially when the pump is running and the surface is more turbulent. I like it - so thanks all for the advice.
 

chem geek

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Mar 28, 2007
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San Rafael, CA USA
As I noted in this post, someone finally did an experiment measuring surface tension with borates and found that 50 ppm Borates may reduce surface tension by 22% so that may have a noticeable visual effect.
 

tcat

Silver Supporter
May 30, 2012
911
Austin, TX
As I noted in this post, someone finally did an experiment measuring surface tension with borates and found that 50 ppm Borates may reduce surface tension by 22% so that may have a noticeable visual effect.
Means it won't hurt so much when you dive in!

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LUCKYEVER

Member
Feb 1, 2013
13
It is a good reading for this thread, and I decided to add borates to my three months old pool. Are the procedures still the same for newly constructed pool since my pool PH still drift up constantly? Currently, I need to keep the TA at around 50ppm in order to balance pH at 7.5. Do I still need to adjust the TA to 100 ppm before adding borates?

Thanks.
 

LUCKYEVER

Member
Feb 1, 2013
13
Thanks. Is it ok to keep the TA at 50ppm when adding the borates? or I must raise the TA to 100 ppm first as suggested here?
 

JasonLion

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May 7, 2007
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Silver Spring, MD
You want to make sure to adjust TA to where you want it before adding borates. For most people that means around 60 or 70. You would only raise TA to 100 if you are using trichlor tablets for chlorine (which we don't recommend).
 

Twolabs

LifeTime Supporter
Apr 13, 2014
338
NE Texas
I am strongly considering adding borates to our new pool, and 90% of the reason is the better feeling water. Since we have a lot of flagstone and a large gunite waterfall, I decided to stay away from the SWG to be on the safe side. One thing I've always hated about swimming in the traditionally chlorinated pools, is how it makes your skin feel after swimming.

I've read alot through this thread, so I if missed it, I apologize. I've noticed that it makes the water softer and feel better, does this apply both while swimming and after? Or just while swimming?
 

JasonLion

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Silver Spring, MD
Both before and after. The effect is described by some people as the water feeling "silky". However, keep in mind that this is subjective. Some people can't detect any difference, while others notice only a very small difference.
 

Defgufman

LifeTime Supporter
Mar 13, 2015
584
Savannah GA
Just did this today for a 13000 gal pool. Followed your steps with 10 boxes of Borax and 3 gallons of acid. The water is already back in balance after 20 minutes and the sparkle is already there. Thanks for the directions. :p
 

Chuckiechan

Well-known member
Jun 10, 2014
488
Roseville, CA
I know the answer is probably in here somewhere, but I just can't find it.

I plan to do borates soon.

My question is, do I get my pool in spec first? Spec as in salt up to proper level, chlorine generator working properly, TA, CA, stabilizer, PH, all up to proper specs, THEN put in the 20 Mule Team Borax in stages, and adjust PH accordingly?

Or... since I haven't opened my pool yet, do the borate conversion, adjust the PH, then bring the pool up to the rest of the specs - salt, stabilizer, TA, PH, CH, etc.?

Thanks in advance...
 

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