4 Reasons to Add Borate to Your Swimming Pool

Updated on July 27, 2017
Barack James profile image

Barack is a chemical engineer with a knack for pool chemistry. He has been in the pool maintenance industry for 8 years.

Adding Borate in the Swimming Pool
Adding Borate in the Swimming Pool | Source

Do I Need Borate in My Pool?

The main purpose for using borate in a swimming pool is for easy maintenance. It works to stabilize pH in order to avoid pH-related problems. It plays a very important role in having an easy-to-maintain and trouble-free swimming pool.

But even if you are knowledgeable in pool chemistry, you may still find pH and other important chemicals such as chlorine, cyanuric acid, calcium and total alkalinity (TA) getting out of balance. For example, I was away from home a week left someone else in charge of my pool's maintenance. Unfortunately, total alkalinity got out of range, which brought up the pH level to over 8.2 and consequently, scales developed.

Drifting pH has lots of potential risks. If your water is full of metals or you have saltwater, you should use borate to prevent metal stains, cloudy water, calcium scaling, and algae growth.

Moreover, an improper composition of pH will affect the efficiency of all chemicals, including chlorine. We all know all the bad effects of high or low pH levels in the water.

Borate should be used in a concentration between 30 and 50 ppm. However, before adding it to your water, you need to balance your total alkalinity (TA) and pH levels because borate raises pH and TA.

The Importance of Borate in a Swimming Pool

1. It Helps Stabilize pH

Firstly, when the pH drifts up beyond the maximum recommended level (which is 7.8), chlorine will not be effective in killing harmful bacteria and other organisms such as algae, which in most cases will result in green, yellow, or black water, depending on which kind of algae you have.

Secondly, when chlorine becomes ineffective, it will not function as a sanitizer, and this will definitely result in milky white or cloudy water

Moreover, high pH levels will result in calcium scaling, which builds on pool surfaces, waterlines, and accessories, especially in saltwater.

Finally, high pH can trigger health issues such as burning eyes and nose and dry, itchy skin and scalp.

On the other hand, when pH goes down below the recommended level, it will erode pool parts, causing damage to the plasters and grouting. Low pH also corrodes the metal accessories, such as steps and heater, and this may also result in metal stains and water discoloration from corroded metals.

Since borates keep pH under control, using it will prevent all the mentioned problems resulting from unstable and drifting pH. It will also mean easier maintenance since you will not need to use as much strong acids and soda ash to reduce and raise pH levels respectively when out of balance.

2. It Helps Prevent Algae

This is absolutely true: Since borates keep pH under control, the effectiveness of chlorine not be tampered with, and this means that algae will not thrive.

3. It Reduces Chlorine Usage

Too much chlorine has been associated with skin cancers and other harmful diseases. Moreover, the byproducts of chlorine that accumulate in the water are even more dangerous than chlorine itself.

Since borates help prevent algae, using too much chlorine may not be necessary. More still, since chlorine is not consumed at a high rate when pH is stable, you will not have to shock your pool often.

4. It Makes Sparkling and Soft Water

When you use borate, the water will remain clear for a long period since chloramine (or combined chlorine) does not form quickly as compared to a pool without a borate agent. Most borate agents available on the market today have chlorine stabilizer in them (cyanuric acid) which keeps chlorine from being consumed by UV light from direct sunlight. They also contain components that help to soften hard water that causes dry skin and red and itchy eyes.

What are the Downsides of Using Borates in the Pool?

I have used borate for more than five years now, and I have not had any problems worth raising an alarm about, but here are some possible drawbacks:

  • Some pool managers might avoid the additional expense (without weighing the advantages).
  • There has been some concern that borates are toxic when taken by pets such as dogs and cats. (However, I consider this to be carelessness as opposed to side effects of the chemical.) For the record, there is no pool chemical that is not toxic when consumed and extra care needs to be taken to avoid consumption by humans or pets.

Which is the Best Borate to Use?

Borates are available on the market in form of tetraborate decahydrate or pentahydrate, and the most common in the market today are:

  • Proteam's Supreme Plus
  • Bioguards Optimizer Plus
  • Poollife Endure
  • Guardex Maximizer
  • 20 Mute Team Borax

20 Mule Team Borax is preferred by most people due to its lower cost. Also, you can use it to raise the level of pH without increasing the total alkalinity (TA) level, which is a plus when you have low pH and you need to raise it without raising TA in your water. However, the only downside of 20 Mule Team Borax is that when used as a pH stabilizer, you will have to use a strong acid such as muriatic acid along with it to lower pH, which may cause more problems in alkalinity level. Anyway, here is how to add 20 Mule Team Borax into your pool.

For me, I save time and energy by using a pH neutral borate product, Supreme Plus by Proteam. This product is pH neutral and does not require that you use acid along with it to lower pH.

How to Add Borate to Your Pool

Step 1: Add the Borate

I recommend Supreme Plus since that’s what I use and it’s superb, even though the alternative Salt Support has cyanuric acid in it, and I always feel that will bring more complications. However, it’s a good product and you can use it if you don’t mind balancing cyanuric acid levels.

  1. With your pump running, add the recommended level of Supreme Plus (or Salt Support) according to the volume of your pool by dumping it all the way around the pool or through the skimmer, whichever method you are comfortable with.
  2. Brush down the sides of your pool all the way around to create currents to mix it up faster. (By the way, this kind of stirring is what we should be doing every time we add any chemical into the water.)

Step 2: Run the Pump for 24 Hours

Let your pump run for 24 hours, as this will speed the process of completely mixing the chemicals.

Step 3: Test Your Water

After 24 hours, you need to test for borate, pH, and TA to make sure that they are all within the recommended range. Borate should be reading around 50 ppm and between 7.4 and 7.6 for pH.

Step 4: Test Borate Levels Monthly

You need to test on a monthly basis and adjust to the recommended level of 50 ppm. Even if you backwash frequently, you will need to test and adjust on a regular basis.

Step 5: Enjoy

Enjoy a sparkling, soft, algae-free water with stable pH, reduced demand for chlorine, and lower chances of calcium scaling and metal staining.

How to Add SupremePlus in the Pool


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    • Barack James profile image

      Barack James 2 months ago from Green City in the Sun

      Hi John, Borate should be kept at a level between 30 ppm and 50 ppm or slightly above 50 ppm. Too much borate may not show immediate effect but with time the pool will develop problems with other chemicals such as pH and TA. It's main use is to stabilise the pH so just keep borate within their range.

    • profile image

      John 2 months ago

      What are the effects of having a borate level of 80-90ppm?