What Causes Ammonia in a Swimming Pool?
Ammonia is caused by bacteria, which form in a swimming pool that is not well sanitized, or pools that close during winter and open in summer but proper pool closure measures were not taken.
Ammonia is one of the causes of severe cloudy swimming pool water, which is difficult to clear and needs a lot of chlorine to kill ammonia and clear cloudy water.
To avoid ammonia in your pool, always makes sure you shock your swimming pool so that free chlorine level (FCL) is within the recommended range for standard swimming pool which is 3pp for non-saltwater pools and between3 to 4ppm for a saltwater pool.
Secondly, when closing your pool during winter, make sure you perform all the necessary steps for closing a swimming pool including blowing the lines, balancing your water, and covering your pool using solid pool cover that won't allow dirt and sunlight to deplete free chlorine, leaving your water vulnerable to bacteria causing algae and ammonia.
Signs that you have Ammonia in your Pool
- High Chlorine Demand: Your pool will be in high demand for chlorine and you will end up using a lot of chlorine but little to no change in FC levels.
- High Chloramine Levels: Your pool water will have a lot of chloramine or combined chlorine(CC), which turns pool water severely cloudy and smells bad.
- Low Cyanuric Acid Levels: Ammonia feed on Cyanuric acid(Cya), leaving your water with very low Cya or non at all.
- Low Free Chlorine Level: Free chlorine level will be so low, mostly 0ppm and will not rise easily until you get rid of ammonia.
Requirements to Clear Ammonia in a Swimming Pool
1). Liquid Chlorine ( Sodium Hypochlorite): To clear ammonia in your pool, you will need a lot of liquid chlorine, probably 2 gallons of 12.5% (recommended) or 10% chlorine (sodium hypochlorite) because you will have to reach high FC shock levels and maintain that shock level by adding more chlorine when FC drops.
Liquid chlorine is recommended because it will not affect pH, Calcium, and Cyanuric acid levels in your water like Calcium Hypochlorite and tablet chlorine. Among the best liquid chlorine in the market today is HASA Sanichlor liquid chlorine.
Other best alternatives are KemTek chlorinating liquid you can get on Amazon and Pool Essentials chlorinating liquid you can find Walmart.
2). Reliable Pool Chemical Test Kit: Yes, not all test strips can measure high FC levels above 5ppm. Since you will be reaching high FC levels between 10 to 16ppm and sometimes above that, you will need test kit that can measure high FC levels like LaMotte ColorQ Pro 7 series or Taylor Technologies test kit with FAS DPD that measure upto 50ppm FC level.
3). Cyanuric Acid: Since your Cya levels will be reading low sometimes 0ppm, you will need to add Cyanuric acid to recommended levels once you are done killing all the ammonia in your swimming pool.
How to Eliminate Ammonia in your Swimming Pool
The harder you hit ammonia by adding sufficient chlorine the faster you will get rid of it. You need to reach high shock levels and maintain that shock level by adding more chlorine within every 15 minutes if FC drops.
If you have a saltwater pool, shut down your saltwater chlorine generator (SWCG) and follow these steps just like a non-saltwater pool.
Here are the steps to perform and eliminate ammonia in your pool:
1). Using liquid chlorine of 12.5% chlorine, add enough chlorine to raise your FC level to 10ppm(recommended). 10 oz. of 12.5% liquid chlorine will raise FC by 1ppm in a 10,000 gallons pool. So, you need to add about 100 oz. of liquid chlorine to raise your FC by 10ppm in a 10,000 gallons pool.
2). Test your FC level in 15 minutes, if FCL falls below 5ppm, add more chlorine to raise it back to 10ppm.
3). Repeat step 2 until your FC becomes stable between 5 to 8ppm for at least 20 minutes to be sure you have killed all ammonia.
4). Leave your FC level to come down to 3ppm and balance your water chemistry starting with Cyanuric acid to avoid losing more free chlorine.