When we first got our inflatable pool, I had a lot of questions about chemicals, chlorine, and often to change the water. After hours of research and trying different things myself, I have a solid answer to inflatable pool water treatments.
For larger inflatable pools, checking the pH, adding chlorine, and adding CYA are recommended to obtain a pH between 7.4 to 7.6 and a chlorine part per million between 1 to 3. Smaller inflatable pools, under 10 feet wide, require less chemicals, with ideal pH levels being between 7.2 to 7.8.
Not every inflatable pool will need chlorine however, some people actually prefer not to use it. Below I will show you the step by step process to add chlorine and chemicals to an inflatable pool, and some alternatives if you prefer not to.
Do Inflatable Pools Need Chlorine?
No, inflatable pools do not need chlorine to be kept clean and used safely. There are alternative ways to keep pool water clean without the need for chlorine. However, chlorine is the most common way pool owners keep their water free from harmful bacteria.
Although inflatable pools don’t need to use chlorine, it’s one of the most common ways to keep pool water sanitary and safe to swim in. The chlorine is used to efficiently kill bacteria in the water that may be harmful to swimmers.
Larger inflatable pools will benefit the most from the use of chlorine. The alternative is a salt water system, or refilling the pool at regular intervals, which are both a lot more expensive than using chlorine. It’s recommended to use chlorine in these larger inflatable pools because of RWIs, or recreational water illnesses.
RWIs can be spread by swallowing or having contact with contaminated recreational water. These illnesses are caused by germs such as Crypto (short for Cryptosporidium), E. coli, and Shigella.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/swimmers/inflatable-plastic-pools (source)
Smaller inflatable pools, like kiddie pools, aren’t typically treated with chlorine. These pools are small enough to refill with fresh water fairly easily, so small inflatable pool owners typically don’t have to deal with chlorine or pH test kits.
Do Inflatable Pools Need Chemicals?
No, inflatable pools do not need chemicals to stay clean and safe to swim in. However many larger inflatable pools will use chlorine to kill harmful bacteria. Other chemicals in larger pools such as pH increasers, reducers, alkalinity increaser, and cyanuric acid are all used in addition to chlorine.
If your inflatable pool is large enough, it will probably have a pump included when you buy, or it will have three openings in the liner to add a pump to it. Check out my 12 Best Inflatable Pools By Category to see a list of different types of pools. Notice the ones that come with a pump are larger, those are the pools that will most likely need to be chlorinated.
Chlorine will keep your pool sanitized, but keeping your water balanced will help the chlorine to do it’s job more efficiently.
Here are the chemicals to help keep your water balanced and your chlorine working effectively. You most likely won’t need to worry about cyanuric acid, but it is important so I added it to this list.
Most large inflatable pools that need chlorine to be kept clean will be fine with just some chlorine tabs. There are other chemicals in most chlorine tabs like, cyanuric acid, to help make the chlorine last longer. Make sure you purchase stabilized chlorine, or you will need to add cyanuric acid yourself to stabilize the chlorine in the water.
pH Increaser / Reducer
The pH level should be kept between 7.4 to 7.6 for well balanced pool water. The pH increaser and reducer help keep your water within that range. A pH reducer will also lower your alkalinity.
An alkalinity increaser will raise your alkalinity and pH levels. Think of an alkalinity increaser as the big guns getting you almost all the way there, and the pH increaser as the fine tuning part.
Here’s a great video explaining these chemicals in an easy to understand way.
How To Treat Inflatable Pool Water
These steps are for pools that you want to clean using chlorine and pH balancing chemicals. For smaller pools that are easy to empty and refill (under 5 feet wide) check out my How To Clean An Inflatable Pool article for a step by step guide.
Step 1: Test The Water
Use a test kit or test strips to test your pools pH balance and chlorine levels. Here’s a link to some popular inexpensive Pool Chemistry Test Strips on Amazon to give you an idea of what these look like. I like these strips because I can just dip them in the water and get quick results.
The results you’re looking for:
- pH: Between 7.4 and 7.6
- Alkalinity: Between 80 and 120 PPM
- Free Chlorine: Between 1 and 3 PPM
Use the results from your test to determine what chemicals you’ll need to add to get within the desired readings. But before adding any chemicals, you’ll want to figure out the amount of water in the pool, so you’ll know exactly how much of each chemical to add.
Step 2: Calculate Volume Of Water In Pool
There are two common shaped inflatable pools; round, and rectangle. The calculations will be a little bit different depending on the shape of your pool.
Rectangle Shaped Volume:
For a rectangle shaped pool, simply multiply the length by width by depth by 7.5 to get the volume in gallons. The length, width, and depth give you the area in cubic feet, there are 7.5 gallons in each cubic foot.
Length x Width x Depth x 7.5 = Volume in gallons
Here’s a chart with some common rectangle shaped inflatable pool sizes and the amount of gallons they hold.
Circle Shaped Volume
To calculate the volume of a circle shaped pool, the equation is a bit more difficult. You’ll need to find the area, then multiply that by the depth, and then multiply by 7.5 to convert into gallons.
(Area = pi x radius^2) x (depth) x 7.5 = Volume in gallons
Or just use this chart I made with the most common inflatable circle shaped pool sizes and how many gallons they hold.
Step 3: Adjust The pH Levels
You’ll want to adjust the pH levels before adding any chlorine to the pool. A balanced pH level will help the chlorine last longer and clean the pool better. You’re aiming for a pH level between 7.4 to 7.6.
Smaller inflatable pools will only need a bit of chlorine every once in a while (check step 4), you won’t need to worry about pH levels on small inflatable pools, unless you really want to.
A pH below 7 is too acidic and you’ll need to add a pH increaser or alkalinity increaser such as sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). Adding baking soda to the water will raise the pH, or use this Alkalinity Increaser from Amazon. This big tub should last you quite a while.
A pH above 8 is too basic, you’ll need to add a pH decreaser like sodium bisulfate, or this Pool pH Decreaser (link to Amazon). This large tub will last a long time, and will also reduce your alkalinity.
If you’ve used the chart above to find your total volume of water in the pool, you will easily be able to find out how much of each balancing chemical to add.
Each chemical will come with it’s own instructions on how much to add, per gallon of water in the pool, to move the pH level a set amount.
Step 4: Add Chlorine
If this is your fist time adding chlorine to your pool water you may want to shock the pool first. It’s recommended to shock your pool every couple weeks depending on how often you use it and the temperature. I’ve had good luck just maintaining proper chlorine levels without the need to shock the pool that often.
When adding chlorine to an inflatable pool, the typical amount is between 1 to 3 PPM (parts per million). 1 PPM is roughly 0.00013 ounces of chlorine per gallon of water.
Lets use the 10′ round pool in the chart above as an example. That pool has a volume of 2317 gallons of water. So to increase one PPM of chlorine in the pool, you would take 2317 and multiply by 0.00013. Which comes out to about 0.3 ounces of chlorine needed to increase that pools chlorine by 1 PPM.
Shock The Pool
However, when you shock a pool you’ll typically be up around 10 PPM of chlorine. Make sure you don’t let anyone swim in the pool until the levels have dropped back down below 3 PPM. Here’s a link to a good Pool Care Kit on Amazon that includes a pool shock for inflatable pool sizes.
I like to use these Pool Chlorinating Tablets on Amazon and a skimmer or floater. They offer a steady stream of chlorine to the pool for about a week because they slowly dissolve over time. I’ve been able to keep the pool properly chlorinated throughout an entire summer using just these tablets.
Here’s a quick video showing how easy it can be to maintain the chlorine in a large inflatable pool.
Chlorine In Small Inflatable Pools
For small inflatable pools that you don’t want to empty and refill so often, you can add a small amount of bleach to the water to sanitize it. Add about a 1/4 tsp for every 10 gallons of water, or for medium sized inflatable pools, add 2 1/2 tsp for every 100 gallons. This is similar to shocking a pool, and you should only need to do this every couple weeks.
Mix the bleach separately in a bucket of water and dump it into the pool. Stir the water and wait an hour or so before using the pool.
Step 5: Keep Pool Cleaned And Covered
The last step is to simply clean out any dirt and debris that has built up inside the pool. The filter pump should take care of most of this, but it won’t get everything. Keeping dirt, leaves, and other debris out of the pool will allow the chlorine to do its job better, and last longer.
Keeping the pool covered will help the chlorine last longer as well. Chlorine can be eaten away or burnt up by the sun. Covering the pool when it’s not in use can extend how long your chlorine works, and reduce your maintenance time and costs.
Can I Swim In My Pool Without Chemicals?
Yes, you can keep a pool sanitized and clean enough to safely swim in without using chemicals. The most common approaches are to use a saltwater based system, use ozone purification methods, use an ultraviolet pool sanitizing light, or empty and refill the pool water regularly.
It’s most common for inflatable pool owners to use a saltwater sanitizing system, or to empty and refill the pool if it’s small enough. Emptying and refilling a small inflatable pool or a kiddie pool is the cheapest and easiest way to ensure the water is clean enough to swim in.
Empty and refill the water of small pools every few days to avoid worrying about chemicals or testing pH levels.
Here’s a cool video showing a family with a biological pool filter. These are not very common, won’t work for inflatable pools, and can be quite expensive, but it’s a cool idea anyway.
Saltwater In An Inflatable Pool
They do make saltwater systems for above ground pools for those who don’t want to use chemicals. For example, this Intex Pool Saltwater System found on Amazon. This is a great system for people who want to get rid of all the hassle that comes with using chlorine.
I will say however, that salt is corrosive. Over time you may notice nearby plants dying or corrosion to some decking materials. A saltwater system requires less maintenance, but it can have its drawbacks too.
The system will produce chlorine to sanitize the water still, but it’s a chlorine gas that gets produced from the salt rather than adding chlorine to the water directly. The salt turns the pool water into a saline solution, killing bacteria and viruses much like chlorine does.
The saltwater system is added onto your existing filter pump and pool equipment system. Usually instructions are included to show you how to set up everything up the right way.
Here’s a video showing a review of the saltwater system I linked to above to give you an idea of how this would work on your pool.
How Often To Change The Water In An Inflatable Pool
If you’re using a saltwater system or chlorinating your pool water, you will not have to change the water at all. For smaller inflatable pools not being sanitized in some way, you’ll want to drain and refill the water every 2-4 days to prevent bacteria from growing that could harm the swimmers.
If you’re on town water, there will already be a certain amount of chlorine in your water to sanitize it. If that’s the case, you may be able to go 5 days or up to a week before changing out the water depending on the amount of added chlorine it has in it.
When changing out the water, it’s a good idea to wipe the pool down with something like Lysol sanitizing wipes or a rag soaked in water with a little bit of bleach in it. Check out my How To Clean An Inflatable Pool article for a step by step guide on that process.