Cyanuric acid sounds like it could be a mysterious chemical from a James Bond film, but it’s a lot less terrifying than that. You may even have some in your garage.
This is not an uncommon chemical and is used in the over ten million pools in homes and businesses in the United States, as well as in many more countries around the entire world. It’s a chlorine stabilizer and it is added to swimming pool water to help pool chlorine to do its job.
You may have seen or even used cyanuric acid before, but you likely don’t know much about it. If you’d like to learn more about this chemical, how it works, and how to use it safely, read on.
What Is Cyanuric Acid?
Cyanuric acid is a chemical compound that is most commonly used for pool maintenance. It is classified as a triazine because it has three nitrogen atoms and three carbon atoms, and it’s in the same category as polyurethane, disinfectants, and herbicides.
The label of this chemical will usually say cyanuric acid, but this substance is also labeled as CYA, pool stabilizer, or pool conditioner. It can be purchased in liquid or granule form.
Sometimes, cyanuric acid is mixed with chlorine to create a product called stabilized chlorine. This combination exists simply to make things a bit easier for consumers; no measuring is necessary for proper use because it’s already mixed for them.
Cyanuric Acid and Swimming Pools
Cyanuric acid wouldn’t do much for you and your pool if you weren’t already using chlorine to keep it clean. It is chlorine’s friend, buddy, and partner in the process of maintaining your pool.
If you own a pool, you likely put it in a sunny spot. After all, that’s the point. Unfortunately, the sun has a negative effect on chlorine that, left unchecked, will keep chlorine from accomplishing its goals.
Types of Chlorine
There are three types of chlorine in your pool: free chlorine, combined chlorine, and total chlorine.
Free chlorine is the chlorine that you have just added to your pool in order to sanitize it. It’s called free chlorine because it is free to do the job it’s supposed to do.
Combined chlorine is chlorine that has already been used up doing that job. It ha already killed bacteria, algae, and other stuff that’s in your pool’s water.
Total chlorine is the total amount of free and combined chlorine in your pool at any given time.
Cyanuric Acid’s Role
Chlorine is sensitive to ultraviolet rays from the sun. When you add it to your pool’s water, it becomes sodium hypochlorite ions. Because of this, it rapidly disappears due to sun exposure.
In fact, half of the free chlorine you add to your pool will be gone in less than half an hour.
Chlorinating a pool could quickly become very expensive if we didn’t do something to stop this loss. That’s where cyanuric acid comes in.
Cyanuric acid bonds to the sodium hypochlorite ions and makes them more stable. This allows the free chlorine a longer time period to do its important work. Chlorine will last three times longer with cyanuric acid than it would without it.
How Much to Use
Cyanuric acid is a very helpful chemical in this way. However, you have to be vigilant to ensure that you don’t add too much. Overdosing your pool with too much cyanuric acid will overwhelm and destroy the free chlorine and will render it useless.
A balance between cyanuric acid and chlorine is necessary. That’s one of the reasons why pool owners always need to test their water.
Most pool experts recommend cyanuric acid levels around fifty parts per million. The World Health Organization recommends no more than one hundred parts per million for safety reasons.
If your cyanuric acid levels are low, you can add some a little at a time until you reach the proper amount.
Fortunately, it does not need to be added very often because cyanuric acid tends to stay in water for an extended time, but sometimes levels will appear low after heavy rains due to dilution.
On the other hand, cyanuric acid levels are sometimes too high. This can be due to adding too much or it can be the result of adding some when you were using a stabilized chlorine.
Because the stabilized chlorine is already combined with cyanuric acid, adding more cyanuric acid separately will cause levels of it to become quite high.
The best way to reduce the levels of cyanuric acid in your pool is to dilute the water so it adjusts. However, if your cyanuric acid levels are very high, you may need to drain your pool, scrub the liner, and start all over from scratch.
Safe Use of Cyanuric Acid
Remember, if you are using a stabilized chlorine, you won’t need to add any cyanuric acid to your pool’s water in most cases. However, if you do need to add some, you want to do it safely. If you’re adding cyanuric acid on its own, you will probably only need to do so once or twice a year at most.
Cyanuric acid can be a dangerous type of acid, so you need to be careful around it. If not added properly, it can damage your filter or liner. Sometimes label instructions will recommend that users pour it into the pool filter, but some pool experts disagree.
Instead, get a bucket and fill it halfway with warm water. Wearing goggles and gloves, add a dose of cyanuric acid to the bucket. Then, pour the contents of the bucket into your skimmer.
Keep the pool pump running for a few hours to help distribute the cyanuric acid into the rest of the pool’s water.
Happy Swimming in Your Clean Pool
Now you know all about cyanuric acid, its purpose, and how to use it in your home’s swimming pool.
Hopefully, the use of this chemical will help you to get much more out of your chlorine so you and your family can enjoy a clean and sanitized pool this summer and beyond.
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