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Phosphate Debate: Treat or not?

Published by Brooke Sardella on 04/04/2022

Phosphate Debate: Treat or not?

All pools have phosphates as they naturally occur in water, but there is confusion as to whether they need to be removed or not. This sparks our great phosphate debate; to treat or not to treat?

First, let's start with where phosphates come from and how they get into your pool. They can originate from:

  • Source water from your tap
  • Fertilizer
  • Beauty products
  • Pool chemicals (especially heavy metal removers)
  • Rain, wind, and rotting leaves

Phosphates themselves will not cause harm to humans except for minor skin irritation, but they can wreak some havoc on your pool chemistry. Phosphates feed algae and high phosphate levels will increase your use of chlorine to combat that algae. This can start a vicious cycle where even using shock and algaecide cannot keep up with algae growth; your pool could be clear one day and green the next.

It is also true if you monitor your free chlorine level a few times a week and add extra chlorine when needed, then phosphates do not need to be removed. This is where the debate stems from as to whether you should monitor free chlorine levels or remove phosphates altogether. So, let's get to the bottom of this.

When not to treat:

  • If you are able to easily maintain a free chlorine level of 3-5 ppm.
  • Your water is clear and algae-free.
  • Swimmers are not experiencing skin irritation.

When to treat:

  • You have a persistent algae problem.
  • Phosphate levels exceed 500ppb
  • Can't find the time to test and maintain your water frequently.
  • Adding an excessive amount of chlorine to maintain proper levels.

  • You don’t want to risk having a green pool.

It is also important to note that your typical test strip does not test for phosphate levels, so it is worth taking your water to a test site or using a more advanced testing method if you believe phosphates could be a problem. In reality, you could have 1 ppm of phosphate in your pool and not have any issues whatsoever! This is why a phosphate remover should be one of your last pool supply options in countering an algae issue.

If your swimming pool is in need of a phosphate remover, the products we recommend are: