Swimming Pool Secret #5: Buy Generic Swimming Pool Chemicals!

Shh-h! Don't tell anyone: HTH SockIt is . . . . just HTH! Both are granular calcium hypochlorite. What's the difference? About $2.00 per pound!

Alkalinity increaser is . . . baking soda, available at your grocery store for $0.40 per pound.

60% (or 30% or 10%) polyquat algicide is all made by Buckman Laboratories in Memphis -- no matter what the brand on the bottle. The ONLY difference is the water used to dilute the algicide! (If you want to make sure you are getting the right stuff look for this chemical name: poly[oxyethylene(dimethyliminio)ethylene-(dimethyliminio)ethylene dichloride]. Actually, in the USA, if it's an algicide, and the active ingredient starts with "poly", you've got the right stuff.

Borax is available at your swimming pool store for $2 or more per pound in a plastic pail with a fancy label and a patent number. Or, you can get in in a green cardboard box at the grocery store -- 20 Mule Team brand -- for $0.40 per pound. Either way, you are getting sodium tetraborate, mined and refined by US Borax.

Tri-chlor pucks, sticks, and tablets are almost the same, no matter whose brand you buy: some have 89% available chlorine; the rest are 90%! Some new tri-chlors have fancy names, less chlorine and more borax -- and much higher prices. You can get the same result (higher and more stable pH levels) buying your borax at the grocery store and using regular tri-chlor!

And you know what?

Some of those expensive, artistically labeled 'high end' pool chemicals are not only the same chemicals as the KMart, WalMart or Sam's brands: they are made by the same company, in some of the same plants, from the same raw material, using the same packaging equipment, and the same containers.

But, the labels are different! Surely a different and prettier label is worth an extra buck or two, per pound!

All forms granular acid -- "pH Minus", or "pH Down" or "dry acid" or whatever -- are sodium bisulfate -- no matter who made the pail!  And, it's still the same thing if they list the ingredient as "sodium acid sulfate" or "sodium hydrogen sulfate", which are legal alternate names.

And, so on.

What's the point? If you learn the chemical names for the swimming pool chemicals you use, you can save time, money and trouble. We've seen pump rooms where pool owners had carefully stored sodium dichloroisocyanurate in four containers: one for their spa, one as a 'quick dissolve chlorine shock', another labeled as an algicide, and yet another labeled as a stabilized chlorine. The price per pound varied by $3.00, even though the stuff was all the same!

There is a difference, though. You'll never find a knowledgeable pool pro at KMart. You might find one in a pool dealer's store. Or, you might not.

But, if you do find someone who knows pools, and is not trying to load the Arch Chemical's entire annual chemical output into your trunk . . . well, then it's worth the extra bucks. Just keep in mind, what's worth money is not what's in the bucket, but what's in the dealer's head . . . and heart.


You should be. There's enough propaganda in the swimming pool industry to warm the hearts of old East Bloc apparatchiks.

But here are the facts:

Laporte's pool chemical brands include the GLB, Leisure Time, Applied Biochemists, Blue Devil, and Robarb brands . . . and all belong to Arch Chemical, as does the old HTH brand.

Aqua Clear's brands used to include SUN®, Prochlor®, Swimfree®, Spa ClearTM, CPC®, ScentsationsTM, and Aqua Clear®. Now, all that belongs to Chemtura.

Chemtura notes that "our pool and spa products are marketed under several brand names (BioGuard®, Aqua Chem®, BAYROL®, Miami, Omni®, Pool Time®, ProGuard®, Spa Essentials®, SpaGuard®, Spa Time® and Sun®)". You can add the Sun and Simplicity brands as well. Ironically, the BioGuard 'high end' and high priced brand, and the AquaChem and Pool Time discount brands come from the same filling operations!

Most of the other brands out there are private label operations using Chinese or Taiwanese chemicals.

So, you have three choices: you can buy Arch/HTH produced chemicals; you can buy Chemtura chemicals  . . . at a premium price in the BioGuard line, or for much less at Home Depot in the Pool Time brand; you can buy Asian chemicals in a local repack brand.

Regardless, sodium bicarbonate is the same stuff, no matter whose label is on the bucket!

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