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Alternative Swimming Pool Care

Which System is Better?  Ionizers, Ozonaters, Salt Water, Chlorine Free Biguanides

Frequently folks will come into our stores with this question in mind.    As a veteran industry member of the APSP(Association of Pool and Spa Professionals) it is our job to be the experts in all aspects of swimming pool and hot tub water care. Our business philosophy at Aqua Pros is that “By helping pool and spa owners have a positive experience with their pool and/or spa, our business will succeed”.

“No other chemicals needed”.

This is probably the biggest myth in swimming pool care.  FACT: Anyone that tells a pool/spa owner that they don’t need to add “chemicals” to their pool or spa is either uninformed or a liar.  What follows is a brief explanation of various types of popular pool care programs.


Folks swimming in a properly maintained and functioning "saltwater pool" will say that the water quality is the best of any they have ever bathed in.  Saltwater pools are the most inviting pools one can ever be in.  From a cost standpoint, a saltwater pool is the most affordable pool to maintain.  No other type of pool operating system offers the ease, quality, and affordability of a saltwater pool.  Salt in the pool water is converted to sanitizer and oxidizer through the process of electrolysis. When the water passes through a “cell” where sanitizer is generated, titanium plates charged with DC current convert salt to sanitizer.


The value of an ionizer in a swimming pool is to reduce chlorine consumption.  Typical ionizers release copper and silver ions into the pool water.  The copper helps prevent algae growth and silver kills and helps kill bacteria.  Since Chlorine in pool water is fighting algae and bacteria, the combination of the copper and silver ions greatly reduces the amount of Chlorine consumed in the pool. Bacteria and Algae that are killed and left behind by the copper and silver must be oxidized by some method and Chlorine is probably still the single best choice for doing this in swimming pool water. Chlorine is a powerful oxidizer that does an excellent job of oxidation on organic contaminants, once they’re killed or weakened. Failure to use enough Chlorine to oxidize the organics can cause problems in pool water, such as chlorine demand or, at the very least, a large build up of Chloramines. Chloramines are molecules of Nitrogen and Chlorine that become linked together in pool water and usually create an offensive odor. In extensive studies, chloramines have been linked to Adolescent Asthma. Evidence suggests that small children (toddlers) may contract a viral infection in their respiratory system from irritation caused by exposure to excessive chloramines that can accumulate in pool water. Later on in life, the condition may evolve into asthma.

When a claim is made that one does not need to add anything to pool water but Bleach, beware. Bleach has a low concentration of chlorine and a shelf life of 30 days.

Most suggestions for Bleach from the vendor of the ionizer suggest adding a gallon for pools from 10,000 gallons to 30,000 gallons. In my product line, we have specific dosages for gallonages and there are Shock Treatments that work well with Ionizers but, Bleach is not something I would recommend.

Lastly, all pool surfaces and pool equipment are susceptible to damage from improper water chemistry. Its absolutely vital to Balance pH, Total Alkalinity, Calcium Hardness, and Cyanuric Acid (Chlorinated pools). In addition, metals in pool water can cause problems of their own. Staining would be the most obvious problem from metals in pool water. We will often treat algae in pools with a Copper based algaecide however, our algaecides have the copper bound up so they cannot stain pool surfaces.

For the benefit of pool surfaces, pool equipment, and bather comfort, pool water must be properly balanced, and free of metals (staining). The vast majority of pool owners lack the means to adequately test for all these parameters and understand dosing. A full service pool/spa store should be prepared to completely test anyone’s pool water and offer an explanation of how to treat the pool water with the appropriate chemicals to sanitize, oxidize, and balance. BioGuard Chemical dealers have the most comprehensive testing equipment and offer free print outs that explain step by step, exactly how to treat your pool for best results.


I wouldn’t own a hot tub/spa without an ozonater. A functioning Uv ozonater in a hot tub is absolutely the best thing a hot tub can have to help make water maintenance as easy and safe as possible. My preference is to use ozone with Bromine. Ozone is a powerful oxidizer and it actually activates Bromide Salts present in the water from additions of Bromine by the owner. Ozone kills bacteria, viruses, and oxidizes organic contaminants better than any other product you can put in your hot tub. Ozone has one problem though: It has a half life of around 20 seconds so it doesn’t last very long in the water. Too much ozone (in a hot tub) is not a good thing either, as it can harm equipment in a hot tub and even damage the hot tub’s cover by excessive off gassing.

In swimming pools I don’t find ozone as helpful because we’re dealing with a much larger volume of water and the ozone just can’t get to enough of the water at one time. That’s not to say that ozone can’t be helpful in a pool, it’s just that ozone in a pool with so much more water than a typical hot tub can’t get to as much of the bacteria and organics to kill and oxidize. Ozone in a swimming pool is a good assist, but according to the APSP and NSF(National Sanitation Foundation) pool water must have a Halogen(Chlorine or Bromine) residual specified for residential or commercial situations. Ozone will do a very good job of helping to reduce halogen consumption in any swimming pool or spa, but it is not intended as a stand alone method.


Soft Swim from BioGuard is what we technically refer to as a Biguanide. Biguanides kill bacteria without using a Halogen (Chlorine or Bromine) and are the most commonly used Chlorine free program in swimming pool care. There are people that are allergic to Halogens and for them, Soft Swim is an ideal Chlorine alternative.

Biguanides have some limitations: Sand Filters are probably the only filter they should be used with and it is important to clean the filter at least every 6 weeks in season.  Change your filter sand at least every 3 years.  Biguanides do not work well in pools above 25,000 gallons yet, they’re probably ideal in above ground pools (no main drain usually). Soft Swim is a well designed program available from BioGuard Dealers and to date may be the most easy and effective Biguanide program available.

In Central Va, bring a sample of your pool or spas water to one of our 3 showrooms for a free computerized analysis or contact us at info@aquapros.com