How we got here.
Over the weekend a lot of the major news outlets decided to report on the pool chlorine shortage our country is facing for this summer. This problem goes back to August 27th, 2020 when Hurricane Laura made landfall in the Lake Charles, LA area. It just so happens that roughly 60% of the nation’s chlorine tablets are manufactured there. The hurricane caused a fire at that production facility that was eventually extinguished after a few days, completely devastating that plant. It was predicted that it would take about 2 years to rebuild. With that news, 3” tablet prices sky rocked 30-40% immediately. At that time, it was nearing the end of pool season for most of the country, and most pool owners didn’t have to worry about it.
Supply is getting better as relations improve with China and more product is coming from overseas. However, the global shipping systems are bottlenecked and it is taking a very long time for product to get here. To add to the issue, the winter storm in Texas knocked out a large portion of the country’s resin production. Plastic buckets to put any type of chlorine in are now in short supply, coupled with not enough workers and truck drivers to get the product out to the consumer level, makes for additional delays and price increases.
What to do about it.
Don’t let chlorine tabs become the next toilet paper shortage. Buy what you would typically need in a season. If you buy too much you have to figure out how to store it. If you keep it inside, it needs to be well ventilated. If you keep it outside, it needs to stay dry.
- Use less. You should only use tablets during the peak of the summer to help maintain your chlorine level between 2-4 ppm. Super chlorinate your pool weekly and if the chlorine level drops below 2 ppm throughout the week, that is when you would start using tablets. Using tabs above 4 ppm is just wasting them.
- Use something else. A single 3” tablet is roughly ½ lb. of chlorine. Several other types of chlorine could be used in place, but they may have to be added more frequently. For example, if your pool needed 4 tablets a week, then you could use two pounds of granular chlorine or 1 gallon of liquid chlorine in place of them. You could just divide it into a few doses throughout the week to mimic the slow dissolving effect of the tablets.
- Make a switch.
- Non-stabilized tablets. There are non-stabilized (calcium-based) chlorine tablets that are on the market that are in very good supply. They used to be more expensive, but with the prices of the regular tabs going up so much they are very comparable.
- Salt pools. Salt is another option, but it may not be for everyone. Salt systems utilize electrolysis to turn salt into chlorine. Pool owners who have already invested in a salt system must be happy with that investment, as they have no need for chlorine tablets. However, having a salt system installed right now may not be a convenient solution due to industry-wide pool equipment shortages. Salt can also cause damage to soft stone and any metal objects around the pool, so it may not be a good alternative for everyone.
- Liquid Chlorine. If you haven’t tried liquid chlorine, this might be a good time to do so. This chlorine source is chemically the same as the chlorine produced by a salt system but is produced at an offsite location and bottled for your convenience. With liquid chlorine, you get the benefit of no dissolve time without the risk of potential damage to the pool and its surrounding components. We may be a bit biased, but HASA packages liquid chlorine in reusable containers which means they should remain unaffected by the plastic production issues. Overall, the supply of liquid chlorine should remain relatively uninterrupted, making it an excellent alternative to chlorine tablets.
This can be a good thing.
The commonly available 3” chlorine tablet contains a lot of cyanuric acid. Cyanuric acid is needed in outdoor pools to prevent chlorine loss due to sunlight, but too much can cause slower chlorine kill times. Most pools end up with too much cyanuric acid by the end of the season due to tablet usage. The fewer tabs you use, the less cyanuric acid build-up you will have. The tablets are also very acidic. Frequent use can cause the pH in your pool to fall and add to your pool chemistry problems.
A few changes you might see.
Our supplier is currently only producing 25 lbs. bucket sizes. I don’t think you will be able to find small quantities of tablets for a while. If you like buying the 4 lbs. or 11 lbs. containers, plan on getting the 25 lbs. one next time. There are certain kinds of granular chlorine that use the same chlorine as the tablets. Those will also have less production to allow manufacturers the ability to focus on tablets. Currently, we are limiting transactions to two 25 lbs. buckets per customer. That should be more than the average pool owner uses in a season anyway.
Here is the bottom line.
Get a bucket of tabs if you haven’t already this year. Plan on using less. Super chlorinate your pool weekly with liquid chlorine or granular chlorine. Super chlorination oxidizes the water making it easier to keep clean and makes the water sparkle. Add a little more chlorine halfway through the week to maintain the chlorine level at 2-4 ppm. When it gets really hot, start adding a tablet for every 10,000 gallons of pool water. If you go on vacation for a week, add a tablet for every 5,000 gallons of water. If we get a lot of rain, super chlorinate the pool again afterward. When it starts to cool off in September, reduce the tablet usage again. This method will not only keep the pool in the best condition for swimming and remaining algae-free this summer, but it will save you money. Buying lots of tablets at a 30-40% higher price than they were last year will not.