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The Cost of Maintaining a Pool Has Tripled—Here's What to Do to Keep Prices Down

Last week, it was 100-degrees outside as I hauled boxes up four flights of stairs into my new, air-conditionless apartment. The only thing that could’ve brought me sweet relief? Diving head-first into a crisp, cool swimming pool. Unfortunately, I’m among the many New Yorkers who must scavenge for a rooftop pool to escape the unbearable summer heat. Still, the grass is always greener; the cost of maintaining a pool has tripled since 2020, and chlorine prices are forecasted to rise alongside the temperature. But fear not friends, we’ve called on the experts to give you four chlorine alternatives that’ll help keep prices down this summer. Read on for everything you need to know.

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WHY ARE CHLORINE PRICES SKYROCKETING?

As if maintaining a pool wasn’t expensive enough, the price of chlorine has increased at an astronomical rate since 2020 due to a series of unfortunate events. First, there was pandemic, where people were spending summers at home—bored and sweaty—and public beaches were a no-go. This caused the demand for pool construction to increase by 23 percent in 2020, with over 96,000 pools being built across the US (according to a Goldman Sachs report). Add to that labor shortages and transportation struggles across the country, and you get an actual decrease in chlorine supply.

Then, at the mercy of Hurricane Laura, a major chlorine plant caught fire in January of 2022. The Louisiana production plant was eradicated, causing 40 percent of the country’s chlorine tablet supply to be entirely destroyed. Skyler Ford, Service Manager of Fox Pools in Evansville, Indiana, says: “Pre-COVID we were at about $100 a bucket… Last year it was $130, and this year we’re at $180 for a 25-pound bucket of chlorine,” according to 14news.com. Similarly, a Costco shopper posted a price comparison on Reddit of a 40-pound container of Clorox's Xtra Blue chlorinating tabs, which went from $129.99 on November 12, 2021, to $189.99 on January 22, 2022. What’s more, customers reported buying that same brand of chlorine for just $70 back in 2020.

Long story short? Both events have led to an unprecedented spike in chlorine prices as the industry struggles to recover.

SO, IS THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO TO KEEP PRICES DOWN?

Does the chlorine shortage suck? Yes. But it’s not all doom and gloom (and hey—you still have a pool, right?). E.R. Thomas, digital marketing manager at Latham Pools, explains: “As science continues to advance, more and more chlorine alternatives for your pool are appearing on the consumer market.” Bromine, for example, is a close cousin to chlorine (and happens to be easier on the eyes and skin). There are also natural ways you can sanitize your pool, like by taking a shower before swimming to reduce the amount of oils or bacteria that enter the water. “Another popular chlorine alternative is a UV pool system, which uses ultraviolet light which is completely invisible to the human eye to fatally damage the DNA contained within viruses and parasites,” Thomas adds.

So see below for a list of four chlorine alternatives that’ll help keep prices down while you enjoy frozen Aperol spritz’s poolside this summer.

1. OZONE PURIFICATION SYSTEMS

“Ozone pool systems work by blending electricity with oxygen, which removes calcium, iron, and other metals from the water,” Thomas explains. These systems tend to be more common in large commercial pools, where the UV-light can rid certain bacteria that are actually resistant to chlorine. However, Thomas also warns: “if you use an ultraviolet light system or ozone system to sanitize your swimming pool, you will also need to add a certain amount of chlorine in order to ensure the destruction of harmful bacteria.”

2. BROMINE SANITIZATION SYSTEMS

If you’re looking for a true chlorine alternative, bromine is the closest you’re going to get to the real deal. “Bromine–a close cousin of chlorine–is the sanitizer of choice for portable spas. The cost of bromine tends to be higher than chlorine, therefore it’s more frequently used by homeowners for small scale use. Bromine is less harsh on skin and eyes than chlorine. Similar to chlorine, bromine is best dispensed in a flow through an auto-brominating device,” Thomas explains. Still, we can’t guarantee that’ll it’ll save you buckets of money and a typical 25-pound bucket of bromine tablets sells for about $100 to $125.

3. COPPER IONIZATION

If you’re breaking up with chlorine for good, you’ll probably want to look to Copper-silver ionization. “It’s an alternative way to sanitize a swimming pool using mineral ions—specifically, copper and silver—instead of chemicals such as chlorine or bromine alone. A pool ionizer can be helpful for those who are sensitive to, or who just want to keep their pool clean with smaller amounts of harsh chemicals,” says Matt Giovanisci, CEO of SwimUniversity.com. Keep in mind, however, that you will have to supplement your pool with another sanitizer (as the ionizer isn’t enough to fully clean on its own). “The good news is, because a pool ionizer does reduce the amount of contaminants in your pool, you won’t need nearly as much chlorine as you would if it were the only sanitizer. Rather than the standard 1 part per million (ppm) to 3 ppm, if you’re using a pool ionizer, the chlorine level only needs to be somewhere between 0.5 ppm and 1 ppm,” he adds.

4. GENERATING CHLORINE FROM SALT

Another way you can sanitize your pool without adding chemicals is by creating your own chlorine with a saltwater generator. “Using electrolysis, dissolved salt is converted into hypochlorous acid (HClO) and sodium hypochlorite, the sanitizing agents used to rid the water of dirt and bacteria,” Giovanisci explains. “It’s important to note that salt chlorinators do not create a chlorine-free pool. They use dissolved salt to create chlorine to clean the pool.” Plus, we can guarantee that your kids will love being able to open their eyes underwater without goggles (another advantage of chlorine-free living).

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Assistant Editor

Sydney Meister is PureWow's Assistant Editor, covering everything from dating trends and relationship advice (here's looking at you, 'soonicorns') to interior design, beauty...