Your Swimming Pool and Spa
Your Swimming Pool
Health Canada is the federal department responsible for helping the people of Canada maintain
and improve their health. We assess the safety of drugs and many consumer products, help improve
the safety of food, and provide information to Canadians to help them make healthy decisions.
We provide health services to First Nations people and to Inuit communities. We work with the
provinces to ensure our health care system serves the needs of Canadians.
Published by authority of the Minister of Health.
Également disponible en français sous le titre :
Votre piscine et votre spa
This publication can be made available on request in a variety of alternative formats.
For further information or to obtain additional copies, please contact:
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0K9
Tel.: (613) 957-2991
Fax: (613) 941-5366
E-Mail: [email protected]
or [email protected]
© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Health, 2011
HC Pub.: 100622
Cleaning Your Pool and Spa. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
How Do I Sanitize My Swimming Pool or Spa? . . . . . 2
How Much Sanitizer Should I Use? . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Controlling Algae . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
How Should I Use Copper Sulphate Algicides? . . . . . 4
Are Copper Sulphate Algicides Safe?. . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Using Pool and Spa Devices . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Cleaning Saltwater Pools and Spas . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Using Registered or Scheduled Products . . . . . . . . . 6
Testing Your Water . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Recommended Minimum Level of Sanitizer . . . . . . . 8
General Safety Precautions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
In Case of Accidental Poisoning. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Disposal. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
For More Information . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Tips for Handling Pool Chemicals . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Cleaning Your Pool and Spa
The people using your swimming pool or spa can get sick if you don’t
sanitize the water properly. Even clear water can harbor microorganisms.
Possible illnesses include ear and stomach infections and skin rashes.
The water in swimming pools, and the hot water and low water volume of
spas, are favourable environments for microorganisms, like bacteria and
viruses. Good sanitation reduces the numbers of microorganisms to safe
levels. To keep those using your pool or spa safe, you must regularly test
your water balance for adequate sanitizer levels, pH, total alkalinity and
calcium hardness. You need to test on a daily basis, especially during
periods of high use. All types of pools and spas, including inflatable and
kiddie pools, need to maintain proper water balance.
How Do I Sanitize My Swimming Pool or Spa?
Chlorine-based and bromine-based products are effective sanitizers that
also control algae. When added to water, chlorine-based products release
hypochlorous acid and bromine-based products produce hypobromous
acid, the main chemical compounds responsible for sanitation in pools
and spas. You can buy chlorine and bromine either as a chemical (pucks,
tablets, or liquid) or as a device such as generators. Some types of
chlorine or bromine chemicals can also be applied using a dispenser.
How Much Sanitizer Should I Use?
It is important to use swimming pool and spa chemicals according to
the directions on the label. The label tells you how much of the product
to use and how to handle the product safely. Always read the label
before using the product.
Swimming pool and spa devices that generate or dispense a sanitizer
have detailed instructions for use in the user’s manual, on the package
and on the device itself. Always read the label and the user’s manual
before installing and using a device.
Check with a pool and spa professional who can suggest the right
treatment for your pool or spa.
Hot weather, sunlight and low sanitizer levels can encourage algae
growth. Algae are not usually harmful to people, but can create a
potential hazard by making pool and spa surfaces slippery and the water
cloudy. Algae also make sanitizers less effective because more of the
sanitizer is used up to control the algae instead of treating the possible
harmful bacteria and viruses. A reduced sanitizer level makes it easier
for bacteria and viruses to multiply.
Using a sanitizer regularly should prevent the excessive growth of algae.
However, you may also need algicides like copper sulphate-based or
quaternary ammonium chloride-based products to tackle big algae
problems. Devices that release metal ions into pool or spa water can
also be used to control algae.
How Should I Use Copper Sulphate Algicides?
Copper sulphate-based swimming pool algicides can be used to:
9 control algae
9 improve water clarity
9 reduce the amount of chlorine- or bromine-based products needed
They do not:
8 control microorganisms like bacteria and viruses
8 eliminate the need for sanitizers like chlorine- or bromine-based
Because copper sulphate-based products do not control bacteria and
viruses in swimming pool water, they must be used along with chlorine- or
bromine-based sanitizers to protect bathers.
(Note: Though using a copper sulphate-based algicide will reduce the
amount of chlorine- or bromine-based sanitizer needed in your pool,
the actual amount will vary depending on the size of pool, the type
of pool and its location.)
Are Copper Sulphate Algicides Safe?
Health Canada has found that using copper sulphate-based algicides
in swimming pools presents no significant danger to bathers. When used
according to the label directions, copper sulphate algicide should not
cause skin irritation for bathers. However, label directions should be
carefully followed when handling undiluted copper sulphate-based
products to reduce the potential for skin irritation.
Using Pool and Spa Devices
There are four types of devices used in swimming pools and spas:
Chlorine and bromine generators use electrical energy to produce
hypochlorous or hypobromous acid from salt, which in turn sanitizes the
water. Chlorine and bromine generator devices must be registered.
Chemical dispensing devices are designed to automatically release
hypochlorous or hypobromous acid from chlorine or bromine chemicals
into swimming pools. The user’s manual should be carefully followed.
Chemical dispensing devices for swimming pool use do not have
to be registered.
Ionizers produce metal ions (e.g.: Cu2+) to control algae. You must
still use chlorine-based or bromine-based products for sanitization.
Ion and disinfectant levels should be checked frequently and electrodes
replaced as needed. Ionizers must be registered.
Ozone-generating devices can be used to reduce organic matter
in pool and spa water. Although these devices can be a useful
complement to chlorine-based or bromine-based products, they do
not replace them. The main purpose of ozone-generating devices is to
oxidize organic matter. Ozone-generating devices do not have to be
registered unless claims for sanitation (control of microorganisms
like bacteria and viruses) or for control of the growth of algae
When using ionizers or ozone-generating devices, you must still use
chlorine-based or bromine-based products for sanitization. A proper level
of sanitizer must be maintained in order to prevent the spread of diseasecausing microorganisms.
Always read the label and the user’s manual before installing
and using a device.
Cleaning Saltwater Pools and Spas
Saltwater swimming pools and spas rely on chlorine- or bromine-generating
devices to sanitize the water. They need the same basic care as traditional
pools and spas to control disease-causing microorganisms, algae and
organic matter. The main difference is that saltwater pools and spas rely
on chlorine- or bromine-generating devices to sanitize the water, while
traditional pools and spas can use chlorine or bromine chemical products.
As with traditional pools and spas, a proper level of sanitizer must
be maintained in order to prevent the spread of disease-causing
Using Registered or Scheduled Products
All pool and spa products (chemicals and devices) used to control
microorganisms and algae must be registered or scheduled under the Pest
Control Products Act. Health Canada reviews applications for registration
using scientific information to assess hazards to human health and the
environment and determine how well the product works.
Registered or scheduled products carry labels with directions on how to use
them, and precautions to minimize hazards to people using the products.
Registered products are easily identified. Just look for the five-digit
registration number on the front of the package:
REGISTRATION NO. 00000 PEST CONTROL
PRODUCTS ACT (PCPA); or
Reg. No. 00000 PCPA
Scheduled product’s label will indicate
“SCHEDULED UNDER THE PEST
CONTROL PRODUCT ACT”
Other pool and spa products, like pH adjusters, shock treatment, chlorine
neutralizers and devices used only to dispense pool and spa chemicals,
do not have to be registered. This is because they do not control diseasecausing microorganisms or algae. If you are in doubt about whether
a product you are considering is subject to the Pest Control Products
Act, please contact the Pest Management Information Service at
Avoid unidentified or inadequately labelled products. Use only registered
or scheduled products and follow label directions.
Testing Your Water
Whether you choose chemical products or electrical devices to sanitize your
pool or spa, a certain amount of sanitizer must be maintained to prevent
disease-causing microorganisms from multiplying.
The exact amount of sanitizer you need depends on many changing factors,
like the number of bathers, frequency of use, contamination of water like
suntan lotions and oils, water temperature, and the amount of recent rain.
Also, water balance (adequate sanitizer levels, pH, total alkalinity, and
calcium hardness) and a proper concentration of copper-based algicide
must be maintained to prevent staining of pool surfaces.
In addition to using the chemical or device according to label directions,
you must test on a daily basis to figure out if the level of sanitizer in
your pool or spa is enough to protect swimmers from disease-causing
microorganisms. Water testing can be done using good quality test kits
or by bringing water samples to your swimming pool or spa dealer.
Recommended Minimum Level of Sanitizer
The level of sanitizer in your pool or spa is referred to as “free available
chlorine or bromine”. The recommended minimums are:
UÊ Residential pools like in ground, above ground, kiddie pools and inflatable
pools: 1–3 ppm
UÊ Residential spas and hot tubs: 3–5 ppm
UÊ Commercial pools: provincial and/or municipal regulations must be
Organic matter (like tree leaves and grass) in swimming pool water makes
sanitizers less effective. In some cases, the label directions on swimming
pool sanitizers and algicides may tell you to maintain a minimum chlorine
level of 0.6 ppm. Reducing sanitizer levels from 1–3 ppm (as recommended
above) to 0.6 ppm is possible only when you control the organic matter
content in the water. Note that the 0.6 ppm chlorine level applies to pool
water only. Spa water must be maintained at 3–5 ppm.
Check the directions on the product label.
General Safety Precautions
When Using Swimming Pool and Spa Chemicals
UÊ Carefully read all label instructions and precautions before using
UÊ Do not smoke, drink, or eat while using chemicals.
UÊ Never mix with other chemicals.
After Using Swimming Pool and Spa Chemicals
UÊ Always thoroughly wash your hands after using chemicals.
UÊ Never handle these chemicals on or near food surfaces such as counters,
tables and stovetops.
UÊ Always store chemicals out of reach of children and pets, and away from
food and beverages.
UÊ Always read and follow storage instructions on the product labels.
Please note that these are general precautions only. You should check the
product label for more specific instructions.
In Case of Accidental Poisoning
UÊ Get medical help or call a Poison Control Center right away.
UÊ In case of accidental poisoning of a pet, get veterinary help right away.
UÊ Do not reuse empty containers. Throw them out in your household
UÊ Throw out unused or partially used products at provincial or municipal
household hazardous waste disposal sites.
For More Information
Contact the Health Canada Pest Management Information Service at
Visit Health Canada’s health portal for safety information about food, health
and consumer products (www.health.gc.ca/consumer).
Tips for Handling
Pool and Spa
UÊ Read the label and follow
UÊ Use contents of unlabeled containers.
UÊ Keep all chemicals away from
children and pets.
UÊ Keep containers closed and
in the original containers when
not in use. Store in a cool, dry, well
ventilated place away from sunlight.
UÊ Wear proper protective equipment
and clothing like gloves, goggles
UÊ Mix different chemicals together
or put spilled chemicals back into
UÊ Touch undiluted chemicals with
your hands or smoke when handling
UÊ Generate dust when cleaning up
a powder or solid. The dust can
react with moisture on your skin
and cause injury.
UÊ Use separate, clean metal or plastic
measuring cups for each chemical
UÊ Store liquids above powders or solids.
UÊ Protect chemicals from moisture
UÊ Store pool chemicals near gasoline,
fertilizers, pesticides, grease, paints,
tile cleaners, turpentine, or other
flammable materials, especially when
pool chemicals are stored in sheds
or small storage rooms.
UÊ Add the chemical to the pool
water (unless otherwise indicated
on the label).
UÊ Wash your hands thoroughly after
handling any chemical.
UÊ Report pesticide incidents to
manufacturers (phone number
on label). They are required
to send them to Health Canada.
What do I do if someone
needs first aid?
UÊ Stack containers or store materials
or chemicals above your head.
UÊ Expose chemicals to heat or flame.
UÊ Use a “dry chemical” fire extinguisher
if a fire breaks out. Only use large
amounts of water. If you can’t
extinguish the flame immediately,
leave the area and call the fire
UÊ Have someone call for medical help.
UÊ Remove the victim from the source of contamination
and quickly remove contaminated clothing, shoes and
UÊ Quickly flush the contaminated area with lukewarm,
gently flowing water for at least 15–20 minutes
(longer for corrosives).