What is Cyanuric Acid in a Pool


Cyanuric acid (CYA)  serves as a protection shield for chlorine (Cl) against sunlight. The Sun’s ultraviolet rays degrade chlorine very quickly, creating a problem for outdoor pools. Studies show that sunlight can wipe out chlorine by 75-90% in a matter of two hours so this is a critical monitoring test.  What is cyanuric acid in pools?

Cyanuric acid (CYA) combines with free chlorine (FC) in pools protecting it from the sun’s ultraviolet rays and reducing chlorine loss when properly managed at 30-50 ppm maintaining a minimum Cl residual in outdoor pools but above 50 ppm CYA reduces the overall effectiveness of Cl & needs to be reduced.

Cyanuric Acid is like sunscreen for your pool water’s chlorine. Much like your skin, chlorine particles are sensitive to the sun’s UV rays and when the rays hit chlorine particles, they destabilize, break apart, and subsequently evaporate out of the pool water. Cyanuric Acid like a strong SPF on your skin, Cyanuric Acid binds to the chlorine particles and protects them from the sun’s UV rays.

 

Understanding Cyanuric Acid in Pools for Water Balance

 

Cyanuric acid (CYA), also known as chlorine stabilizer or pool conditioner, is a chemical that helps stabilize the chlorine in your pool. It protects your chlorine from breaking down under the sun’s UV rays. The right levels of cyanuric acid help your chlorine last longer, which means your sanitizer can continue to kill bacteria, contaminants, and algae.

Having too little CYA  or too much CYA is a critical control that affects chlorine disinfection in a swimming pool.

The ideal range for cyanuric acid is between 30 and 50 ppm. Maintaining the right balance between cyanuric acid and chlorine is crucial for a sanitized pool. Too much cyanuric acid and your chlorine’s effectiveness decreases. Too little cyanuric acid and chlorine will break down under the sun’s UV rays. Where does cyanuric acid come from? Two of the most common chlorine products used for disinfection are dichlor and trichlor. Chlorine CYA chart, Cyanuric acid chlorine protection, CYA and chlorine sun protection

  • Dichlor chlorine( type of stabilized chlorine that can be granular or found as tablets. Dichlor dissolves quickly is high in stabilizer)  and trichloro contain both chlorine and cyanuric acid so it is not necessary to add cyanuric acid to the pool water.
  • Trichlor chlorine is short for Trichloro-S-Triazinetrione, which is a “dry solid containing the highest (90%) available chlorine content of any chlorine sanitizing pool treatment” other than gaseous chlorine.  is about 55% CYA by weight.

Stabilizer (cyanuric acid) is also sold at most pool supply stores. Cal-hypo and liquid chlorine do not contain stabilizer

Try and keep free chlorine levels at 7.5 percent of cyanuric acid levels. If your pool has CYA levels at 50 ppm, you’ll need to keep your free chlorine levels at 3 ppm to effectively sanitize your water. In general, your pool water-free chlorine should be between 1 ppm and 3 ppm.

CYA keeps the chlorine in the water up to eight times longer. Pools that need a daily dose of chlorine added now only need chlorine once a week with CYA. Chlorine (CL) in the water quickly binds to CYA and a smaller portion of the chlorine is available.

The chlorine is around longer, but it does not kill as quickly. And as the CYA increases, there is less and less chlorine available for killing bacteria and microorganisms.

Innovative chlorine manufacturers in the late 1950s started combining chlorine with CYA to make chlorinated products called Dichlor and Trichlor. Trichlor tablets quickly became the most popular chlorinating product for pools.

But having too much or too little cyanuric acid in your pool can reduce your chlorine’s effectiveness and even damage your pool equipment. Here’s everything you need to know about how cyanuric acid works with chlorine and how to raise or lower your cyanuric acid levels.

Technically Speaking: How Cyanuric Acid Stabilizes Pool Water

 

Cyanuric acid plays a crucial role in stabilizing pool water by shielding chlorine from the degrading effects of ultraviolet (UV) sunlight. The chemical structure of cyanuric acid forms a protective barrier around chlorine molecules, preventing them from breaking down when exposed to sunlight. This stabilization is especially vital in outdoor pools where chlorine is susceptible to UV degradation.

By maintaining proper cyanuric acid levels, pool owners ensure that chlorine remains active longer, enhancing its effectiveness in killing bacteria and preventing algae growth. However, it’s essential to strike a balance, as excessively high cyanuric acid levels can diminish chlorine’s disinfecting power and lead to water quality issues.

This synergy between cyanuric acid and chlorine forms a formidable defense line, ensuring that chlorine’s sanitizing force isn’t prematurely vanquished by UV rays. It’s a fine dance of stabilization, balancing on the tightrope of effective disinfection without letting the performance be cut short by the sun’s invasive beams.

Grasping the CYA levels is akin to mastering the art of crafting a perfect pool potion. It’s crucial—too little, and chlorine’s disinfecting prowess dissipates with the morning dew; too much, and you might as well be swimming in a petri dish where chlorine’s efficacy is subdued.

Striking that harmonious balance is where CYA levels play their pivotal role, allowing the chlorine to linger longer, like a dedicated guard who’s resolved not to leave their post until the shift’s end—this is cyanuric acid stabilizing pool water at its finest. It’s chemistry, it’s alchemy, and it’s the guardian of your pool’s microbiological purity.

Yet, the presence of cyanuric acid in pools isn’t just a fancy scientific phenomenon; it’s the bread and butter of swimming pool maintenance, shielding chlorine from sunlight’s insatiable appetite, which left unchecked, can drain a pool’s cleanliness faster than an ill-timed belly flop. It’s this symbiotic relationship that sits at the heart of stabilization, crafting a sanctuary of hygiene for swimmers, all thanks to the understated CYA.

Whether it’s in a sun-drenched backyard oasis or a lavish spa care facility, the essence of cyanuric acid remains consistent—a staunch ally ensuring that every dip is devoid of unwanted microbial tag-alongs, making it undeniably essential for swimming pool water balance. Thus, we salute cyanuric acid, the silent guardian, the watchful protector of pool water harmony.

 

The Role of Cyanuric Acid in Spa Care and Pool Maintenance

 

By forming temporary binding with the (FC) free chlorine, cyanuric acid will reduce the overall effectiveness of chlorine. As the level of cyanuric acid rises, free chlorine’s ability to act as a disinfectant is weakened. The amount of time it takes to kill bacteria lengthens as the concentration of cyanuric acid increases.

In the hot summers, the chlorine will be used up, however, cyanuric acid is never used up and accumulates in the pool water as a waste product. Once you have added it to the pool water, it will remain in the water. A maximum level of 100 ppm. CYA has been recommended by pool professionals.

 Sometimes high levels of CYA happen without you realizing it. Trichloro adds CYA every time you use it. As outside swimming pool water evaporates, CYA will stay behind, just like minerals calcium, and salt. If you are using a stabilized chlorine like Trichloro or Dichlor Chlorine(, CYA can accumulate quickly.  One pound of trichloro in 10,000 gallons of water will add 6 ppm of CYA.

Although these tablets dissolve very similarly to trichloro tablets, they cannot be used in trichloro feeders. Trichloro and Cal hypo are incompatible and combining them can be extremely dangerous.

Ways to lower CYA are to:

  • Partially drain and dilute the pool with fresh water.
  • Use specialized filters– that will eliminate CYA  from pool water, such as reverse osmosis (RO).  RO filters are expensive, but they may be the best option for people in regions of the country that are unable to drain their pools where water is expensive.
  • Use products like Bio-Active-that can reduce cyanuric acid levels by up to 50%  Eliminates chlorine lock due to a high cyanuric acid level

 

*Simply put dilution over time is often the best option. The alternatives to draining your water are to pay big money for filtration or try to manage the pool with high levels of CYA. Neither of those two options is as easy or affordable as replacing water with fresh water.

Try and monitor then keep CYA levels low enough to manage sanitation and maintain LSI balance. If your CYA is too high, draining and diluting is the most cost-effective means to reduce CYA in your pool.

 

Raise Cyanuric Acid Levels in Pools

 

The ideal range for cyanuric acid in your pool is between 30 and 50 ppm (parts per million). Anything lower and you will likely see some undesirable side effects when it comes to your water chemistry.

Raising your CYA levels can only be done 2 ways.

Before dosing your pool, however, it’s imperative that you test the pool water, and balance both the pH level and total alkalinity levelbeforehand. You can use test strips, a liquid test kit, or a digital test kit to find out where your pool’s chemical levels stand. CYA isn’t always a common testing parameter, use a reliable test kit.

  • Use a Stabilized chlorine like sodium dichlor or trichlor that is available in either powdered granules, liquid, or puck/tablets. All are easy to add to the pool and can be done in a few different ways. Granules can be mixed with water and poured into the pool, liquid chlorine (sodium hypochlorite) is also poured, and pucks can go either in your skimmer basket or a chlorine dispenser that floats in the pool.

There are also pool chlorinators that automatically feed the pool a set amount of chlorine, and you can use any kind of stabilized chlorine with them Adding pure cyanuric acid is another option. This method allows you to add it separately from chlorine, and will only need to be done once or twice a year at most.

Add CYA directly to the pool:

  1. Test and balance your pool H2O so you will know where your CYA level is and how much you need to raise it.
  2. Wear proper protective gear like eyewear, chemical-resistant gloves, and long sleeves with pants.
  3. Fill up a 5-gallon bucket with warm water.
  4. Measure out the correct dosage of CYA for your pool by checking the instructions on the product.
  5. Add the CYA to the bucket of water (never the other way around!).
  6. Pour the solution directly into the pool’s skimmer Slowly so you don’t clog the intake skimmer
  7. Allow time for the pool to fully cycle the water, distributing the CYA. Retest and repeat this process if more is needed.

 

 

Maintaining Optimal Cyanuric Acid Levels in Pool Water

 

Maintaining optimal cyanuric acid levels in pool water is crucial for effective chlorine stabilization and ensuring proper disinfection. Here’s a list of actions to help achieve and sustain the ideal cyanuric acid levels:

  1. Regular Testing:
    • Conduct frequent tests using a reliable cyanuric acid test kit to monitor the levels in the pool water.
  2. Ideal Range:
    • Keep cyanuric acid levels within the recommended range, typically between 30 to 50 parts per million (ppm) for outdoor pools.
  3. Adjustments as Needed:
    • If cyanuric acid levels are too low, add a cyanuric acid stabilizer to raise them. Conversely, if levels are too high, dilute the pool water with fresh water.
  4. Avoid Over-Stabilization:
    • Be cautious not to over-stabilize the pool, as excessively high cyanuric acid levels can reduce the effectiveness of chlorine and lead to water quality issues.
  5. Monitor Chlorine Levels:
    • Regularly check the chlorine levels in the pool, as cyanuric acid interacts with chlorine, affecting its potency.
  6. Water Replacement:
    • Consider partial water replacement if cyanuric acid levels become excessively high. This helps dilute the stabilizer concentration.
  7. Protect Against UV Degradation:
    • Understand that cyanuric acid acts as a sunscreen for chlorine, protecting it from degradation due to ultraviolet (UV) rays. However, excessive levels can hinder chlorine’s disinfection capabilities.
  8. Seasonal Adjustments:
    • Recognize that cyanuric acid levels may fluctuate with weather conditions and pool usage. Adjustments may be needed seasonally.
  9. Educate Pool Users:
    • Inform pool users about the importance of maintaining proper cyanuric acid levels and the potential impact on water quality and chlorine effectiveness.
  10. Professional Assistance:
    • Seek advice from pool professionals if you encounter challenges in maintaining optimal cyanuric acid levels or if you are unsure about the appropriate corrective measures.

By proactively managing cyanuric acid levels, pool owners can enhance water quality, improve chlorine efficiency, and create a safer and more enjoyable swimming environment.

Optimal cyanuric acid levels in the realm of pools and hot tubs are typically between 30 to 50 ppm, a range that offers adequate sunlight protection while circumventing potential issues that arise from excessively high levels.

Cyanuric Acid Water Test Kits: Ensuring Proper Pools’ Safety

 

The ideal cyanuric acid level for a salt pool is higher at between 60 and 80 parts per million (ppm). The CYA levels are higher in a saltwater pool than in a freshwater swimming pool.

This is because saltwater generators produce chlorine at a slow pace, which means they struggle to maintain an adequate chlorine level when large amounts are being burnt off by sunlight, especially at peak times of the day. As a result, it needs a little more protection than usual, putting the optimal ratio of free chlorine in a saltwater pool at no lower than 5% of the cyanuric acid level.

The first is a traditional liquid reagent drop test, such as those found in the popular Taylor testing kits. This is a very accurate test, but it’s fairly time and resource-intensive. The second is what’s known as the “black dot test”, made by Pentair.  This test is explained in the video. This isn’t quite as accurate as the Taylor test, but it only takes a fraction of the time to carry out and proves to be a lot more reliable than a test strip.

Ensuring proper pool safety involves regular testing of cyanuric acid levels, and cyanuric acid water test kits are essential tools for this purpose. Here’s a list of considerations for using these kits to maintain safe pool conditions:

Choose Reliable Test Kits:

  • Invest in a high-quality cyanuric acid test kit from a reputable manufacturer to ensure accurate and reliable results.

Follow Manufacturer Instructions:

  • Adhere strictly to the instructions provided by the test kit manufacturer to obtain precise and consistent measurements.

Regular Testing Schedule:

  • Establish a routine schedule for testing cyanuric acid levels, especially during peak pool usage periods and warmer seasons.

Test Alongside Other Parameters:

  • Incorporate cyanuric acid testing into your overall pool water testing routine, which should include assessments of pH, chlorine, and other relevant parameters.

Keep Testing Equipment Clean:

  • Maintain the cleanliness of testing equipment, such as test tubes and vials, to prevent contamination that could affect results.

Record Results:

  • Keep a record of cyanuric acid test results over time to track trends and identify any patterns that may require adjustments.

Understand Ideal Levels:

  • Familiarize yourself with the recommended cyanuric acid levels for pool water (usually between 30 to 50 parts per million) and take corrective actions if levels deviate.

Take Action Based on Results:

  • Act promptly based on the test results. If cyanuric acid levels are too high or too low, follow appropriate measures, such as dilution or adding a stabilizer, to bring levels within the desired range.

Educate Pool Users:

  • Inform pool users about the importance of maintaining proper cyanuric acid levels and how it contributes to overall pool safety.

Consult Pool Professionals:

  • Seek guidance from pool professionals if you encounter challenges or if you need assistance interpreting test results and taking corrective actions.

 

By using cyanuric acid water test kits diligently and following best practices, pool owners can contribute to a safer and healthier swimming environment for users.

You should test your cyanuric acid (pool stabilizer) once per week until you have a firm understanding of your water chemistry. Once you begin to understand how your water reacts to natural and chemical changes, particularly in terms of your free chlorine level, you can reduce your CYA testing to as little as once per month.

*Use a reliable test kit like this one available on Amazon and recommended by MyWaterEarth&SkyTaylor Technologies K-1720 Pool Test Kit, which Tests Cyanuric Acid & Turbidimetric Acid Levels

*CDC recommends not using cyanuric acid or chlorine products with cyanuric acid in hot tubs/spas.

*Tip-UnlikepH, alkalinity, or chlorine, in your swimming pool, your cyanuric acid level isn’t going to move very much over time, so unless your pool experiences massive water loss or heavy dilution, you can afford to carry out this test more infrequently.

 

JimGalloway Author/Editor

 

References:

CDC Pool Water Treatment and Testing

Pool Guy- Trichlor Chlorine: Should You Use It For Your Pool?

 

FAQ’s

How often should I test my pool water?

Regular testing is essential. Test the water at least 2-3 times a week, especially during peak usage or hot weather, and always after heavy pool activity or rain.

What is the ideal pH level for pool water?

The ideal pH level for pool water is between 7.2 and 7.8. Maintaining this range ensures effective chlorine activity and prevents issues like scaling or corrosion.

How do I shock my pool, and how often should I do it?

Shocking your pool involves adding a concentrated dose of chlorine to eliminate contaminants. It’s recommended to shock the pool every 1-2 weeks, or more frequently if there are signs of water quality issues or after heavy pool usage.

What is cyanuric acid, and why is it important for pool water?

Cyanuric acid is a stabilizer that protects chlorine from degradation caused by UV rays. It is crucial for maintaining chlorine efficacy in outdoor pools. The recommended range is typically between 30 to 50 parts per million.

How do I prevent and treat algae in my pool?

To prevent algae, maintain proper water chemistry, regularly brush and vacuum the pool, and ensure adequate circulation. If algae develop, shock the pool, brush the affected areas, and use an algaecide if necessary.

 

 

 

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