Getting Rid Of Phosphates In Swimming Pools

Mark Larm May 26, 2023
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Getting rid of phosphates in your swimming pool

Keeping Your Pool Pristine: Understanding Phosphates and Effective Maintenance

Maintaining a sparkling clean swimming pool is essential for a delightful swimming experience. One common challenge that pool owners face is dealing with phosphates. I've seen articles say not to worry about phosphates, just add more chlorine. Well, if you have a bad case of phosphates I don’t want to swim in a pool with enough chlorine to control the algae that is going to bloom. I like to think of phosphates as algae steroids. Yes, it “pumps them up” and gives the algae a bad attitude.  

If you make it to the end or just want to skip to the end for a “Pro-Tpi” and get back to life it won’t offend me. 

I live on the West Coast and this year we had more rain than I can remember and all my pool cleaning buddies are freaking out with the early algae blooms.  All the rainwater has brought in phosphates from neighbors down the street.  I’ve had to recommend draining some of the water from a pool because the phosphate removal would be more expensive than the water.  

 In this blog, we will simplify what phosphates are, where they come from, their impact on pool water, and provide you with effective strategies to eliminate them. Furthermore, we will outline a comprehensive maintenance program to help you keep phosphates at bay, ensuring a pristine pool all year round.

Understanding Phosphates:

Phosphates are naturally occurring compounds composed of phosphorus, oxygen, and other elements. In pool water, they typically originate from various sources, including:

  1. Soil and vegetation: Rainwater, wind, and organic matter can introduce phosphates from surrounding soil and plants into the pool.

  2. Fertilizers: Runoff from nearby lawns and gardens, especially those treated with phosphorus-based fertilizers, can contribute to phosphate levels in pool water.

  3. Personal care products: Swimmers' sunscreen, hair products, and detergents can contain phosphates, which are then introduced into the pool water.

The Impact of Phosphates on Pool Water:

While phosphates themselves are not harmful to swimmers, they can lead to a range of issues affecting pool water quality:

  1. Algae growth: Phosphates act as a nutrient source for algae, promoting their growth and resulting in green, murky water.

  2. Chlorine inefficiency: High phosphate levels can hinder the effectiveness of chlorine, requiring higher doses to maintain proper sanitization.

  3. Cloudy water: Excessive phosphates can contribute to cloudy water, making the pool aesthetically unappealing.

  4. Maintenance challenges: Algae outbreaks and poor water clarity caused by phosphates necessitate more frequent cleaning and chemical adjustments, increasing maintenance efforts and expenses.

Eliminating Phosphates from Your Pool: 

How to effectively remove phosphates and prevent their recurrence, follow these steps:

  1. Test and monitor phosphate levels: Use a reliable pool water testing kit to determine the initial phosphate concentration. Regularly check phosphate levels to identify any potential rise.

  2. Manual removal: Skim and vacuum your pool regularly to remove leaves, debris, and organic matter that may contain phosphates. This will prevent them from decomposing and releasing more phosphates into the water.

  3. Water replacement: Partially draining and refilling the pool with fresh water can dilute and lower phosphate levels.

  4. Phosphate removers: Utilize phosphate removal products available on the website. These chemicals work by binding to phosphates, rendering them insoluble and easier to filter out.  It is best to schedule a good filter cleaning within the week of adding your initial dose of phosphate remover.  It coagulates the phosphates causing them to drop to the bottom of the pool where the pool cleaner picks them up clogging the pool filter.

  5. Enhanced filtration: Ensure your pool filtration system is in optimal condition. Clean or backwash filters regularly to improve their efficiency in removing phosphates.

Maintaining a Phosphate-Free Pool:

Establishing a robust maintenance program is key to keeping phosphates under control:

  1. Regular testing: Test your pool water regularly to monitor phosphate levels and other chemical parameters. This will allow you to take prompt action when needed.

  2. Skimming and vacuuming: Clean the surface and bottom of your pool frequently to remove debris and organic matter, preventing phosphate buildup.

  3. Proper chemical balance: Maintain proper water chemistry, including pH, chlorine, and alkalinity levels. Balanced water is less prone to algae growth and phosphate accumulation.

  4. Reduced chemical usage: Minimize the use of phosphate-based products in and around the pool. Opt for alternatives that are phosphate-free and environmentally friendly.

  5. Landscaping considerations: Maintain a clean and well-maintained landscape around the pool area. Regularly trim plants and avoid over-fertilizing to minimize phosphate runoff.  

  6. Fake plants: Yes I said it, fake plants.  Get rid of those great big potted plants near the edge of the pool.  The soil in potted plants is very high in phosphates and over watering them and rain can splash the plant food into the pool creating algae food.  Remember, algae is a plant.

What to do about Phosphates in a Salt Water Pool? 

There is some debate about “Do phosphates cause problems for salt water pools.” Though there is no scientific studies I’m just going to tell you what I found after almost 20 years cleaning pools.  Salt water pools have a chlorine generator that produces the chlorine and they are sensitive.  After they get a few years old they get cranky and find any excuse not to work.  Things like, salt levels not perfect, conditioner not just right, water gets too cold and yes, heavy phosphates.  Always remember, it’s ok to add chlorine to your saltwater pool when it needs a  little help.  


By understanding the nature of phosphates, their sources, and their impact on pool water, you are empowered to maintain a crystal-clear and inviting swimming pool. Regular testing, diligent cleaning, proper chemical balance, and conscious landscaping practices will help you keep phosphates at bay. With a well-executed maintenance program, you can enjoy a pristine pool year-round and offer valuable advice to others seeking to learn the art of pool maintenance.

Remember, a clean pool is not only a source of pleasure but also a testament to your dedication as a pool owner and caretaker. Dive into the joy of a pristine pool and make every swim an exceptional experience!

“Pro-Tip” If you add a PoolRX or equivalent it won’t get rid of phosphates but it is so good at treating algae that you won’t even know you have them.  Although I do recommend purging out phosphates before every filter cleaning just to keep your pool Happy.

If you want to get the right tool or product the first time visit where I put links to only the pool cleaning equipment that I use and recommend.  

 You can also see my training videos at   YouTube@HappyPools 

(Note: It is important to always follow the manufacturer's instructions and consult with a pool professional for specific advice on pool maintenance and the use of chemicals.)