Can’t Find Chlorine for Your Pool? Try This Instead

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Supply chain woes are affecting swimming pool supplies. If you can't find pool chlorine, try these substitutes.

If you’re like us, you’re probably tired of hearing about supply chain interruptions. Yet even as the pandemic (hopefully) wanes, the global supply chain has yet to catch up. Shortages of staff and raw materials persist, making products from small everyday consumer items to new cars to construction supplies harder to find and more expensive to purchase.

If you own an in-ground or above-ground swimming pool, you’re undoubtedly already aware pool chlorine is one of those crucial supplies that’s suddenly hard to find and costlier than ever. Here’s what to know about the chlorine shortage.

Why Is Chlorine in Short Supply?

The price of chlorine has shot up since 2020 — to about twice what it cost pre-pandemic. Chlorine in tablet form, especially, is hard to find and expensive. There are several reasons for this:

  • Pandemic problems. Supply chain interruptions and staff shortages mean less product on the market. Stewart Vernon, COO and founder of America’s Swimming Pool Co., says these shortages don’t just involve the chlorine itself. “Not only is chlorine in short supply,” he says, “but also plastic buckets, lids and packaging products that we would typically fit chlorine tablets in.”
  • Increased demand. As COVID concerns curtailed vacations, more American homeowners put their money in their backyards. Swimming pool construction surged during the pandemic, with many contractors reporting order backlogs well into 2022. More pools mean more demand for chlorine.
  • Chemical plant fire. Perhaps the biggest cause of the chlorine shortage is also the most surprising. In 2020, Hurricane Laura caused a huge fire at a major chemical plant in Louisiana, destroying much of the inventory and putting the production line out of commission. A new plant is expected to open sometime this year.

What Can You Use Instead of Chlorine?

If your pool supply source is out of chlorine tablets, or you find the price prohibitively expensive, Vernon suggests the following alternatives.

  • Different forms of chlorine. Vernon says that pool owners can use granulated or liquid forms of chlorine instead of tablets. “But these have to be applied manually and are more of a stopgap measure,” he adds.
  • Generating chlorine from salt. If you’re installing a pool or want to consider converting an existing one, you can install equipment that generates chlorine from salt via electrolysis. “These systems offer the benefits of a chlorinated, clean pool,” says Vernon, “without the harsh chemical smell and itchy eyes.” But those salt systems can corrode certain kinds of internal components without proper maintenance and setup, and may cost more up front.
  • UV light/Ozone-based sanitizing. Although more common in large commercial pools, “ultraviolet light or ozone-based sanitizing blast viruses and certain bacteria that are resistant to chlorine,” says Vernon. While you may need to add supplemental chlorine, the ozone-based system will do most of the heavy lifting. But like saltwater systems, Vernon says, “installing a UV or ozone system also entails more up front expenses than chlorine tablets.”
  • Bromine: If you simply can’t find chlorine, try bromine as a substitute. But it won’t save you any money. “Bromine has similar properties to chlorine but is more expensive,” says Vernon, “and like chlorine, it needs to be used alongside other chemicals.” Overall, it’s a viable alternative but difficult to stabilize properly.
  • Copper ionization. If you’re done with chlorine for good, you can convert an existing pool to a copper ionization system. “The ionization process releases metallic ions that are introduced into the water by using a low voltage current,” explains Vernon. “These positively-charged copper ions are attracted to the negatively-charged bacteria and algae and penetrate their cell membranes.” Best of all, there are no residual chemicals. And once installed, the systems are easy to maintain and cheap to operate.

Elizabeth Heath
Elizabeth Heath is a travel, culinary and lifestyle writer based in rural Umbria, Italy. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, HuffPost, Frommers.com, TripSavvy and many other publications. Her guidebook, An Architecture Lover's Guide to Rome, was released in 2019. Liz's husband is a stonemason and together they are passionate about the great outdoors, endless home improvement projects, dogs, their unruly garden and their slightly less unruly 8-year-old.