Muriatic Acid Alternatives

I guess we can add muriatic acid to the list of pool products that are becoming impossible to find this year. The truth is it’s been kind of scarce for the past month, but like everything we can’t find this season, the out of stocks seem to be spotty across the nation. This has left a few wondering if talk of the shortages is straight talk at all. Muriatic acid alternatives.

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Sadly, it looks as though things are going to get worse before they get better. In the middle of last week, another chemical manufacturer closed the doors at one of its factories. Olin Corporation has declared a force majeure for the supply of products produced at their McIntosh, Alabama facility due to an unplanned equipment failure. This affects all products produced at this facility to include chlorine, caustic soda, sodium hypochlorite, and muriatic acid, to name a few.

hydrochloric acid solution in glass

Sulfuric Acid (H₂SO₄)

You do have other options if you cannot locate any muriatic acid (HCl) to use for pH control in your pools. Sulfuric acid is an option available but may have hiccups in supply due to the increase in demand caused by the shortage of HCl. The product may come at a slightly higher price point than the normal cost of muriatic acid, but the dose will be similar. 25.5 fluid ounces of muriatic acid (31.45% hydrochloric acid) or 26 fluid ounces of 38.5% sulfuric acid in 10,000 gallons will lower the Total Alkalinity (TA) by 10 ppm and the pH by an equal amount (the actual drop in pH is dependent upon both the starting TA and pH).

Sodium Bisulfate (NaHSO₄)

Dry acid (sodium bisulfate) is another option you may find available This product is even more costly to purchase than sulfuric acid and requires a much heftier dose. It will take 34.4 ounces by weight of dry acid (93.2% Sodium Bisulfate) in 10,000 gallons to lower the Total Alkalinity (TA) by 10 ppm and the pH by an equal amount as the 25.5 fluid ounces of muriatic acid or 26 fluid ounces of sulfuric acid (again, the actual drop in pH is dependent upon both the starting TA and pH).

The downfall to using sulfuric acid or sodium bisulfate (dry acid) is in adding sulfates to the pool water. There are two problems with this. The first is that the presence of such will shorten the life of a salt cell in a saltwater pool.

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We do have the ability to test for sulfates in water. Unfortunately, we do not know what level of sulfates is actually problematic. We do know that all saltwater system manufacturers advise against the use of sulfide-containing chemicals. None have given a maximum ppm that would be considered safe. So, it is recommended that with a saltwater pool, we stay away from these products altogether.

Carbon Dioxide

CO2 Injection is another option. It is not often used in a residential application or even with average size commercial swimming pools. But, for large aquatic centers, it is often the go-to method of pH control.

When carbon dioxide is added to water it forms carbonic acid (H2CO3) which dissociates to form bicarbonate (HCO3) and hydrogen ions (H+). As pH is the measure of hydrogen ion activity in the water measured in the converse (The greater the H+ activity, the lower the pH), the hydrogen from the carbonic acid lowers the pH. However, as we also got bicarbonate (HCO3) from this uncoupling, the injection of CO2 ultimately increases the Total Alkalinity (The measure of carbonates, bicarbonates, hydroxides, and cyanurates) as well. In fact, carbon dioxide injection is the only means of lowering the pH that will result in the increase of Total Alkalinity.

In using this method you will reach a point where adding an acid is required. Not for pH – we have that taken care of with the CO2 alone. The acid will be needed to adjust the climbing Total Alkalinity, but the dose will not be near as often or in as large a quantity.

Muriatic Acid Alternatives

The second issue is in the potential for damage to stonework. However, the level of concern here has been thoroughly researched. Sulfate levels of 300 ppm or more are problematic. At least this gives us something measurable.

The way this season has been going, it is highly possible that you may find your distributor or pool store completely out of any acid. Vinegar is just one example of an alternative that will get the job done in a pinch. Not the 5% table vinegar, I mean you could, but it would take ten times as much. At $5.79 per gallon, that would be a little over eleven bucks to drop the TA by 10 ppm in 10K gallons of water.

Acetic Acid (C₂H₄O₂)

A 45% acetic acid could be a suitable addition to the list of muriatic acid alternatives. It would take 32.385 fluid ounces of this concentrated vinegar to equal our 25.5 fluid ounces of muriatic acid or 26 fluid ounces of sulfuric acid, lowering the Total Alkalinity of 10K gallons by 10 ppm and the pH by an equal amount. At $19.99 per gallon, $5.06 would be the cost of this dose. Still, extra precautions would need to be taken. Significant fuming and more severe skin burning than muriatic acid is a concern. Nitrile gloves would be required since a 25%, or higher acetic acid will penetrate ordinary latex.

Swimming Pool Supply Chain Broken

This is a hot topic right now. I’m sure some people who work with swimming pools have been able to find everything they need this year, but I don’t know who they are. Maybe we don’t know who they are because they’re quiet. Or, maybe we don’t hear about them because, in 2021, they don’t exist. Everyone who visits a distributor to find what they need for a pool customer walks away empty-handed. Every pool owner who walks into a pool store leaves disappointed due to a broken swimming pool supply chain.

Did Swimming pool industry manufacturers drop the ball?

But it was only supposed to be a chlorine shortage. We’ve heard enough about this, the unexpected growth of the pool industry due to COVID-19, and then the single factory in Louisiana that burned in the aftermath of a hurricane. Unfortunately, that is not the only shortage people are facing. In fact, it seems to be everything to one extent or another.

Broken promises

With that, some companies seem to be more in the crosshairs of angry pool professionals than others. That seems to be directly related to promises of a steady supply despite the odds against it, assurances these manufacturers would not be able to make good on.

A couple has tried to come forth and explain the reasons that they have been unable to deliver. However, a list of excuses offers little solace to service companies or homeowners in need of products for their swimming pools. In the case of the pool tech, this lack of supply is affecting their ability to do business.

They had all winter to prepare!

The truth is that this Shit Show, as our friend Averi likes to call it, is not a swimming pool industry manufacturer f**k up, not entirely anyway. Yes, mistakes and failed guarantees have been made, not by all, but definitely by some. But, those errors have had little bearing on the current swimming pool supply chain issues we face.

photo credit: Robert Tobias

In reality, it’s not just us. I know that knowing that makes about as much difference as a pimple on the ass of a field mouse. But, every U.S. industry is dealing with supply chain problems, and in each, the catalyst is the same pandemic-driven gremlin.

The single thing all manufacturers have in common is a shortage of factory workers. Transportation issues only exacerbate the problem. Unfortunately, experts are predicting that the current labor shortage the U.S. is facing is here to stay. That will, in turn, result in inflation.

There goes the toilet paper again!

According to Business Insider, current product shortages in the U.S. include Computer chips, used cars, rental cars, gas, plastic, oil, truck drivers, Uber & Lyft drivers, houses, vacation rentals, lumber, toilet paper, diapers, tampons, furniture, chicken, bacon, hot dogs, cheese, coffee, seafood, olive oil, chlorine, corn, medical oxygen, labor, and more.

I don’t honestly expect anyone reading this to give a crap that the condiment industry is running out of ketchup. I’m only sharing this because I believe we would have had problems with the supply of chlorine this year, whether the Lake Charles factory had burned or not. It was unavoidable.

Similar article 2021 U.S. Chlorine Shortage

Help Wanted

We can blame the workforce issues all day long, but it doesn’t resolve the problem. Besides, there must have been a point months ago where factories realized they didn’t have enough staff to meet production needs – it would have been better to inform the consumers then.

To manage this cluster f**k, we don’t need the industry manufacturers to explain why there are supply problems ad nauseum. We know there’s a problem; we don’t need excuses; we need product. Right now, the only thing preventing growth in our industry and the growth of our companies is chemicals and equipment not being delivered in sufficient quantity. Without that, we are dead in the water.

Sorry, but there is a nationwide shortage on…

Asking service professionals and builders to be understanding when our customers are not is too heavy an ask. We need the supply issue rectified, and that needs to occur yesterday. Honestly, I don’t care how you plan to fix it. I expect that you already have your best people working on exactly that.

Don’t tell us what you think we want to hear; instead, we need a realistic expectation of when you will resolve this. If you don’t know when you will be up to speed, tell us that. At least we will be able to source a different means. Whatever industry manufacturers come up with, it shouldn’t involve a sudden influx in job seekers because that is unlikely to happen.

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