Knowing the difference can affect the balance of your pool significantly
Having a swimming pool and maintaining the chemical balance is sometimes like being a mad scientist. A little bit of this, many times has a huge effect on a little bit of that. This article by Rudy Stankowitz in the Pool and Spa News does a great job explaining the difference between soda ash and baking soda. It also demonstrates how you can get more bang for your buck by using the right chemical under the right circumstances.
You know you’re the only one who buys that,” the counter person at my local distributor would say as he headed to the warehouse to pull a 50-pound bag of soda ash.
The industry standard has always been to use sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to raise total alkalinity and sodium carbonate (soda ash) to raise pH — the exception being if both total alkalinity and pH are low. Understanding that it is impossible to raise (or lower) one without effecting the other chemically, there is still a “right tool for the job” analogy that comes into play.
Using sodium bicarbonate will have a more measurable effect on total alkalinity, while only raising the pH of water slightly. Sodium carbonate will actually have a dramatic effect on both pH and total alkalinity. Using sodium bicarbonate to raise pH is the equivalent of driving a nail into a wall using the handle of a screw driver — it can be done, but a hammer would handle the job more effectively and at much less of a cost.
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