The BBB Method of Swimming Pool Care
- What's a "BBB" method?
- CarlD, one of the long time PoolForum moderators, coined the term to
describe the PoolSolutions' approach to swimming pool care I (PoolDoc / Ben) developed
when I started in 1997. In particular,
it referred to one of my
pool tips, about
using grocery chemicals -- Bleach, Borax and
Baking soda -- to treat swimming
pools salt water system or “salt water chlorine generator” (SWCG, SWG) is used to replace traditional chlorine with chlorine produced from salt in the pool water.
- How does it work?
- CarlD created this
- It's actually all simpler than most people think. There's no magic, no
- Basically, you worry about chlorine and pH--and everything else is
secondary to that.
- You raise your pH with ordinary 20 Mule Team Borax from the grocery, and
lower with ordinary Muriatic Acid, from a hardware store or Home
- Total Alkalinity (TA) is merely (mainly) a buffer to keep pH stable; you
raise TA with baking soda. To lower it -- well, that's trickier, but is
explained in this
- Chlorine stabilizer (CYA, cyanuric acid) keeps sunlight from breaking
down chlorine too fast. But it's a 2-edged sword and the CYA level
affects the ideal chlorine level. Easy to add, tough to lower
- Calcium (CH, calcium hardness) is needed for concrete pools, has to be
considered on pool with heaters, but is generally irrelevant for vinyl
- Most other swimming pool chemicals are useless junk. The ones that
aren't junk are ONLY useful if something's messed up. Using them when you
don't need them WILL mess something up . . . so don't do it!
- "Shock" is a verb, not a noun. You don't buy "Shock". You "Shock" your
pool by raising the chlorine level high enough to kill everything growing in
it. Chemicals labeled "Shock" are either regular chlorine, with a different
label, or else stuff that doesn't belong in your pool.
- But, you would't be able to anything right without a proper test
- Do I have to use bleach, borax or baking soda to use the BBB method?
- Not exactly. I've mostly used calcium hypochlorite, stabilizer, a little
muriatic acid, and NOTHING else on the handful of commercial pools I still
The BBB Method is more about using just what you need, in the
most efficient form, and nothing else, than it is about bleach, borax, or baking
soda per se. For example, bleach cost relative to cal hypo (calcium
hypochlorite) or dichlor (sodium dichloroisocyanurate) are up, compared to what
they were in 1997. So either cal hypo or dichlor may be a better chlorine source
- Well, are there chemicals I can't use?
Pretty much every special, heavily advertised, pool chemical
your dealer wants to sell you violated the BBB Method.
Swimming pools are
enough work, even when done right. The BBB Method is ALL about not making it
worse by adding stuff you don't need.
If you just want the practical info, you can stop here. But if you want more,
- What chemicals are saying I should avoid?
- Well, one of my
tips pages covers some of them.
But any list would include
- oxy-shocks and other non-chlorine shocks, defoamers
- chemicals with names that conceal what they are or do, eg. Bioguard's
- chemicals that are dyed, decorated or come in packages with little bow
(Ok, I made that last one up. But the first two are common.)
- chemicals that do the same thing as other chemicals . . . only worse,
like Leslie's "SPP Lithium Pool Shock", based on lithium hypochlorite.
- pool chemical gumbo, that combines SEVERAL of the chemicals listed
above like the "Eclipse 3 Algae Control Program"
- products that work like black magic: results now, but you lose your soul
later. Coral Seas ammonium chloride based "Green to Clean" or "Yellow Out"
is a good example. It works, but leaves you in chloramine hell after.
- and so so.
- So, you're saying that I can't really trust my pool dealer?
- There are exceptions to every rule, but a basic element of the BBB method is
to recognize that you cannot trust pool dealers to sell you just what you need,
and only that.
There's a basic fact here: well-run swimming pools
bankrupt pool chemical dealers!
A few years back there was a short of
'how low can you go' competition on the PoolForum. Some of the experienced BBB
method pool owners were vying for the lowest cost per month to operate their
pools. My memory is that the average, for a 24,000 inground pool was about $35
per month in chemicals. At that time, the pool industry was publishing an
average cost to operate similar pools of around $120 per month.
fact: if all swimming pool owners used the BBB method, the US swimming pool
chemical market would shrink from OVER a billion dollars per year, to less than
1/3 of that!
So, to put it another way, the BBB method, used everywhere,
would bankrupt pool chemical dealers and manufacturers.
- So my dealer is dishonest?
But, maybe not. Many pool dealers BELIEVE the goop published
by the NSPF and the NSPI (before it went bankrupt). Most industry training is
based on stuff that ranges from not quite true to truly bogus. Most swimming
pool dealers didn't come into the business with prior training in chemistry . .
. to they have to trust their suppliers.
Some of them eventually figure
it out . . . and become dishonest. Some of them put their heads in the sand. But
quite a few still believe.
So, while you can't trust them . . . they are
necessarily lying to you deliberately.
- What about the swimming pool chemical manufacturers -- are they
- I can't answer that question without saying things that will get me in
But, I can point out that "Chem_Geek", a regular on the
PoolForum and elsewhere, has taking the practical proof I had of my methods, and
built a comprehensive and very technical chemical explanation of how and why.
He's worked very, very hard to try to persuade the NSPF, various state code
bodies, and others to correct the published errors.
- He's gotten some pretty nasty bruises banging his head on those walls.
You can check out some of that in the "China
Shop" on the Pool Forum, if you like
- Aren't you afraid to say some of this stuff?
- I used to be.
When PoolSolutions first started, when I looked in my
webserver logs, I'd see BioLab's IP tracks crawling all over the site -- they
were VERY familiar with what I was publishing. Long before the BBB method ever
was called that, I realized that wide publication of the material here could
hurt BioGuard, Robarb, HTH Chemicals and others a lot. I figured that every
dollar I made selling information cost the pool chemical business $100, $200 or
I knew that I would win any lawsuit, if I could afford to pay
expensive attorneys to defend me. But I couldn't. So, any of the big companies
could have taken me out simply by filing a bogus lawsuit against me: they would
have won, simply because I couldn't afford to fight back. My only hope would
have been if I could get some "David versus Goliath" press coverage -- and I
actually made preparations to do just that.
But several things have
There are now at least two OTHER forums operating with the
information first published here. Also, many pool service tech use at least some
of the info here. And Chem_Geek's technical analysis makes it much hard to
dismiss some of my criticisms as merely malicious speculation. So do the 50,000
or 100,000 pool owners actually USING these methods.
But, another fact is
in play, as well. SWCG (salt water chlorine generators) are gradually eating the
pool chemical manufacturer's lunch. I know, they know, and the generator
manufacturers know that the pool chemical biz is going to shrink a lot over the
next 20 years, with or without me.
- So, what I write here is not nearly the threat it used to be, nor would
it be as easy to slap down.