Can You Use Bleach or Clorox in a Pool? Is it Cheaper?

Many pool owners want to know if you can use bleach or Clorox to sanitize your pool. It’s a common question and one that is more than a simple yes or no answer. It is important to know what exactly bleach is before you put it in your pool. 

Household bleach, Clorox and liquid chlorine can all be used to sanitize a pool. They are all types of chlorine. Household bleaches such as Clorox usually contain about 5-6% available chlorine, about half that of pool liquid chlorine. Household bleaches often have unwanted fragrances and colors.

While Clorox can be used to sanitize your pool, there are a lot of other factors that should be considered before running out to the store. We’ll cover all these factors in detail to help you decide if you should use household bleach or Clorox in your pool.

What is Bleach?

Household bleach and Clorox are both chlorine or sodium hypochlorite. Yes, the same chlorine that you use in your pool, but there are many things about it that make it different from your typical swimming pool liquid chlorine or other pool chlorines.

In fact some people call pool chlorine, bleach, regardless of the type. There are differences between household bleach and pool chlorine bleach (liquid chlorine) though.

Household bleach and clorox typically come in half-gallon or one gallon jugs. One gallon of bleach is going to have 5-6% chlorine, the rest is mostly water and some salt. Some Clorox options can contain up to 8% chlorine. 

When you are sanitizing your pool, you want products that have a higher percentage of chlorine. This is the strength of the product. The higher the percentage, the less of it you will actually have to use. 

You can easily find the percentage of chlorine in a bottle of bleach or Clorox, or any product for that matter, by looking at the label on the bottle. 

For a pool that is 10,000 gallons, if using Clorox that contains 6% chlorine, you will need about 21 ounces to raise your available chlorine by 1 ppm. Remember that one gallon is equal to 128 ounces, so if you were to add 1 ppm daily (if needed), a gallon of Clorox will last you about 6 days. 

According to The Scripps, household bleach or Clorox will have a shelf life of about 6 months. After that it loses about 20% of its original effectiveness each year. So you’ll need to use it quickly.

What’s the Difference Between Bleach/Clorox and Pool Liquid Chlorine?

Household bleach, clorox bleach and liquid chlorine are both capable of achieving the same goal, which is to sanitize your pool. However, the main difference is that household bleaches like clorox contain far less chlorine per gallon. This means you’ll have to use more of it to sanitize your pool than you will if you use liquid chlorine made for swimming pools. 

Clorox is going to have a much longer shelf life than pool liquid chlorine, 6 months compared with 6 weeks for pool liquid chlorine. 

Here is a breakdown of the similarities and differences between Clorox and liquid chlorine

Household BleachLiquid Chlorine
Available Chlorine5%-6%10%-12%
pH12.5Up to 13%
Contains StabilizerNoNo
Shelf Life6 monthsWeeks
Ounces to Raise 1 ppm*21 oz12.8 Oz
Price Per Gallon$2.60 (Walmart)$4 (Walmart)
Cost to Raise 1 ppm$0.43$0.40

*10,000 gallon pool

Is Clorox or Bleach Cheaper than Pool Chlorine?

Household bleach and Clorox cost about the same amount to raise swimming pool chlorine levels by 1 ppm. Household bleach and Clorox cost about half that of swimming pool liquid chlorine by gallon. However, given that Clorox and household bleach are about half the strength of swimming pool chlorine making this false economy.

There are other pool chlorines available too. We have an article on Liquid Chlorine Vs Chlorine Tablets here.

Costs Comparison of Bleach/Clorox Vs Liquid Chlorine Vs Cal-Hypo

As you can see by the table below that bleach, pool liquid chlorine and calcium hypochlorite cost about the same to raise swimming pool chlorine levels. The cost to buy each product may seem different but when you take into account the difference in the chlorine strength of each product they are very similar in cost.

Bleach/CloroxLiquid ChlorineCalcium Hypochlorite
Ounces to Raise Chlorine 1 ppm*21 oz12.8 Oz2 Oz
Price1 gal = $2.60  (Walmart)1 gal = $4  (Walmart)50 lbs = $180 (InTheSwim)
Cost to Raise 1 ppm$0.43$0.40 $0.45

*Based on a 10,000 gallon pool. Chlorine needed will vary from pool to pool.
** Costs are based on current prices as of Aug 2021. Costs will vary a lot depending on your location.

Is it Safe to Use Clorox or Bleach in a Pool

Clorox and household bleach are both safe to use in a swimming pool provided there are no added fragrances, colors or other additives.

It can however be difficult to find the exact additives for some household bleach products so it may be worth sticking with swimming pool chlorine unless you know for sure.

Both products are safe for swimmers as they are the same chemical, sodium hypochlorite. And they both safely sanitize pools as long as the correct amount is added. Downsides of Using Clorox or Household Bleach in a Pool

Using Clorox or household bleach to sanitize your pool can come with a lot of upside, but there are a few side effects in doing so that you should be aware of.

  • Sometimes contain fragrances or colorings
  • Have other chemicals to bond fragrances
  • Could stain pool
  • May upset the pool’s chemical balance

May Contain Coloring or Fragrances

Many household bleach products contain coloring or fragrances. If you use Clorox or bleaches with either of these, you could wreak havoc on your pool. There is potential for staining of your pool surfaces if you’re not careful and any fragrances in your bleach can be very harmful to your pool. 

May Contain Additional Unwanted Chemicals

Scented bleach contains additional agents to create and bond the fragrance. These additives can throw other chemicals in your pool off balance and be a pain to get back to proper levels. 

Some forms of bleach have been found to cause pool water to foam when the additives combine with the pool chemicals to create a reaction. If you accidentally add one gallon of scented or another form of bleach with additives, it’s nothing to worry too much about, but it’s definitely not something you want to add a lot of or do frequently. 

If you decide to use household bleach or Clorox in your pool, always be sure it is unscented and free of other additives.  

Much like liquid chlorine, the pH of Clorox is high. The pH of a gallon of Clorox is 12.5 which means that it could significantly raise the pH levels in your pool.

After adding Clorox to your pool, you’ll also need to use a pH decreaser or muriatic acid to keep your pH balanced. Make sure to test your chemicals regularly to know exactly where they are at and make adjustments from there.

Clorox is not the only product that has side effects for your pool though. Calcium hypochlorite raises the calcium levels of your pool. Calcium hypochlorite is another type of unstabilized chlorine that will require added cyanuric acid and it will also raise the calcium levels in your pool.

Pros and Cons of Using Household Bleach in Your Pool

Advantages of Using Bleach

The main advantage of using liquid chlorine or bleach in your pool is that it does not contain a stabilizer. This is both a pro and a con. This means that if your pool water already contains a stabilizer, you won’t further increase the levels.

The advantages of using Clorox or household bleaches is they have a long shelf life of about 6 months, so any unused bleach won’t go to waste. Swimming pool liquid chlorine on the other hand is only good for about 6 weeks.

The best part of using household bleach is you can get it from your local grocery store, so you don’t need to visit a special pool supply store when you run out. 

Disadvantages of Using Bleach

The major drawback, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly, is that if you purchase the wrong household bleach, you could do more harm than good in your pool.

Many household bleach products contain additives such as fragrance or color that can really make your maintenance frustrating if you put it in your pool, so keep that in mind.

And finally they don’t have a stabilizer. Any bleach product will break down within hours when exposed to sunlight. So it’s a must to add stabilizer or cyanuric acid for effective sanitization.

Check out the chart below for a quick breakdown of all the pros and cons of using household bleach. 

ProsCons
Cheap (Around $5)Not a lot of available chlorine (5-6%)
Long shelf life (1 Year)High pH (12.5)
No stabilizerNo stabilizer
Can be used for other things in your homeMay contain additives
Easy to find in store or onlineNeed to add a lot to your pool to raise chlorine

How to Use Household Bleach as Sanitizer in Swimming Pools

Using bleach as sanitizer in your swimming pool is much like using liquid chlorine. You simply dump in the amount you have measured out to add the desired amount of chlorine and let it do its job. 

You want to make sure you’re adding the correct amount as too little will do nothing to sanitize your pool and too much and your pool could be un-swimmable until the chlorine drops back down.

Clorox doesn’t contain any stabilizer so it should be added at night when the sun has gone down so that it won’t degrade too quickly. This will give it a chance to sanitize overnight with no UV rays or swimming activity.

How Much Bleach or Clorox to Use in a Pool

The table below shows you how much bleach, clorox or pool liquid chlorine you’ll need to raise your chlorine levels approx. 1 ppm.

Simply look at the strength of the bleach or chlorine you have and reference this with your pool’s volume. Normal pool chlorine levels should be 1-5ppm. 

These are only approximate numbers as it will vary depending on your pool’s chemistry.

Pool Volume (Gallons)5% Strength6% Strength12% Strength
1,0002.5 oz2 oz1 oz
2,5006 oz5 oz2.7 oz
5,00012.5 oz10 oz5.3 oz
10,00020 oz21 oz11 oz
20,00050 oz42 oz21 oz
30,00076 oz62 oz32 oz
40,000101 oz83 oz43 oz

You can use this bleach or liquid chlorine here:

Liquid Chlorine Pool Shock
Liquid Chlorine Pool Shock

Click here to check the price >>

Should You Use Clorox Instead of Pool Chlorine?

Household bleaches such as Clorox are effective sanitizers for your pool and you can use it. However you need to be very careful not to purchase bleaches with fragrances, colors and other additives that could cause big issues in your pool.

In some areas, perhaps household bleach works out cheaper but we didn’t see that in our cost calculations.

The decision whether to use Clorox instead of pool chlorine is really a personal one. Weighing the pros and cons and seeing what matters to you is going to help you make the best choice for yourself. 

Final Thoughts

Clorox and household bleach is an easily accessible product and one that is fairly cheap. It comes with lots of benefits such as price, long shelf life, ease of use in the pool and for common household needs. 

While it does many great things, it still doesn’t pack the same punch as liquid chlorine or other chlorines and if you accidentally buy the wrong kind of bleach, you can do some pretty big damage to your water chemistry.

Our advice is to stick to swimming pool chlorine unless you know exactly what is in the bleach you buy.