Can’t Find Chlorine Tablets for Your Pool? Here’s What to Do Instead.

Between the pandemic and a catastrophic fire, the U.S. is currently experiencing a major shortage of chlorine tablets. But it doesn't have to end your summer swimming fun.

By Savannah Sher | Updated Jun 18, 2021 9:37 AM

chlorine shortage

The COVID-19 pandemic caused waves in the world of shipping and manufacturing, leading to shortages of appliances, lumber, electronics, and more. The latest product to be affected? Chlorine tablets. Pool owners might have noticed that it was hard to find chlorine tablets in the spring of 2021, and interestingly, it’s not just because of the global health crisis.

Read on to learn more about the chlorine tablet shortage and how you can still enjoy your pool during the hot summer.

What caused the chlorine shortage?

The demand for chlorine jumped in 2020 because people were spending more time at home and enjoying their backyards. In fact, according to a recent report from Goldman Sachs, the United States saw 96,000 pools being built in 2020, which is a 23 percent increase over the number from 2019. On top of this increased demand for chlorine, one of the biggest producers in the country experienced an unexpected crisis that sent shockwaves through the industry.

In late August 2020, Hurricane Laura hit the coast of Louisiana, and on August 27, the Bio-Lab plant in Westlake experienced a catastrophic fire. Bio-Lab makes treatment products for pools and spas, including many chlorine-based products. Importantly, they produce most of the chlorine tablets sold in the United States.

While, thankfully, no employees were injured, there was “significant damage to the facilities,” according to the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB).

With Bio-Lab forced to cease production, the country was left with only two other producers of chlorine tablets: Occidental Petroleum and Clearon Corp. The Bio-Lab plant isn’t scheduled to recommence production until 2022, so the industry should expect to be off-kilter until then.

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How will this affect chlorine prices?

According to the Goldman Sachs report, experts estimate that chlorine prices will jump by 58 percent when compared to the same period last summer.

A standard bucket of chlorine tablets weighs 50 pounds and will last the average pool owner one season. Typically, those buckets cost approximately $75 to $85, but many across the country have seen those prices double in 2021. When trying to shop online from retailers like Amazon, prices are even higher, with a 40-pound bucket of Clorox Xtra Blue tablets priced at more than $250 at the time of writing.

Chlorine tablets are the most popular method for keeping residential pools clean, with 70 percent of residential pools using tablets. However, public pools typically use alternative methods of chlorination so they’re unlikely to be affected.

chlorine tablet substitutes

Should you stock up if you find chlorine tablets?

If you manage to find a pool supply store with a wealth of chlorine tablets, it might be tempting to stock up in case the shortage continues. The reality is, however, the shortage will only become more severe if people purchase more than they need for the season. Some store owners are even imposing limits to ensure everyone has access to chlorine.

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What should you use instead of chlorine tablets?

While chlorine tablets have a number of advantages—including their ease of use and a long shelf life—liquid chlorine is a good choice if they’re not available. Chlorine tablets and chlorine liquid have a lot in common. They both sanitize the water, preventing the growth of algae and bacteria.

One of the major downsides of liquid chlorine is that you need a lot of it; 1 gallon is equivalent to two chlorine tablets. That’s because the concentration of chlorine in the formula is typically between 10 and 12 percent while the rest is made up of water and some salt. This means you’ll either have to buy a massive quantity to get you through the season or you’ll have to head to the pool supply store to stock up every couple of weeks.

chlorine shortage for home swimming pools

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Another disadvantage of liquid chlorine is that it has a short shelf life, lasting just a couple of weeks before it loses potency. Be sure to store it in a cool location to ensure the solution lasts as long as possible. Liquid chlorine might affect your pool’s pH levels, so it’s important to monitor them throughout the season.

Despite that, liquid chlorine is pretty easy to use. You don’t have to mix the formula with anything and can simply pour it into the pool as needed. Generally speaking, when there are no shortages, chlorine liquid is more affordable than tablets.

The bottom line is that liquid chlorine gets the job done, and is a great alternative if your regular tablets are unavailable.