With a little diligence and the right information, understanding pool science is not complicated. Imagine the ideal swimming pool: clean, bright, and clear of algae and other contaminants. Keeping your pool in the right state of balance requires you to take proper steps to sanitize it. When it comes to keeping your pool clean, you should know the difference between pool sanitizer vs shock so you can determine what is best for your pool.

Pool Sanitizer

Sanitizing your pool is a critical step to maintaining perfect pool water. These sanitizers work by killing bacteria and inhibit the growth of algae, viruses and other pathogens that find their way into pool water by way or swimmers, rain, dust, and wind. The most common type of pool sanitizer is chlorine. Chlorine has been used to sanitize pools for over a century. It is the most effective ways to purify and disinfect your pool water. As a sanitizer, chlorine must be in your pool throughout and maintained at prescribed levels referred to as the free available chlorine range. This refers to the amount of chlorine left in the pool to kill new bacteria that are entering the pool. As such, it sanitizes the pool continuously.

There are several types of chlorine sanitizers, which work differently to ensure your pool is clean at all times. However, they can be divided into two main types: stabilized and unstabilized. The latter should be added directly to your pool water while stabilized chlorines are dispensed into the pool by placing them in a chlorinator, floating dispenser or skimmer basket. Depending on the type of chlorine you choose, it can be added to your pool weekly, monthly or even daily.

Understanding the difference between pool sanitizer vs shock involves defining both terms.

ShockPool Sanitizer vs Shock

Shocking involves using a concentrated formula to increase the available free chlorine when your pool sanitizer isn’t working as well as it should be. While sanitizers kill bacteria and break down or oxidize organics, shock is used when the sanitizer becomes overwhelmed after heavy debris from harsh weather or a pool party, for example. In simple terms, pool shock comes in to rescue your pool by giving your sanitizer a boost. Here are the main types of pool shock:

Calcium Hypochlorite

This type of shock comes in a wide range of concentrations. It boosts free chlorine without increasing cyanuric acid (which acts as a sunscreen for chlorine). As such you’ll want to add this type of shock when the sun is down.


This type of doesn’t add calcium (increases water hardness), which makes it better than Cal-Hypo and is often recommended for vinyl pools.


This is a non-chlorine-based shock comprised of potassium salt.

Bottom Line

Whatever type of sanitizer of pool shock you choose, it’s especially critical to follow manufacturer instructions. At the end of the day, you want to protect yourself as well as your pool. As you compare pool sanitizer vs shock, be sure to consider how dirty your pool can get. Regular pool cleaning will help ensure your pool is in tip-top condition.

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