Key Pool Lingo To Communicate Effectively At The Pool Supply Store

Kenneth Wilson

When I first moved into my home with a pool, I went online to find out how to clean and maintain it. Most tutorials and guides were easy to understand, but there were a lot of pool-related terms that I didn’t know.

You can easily search for the term on the internet, but sometimes the results will show a definition that is not related to swimming pools. To save you the hassle of looking for the right meaning, here’s a glossary of common pool terminology that you need to know before visiting the pool supply store.

A to E

Acid Washing

When you can’t remove the stains from an algae infestation, you will need to acid wash your pool or ask a professional to do it. This will remove a layer of your plaster or concrete to remove the stained surface. Since this makes the foundation thinner, this shouldn’t be done regularly. Use it as a last resort to remove stains that cannot be removed by other methods.


This is used to prevent, control, and kill algae. Algaecides are chemical compounds that usually contain copper sulfate. It can also contain sodium carbonate peroxyhydrate, a chemical found in herbicides.


An alternative to chlorine, bromine is also a sanitizer used to prevent and kill algae and bacteria. This is commonly used for spas or hot tubs since it is better for warmer water temperatures. It is less harsh and doesn’t emit the same odor as chlorine, but it is more expensive.


A buffer is a chemical used to prevent the rapid changes in your pool’s pH levels. This is used to manage your alkalinity so that it will be easier to balance your pH level and safer to add other chemicals.

Cartridge Filter

This is a type of filter that uses a piece of fabric, usually a pleated polyester or other porous elements, to prevent dirt and other particles from contaminating the pool. When water passes by cartridge filters, the fabric traps the debris.

Chemical Feeder

A chemical feeder dispenses chlorine, bromine, or other balancing chemicals into the pool water at a fixed rate.


This is the most common and effective pool sanitizer. Chlorine is used to kill bacteria, algae, and bacteria. It can come in granular (powdered), liquid, or tablet form. 

Cyanuric Acid

Also called a conditioner or stabilizer, this chemical is used to protect chlorine from ultraviolet radiation to prolong the sanitizing agent’s effectiveness.

Diatomaceous Earth Filter 

This is a type of filter that uses septums or grids with diatomaceous earth or D.E. powder to trap dirt. D.E. powder is a fine and porous substance that contains diatoms. The D.E. filter can capture the tiniest particles with its microscopic spaces.


Also called sodium dichlor, this is a chemical that combines chlorine and cyanuric acid which can be used for regular chlorination of pool shocking. Dichlor has a neutral pH and it comes in granular or powdered form which quickly dissolves.

F to L


This is a non-porous material that can be used as a pool shell or lining. Fiberglass pools are easy to maintain and not rough on the hands or feet. On the other hand, they are prefabricated and cannot be customized.


This is a device used to separate dissolved or suspended dirt and other particles from the water. Filters recirculate the water so that it passes through its filter medium, which is usually a piece of fabric or porous substance. The most common types of pool filters are cartridge, D.E. (diatomaceous earth), and sand.

Filter Cleaner

Filters may lose their efficiency or not operate properly when dirt, contaminants, leaves, insects, sunscreen, lotion, or body oils build up on their filter medium. These can be removed by filter cleaners. Make sure to get the filter cleaner that is made for your filter type.

Flow Meter

A flow meter is a device that determines the gallons per minute or the rate of water flowing through a pipe in a recirculation system.


Gelcoat is a colored resin that is used as a surface layer or finish of fiberglass pools. This makes fiberglass pools smooth, non-porous, and easy on the skin.


Gunite is a type of concrete that is used in in-ground pools. It is created by mixing cement and sand, making it durable and able to withstand heavy impact.


A gutter is a through found at the edge of the pool which captures floating debris, light items, and oil. It is also used as an overflow system to keep the deck or pool area from flooding.


A pool heater does the same job as other heaters - which is to provide heat. This can run on electricity, gas, or solar power.

Hydrostatic Valve

This valve is used to release hydrostatic pressure by letting groundwater enter into the pool while preventing the water from getting out. It is commonly found in or near the main drain, or at the deepest part of the pool.

Leaf Bagger

A leaf bagger is a device attached to a garden hose to remove leaves that sank to the pool floor. It uses the water pressure from the hose to vacuum the leaves and other debris. It comes with a reusable bag that has fine mesh to contain smaller particles.

Leaf Canister

Also known as a leaf trap, this is an accessory attached between a pool skimmer and a vacuum line. The canister contains a strainer bag that is used to prevent leaves and other particles from clogging the skimmer basket. 

M to Q

Main Drain

Also called drain, this fitting is not used for draining but for filtration and circulation purposes. It is connected to the pump and is usually found at the deepest part of the pool.

Muriatic Acid

This chemical is the liquid form of hydrochloric acid. It is commonly used to lower the pH level and total alkalinity of the pool water. This substance can also dissolve metals which is why it is used to get rid of mineral stains.

Multiport Valve

This is a type of valve that combines the function of several valves. It can have 4 or 6 positions which are used to control the direction of the water passing through the ports. This can be used to drain (or vacuuming the water), to backwash, to recirculate, to rinse (or filtering to waste), or to normally filter the pool water.


This is a chemical that is used to reduce the level or completely remove chlorine or bromine present in the pool water. It is also found and used in pool water test kits to increase the accuracy of the readings for chlorine or bromine levels.


Oxidizers are chemicals used for pool shocking, killing bacteria, and removing organic waste. It commonly comes in granular form and can have chlorine or non-chlorine chemical makeup.

Phosphate Removers

This chemical will reduce phosphates present in the pool water. Phosphates are the primary food source of algae, by breaking them down with this chemical, algae won’t have anything to feed on. 


This is a mixture of white cement, aggregates, white marble dust, and other additives used as a finish for concrete pools. It can be colored and tinted, which is why some pools have a blue shell.

Pool Flocking

This is a process that uses a chemical to bind floating debris in the water. It catches tiny particles that cannot be cleaned by the filter or light particles that do not sink to the floor and be vacuumed.

Pool Shocking

Chlorine gets saturated over time and will eventually lose its effectiveness. Shocking a pool is a process that raises the level of chlorine that is still available to sanitize the pool water by adding chemicals. This will also destroy contaminants and prevent algae.

Pool Skimmer Net

A pool skimmer is one of the most common and handiest tools that every pool owner needs. It’s a device with a flat mesh net which is used to remove loose and light debris floating on the water. It can be hand-held or attached to a telescopic pole for hard-to-reach places.


A pump is a device that creates water flow and pressure for filtration, circulation, and heating systems. Most pools use a centrifugal pump which creates pressure using centrifugal force.

R to U


Sometimes called testing agents or solutions, this pertains to the different chemicals used in testing the pool water chemistry. A common reagent is a chlorine neutralizer, which is used to find the pH level and total alkalinity.

Sand Filter

This is another type of filter that uses sand, alone or mixed with gravel, as a filter medium. The sand traps debris and other large particles, which allows only the clean water to return to the pool.


Sanitizers are pool disinfectants that prevent harmful contaminants from growing in the pool water. The most common types of sanitizers are chlorine and bromine. 


Shotcrete is another form of concrete used for inground pools. It is a premade mixture of water and cement that can be sprayed onto pools to form a concrete shell. This type may also contain sand, pea gravel, and other aggregates which results it have larger-grained particles than gunite.


This is a device, usually found in pool walls, that collects floating debris. It is connected to the pump and aids in the circulation system.

Specialized Chemicals

Aside from sanitizers and water balancers, specialized chemicals are also needed to give pools that pristine look. This will fix discoloration, cloudiness, algae, and other specific problems. Some of the common specialized chemicals are oxidizers, phosphate removers, pool clarifiers, and stain removers.

Stain Remover

A stain remover is a chemical that can clear stains and fix water discoloration caused by metals and minerals present in the pool. It removes rust and other stains on fiberglass, metal, and vinyl surfaces.

Start-up Kit

This is a product commonly found in the pool supply store. It contains most of the chemicals needed to clean, maintain, and open pools. Most kits will have a pool shock and pool clarifier, but you may find kits with algaecides and test strips for balancing the water.

Skimmer and Strainer Baskets

These are baskets that capture debris and other large particles to prevent the pump from clogging. Strainer baskets have smaller holes and are used to block tinier particles that slipped past the skimmer basket.

Surface Cleaner

This is a mild chemical specifically used to clean the pool surface, ladder, waterline, and other pool equipment. Always check if the surface cleaner is safe to use for a certain pool finish such as fiberglass, concrete, plaster, paint, gunite, or marcite surfaces.

Telescopic Pole

Also called tele poles, this is an accessory that can be attached to the skimmer, brush, or vacuum. It comes in different materials and lengths, which can be shortened for storage and to gain control, or extended to reach deeper parts of the pool.

V to Z


A vacuum is used to remove algae, debris, and other particles that have settled at the bottom and sides of the pool. It is connected to a suction line and usually has wheels, making it easier to move across the pool.

Vinyl Liner

A vinyl liner or liner is a thin material that is used to contain or hold water in pools. It is non-porous and easy on the skin, but it is not as durable as plaster or fiberglass.

Water Balancers

It’s important to balance your water chemistry to prevent corrosion and staining. Balancers are chemical compounds that can balance the pH level, calcium hardness, and total alkalinity of your pool water.

Water Clarifier

Also called pool clarifier, this chemical binds tiny particles of dirt, scum, metals, or debris, which turns it into bigger particles so pool filters can trap it.


A weir is a floating flap found on the side of the skimmer. It helps water flow into the skimmer while preventing floating debris from going back into the pool.

Kenneth Wilson
November 12, 2019
Yard & Garden

Kenneth Wilson

Retired contractor. Currently residing in Southwest Florida. Now in semi-retirement, I write and manage this blog focused on helping home owners make savvy decisions when it comes to finding contractors and getting their projects done. I also operate remodeling design service for homeowners.

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