Everything You Need to Know About the Chlorine Shortage

Katy Willis
Written by Katy Willis
Updated March 3, 2022
 kids jumping into swimming pool
Photo: Cavan Images/ Adobe Stock

Highlights

  • Pandemic-related supply issues have contributed to a chlorine shortage.

  • Destruction of a chlorine manufacturing plant has had the greatest effect.

  • Completion of the rebuilt plant in 2022/2023 should ease supply issues.

  • Chlorine tablet alternatives include liquid chlorine, bleach, and bromine.

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It may sound a little cliche, but there really is nothing better than jumping into a refreshing pool on a hot summer day. As you prepare your swimming pool supplies for the season, chlorine is likely near the top of your list. It's an essential chemical for killing algae, bacteria, mold, and other microorganisms so that your pool water stays safe.

But you may remember that 2021 brought a severe chlorine shortage and skyrocketing costs. Will you see the same in 2022? Unfortunately, you will, and while you may think that the global pandemic is the cause, there's actually more at play in the rising cost of chlorine. 

Why Is There a Chlorine Shortage?

There's no denying that the coronavirus pandemic has played a part in the chlorine shortage. People around the world are seeing supply issues across all product categories due to labor shortages and transportation troubles.

When it comes to the shortage of chlorine, though, the pandemic-related issue is actually increased demand. Construction of new pools in 2020 went up nearly 25% over 2019, and the trend only continues to rise. With each new pool comes more demand for pool supplies like chlorine.

A Major Chlorine Plant Was Destroyed by Fire in 2020

While the pandemic takes its share of the blame, the even larger reason for the current chlorine shortage is that a major chlorine manufacturing plant in Louisiana was destroyed by Hurricane Laura in late 2020. A fire on the premises leveled the facilities and took nearly 40% of the country's chlorine tablet supply with it.

The manufacturing plant is being rebuilt and is currently under construction; it was due to reopen by mid-to-late 2022, but those plans could be pushed back due to the ongoing construction material shortages.

As if that wasn't bad enough, another fire in January 2022 destroyed part of a different pool supply plant in New Jersey. Firefighters were able to get the fire under control before total destruction, but not before 100,000 pounds of chlorine tablets were lost.

When Will the Chlorine Tablet Shortage End?

Things may seem gloomy right now, but there is some good news: When the chlorine tablet manufacturing plant in Louisiana is finally up and running, it will have 30% more production capacity. 

A bigger, faster plant could mean a return of the normal supply of chlorine tablets by 2023. However, keep in mind that the continuing pandemic could throw a wrench in those plans, especially if labor shortages and transportation bottlenecks continue.

Should You Stock Up If You Find Chlorine Tablets?

Should you come across a store or website with a supply of chlorine tablets, it may be tempting to grab as much as you can. However, keep in mind that hoarding only contributes to the problem. You might think you're just one person, but imagine if every pool owner thought (and did) the same thing.

Instead, it's best to keep some perspective: The typical homeowner uses one 50-pound tub of chlorine tablets per season. If you stock up on more than that, you may run into degradation issues before you can use it all. 

In this case, you'll have to purchase replacement tubs, so the chlorine will cost you significantly more than if you had only purchased what you need to begin with. 

Properly stored tablets start degrading after just three years. If you keep yours in the sun, in a hot garage or shed, or where it can get wet, its lifespan shortens considerably.

How Much Does Chlorine Cost? 

Buying chlorine tablets or liquid chlorine is the most cost-effective option. Liquid chlorine costs $7 to $10 per two-gallon jug. Chlorine tablets cost between $60 and $70 for a 25-pound bag. 

How Can You Keep Swimming During the Chlorine Shortage?

man playing with his son in the pool
Photo: Halfpoint/ Adobe Stock

If you have trouble finding chlorine tablets, don't panic—your dreams of splashing in the swimming pool can still come true. You may just need to make some adjustments to your pool care routine to keep things moving along swimmingly. 

Test More Frequently

To make the best use of your chlorine or chlorine alternative, break out your pool water test kit more often. Rather than chlorinate the pool on a regular schedule, let the water's chlorine levels tell you when it's time for a top up. Test your pool once per day, and add chlorine or an alternative when appropriate levels dip. This is a great way to reduce chlorine costs and make the chlorine supply you have last longer without compromising safety or water quality.

4 chlorine tablet alternatives, including pool service which is hands off for the consumer

Switch to Liquid Chlorine

If you can't get your hands on chlorine tablets, see if you can find liquid chlorine instead. Tablets are much easier to use because they last longer and require little handling, but using liquid chlorine will produce the same results with just a little extra work. 

If you can't find liquid chlorine, household or commercial bleach without additives will work, too, but you'll need a lot more of it. Whichever route you go, be sure to maintain 3 parts per million when testing your pool.

Consider Bromine Instead

If you have a hot tub or spa, you may already be familiar with bromine. Just like chlorine, it's an excellent sanitizer, but unlike chlorine, it doesn't come with that all-familiar and overpowering odor. 

This makes it a top choice for smaller or enclosed areas, but the trade-off is that the chemical is more expensive. It also degrades faster when exposed to UV rays, so you need to use more of it. If you make the switch to bromine, continue checking your pool with your test kit and ensure bromine levels of 3 to 5 parts per million.

Hire a Pool Service Company

Despite your best efforts, you may have great difficulty throughout the season finding chlorine tablets and even chlorine alternatives as demand continues to go up. One last option you might consider is to hire a local pool service and maintenance company

These professionals may have more direct access to current supply, but keep in mind that their prices are also going up, so you'll pay more than you did just two years ago.

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