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Free chlorine, total chlorine, and ORP? Understand the differences.
Free chlorine, total chlorine, and ORP? Understand the differences.

You too, become an expert in water parameters.

Sebastien avatar
Written by Sebastien
Updated over a week ago

The differences between free, total, and active chlorine.

We often talk about the level of chlorine in the water or the measurement of free chlorine. Be careful not to confuse free chlorine, total chlorine, active chlorine, or ORP of the water.

You may have noticed a difference between your chlorine level (expressed in ppm) measured by your test strip and the disinfection potential analyzed by your EcO monitor. This difference can be explained simply by the fact that the two systems do not analyze the same thing.

As you can see in the illustration below, chlorine, once in the pool water, is divided into different active or inactive components.

  • Free Chlorine is the portion of disinfecting chlorine present in the water. It is divided into two parts, determined by the pH of your water. The higher the pH of the pool, the more active free chlorine will be reduced. Therefore, it is important to keep the pH between 7.2 and 7.4 to ensure optimum chlorine efficiency.

  • Active chlorine is the active form, effective against bacteria, viruses, and algae.

  • Combined Chlorine = Chloramines are the chlorine consumed by disinfection. After removing impurities from your water, the free chlorine is transformed into combined chlorine which is evaporated and creates that characteristic chlorine smell.

💡 There is no direct link between a strong chlorine smell and a high disinfection potential!

What about the ORP?

The ORP or oxidation-reduction potential is based on the proportion of active free chlorine in your water and its disinfectant power. It depends on the quantity of chlorine, but also on the pH of the water, (the higher it is, the lower the proportion of active chlorine), and the stabilizer rate.

If you notice a significant difference between the raw chlorine reading in the water and the ORP disinfection potential read by the EcO water analyzer, you should first check the stabilizer level and the pH of the water.

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