Avid hunter and fisherman. Father of 3 girls. I play paintball on a regular basis and am Admin of paintball.com forums. An accomplished airsmith. I keep various pets from snakes to dogs and cats as well as birds and fish. Registered CPO (Certified Pool Operator) by National Swimming Pool Foundation http://www.nspf.com/Some swimming pool tips:If you have a vinyl pool, don't worry about maintaining calcium hardness (total hardness). This is only needed to keep the water from leeching calcium from gunite/concrete/tile pools. Playing around with this balance can cause calcium precipitation or scaling in your pool.Having a hard time keeping chlorine in the pool? Check your stabilizer levels. Cyanuric acid is needed to stabilize chlorine and should be approximately 20-40ppm in the water to ensure chlorine isn't burned off by the sunshine. However, never exceed 60ppm or it will bind the free chlorine in your pool and render it virtually useless.For pool maintenance you can use generic household chemicals to replace most of the pool store ones.Baking soda is the same thing as pool store total alkalinity increaser (sodium bicarbonate or the more proper sodium hydrogen carbonate). 1.5lbs per 10,000 gallons of pool water will increase total alkalinity by 10ppm.Household bleach (sodium hypochlorite) can be used to shock the pool. This is especially important if you don't want to deal with calcium precipitation (especially in hard water). 1/2 gallon of household bleach (non scented) per 10,000 gallons of pool water will increase the chlorine level by 5ppm. Household bleach is unstabilized so you can shock the pool in the evening after the sun is off the water and swim in the pool by noon the next day.Muriatic acid can be used to lower the total alkalinity of a pool. You can find this in almost all hardware stores and it's sold as a cleaner. 1.3 pints per 10,000 gallons of pool water will decrease the total alkalinity by 10ppm.Borax (yes, the stuff in the green box in the laundry isle) can be used to buffer the pH and raise it. 1/2 cup per 10,000 gallons will increase your pH. How much depends on quite a few factors so you will have to adjust according to the results you receive in your particular pool.