Forms of Chlorine in Water

Free Chlorine

Free chlorine is defined as the concentration of residual chlorine in water present as dissolved gas (Cl2), hypochlorous acid (HOCl), and/or hypochlorite ion (OCl-).

A test kit which measures free chlorine will indicate the combined concentrations of HOCl, OCl-, and Cl2.

Combined Chlorine

Combined chlorine is defined as the residual chlorine existing in water in chemical combination with ammonia or organic amines which can be found in natural or polluted waters. Ammonia is sometimes deliberately added to chlorinated public water supplies to provide inorganic chloramines. This process is generally referred to as “chloramination”.

Total Chlorine

Total chlorine is the sum of free and combined chlorine. When chlorinating most potable water supplies, total chlorine is essentially equal to free chlorine because the concentration of ammonia or organic nitrogen compounds (needed to form combined chlorine) will be very low. When chloramines are present in a municipal water supply, total chlorine will be higher than free chlorine.