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I Have Cloudy Pool Water: What Is Going On?

A swimming pool with cloudy pool water

It can be quite alarming when you head outside, ready to take a dip in your pool, only to notice that your pool water is cloudy. What went wrong, and what can you do to fix it? Can you still swim in cloudy pool water? And, perhaps most importantly, how can you keep your water crystal clear going forward?

Quite simply, cloudiness means that your pool is dirty. Whether it’s because of organic matter or bacteria, you’ll want to resolve the problem before getting in, as it’s generally not hygienic nor safe to swim in a pool that is murky. The first step to clearing up your cloudy pool is figuring out the cause of the problem. A pool professional will likely tell you that there are a few reasons that this would be happening.

Unbalanced Chlorine Levels

Chlorine is the main chemical in a pool to keep the water safe. This sanitizer kills off bacteria and algae, thereby preventing swimmers from getting sick. The trick with chlorine is keeping it within the right range, which is also sometimes referred to as your pool “balance”.

When debris falls into your pool, either while you are swimming or when you are poolside, chlorine binds to it. These substances can include sweat, bacteria and other materials. While chlorine can break apart and sanitize most microorganisms and bacteria, chlorine becomes a new compound, called chloramine, when it reacts with nitrogen or ammonia molecules. In a clear, well-maintained pool, there will be enough chlorine dissolved into the pool to bind to any contaminants and sanitize your pool. However, if your cloudy pool smells like chlorine, this is actually a sign that you don’t have enough chlorine in your pool. To remedy this situation, you’ll need to increase your chlorine levels, which will break apart the chloramine molecules. Doing so will both get rid of your cloudy water and the chlorine smell.

Filtration Problems

Your pool’s filters are designed to get rid of all the debris that can accumulate in your pool. From dirt to leaves, your filter should be removing it all. However, if your filtration system isn’t working and excess dirt and debris is in your pool, your chlorine will have to work overtime. The decaying material and the excess chloramine can lead to cloudy water.

Ideally, you should be running your pool’s filter for at least eight hours a day. If the pool is under trees or is more vulnerable to the accumulation of debris, you should run your filter for extended periods of time. To avoid filtration issues, you can also check your pool’s filter more regularly. Replace the filter as often as the instructions recommend so you can keep debris and pollen from clouding your pool. If you notice problems keeping your water clear, you may also need to clean your pool cartridge filters on a more frequent basis to see if that helps.

High Calcium Levels

If you live in an area with hard water, your pool can quickly become cloudy. That’s because hard water has many minerals dissolved in it, particularly magnesium and calcium. Pools with lots of calcium often turn cloudy. Many pools in these areas have a white build up along the waterline where calcium will begin to accumulate. The calcium will deposit anywhere that’s close to the edge of the water, as well as in your filter and other plumbing. As a temporary fix, you’ll need to learn how to remove calcium deposits from your pool.

Typically, the best way to resolve excess calcium in a pool is to drain half the water out of your pool and then refill it. If this problem continues to happen, you may want to research the benefits of having a water softener installed.

Algae Buildup

If your chlorine levels are irregular, your filter isn’t working or you’re dealing with both of these problems, you can develop algae problems. The beginning of an algae bloom will just look like cloudy water. However, if you don’t deal with an algae problem promptly, you can wake up to a pool that turned green overnight.

Too Much Rain

In a perfect world, you would be able to cover your pool every time it rains. However, sometimes that’s just not possible and you end up with too much water in your pool after a rainstorm. Rainfall dilutes your pool water and adds all sorts of algae-fueling chemicals. If your pool is open during a heavy rain, perform regular water tests to monitor the chlorine levels and make adjustments as necessary.

If you’re not sure what is causing your pool water to look cloudy (or don’t have the time to figure it out), you can always contact a pool and spa professional. A licensed technician has the knowledge and experience to troubleshoot the issue and resolve your pool problem. If you think you know what might be causing your cloudy pool water and want to try dealing with it on your own before calling in an expert, keep on reading.

Two red lounge chairs next to a clear pool

How to Clear Cloudy Pool Water

The first step to getting your pool water back to normal is to test your pool water chemistry. This can help you determine whether your pool doesn’t have enough chlorine or has too much calcium, for example. Once you have these basic questions answered, you determine what to do next.

If you find that your pool’s chlorine levels are too low, you may need to shock your pool. When you shock your pool, you add a special, hyper-chlorinated powder to your pool which will break apart and sanitize the foul-smelling chloramine, and clear out any problems like algae or bacteria. There are a variety of different shock powders you can use, including Dichlor, lithium chlorinate and calcium chlorinate. For the shock to be effective, you need to take these steps after dusk. This keeps the sun from breaking down the chlorine too quickly.

When shocking your pool, make sure to follow all of the directions on the packaging, as some powders require that you dissolve the substance in water before pouring it into the pool, whereas other products can be poured directly into the pool. You also need to wait at least eight hours before swimming in the pool after shocking it. For best results, you’ll need to continually test your chlorine levels to ensure that you have added the correct amount of powder.

If your water is hard and there’s too much calcium in your pool, you have two options. First, you can try adding a water softener or hose filter to your pool’s plumbing. New water that goes into your pool will be softer, meaning it will have gradually lower concentrations of magnesium and calcium as time goes on. For quicker results, you can drain some of your current water and replace it with filtered water.

You can also try using pool flocculant to clear cloudy water. This chemical bonds with the excess calcium and other floating particles in the water and condenses these materials into solid chunks. These solidified blocks will then sink to the bottom of your pool. To remove them, you’ll need to vacuum up these clumps with a pool skimmer.

If it’s algae that’s responsible for your hazy water, you should know that unfortunately, stopping an algae bloom once it has gotten started can be difficult. Typically, you’ll need to scrub and clean your pool with a large leaf net and vacuum. In some cases, you may also need to get your pool shocked. While you can use an algaecide to kill early blooms, this product is better for preventative purposes. If you have recurring issues related to cloudy water, you can keep your pool clear by signing up for a regular pool maintenance service, so a professional can consistently clean, test and perform any other needed services to keep your pool water balanced.

If you’ve successfully cleared your pool, you’re likely wondering how you can prevent your pool from getting cloudy ever again. While a professional can always help you keep your chlorine levels in check, it’s still important, as a pool owner, to know what a healthy amount of chlorine is for a pool.

Someone testing the chemical balance of the pool water

How Much Chlorine for Pool Cleanliness?

Managing chlorine levels is a big part of pool maintenance as a whole. Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer for how much chlorine your pool will need. Instead, you need to consider a variety of factors that may change over time.

Generally speaking, you want to keep your chlorine concentration between 2.0 and 4.0 ppm, or parts per million. That keeps your pool sanitary without irritating swimmers. Factors that will lower chlorine levels include:

  • People swimming. Every time someone goes for a dip, they bring their skin oils into the pool with them. The chlorine in the pool will bind with those oils and turn into chloramine, lowering the overall chlorine concentration. To help prevent chlorine levels from dipping too low, you can request that swimmers rinse off before hopping in the pool.
  • Sunshine. UV rays break down chlorine. That means that the hottest, sunniest days of summer are actually the worst for your pool’s chlorine levels.
  • Rainfall. Rainfall doesn’t remove chlorine from your water. What it does do, though, is add water volume. This means that overall chlorine levels drop for the simple reason that there is more water present. Additionally, any dirt, debris or bacteria that enters the pool with the rainfall will bind to the chlorine, again lowering the chlorine levels.
  • Debris. The more random plant and animal matter that ends up in your pool, the harder your chlorine has to work. If lots of different compounds wind up in your pool, you’ll use up your chlorine at a faster rate because the chlorine will bind to the bacteria, algae and fungus on the debris.

Because of these different factors, every pool loses chlorine at a different rate. Your best option is to bring your chlorine level up to the high end of safe and then monitor this regularly. That way, you can record how quickly your pool’s chlorine levels drop. Then you can replace the chlorine as necessary.

If this sounds like a lot of work, you can also consider signing up for a pool service to do this for you. A licensed pool technician will understand how different local conditions affect chlorine and will be able to adjust your pool chemistry so you don’t have to worry about it.

ABC Can Keep Your Pool Clear and Balanced

Having a pool is a luxury, but taking care of it is complicated and takes specialized knowledge and expertise. Instead of being stuck poolside while you try to troubleshoot murky pool water, call in a certified pool and spa specialist. At ABC Home & Commercial Services, our professionals are highly-trained and can quickly diagnose and service your pool, whether you’re having a problem with your pool’s water or parts. With ABC’s help, you can get back to enjoying your pool, instead of constantly worrying about it.

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