Pool smells like chlorine? Add more chlorine!

Really?  More chlorine to smell less like chlorine?goggles

Good quality chlorine does not have much of an odor.  That chlorine smell that you associate with chlorine happens when chlorine combines with organic junk, oils, sweat, urine, etc.  A clean pool will smell clean. When you scoop up some pool water in your hands and smell it, it should smell like fresh, clean water.

A well maintained chlorine pool should not smell like chlorine.

You may have gone to a hotel and as you enter the pool area, you are hit with a strong odor you recognize as chlorine.  They have a lot of chlorine in that pool, right?  Wrong!  If you can smell the “chlorine odor” it means there is not enough good, available chlorine to keep the water safe.  That odor you associate with chlorine is actually coming from chloramines, which is used up chlorine.

So why does my tap water smell like chlorine and it’s okay to drink it?

The water provided by your city or town is sanitized with a deliberately created chloramine because of the special conditions needed for sanitizing water in the plumbing.  It is not the same as sanitizing your pool water. When you are smelling chlorine in your tap water, you are smelling chloramines.

A pool with a good level of chlorine will smell like fresh, clean water.

05Chlorine tests will usually show free chlorine and total chlorine.  Think of Total Chlorine as all of the chlorine in your pool, good and bad.  The Free Chlorine is the good chlorine that is free and available to do sanitizing.  The difference between the Total Chlorine and the Free Chlorine is the Combined Chlorine.  Combined Chlorine is the bad chlorine, used up, called Chloramines.  It is combined with organic junk and is responsible for that stinky, “chlorine smell” that burns your eyes and irritates your skin.  A strong smell of chloramines is an indication that you need to shock the pool.

Get rid of the stinky, “chlorine smell” by adding a Shock.

You can oxidize the chloramine waste and eliminate that stinky odor by shocking with chlorine (which will also boost your chlorine level) or by oxidizing with a non-chlorine shock such as monopersulfate (which will eliminate the chloramines without increasing the chlorine level).

A shock is generally added to a pool once a week.  Heavy use and hot weather may require more frequent shocking.

Those water parks that have hundreds of people splashing in the water in the hot sun are creating a high demand on the chlorine sanitizer. It is really hard to keep up with the sanitizer required for the volume of people who show up.  If you can smell a strong chemical smell, it probably is in need of additional sanitizer.  Should you go in?  Well, hundreds of people do, and we have been known to swim in lakes with fish, snapping turtles and water snakes, but we also like to bring a bottle of test strips to the water park to check the sanitizer level.

Isn’t all that chlorine going to turn my hair green?

No.  Chlorine can damage and dry out hair which makes it more susceptible to absorbing metals, which is usually responsible for that greenish tinge known as “Swimmer’s Hair”.  It is most noticeable on light-colored hair, and bleached hair is also damaged hair.

Swimmer’s hair can be the result of such factors as acidic water (low pH), iron or manganese in the water, and electrolysis from water moving through recirculation pipes at excessive velocities. It is seldom caused by the water treatment chemicals in a properly maintained pool.

It is always a good idea to wet hair with tap water before entering any pool or spa to minimize the absorption of chemicals by your hair. It is also important to rinse hair after swimming. Health and beauty experts recommend using a leave-in conditioner on chemically treated hair before entering a pool or spa.

There are commercial products available should hair discoloration occur. Below is a list of some of these products.

  • Alared (manufactured by Redken)
  • Baby shampoo
  • Shampoo containing chelating agent EDTA (ethylenediamene tetracetic acid)

Discoloration can also be removed by washing the hair in a mild vinegar solution followed with a mild baking soda solution to neutralize the vinegar, or rinse hair with warm water containing dissolved aspirin.