Keeping your pool clean is one of the most important lessons I will preach. Failure to keep your swimming pool clean can cause all sorts of problems. Black algae are one of the worst contaminants you will come across.
Due to black algae’s appearance, it’s relatively easy to spot if it grows in your pool. Killing it isn’t always the most straightforward task, but it’s necessary since black algae can be nasty for your health. In this guide, I will tell you what black algae is, how to prevent it, and a step-by-step process for removing it from your pool. For more cleaning tips, read my guide on how to clean a pool.
What Is Black Algae?
Black algae are not true algae, but they are very similar. They’re single-celled organisms called cyanobacteria that are generally black or dark blue-green. Instead of floating on the surface of your pool water, black algae prefer to root themselves into porous surfaces, such as the plaster or concrete lining of your pool.
Black algae are so tough to kill because they’re encapsulated bacteria – they have a hard outer shell that allows them to survive various harsh conditions. It’s difficult to kill them with chemicals alone. Instead, it’s best to use a strong chemical sanitizer. A chemical sanitizer can break the shells, dislodge the algae from your pool walls, and eventually kill them.
Side note – if you’re fighting algae, check out my guide on how to quickly kill algae in your pool.
What Causes Black Algae?
Like other types of algae, black algae can enter your swimming pool on swimwear, from dogs jumping in the water, or rainwater washing organic materials into the pool. Be sure to wash your swimsuits and take a shower before jumping in your pool, especially after swimming in natural bodies of water. Generally, if your pool is chemically balanced, black algae will not thrive or overtake your water. So you must keep the chlorine and pH levels maintained.
Is Black Algae Dangerous?
Cyanobacteria can create cyanotoxins, which can make people and pets very sick. Even simply swimming with black algae can be very dangerous, but ingesting water infected with black algae is a severe health hazard that can leave lasting damage.
How to Recognize Black Algae
Black algae don’t float on the top of your pool like some algae types. So you should look for patches of “black mold” on the sides of your pool, under pool covers, and on any other porous toys or surfaces.
Due to the encapsulated nature of black algae, they can survive in chlorinated conditions. If black algae are a persistent problem in your area, invest in a pool cleaner specifically designed to kill black algae. You’ll probably still need to pair this formula with some good scrubbing.
Fortunately, black algae are relatively easy to recognize – look for “black mold.” However, remember that dirt and stains can often be mistaken for black algae.
If you suspect that you have a patch of black algae in your pool, don’t risk your health by going in! Black algae usually only cause an upset stomach, but it can occasionally cause permanent liver damage or neurological disease when ingested.
How to Kill Black Algae: Step-By-Step
Killing black algae in your pool can take some time. You’ll likely need to disinfect every affected surface while scrubbing everything thoroughly to dislodge the algae and break its heads. While some people prefer to drain their pool to make this step more manageable, it’s not required. Here are the steps you can take before draining your pool.
- Pool brush
- Testing kit
- Shocking chemicals
- Bleach-water solution
1. Clean or Replace the Filter
It’s a good idea to remove and sanitize the filter during this step. Either soak it in a weak bleach-water solution to clean it or replace it entirely if you have an incredibly persistent infestation. Soak any pool accessories also, like skimmer baskets and vacuums.
2. Test the Water
Test your pool water’s alkalinity, pH, and sanitizer. Know what the optimal levels are and aim to meet those. Adjust the levels accordingly before shocking your pool. Getting your water levels right will help you decide how much pool shock to use.
3. Brush the Pool
By brushing the algae off of the surfaces of the pool, the algae will be released into the pool where the shock will be able to kill the majority of it.
Make sure to get every possible crack to remove the algae from sticking onto anything. It’s a good idea to use a stronger, stainless still brush for this instead of your everyday pool brush.
Focus especially on the areas of your pool where the algae didn’t come off. Use a stone, knife, or small wire brush to scrub these areas.
You can also try using a chlorine tablet, which will start to kill the bacteria while you scrub, offering double effectiveness.
After scrubbing your pool and the hard-to-reach places, brush your pool once more.
4. Quadruple Shock the Pool
Follow up your brushing with a powerful chlorine shock to your pool, and a big one at that – four times the usual dose recommended by the manufacturer on the pool shock you use. Use my pool volume calculator to figure out just exactly how much shock you need to use.
Pro tip – place all your pool equipment and accessories in the shallow end of the pool so they can get sanitized during the shocking process.
Run your pool pump for at least 24 hours so the shock can be evenly distributed and do an adequate job at killing the bacteria.
After you’ve run the pump, brush the pool yet again.
5. Clean the Filter
After running the filter to disperse the shock, your previously cleaned filter will have collected more algae. The good news is, this time, the algae will be dying instead of living bacteria. Backwash or rinse your filter with a filter cleaner instead of replacing it this time.
6. Shock Again If Needed
If you see any remaining black algae in your pool after taking these steps, shock your pool again using a 2x dose of the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Run the pump for 24 hours, or 8 to 12 hours at minimum, and brush the pool again. Brushing is important because you don’t want to risk the black algae coming back if there is any left.
7. Test the Pool Water
Once you take all the steps, test the pool water and ensure the chemical levels are accurate. Your pool should not have any more black algae, but keep an eye out for any algae missed or returned. If even the smallest amount was left behind, it will start to reproduce and grow back. Give your pool a standard shock after brushing any algae off.
It’s a good idea to shock your pool regularly to keep the black algae at bay. Some pool owners do this as often as once per week with great success. However, recoating or replastering your pool’s surface is a nearly foolproof solution to an unfixable black algae problem if all else fails.
Get My Free Pool Care Checklist
Download my free, printable pool maintenance checklist to help you accomplish regular pool care tasks for any type of swimming pool.
How to Prevent Black Algae Infections
As you may have realized, the most efficient way to take care of a black algae infestation is to prevent it from ever happening in the first place! You can’t always stop the spread of the black algae, but here are my pro-tips for preventing it from showing up:
Don’t swim in your pool with dirty swimsuits. Black algae spores are plentiful in nature, and they often hitch a ride on swimsuits and find their way into your pool. Wash your swimwear thoroughly before jumping in the pool.
Think twice before letting your dog jump in. Your pet may love your pool just as much as you do. But animals can carry all sorts of contaminants on their bodies, including black algae. So unless your dog has been freshly bathed, I would not recommend it from a hygiene perspective.
Stay on top of your chemical levels. If you dutifully maintain your pool’s chemistry, you are much less likely to have a black algae infestation. The more regulated your pool’s aquatic environment is, the less likely bacteria and algae will thrive there. A robust and functional filter that you run often can reduce risks too.
Shocking your pool regularly is a great strategy to keep your pool healthy. While black algae can tolerate intense chlorine levels, a highly-chlorinated pool is still better for discouraging infestations in the first place.
Questions? Let me know and I’ll be happy to help.