Will Bleach Clear Up a Cloudy Pool?

Written by Michael Dean
July 12, 2023

bleaching a cloudy swimming pool

Cloudy pools are a frustrating but common issue many pool owners face. Since they’re such a pervasive issue, it’s fair to assume dumping some bleach into the pool might be enough to sort the pool out. After all, isn’t bleach a strong sanitizer that contains ingredients similar to pool chlorine? Well, yes and no.

In this article, I will answer whether or not bleach can clear up a cloudy pool, the drawbacks of using it in your swimming pool, and alternative methods for cloudy pool issues.

Main Takeaways

  • Bleach can clear up a mild case of cloudy pool water, but you risk harming your water chemistry since it isn’t specially formulated for pools.
  • Household bleach is not quite strong enough to deal with full-scale algae bloom infestations – it’s better to use an algaecide.
  • Swimming in a cloudy pool isn’t exactly safe, so stay out of hazy water until it’s cleared up.

Will Bleach Clear Up a Cloudy Pool?

Bleach can potentially help clear up a cloudy pool – to an extent. Sodium hypochlorite, the active ingredient in bleach, acts as a biocide and can kill algae and bacteria that contribute to cloudiness. So, in theory, when added to water containing such contaminants, the chlorine in bleach would kill any microorganisms, making the water look clearer. With a high enough dose, you could use bleach to clear up a relatively mild case of a cloudy pool.

One of the advantages of using bleach to clear a cloudy pool is that it is readily available and relatively inexpensive, making it useful for an emergency where your pool water is just slightly hazy. It could also be an alternative solution for killing algae and bacteria if combined with clarifiers or algaecides. I go over this cleaning process in my complete article on how to use bleach to clear a green pool.

That said, there are also some potential drawbacks to using bleach in a pool. Since bleach is not nearly as strong as chlorine, it won’t be as effective in clearing up your pool.

Can I Use Household Bleach In My Pool?

While I recommend opting for products manufactured specifically for a swimming pool, it is possible to use household bleach in your pool. However, keep in mind that household bleach typically contains 6% sodium hypochlorite, which is way lower in strength than standard pool chlorine, which contains 65% calcium hypochlorite. To put it shortly, household bleach is not strong enough to sanitize your pool. Also, household bleach will be slower in sanitizing your pool. 

Here are two more points to consider if you’re thinking of adding household bleach to a pool.

Household Bleach Might Contain Other Additives

Depending on the brand and manufacturer, household bleach, typically meant for mild-to-medium sanitization purposes in the kitchen or otherwise, could contain additional chemicals that aren’t meant for your pool, such as dyes. Therefore, read the list of ingredients carefully before adding household bleach to your water.

Possible Damage to Pool Surfaces and Equipment

If you use household bleach that contains other additives not meant for your pool, you may inadvertently damage your pool surfaces and equipment. Since household bleach is not specifically formulated for a pool, there’s no telling what it could do to your pH levels. Possible fluctuations might cause chemical imbalances to the point of your pool plaster or equipment being damaged. Furthermore, household bleach might discolor your pool cover.

Will Bleach Kill Algae?

Well, yes, to an extent. Bleach can kill algae – in the correct dosage. Sodium hypochlorite, the active ingredient in bleach, is a biocide, a substance that destroys organic matter, particularly fungus or bacteria. So it is safe to surmise that, when added to water containing algae, the chlorine in bleach technically could disrupt the cell membrane of any algae spores and kill them off.

However, simply adding bleach to a pool with algae may not be enough to fully resolve an algae issue. You would need massive quantities of bleach to do so. Plus, once they’ve taken root, algae spores can be highly persistent. It takes a strong chemical to kill them off. So if you’re dealing with a full-scale infestation, you’re not going to have much success in eradicating the algae bloom by adding household bleach to your water – it simply won’t be strong enough! Granular pool shock or liquid chlorine would be more useful in such a scenario.

There are also chemicals formulated explicitly for dealing with this issue: algaecides! Unless you are in a tight spot, it’s best to use a product specifically developed to deal with the problem.

Other Methods To Clear A Cloudy Pool

A cloudy pool can occur for various reasons, such as a sudden rainstorm, a dysfunctional filter, too much calcium in the pool, and so on. There are also a variety of ways to sort out a cloudy pool.

Servicing and Maintenance

If the cloudy pool is caused by faulty filtering equipment, it’s time to do a bit of servicing. Clean or replace your cartridge filters, backwash your filter, empty your skimmer basket, change the sand in your sand filter if needed, or have a professional come over to see if you have any pressure inconsistencies or leaky valves. Cloudy water often occurs due to a lack of or weak filtering, so fixing your filtration system can work wonders.

Run Your Pump

If your pool pump and filtering systems are in good shape, turn the filter on and let it run for 24 hours. Pumps need to be run for 6 hours a day, minimum. If you haven’t been doing this, your water might have become stagnant and unable to circulate, causing dirt and debris to settle in and making the pool cloudy. Still, water is a magnet for dust, bacteria, debris, and other unwanted contaminants. So you need to let the water circulate to help keep it clean.

Shock Your Pool

If you’re concerned that the pool is cloudy because of bacteria, algae, or low chlorine levels, shock your pool. Pool shock is designed to clear your pool of any nasty contaminants.

Use a Flocculent 

If the water has a lot of tiny dirt and debris that your pump is struggling to remove, use a clarifier or flocculant. These products clump small particles in the water, making them easier to filter out. Add a clarifier to your pool and run the pump for another 10-12 hours to remove any clumps. You can also vacuum up the clumped debris.

Get a Pool Cover 

Prevention is the best cure, after all. Prevent debris, dust, and rain from clouding up your pool in the first place by using a pool cover. A pool cover keeps away debris and shelters your water from various foreign chemicals and is a relatively inexpensive investment to keep your pool sparkling and clean.

Get My Free Pool Care Checklist

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to swim in a cloudy pool?

No, you shouldn’t swim in a cloudy pool. A cloudy pool might seem harmless, but it is a potential indicator of unbalanced pH levels, algae growth, poor filtration, excessive calcium levels, or other hazardous factors that are health risks for swimmers. Decreased visibility in cloudy water can also make it harder to see objects underwater, making the risk of collisions likely. You should also wait to swim after adding bleach.

What’s the difference between bleach and chlorine?

Bleach is a household cleaning product containing sodium hypochlorite as an active ingredient, a type of chlorine. It is commonly used for cleaning, disinfecting, and whitening. Chlorine, on the other hand, is a chemical element that is used for water treatment, purification, disinfection, and sanitization in various settings.

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