How to Clean and Remove Stains From a Vinyl Pool Liner

Written by Michael Dean
January 6, 2024

removing stains from a vinyl pool liner

Vinyl pool liners are a popular choice for homeowners because they are budget-friendly. However, vinyl pool liners require quite a bit of maintenance and can develop stains over time. If you notice a stain on your vinyl swimming pool liner, act fast. The sooner you treat it, the easier it will be to remove. There are several ways to clean and remove stains from a vinyl pool liner, so let’s dive right into these methods and get that vinyl liner scrubbed clean!

Main Takeaways

  • There are several types of vinyl pool liner stains, including organic, metal, and mineral.
  • You need a soft-bristled brush and a vinyl pool liner-safe product to remove stains from vinyl pools.
  • To prevent stains on your pool liner, keep your pool water clean and balanced, remove debris from the pool, and regularly shock the pool.

Types of Vinyl Pool Liner Stains 

There are a few different types of stains you may find on your vinyl liner. These stains can be broken into three distinct categories: organic stains, metal stains, and mineral stains. 

Organic Stains

  • Cause: Organic stains are typically caused by organic matter, such as leaves, grass, algae, berries, or other debris, in the pool water.
  • Identification: Organic stains often appear as brown, green, red, or black discolorations on the vinyl liner. Since they’re organic, the stains might appear mottled, patchy, or spread out irregularly. 

Metal Stains

  • Cause: Metal stains occur when metals like iron, copper, or manganese are present in large amounts in the pool water. These metals can come from various sources, such as pool equipment or specific chemical treatments or processes, such as oxidation.
  • Identification: Metal stains generally manifest as brown, purple, red, or black marks on the vinyl liner. These stains are usually centered around areas where the metal source is in direct contact with the liner, such as metal fittings or pool steps. Rusting is a prevalent example of metal stains in pools.

Mineral Stains

  • Cause: Mineral stains are caused by a buildup of minerals like calcium, magnesium, or other dissolved solids in the pool water. These minerals may form chalky deposits on your pool liner, known as scales.
  • Identification: Mineral stains often appear as white or grayish patches or scales on the vinyl liner. You will generally find mineral stains around the waterline, in areas with high evaporation rates, or in water with high mineral content.

Check out my complete guide for more information on identifying and removing pool stains.

While identifying stains is a good place to start, you may need to properly test the pool water to determine the exact cause of the stain and guide the appropriate stain removal process. 

For example, if you are uncertain whether you are dealing with an algae stain or a metal stain, you should test the water first to see if you have excess metals. Never use algaecide to get rid of metal staining, as many types of algaecide contain copper, which can actually worsen your metal stains.

Step-by-Step: How to Clean a Vinyl Pool Liner

Now that you know the basics of identifying a stain on your vinyl liner, let’s dive into the required steps for getting rid of them.

Materials Needed

  • Soft-bristle pool brush
  • Pool water test kit
  • White vinegar or mild acid solution
  • Stain removers
  • Nylon scrub pad or magic eraser (non-abrasive)
  • Chlorine shock
  • Absorbic acid (vitamin C) 

Organic Stains

Organic stains are generally the easiest to remove from a vinyl liner. Here is everything you need to know to get rid of organic stains.

Materials Needed

  • Soft-bristle pool brush
  • Pool water test kit
  • Chlorine shock
  • Magic eraser or vinyl liner-safe stain remover

Step-by-Step: Removing Organic Stains From a Vinyl Pool Liner

  • Remove any debris and leaves from the pool using a pole net and clean the filter.
  • Brush the pool surface with a nylon brush to loosen grime, dirt, and algae, paying close attention to the stained area. Then, vacuum the pool’s surface (using a liner-friendly vacuum) to get rid of remaining leaves, dirt, and debris. This will help to remove any loose particles that could prevent the stain remover from working effectively. 
  • Shock the pool. This will help to kill any remaining algae or bacteria that could be contributing to the stains. Run the filter for a few hours to make sure the water is pristine.
  • Balance your water chemistry. Test your pool water’s pH, alkalinity, calcium hardness, and chlorine level, and ensure that the chemicals are properly balanced.
  • Brush the stains again. If there are some organic stains that still won’t come out, use a pool liner stain remover or a stain eraser tool to scrub the affected area thoroughly.

Do NOT use chlorine directly on the stained area. While this is an effective way to eliminate organic stains in fiberglass or concrete pools, chlorine can bleach your pool liner when heavily concentrated.

Metal Stains

You’ll need a bit more elbow grease to remove metal stains from your vinyl pool liner. Unfortunately, chlorine will have little effect on removing metal stains, so you’ll need to use alternative methods.

Materials Needed

  • Metal sequestering agent
  • Absorbic acid (vitamen C)
  • Metal pool stain remover
  • Soft-bristled pool brush

Step-by-Step: Removing Metal Stains From a Vinyl Pool Liner

  • Get rid of the cause. If you have metal staining in your pool, it is most likely caused by a metal object that has rusted. If there is rusted pool equipment in your pool, remove it before you start working on the stain itself.
  • Use a metal sequestering agent. Once you have confirmed that the cause of the staining is the presence of metal in the water, use a metal sequester to neutralize the metals.
  • Scrub the stain with a soft-bristled pool brush. Use a vinyl-safe pool brush to scrub the metal stains.
  • Use absorbic acid. If simply brushing the stain is not enough to get rid of it, put some absorbic acid on a cloth or your pool brush and scrub it. Absorbic acid reacts with metals, so it should help remove the staining.
  • Use a pool stain remover for metals. If all else fails, use a stain remover specifically designed for metal stains.

Mineral Stains

Mineral buildup can be tricky to clean off a vinyl pool liner, especially if you allow it to sit for a while. But luckily, calcium and mineral stains are the least common type of stain in vinyl pools because calcium doesn’t tend to stick to vinyl pool walls as easily. While you can use a pumice stone to get rid of calcium buildup in concrete pools, you cannot use it on a vinyl swimming pool as the pumice stone would damage the liner. That said, there are some effective solutions for getting rid of mineral stains in a vinyl pool. 

Materials Needed

  • Vinegar
  • Water testing kit
  • Toothbrush

Step-by-Step: Removing Mineral Stains From a Vinyl Pool Liner

  • Test your pool water to check for mineral imbalances. High levels of calcium, magnesium, or other minerals can cause mineral buildup in your pool. Adjust the water chemistry if necessary. Read my article on lowering calcium hardness for a walkthrough of this process.
  • Use vinegar to remove the scaling. Vinegar is a natural acid that helps dissolve mineral deposits without damaging the vinyl pool liner. Prepare a mix of white vinegar and water, or use mineral remover specifically designed for pool stain removal. And make sure it’s safe to use for vinyl pools!
  • Let the solution sit on the stains for a few minutes to allow it to slowly dissolve the mineral buildup.
  • Use a toothbrush or a magic eraser to gently scrub the stained areas. Avoid using abrasive materials, such as a pumice stone, or harsh chemicals, such as muriatic acid, that could damage the vinyl liner. Once done, rinse the affected area thoroughly to get rid of any leftover mineral deposits.
  • Inspect the cleaned areas to see if the mineral stains have been removed completely. You may need to repeat the cleaning process a few times for stubborn stains.
  • After cleaning, test the pool water again and adjust the chemical balance as needed to maintain the mineral levels and prevent future mineral stains.

If you are struggling to get rid of any staining in your vinyl liner, don’t be afraid to ask for help! Some staining can be extremely strenuous to get out, so a pool professional can help you remove even the most stubborn stains.

How to Prevent Stains on Vinyl Pool Liners

Here are some tips on how to prevent stains on vinyl pool liners. After all, prevention is the best cure!

  1. Keep your pool water clean and balanced. This means regularly testing the pH and chlorine levels and adjusting them as needed.
  2. Remove debris and leaves from the pool surface regularly. This will help to prevent stains from forming in the first place. Also, use a pool cover when the pool is not in use.
  3. Shock the pool regularly. Shocking the pool helps to kill bacteria and algae, which can contribute to staining.
  4. Use a tennis ball to absorb oils. Yes, a tennis ball! The fibers on a tennis ball can help absorb oils from sweat, hair products, and sunscreen, keeping your water cleaner for longer and preventing long-term damage to your vinyl pool liner.
  5. Use a metal sequestering agent to help prevent metallic stains. This agent will bind to the metal ions in the water and prevent them from bonding to the liner.
  6. Replace your pool liner every 7-10 years. Over time, vinyl pool liners can become brittle and more susceptible to staining. By replacing your liner regularly, you can help to prevent stains and keep your pool looking its best.

Get My Free Pool Care Checklist

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use bleach to clean a vinyl pool liner?

Yes, you can use bleach to clean a vinyl pool liner, but it is important to use it sparingly and dilute it with water. Highly concentrated bleach can damage the liner if it is not used correctly. Also, use protective gear, such as gloves and goggles, when handling harsh chemicals like bleach.

Can you use household products to clean a vinyl pool?

Yep! You can use some household products to clean a vinyl pool. Some of the most common household products used for pool cleaning include vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice.

Is Your Liner Stain Free?

Stains on vinyl liners can be pretty annoying. But by keeping your pool water clean and balanced, removing debris and leaves from the pool surface, and using a pool cover when the pool is not in use, you can help to prevent stains from occurring in the first place.

Remember, having a spotless vinyl pool liner is a sign of a healthy and clean swimming pool! Check out my research on how to clean a swimming pool for more maintenance tips.

If you are having recurring vinyl staining issues and need some help identifying the issue, feel free to contact me. I am here to answer all your pool-related questions!

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