Is It Safe to Swim in a Cloudy Pool?

Written by Michael Dean
July 12, 2023

swimming in a cloudy pool

Like many other pesky pool problems, cloudy pool water can strike overnight. It’s annoying when a swimming pool turns hazy, but a murky pool is often a warning sign that something is wrong. It could be the filter, the pump, the weather, or even algae growth. Whatever it is, a cloudy pool is not an issue you can disregard. The sooner it’s sorted out, the better.

In this article, I will explain the risks of swimming in cloudy water, why it happens, and how to fix it.

Main Takeaways

  • Swimming in a cloudy pool is not a good idea since the cloudiness generally signifies dirty water, incorrect pH levels, algae spores, high calcium levels, or something else your skin shouldn’t be in direct contact with.
  • Risks of swimming in a cloudy pool include poor water visibility, risk of infection, skin irritation, and other chemical imbalances.
  • Fixing cloudy pool water is typically straightforward and requires rebalancing your pH and shocking and cleaning your pool.

Is It Safe to Swim in a Cloudy Pool?

The short answer is no – a cloudy pool is not safe for swimming. A cloudy pool is a symptom of several problems, not just slightly dirty water. It could indicate poor filtration, incorrect pH levels, algae growth, heavy calcium levels, and other issues that could pose all sorts of safety hazards to swimmers.

Cloudiness in a pool can cause skin irritation, infections, and other health issues. Decreased visibility in cloudy water can also make it harder to see objects underwater, making it unsafe. So think twice if you’re thinking of shrugging your shoulders, ignoring the problem, and getting into the murky pool water!

Risks of Swimming in a Cloudy Pool

Let’s dive deeper into why you shouldn’t swim in a cloudy pool.

Poor Water Visibility

Decreased visibility in cloudy water can make it harder to see other swimmers or pool walls underwater, making collisions (and concussions!) likely. It’s pretty common for a swimmer to knock their head on the pool tiling in the middle of a fast-paced lap because of low underwater visibility.

Poor water visibility also makes jumping or diving into the pool more dangerous. If swimmers are unable to see the bottom of the pool, it may be more difficult to determine how deep the pool is. There have also been several cases of children drowning in cloudy or murky water because they cannot tell which way is up or down, and the cloudy water makes it more difficult for lifeguards (or parents) to see them.

Risk Of Infection

Cloudy water can indicate poorly-filtered water. Water that hasn’t been appropriately filtered could contain dirt, oils, germs, dust, urine, hair, bacteria, or harmful algae, increasing the risk of skin or eye infections. Poor water quality and a lack of proper sanitation can easily lead to the growth of harmful bacteria. UTIs, corneal ulcers, or painful skin rashes are a few common yet serious side effects of swimming in an unclean pool, and certainly not anyone’s idea of unrestrained summer fun.

Cloudy water may also host E. Coli or other harmful bacteria and viruses that can cause a whole host of problems, such as stomach cramps and diarrhea, among other symptoms.

Skin Irritation

Cloudy pool water can be an effect of unbalanced pH. If the pH drops too low, the water becomes acidic, and the sanitizer cannot clean the water effectively. Water with low pH can irritate the skin and eyes of swimmers, so it is important to test the pH level frequently to ensure the water is safe for swimmers. Pool water with low pH can also corrode your pool equipment and etch into your plaster.

Other Chemical Imbalances

An imbalance of other chemicals, such as chlorine or calcium, can also cause cloudiness in a pool. If your chlorine levels are too high, swimmers may get a chlorine rash, a type of skin irritation that occurs when swimming in pool water with excessive chlorine levels.

High chlorine levels can also cause the pH to rise, and if you are using calcium hypochlorite, the calcium hardness level may also get too high. This can cause a buildup of calcium on your pool’s equipment and surfaces, which can be a huge pain to remove!

Why Is My Swimming Pool Cloudy?

Why your pool water is murky is a tricky issue to pin down. Here are some reasons why it might be cloudy.

Weak or Inefficient Filtration

A pool’s filtration system removes impurities and maintains clean and clear water. But a simple malfunction could easily reverse this. You could be dealing with a weak filtration system that’s unable to efficiently filter out general dust, debris, and oils from the water, causing it to appear cloudy or hazy. Or your impeller might be clogged, reducing water flow through the system, leaving impurities and an inability to maintain water clarity.

You should also check if your pump is the right size for your pool. If it’s too small, it might not be able to handle the volume of water and particles, causing the water to look murky and preventing proper water circulation. If you suspect your filter is the culprit (as it often is!), call a professional to check it out.

Heavy Rainstorms

If you live in a tropical region that experiences plenty of rainfall or recently had a storm, this is probably the number one reason your pool is cloudy. Raindrops carry a deposit of foreign chemicals such as nitrates and phosphates, bacteria, oils, and dust, which can throw your pool chemistry completely out of wack.

High Total Alkalinity

High Total Alkalinity (TA) in a pool can cause cloudy water because it affects the stability of the pH level. The recommended range for TA is between 80-120 ppm (parts per million). When the TA level falls outside this range, a buffer effect spawns, which makes it difficult to adjust the pH level to the proper range of 7.2-7.8. Additionally, high TA can cause scaling or pitting on your pool plaster or other pool surfaces or potentially corrode your metal fixtures, which also leads to cloudy water.

Too Much Calcium

Calcium is a vital pool chemical, but an excess of it (an amount surpassing 400 ppm) in a pool can easily lead to cloudiness because of the buildup of calcium and the deposits on pool fixtures, equipment, walls, floor, and tiles. The resulting scaling creates several suspended particles, which makes the water appear hazy and whitish, essentially clouding the pool. Besides making the water unpleasant to swim in, your filtration system could also get damaged by the calcified deposits, worsening the problem of unclear, cloudy pool water.

Incorrect pH (and Chlorine) Levels

Another major cause of cloudy water is unbalanced pH levels. When your pH levels are all over the place, it affects the ability of sanitizers, such as chlorine, to effectively disinfect the water. This reduces the levels of free chlorine, forming chloramines and combined chlorine which causes a pool to look cloudy.

Algae Growth

In extreme cases, cloudy water could be an early sign of algae growth. In the right conditions, algae spores can multiply quickly in warm, still water, giving your pool a greenish and cloudy appearance. This can worsen as the algae spreads, and the longer you leave an algae issue unaddressed, the murkier and hazier your water can become. In bad scenarios, the algae can even clog your pool filters!

How To Get Rid Of A Cloudy Pool

Now that you understand the severity of the issue, how do you fix the problem? Thankfully, clearing up a cloudy pool is much easier than you would think! Here are my top tips to clear a cloudy pool.

Test the Water

First, to establish the cause of cloudiness, you need to check your pH, total alkalinity, calcium, chlorine, and cyanuric acid levels. This helps establish your next step. For example, if the issue is high calcium levels, a partial drain-and-refill is needed. Once you’ve tested the water, balance your chemicals, and test it once again after you’ve added whatever chemicals are needed.

Shock Your Pool

Once your pH and chemicals are balanced, shock your pool. Pour the shock into your pool evenly while walking around the edges of the perimeter. Don’t forget: you must do this at night!

Turn On Your Pump and Vacuum The Pool

Turn your pump on for the next 12 hours. You have to let it run to circulate the freshly balanced and shocked water and to filter out any dead material. This is also a good time to test your filter for any issues and ensure it’s running smoothly. Packed or dirty filter cartridges are the bane of a clean, blue pool. To help your filtration system, you should vacuum up the larger debris.

Empty Your Skimmer Basket

While the pump’s running, look at your skimmer. The basket might be clogged with debris, such as sticks or leaves. If it’s full, empty the contents into a bin and rinse the skimmer out once to clean it.

Use a Flocculant 

If the water still looks cloudy after shocking and cleaning the pool, use a flocculant to clump up all the particles. Then run the filter again for another 12 hours to remove the clumped dust and debris.

Roll Up Your Sleeves

It doesn’t hurt to get a skimmer net and sweep the water yourself for any additional dirt and debris. This helps your pool filter while it’s at work and speeds up the process.

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.

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Cloudy water is resolvable without any professional help. Usually, a case of cloudiness just needs a bit of shock treatment, balanced pH levels, lots of filtration, and a bit of time.

Questions? Let me know.

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