A crystal clear pool is a thing of beauty. That shimmering blue-green pool is just begging you to jump in and beat the heat. Keeping a pool crystal clear like that takes a little work, but it’s well worth it. But what happens when you step out to your pool and find that the water is less than perfectly clear? Cloudy pool water can put a damper on your fun pretty quickly. What you thought was going to be a luxurious dip in your pool becomes a disappointing look at your nasty pool water. So what can you do? Why is your pool water cloudy? And what is the best way to fix cloudy pool water? Have no fear. The Pool Butler is here to answer all of your questions and help get your cloudy pool water back to the sparkling gem you want it to be.
What Causes Cloudy Pool Water?
Cloudy pool water can sure be a drag. But before you can fix it, you need to know what causes cloudy pool water. Typically, cloudy pool water is the result of physical, not chemical, problems. If you can’t see the bottom of your pool, it’s because there is something physically blocking your line of sight. What is blocking your line of sight and why it’s there are important factors in how you will clear the cloudy pool water.
Is Cloudy Pool Water Safe?
So we know that cloudy pool water is not the most luxurious thing, but is it really that bad? If you’re not too picky, wouldn’t it be just fine to swim in a pool that isn’t perfectly clear? Unfortunately, regardless of how picky you are, it’s never a good idea to swim in water that isn’t clear. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you should check each time you use your pool to make sure the drain at the deepest part of your pool is visible.
Cloudy water poses several hazards. First, if you can’t see the drain at the deepest part of the pool, you might not see a person down there either. Contrary to popular belief, people who are drowning rarely splash or scream. The body’s natural response to drowning is to freeze up and do nothing. So if you can’t see well into the pool, there’s a serious risk that you wouldn’t notice someone who is drowning.
In addition to the danger of drowning, cloudy pool water often means that there isn’t enough free chlorine in the water or the free chlorine is being diverted. It is busy dealing with particulate matter instead of bacteria and other disease-causing microorganisms. A cloudy pool may harbor germs such as Crypto (short for Cryptosporidium), Giardia, Shigella, norovirus, and E. coli.
So if a pool is cloudy, it is much more than a cosmetic issue. A cloudy pool needs to be cleaned before it is safe to swim in.
Check Your Filter
The first place to look if your pool water is cloudy is at your filter. Cloudy water is usually the result of some type of particulate matter floating in your pool. Your filter is your first line of defense against particulate matter and the primary method for removing it.
A pool filter is a pretty simple piece of equipment. It doesn’t require any electricity, and it has very few moving parts. The most important part of your pool filtration system is actually the pump. As long as the pump is working, it will push your pool’s water through the filter, which will catch tiny particles as the water passes through it. But there is one moving part on your filter that you need to keep an eye on. The water pressure gauge is the best insight into the condition of your filter. If your filter water pressure gauge is reading 8 or more psi above its ideal clean level (more on that here), then the filter needs to be cleaned. A filter that isn’t clean can’t do its job, so particulate matter in your pool will build up and cause cloudy pool water.
Fortunately, a dirty pool filter is easy to fix. If you have a sand or DE filter, you can backwash it. For a cartridge filter, just pop out the cartridge and give it a good rinse. You should run the filter on an in-ground pool 8-10 hours a day regularly. If you’re clearing cloudy pool water, you’ll need to run it longer, up to 24 hours for a few days.
If your filter is clean, but the water is cloudy, check your pump and the pool’s whole circulation system. Make sure that water is flowing through your filter at a high enough rate to clean the pool.
Check Your Water
If the filter is working and you still have cloudy water, the next place to look is at your water. First, check for the physical cleanliness of your water. Your water filter is meant to clear out tiny particles that cause cloudy pool water, but it isn’t made to handle leaves and other large debris. Give your pool a good skimming to remove any large debris. Next, scrub your pool walls and floor with a stiff brush. Finally, vacuum the pool to get rid of anything left over and any particles you knocked loose with the brush. You should be doing this a few times a week as part of your maintenance routine. If you haven’t done it in a while, don’t be surprised by your cloudy pool water.
The next place to look is at your pool chemistry. Although the direct cause of cloudy pool water is physical, improper chemistry can contribute to physical pollution. If you live in an area with hard water, pay particular attention to the pool’s pH, alkalinity, and calcium levels. High pH, high alkalinity, and calcium levels above 400 ppm can cause cloudy pool water. The high pH can also make your chlorine sanitizer less effective.
One critical number to look at when you test your pool water is the free chlorine level. Free chlorine should be at 1-3 ppm. If it is too low, it’s not doing its job, and it may point to other problems. If there is pollution in your pool from bathers, such as lotions, makeup, and even urine, the free chlorine will attack it and form combined chlorine or chloramines. These chloramines are not effective at sanitizing your pool, but in high enough concentrations they can cause cloudy pool water.
Time for Some Shock Therapy
If your free chlorine levels are low and your combined chlorine levels are high, it’s time to shock the pool with a super high dose of chlorine. You can also use non-chlorine shock. The added chlorine goes to work breaking down the chloramines and killing off any algae, another source of cloudy pool water. If algae are the main cause of your cloudy pool water, you may have to shock the pool two or even three times to kill it all. Make sure you wait to reenter the pool until the free-chlorine levels have dropped back below 4 ppm.
There are other options that are a little less drastic than shocking the pool. If the pool isn’t too murky, you can usually use pool clarifying agents or flocculant to get it clear again. Both of these chemicals work by binding to the organic compounds that are floating in your pool and causing cloudy pool water. The difference is in what they do after they attach themselves to the compounds. Clarifier binds to the tiny organic molecules and clumps together to form larger chunks, which the pool filter can more easily remove. Flocculant works by clinging to the organic compounds and them causing them to sink to the bottom of the pool. Once the flocculant has gathered at the bottom of the pool, you will need to vacuum up the debris.
The advantage of clarifier is that it takes very little work on your part. The filter does the dirty work. Flocculant takes more elbow grease, but it’s faster since it doesn’t rely on the filter to slowly remove all the particulate matter. Which you use depends on how fast you need to get your pool clean and whether the extra labor of flocculant is worth it to you.
The Easiest Way to Fix Cloudy Pool Water
There is one last way of fixing cloudy pool water that is easier and more effective than any other method. Just call The Pool Butler. We’ll clean your pool, test your water, and add any chemicals necessary to get your pool sparkling clean. If you want to keep your pool clean, we offer regular maintenance packages that will guarantee your pool is always ready for a swim. Contact us today to learn how to keep your pool crystal clear.