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Love It or Hate It – Is Chlorine Bad for Pool Swimmers?

Chlorine is the go-to pool sanitizer for most in the pool care industry. Many pool owners are requesting lower chlorine and looking for alternatives. Some would do away with it altogether if they had their way. But is that the best plan of action?


We recommend keeping an open mind about chlorine use in swimming pools. The idea that chlorine is bad or does more harm than good can lead us down a very slippery slope.

Chlorine has been an effective pool sanitizer for quite a long time and will likely be around longer than all of us. Let’s take a closer look and get a better understanding of the continued benefits to pool water care offered by chlorine.

5 FACTS YOU PROBABLY DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT CHLORINE

  1. Most tap water in the USA contains chlorine. The EPA limits the amount of chlorine in our drinking water to keep us safe. Levels below 4 parts per million (ppm) are unlikely to cause harm.
  2. Chlorine is an extremely reactive element and one of the strongest oxidizing agents known to man. Its oxidizing power led to the birth of household bleach. The American Chemistry Council made a video about The Secret Life of Bleach to help educate us on the subject of chlorine bleach.
  3. Pool chlorine is substantially stronger than household bleach. To obtain the necessary free available chlorine levels to properly disinfect pool water, you would need about 11 times more bleach than pool chlorine.
  4. Liquid chlorine is made with salt chlorine generators. It’s generated from pool salt at the factory–just like you make it in a customer’s backyard, but on a larger scale. That’s why liquid chlorine has a small salt content. Why buy jugs of liquid chlorine (or any form for that matter!) when you can make it yourself?
  5. Chlorine plays a huge role in the manufacturing of consumer goods including PVC. Its chemical versatility is utilized to help make 93% of life-saving pharmaceuticals and 86% of crop protection chemicals. (https://chlorine.americanchemistry.com/Chlorine)

Without chlorine, we can run into problems keeping the pool water safe for swimmers. Chlorine is a fantastic residual sanitizer that works even when the pump is off. So, why is there such a strained relationship between chlorine and the pool industry? We dive into this more below.

Household bleach is a form of chlorine we all use

POOL CHEMISTRY IS IMPORTANT

Properly maintained and chlorinated pool water does not irritate or give off any strong odor. As mentioned above, typically people think the smell comes from too much chlorine in the pool. It’s actually an indication that the pool water is out of balance.

Do you think you might be allergic to chlorine? It’s unlikely. Almost all negative reactions to chlorine are actually reactions to chloramines. Most swimmers confuse a strong “chlorine” odor in the pool with chlorine shock. Chloramines are the real culprit, not chlorine!

Chloramines are byproducts of the chemical reaction between chlorine and substances brought into the pool. They form when chlorine and human sweat, oil, or urine combine in the pool water. To clear up the chloramines or “combined chlorine” you have to apply a strong oxidizer. This is done with chlorine “shock” or with an alternative sanitizer. (more info on that below!)

More Posts & Related Content

Pool Residual Sanitizer Options Compared: 2021

The Essential Guide to NSF 50 for Pool & Spa Sanitizers

Is Salt Water Bad for a Swimming Pool?

Unlike Europe, it is not common practice in the US for people to shower before taking a dip in the pool. Many, in fact use the pool to “rinse off the day’s work,” essentially turning it into a bathtub. Without a pre-swim rinse, whatever we put on our bodies goes into the pool too. As a result, chlorine gets used up handling all the by-products brought into the pool rather than its intended purpose of keeping the pool water safe and clean.

Swimmer hygiene and habits, pets in the pool and fluctuating bather loads all contribute to poor water quality. Healthy pools do not have a strong smell or cause irritation/damage to swimmers or their bathing attire.


Guess what? There can be another culprit to an uncomfortable pool—the pH of the water! A low or high pH that is not close to neutral. It can be acidic (think lemon juice) or basic (think soap in your eyes). Both can lead to burning eyes, dry skin and hair, or irritation.


A rinse before you swim can transform the pool!

TOP CHLORINE COMPLAINTS (and simple solutions)

#1 – Burning Eyes – Chlorine can dry out the eyes, but at recommended levels chlorine will not harm or burn them. Wearing goggles while swimming can help prevent eye irritation, but the truth is at proper levels chlorine should not bother your eyes.

#2 – Itchy Skin or Rash – Direct contact with chlorine can dry skin out and cause itching, red skin or hives. Rinsing off or showering with soap and water should remove any residual chemicals. Properly balanced in the pool with a proper pH, chlorine should not cause any rashes or itches.

#3 – Respiratory Problems – Chloramines, mentioned above, off-gas into the air above the pool water which can cause respiratory issues for swimmers. Air quality decreases when indoor pool water is improperly maintained. Adequate ventilation also plays a part. But preventing and removing chloramines (not chlorine) will prevent this being a significant issue.

#4 – Weak Oxidizer – Chlorine works even when the pump isn’t running. But it has low oxidizing power comparatively speaking. It’s much better at just hanging out disinfecting and sanitizing on the regular. To get more “punch” you have to shock the pool with pounds of powdered chlorine. Ozone, UV and Advanced Oxidation (AOP–the most powerful oxidizer) sanitizers help chlorine out by taking over the “oxidation load.”

#5 – Handling Harsh Chemicals – Dealing with a bucket of tabs or liquid chlorine can feel like a science experiment. It’s reasonable to not enjoy keeping powerful chemicals around the house. The good news is you can greatly reduce this with a chlorine generator that uses salt, and almost totally eliminate chlorine storage.

It’s easy to see how outside forces play a part in water chemistry and overall pool chemical use. The problem isn’t the chlorine itself, but some outside factor in most cases.

THE INCREASING COST OF CHLORINE

Chlorine is more expensive than it used to be. The price of tabs has nearly doubled recently. Normal price inflation, fluctuations in supply as well as other factors are causing increases. But good news! There are plenty of alternatives to help keep the pool safe.

Many pool professionals are successfully lowering overall chlorine use with supplemental sanitizers including Ozone, UV, and Advanced Oxidation (AOP). Another option is salt–a very easy conversion with the latest chlorine generator system technology.

You can use much less chlorine when you add a second powerful oxidizer

PROVEN ADVANCED SANITIZER TECHNOLOGY

Technology has come a long way, and so have pool sanitizers. When looking at chlorine and chemical-free options, the answer isn’t always either/or.

If you’ve been disappointed with other systems, give these innovative sanitizers a try. Next Gen AOP™ products offer the latest advanced oxidation sanitizing power for typical backyard swimming pools. DEL systems are the only residential AOP (Ozone+UV) systems classified by NSF as a supplemental sanitizer.

If you hate handling pool chemicals and chlorine tabs, you are in luck! Powerclean® Salt is the friendly, backyard chlorine generator that cleans up with zero acid. Make nearly 2 pounds of chlorine per day with this next-generation salt system for pools. Check out the free resource to help you make the switch.

For more information on how to combine chlorine systems with an advanced sanitizer, visit c-m-p.com/modernpool. By combining the best available technologies, every pool can be crystal clear and absolutely safe.

CONTACT CMP FOR MORE INFO

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