The swimming pool industry in North Texas has been booming all spring and summer. Even as we transition into fall, the hot Texas temperatures mean that most people will be able to enjoy their pool for a few more months, even if their pool isn't heated. If you smell chlorine while enjoying your pool, does it mean there is too much chlorine in the water? Many people are under the mistaken impression that a noticeable chlorine smell or red eyes indicate excess chlorine. However, that's rarely the case. So why do you smell chlorine?
If you are noticing a strong chlorine odor in your pool in addition to having red, burning eyes, it is likely the pool has chloramines, also called combined chlorine. The chlorine added into the pool may have bonded with ammonia and nitrogen molecules released by swimmers urinating in the water. This causes reduced sanitizing ability as well as irritation to the eyes and skin of swimmers. Chloramines are 60 to 80 times less effective in disinfecting the water than an uncombined free chlorine molecule. While you can test your water for chloramines by running a DPD test kit that checks for both Free and Total chlorine levels, the tell-tale sign of chloramines is a strong chlorine odor.
If you suspect the presence of chloramines, call your pool service company for a pool shock service visit. Shocking the pool or super chlorinating is necessary to break apart chloramines. Raising the chlorine level to reach “breakpoint chlorination” level will break apart the chloramine bonds and return your pool to its clear, clean glory.
pH and Your Eyes
No one likes to consider the possibility that there may be urine in the pool. According to a report from the CDC, urine is the main cause of burning eyes in the pool. The ideal swimming pool pH is 7.8, as this prevents algae growth. If your pH is lower than 7.4, the pH needs to be raised. If your pH is higher than 7.8, then the pH needs to be lowered. Because the human body has a narrow comfort range for pH of 7.4 to 7.8, and pH controls the strength of the chlorine in the pool, anything higher or lower will irritate your eyes by disrupting your tear film.
The tear film is a thin layer of tears that exists over both of your eyes to keep them moisturized and protected. Direct contact with any sort of chemical can result in irritation to the eyes by disturbing and thinning the tear film. Although chlorine is added to swimming pools to protect swimmers from harmful bacteria and germs, it can provide them with access to your eyes by disrupting the tear film. By keeping the pool’s pH at the same level as the pH of your eyes, the weakening of the tear film and the side-effect of burning red eyes are kept to a minimum. In addition, keeping the pool’s pH at optimal levels also means the chlorine will disinfect the water appropriately.
Prevent the Problem
Any chemical problems in your swimming pool water boil down to the water chemistry. After you have removed all chloramines from the water by increasing chlorine levels, you can guard again alterations to this water chemistry by following these tips:
- Remind swimmers to use the toilet before getting into the water.
- No swimmers should be in the pool if they have been sick with diarrhea.
- Take kids on bathroom breaks frequently.
- Change swim diapers regularly to keep urine and excrement out of the water.
- Convert your chlorine pool to saltwater. Saltwater is gentler on your eyes, skin, and hair.
Although it seems counter-intuitive because you are about to get wet in the pool, showering before swimming in the pool helps prevent keep dirt, body oils, makeup, sweat, and feces out of the water.
Chlorine can combine with urine released in the pool or with particles or with particles of feces, sweat, dirt, skin cells, and personal care products that come off of the bodies of swimmers. If your pool smells strongly of chlorine, be sure to check pH levels. If they are not stable at a 7.8, call your pool service company or adjust your water chemistry without delay to keep your pool water safely sanitized against germs and bacteria.