How Do you Clear Cloudy Pool Water Fast?
Let’s Clear Things Up About Cloudy Pool Water
It’s a warm day, and all you can think about the crystal blue water of your swimming pool. But just as you’re about to dive in, you notice something: Cloudy pool water.
Not only is cloudy pool water unattractive, but swimming pools with cloudy water can even pose health risks. That’s because cloudy pool water can contain harmful bacteria such as E. coli and Legionella. What’s more, pool water that’s cloudy can even damage your pool and its circulation system.
In this blog, we’ll look at what causes cloudy pool water, and then we’ll explore some solutions to help you clear things up.
What’s the Big Deal About Cloudy Pool Water?
Aside from the obvious — who wants to swim in THAT? —cloudy pool water can result in some serious issues. It can stain the sides of your pool, and corrode some components of your pool, including the accessories. It can also cause some health concerns if bacteria is the cause.
So, what causes cloudy pool water? Let’s take a look at some of the main culprits.
Depleted Pool Sanitizer
When you add pool sanitizer – like chlorine or bromine -- to the water, you increase its ability to attack the debris that ends up floating on top of or sinking to the bottom of your pool. Debris includes falling leaves, dirt, and pollen. But it also comes from the people who use your pool: think sunscreen, beauty products, sweat and even urine (it’s gross, but it’s true).
Did you Know?
Chlorine and bromine both act to battle the bacteria in your pool, but bromine is more resilient. Once chlorine combines with bacteria, it is eliminated from the pool water. But bromine continues to sanitize your pool even after combining with bacteria. For this reason, bromine is more expensive than chlorine.
But here’s the deal: As your pool sanitizer break downs all of that debris and organic matter, it depletes over time – and this means it’s less effective at breaking down that dirt, debris, and bacteria.
The sun also depletes the pool sanitizer levels. When the ultraviolet rays hit the water, they break up the hypochlorite ions, which work to sanitize the water as you add chlorine to your pool.
And finally, algae can also affect your pool sanitizer’s ability to keep the water clean. Not only does algae make it difficult to see what’s in the pool, but – like other organic matter – it depletes your pool sanitizer, making it less effective.
The takeaway: Pool sanitizer isn’t meant to be added once and then forgotten. To keep it working effectively – and to keep your pool water from becoming cloudy -- you will need to add bromine or chlorine regularly.
Bromine vs. Chlorine. What’s the Difference?
Although chlorine might be the better-known pool sanitizer, bromine is equally effective when it comes to killing bacteria. The main difference: Bromine has a lower pH, which means it’ll help keep your water chemistry stable. It also performs better in high temperatures. Chlorine, on the other hand, delivers faster results and is slightly more affordable than bromine.
Clogged, Dirty Pool Pumps and Filters
Filter maintenance is another factor that contributes to cloudy pool water in an inground pool or an above ground pool.
If your pool filter system is clogged up or your pump isn’t performing well, it can cause cloudy water. And to keep your water looking crystal clear, you should run your filtration system at least eight hours a day.
The takeaway: When your filter isn’t clean – whether you have a cartridge filter, a sand filter, or a diatomaceous earth (or “DE”) filter -- the water filtered through it won’t be distributed well by the pressure side of the circulation system. So, keeping your filter and pump clean, maintained, and in good working order will help you avoid cloudy pool water.
Unbalanced Pool Chemicals
If your pool chemicals are out of balance, your pool could develop cloudy water. For example, high levels of pH mean your water isn’t acidic enough — and that can lead to cloudy water. High pH will also cause a scale buildup on your pool’s plumbing and surfaces, as well as problems with filtration and bacteria growth.
And if your pool alkaline levels are too high, it could also cause cloudy water. That’s because a high level of alkalinity won’t help stabilize the pH balance, and that causes the water to form scale. What’s more, a high alkaline level can cause metal pitting and possible damage to the vinyl.
Low levels of free chlorine - chlorine in its purest form - can also lead to cloudy water. If a test strip indicates that your free chlorine levels are low, you probably have chloramine, which is combined chlorine. That makes your water smell like chlorine, and you guessed it, turns it cloudy.
The takeaway: To ensure your pool chemical levels are correct, use a test kit that comes with test strips. By testing your water periodically, you can help ensure that your pool water never goes cloudy.
The 6-Step Process to Fixing Cloudy Pool Water (With a Bonus)
Now that you understand all of the reasons a pool’s water becomes cloudy let’s talk about a sure-fire way to eliminate the cloudiness from your pool water.
1. Keep it Clean!
Your first step in eliminating cloudy pool water is to give your pool a deep clean. Start by removing all of the large debris from the pool. You can use a heavy-duty skimmer or your hands if you can reach it. Next, using a good pool brush, clean the walls of your pool. After you have removed all of the debris and dirt, use a pool vacuum to clean it.
Choosing a Pool Brush
Which pool brush is right for you? That depends on your pool’s surfaces: If you’ve got a gunite or concrete pool, you might want to choose a brush with stiffer bristles, such as stainless steel. If you’ve got a vinyl liner, a nylon or polypropylene brush, which will do the job without damaging your pool’s walls. Need more ideas? Check out our buyers' guide to pool brushes, nets and poles here.
2. Shock Your Pool
Pool shock – also known as pool clarifier -- is essentially a super-high dose of chlorine that removes combined chlorine molecules and takes away the cloudiness caused by debris, bacteria, or algae in the process.
Did You Know?
You should wait 24 hours to swim after shocking your pool.
If you don’t use chlorine in your pool, anon-chlorine pool shock will have the same effect. Keep in mind that if you shock your pool to get rid of algae, you may have to double or even triple shock it, depending on which type of algae is in your pool.
3. Use a Pool Clarifier
Every pool clarifier is a little different, so it’s important that you read the instructions that come with your pool clarifier before you start using it. If you need help selecting a clarifier for your pool, check out our buyers' guide to pool clarifiers here. In general, though, you’ll follow the similar steps no matter which product you choose:
- Add clarifier to your pool water. The package will tell you how much clarifier to use. The amount you need depends on the size of your pool and how many gallons it holds.
- Wait. Most pool clarifiers take several days to work, so there’s not much for you to do but sit back and wait. Be sure to leave your filter running, though!
- Vacuum. If you use a traditional clarifier, you might be able to skip this step (when you use a clarifier, particles float on top of the water, where they find their way to your pool filter). If you use a flocculant, however, the particles will settle at the bottom of your pool, where you can vacuum them away.
- Test your water. Once you’ve given your clarifier (and your filter) time to work, it’s time to test your pool water. Remember that even if your pool water looks clear, you should test it anyway to make sure that the chemicals are properly balanced.
4. Run Your Filter (and Keep it Clean)
After you’ve deep cleaned your pool and shocked it, you should ensure that you run your filter at least eight hours a day. That’s how long it takes a typical pool pump to filter your backyard pool. But remember: A clogged or dirty filter is much less effective. Before you start it up, be sure the filter is clean. If not, deep clean it (this should be part of your regular pool maintenance routine). Depending on the type of filter you have, you might want to replace or replenish the filter media.
5. Let the Bottom Drains Do Some WorkNo matter how good your skimmer and pool vacuum is, they probably won’t be able to rid your pool of all the bottom sediment. But by turning on the bottom drains in your pool, you can allow them to divert all the sediment to your filter.
And if you don’t have bottom drains, hook up your vacuum cleaner and place it at the center of your pool on the bottom. Then flip it upside down. Doing this will cause your filter to pull water from the bottom of the pool. Then you can release it through the return jet.
6. Test it!
Use a test strip to test each of the chemicals in your pool and adjust them until the pool water is balanced.
If the cloudy water in your pool isn’t too bad, you can try taking a shortcut. Purchase a pool flocculant and use it in your pool. It will cause all of the debris in your pool to sink to the bottom. Once it does, vacuum it out. Then top off your water and balance it.
Don’t Let Cloudy Pool Water Affect Your Fun
You bought a swimming pool because you love diving into the cool, crisp water and letting the feeling of relaxation spread over you. And that’s why it’s so good to know that cloudy pool water doesn’t have to ruin the day.
Now that you understand the causes, you can watch your pool closely, and if you see a problem, take action immediately.
After all, nothing should come between you and a good dip in the pool, should it?