Pee, Poop, Sweat & Dirt: A Guide to a Safe and Sanitary Pool

Safe and Sanitary Pool Guide

Summer days can make the blue cool waters of a swimming pool look very inviting. But before you take the plunge, keep in mind that these pools may not be as clean as you think they are.WAIT. Dirty swimming pools? You heard right. You’d be surprised how much yucky stuff is found in a swimming pool, whether it’s a public pool or the pool you own. Things like pee, poop, sweat and dirt can all make their way into a pool. But don’t start draining the water just yet. This article will shed some light on how dirty a pool can get and the preventative measures you can take to ensure your watery haven is safe and sanitary.

What’s That Smell?

Does the intense smell of chlorine water take you back to your childhood and the hot summers you spent swimming? That smell you chalked up to regular pool maintenance—a sure sign it was properly being taken care of—is, in fact, an old wives tale. That strong smell of chlorine is actually the pool chemicals mixing the residue that people leave behind—we’re talking about urine, sweat, dirt, fecal particles, germs, and bacteria.

Did You Know…?

According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, people who don’t shower or rinse before entering a pool can bring and spread E. coli or other bacteria? While you think the pool is clean and maintained, all it takes is for one person who hasn’t showered and who has been sick or is currently sick with diarrhea to welcome E. coli, Cryptosporidium and other harmful germs into the water.

In addition, when you suddenly find yourself with red eyes and a runny nose while you’re in your nautical state, don’t chalk it up to there being too much chlorine in the water. In fact, it means that the water doesn’t have ENOUGH chlorine and that sweat, dirt, poop, and pee are making their way into your eyes, mouth and nose. (Insert the vomit emoji right here.)

Did you also know that diarrhea is the most common recreational water illness? Not drinking the pool water is a universal rule, but it does happen from time to time. This is the number one way to contract diarrhea during a swimming session. Talk about a party pooper (Get it?).

Safety Measures and Procedures

Take a Quick Shower

Before jumping into any pool, it’s strongly suggested that you take a quick shower to rid yourself of any unwanted germ or bacteria particles that you may unknowingly have. Even a one-minute rinse before diving in can remove much of the sweat and body gunk that reacts with chlorine.

Take Children on Potty Breaks 

Toddlers and children still in diapers need to be taken out of the pool periodically for potty breaks. Even if your kid has a swimming diaper on and decides to use it, that doesn’t guarantee nothing will spread into your pool. The result? Something called Giardia, which is not pleasant. Basically, Giardia is a nasty parasite that enjoys causing diarrhea, cramping, bloating, and fatigue to those it infects. A lot of people compare Giardia to food poisoning but worse. Food poisoning can last a day or two; Giardia, on the other hand, can last for weeks.

Got The Runs? Stay Out of the Pool!

This may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people enter a pool when they’re having or have recently had bowel problems. Fecal particles, germs, bacteria from your illness can spread into the pool and cause other swimmers to become ill. So I hate to break it to you, but if you’re sick or just getting over being sick, then I’m afraid you’ll have to stick to the sidelines until you’re in the clear health wise.

Don’t Pee

I’m sure you’re familiar with the tale your parents told you when you got into a pool. If you peed in the pool, the water would change color and you’d be caught red-handed! Surprise: you parents lied to you. To be fair, I’m sure it was their way of trying to discourage you from doing your business inside the pool. Unfortunately, it’s very common today for people to pee in a pool. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found a shocking amount of pee inside community pools. In fact, scientists calculated that one 220,000-gallon commercial-size swimming pool contained almost 20 gallons of urine. In a standard residential pool, that would translate to about two gallons of pee.

Before you run out of your pool screaming in disgust, let me remind you that the chlorine mixed in your pool water is there for a reason. Chlorine has the capability of killing microorganisms, keeping your pool clean from a lot of different types of germs. So if the upkeep of your pool includes proper amounts of chlorine, then pee shouldn’t pose such a huge threat.

Poop in the Pool? Everybody Out!

“Please let that be a Snickers bar in the pool!”

If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation where somebody decided that doing their #2 business in the pool was the perfect place to do it, the first thing you do is this: Get everyone out of the pool immediately. Once the pool is clear from people, it’s imperative that the fecal matter try to be removed entirely from the pool. We recommend a net and bucket when doing this and NOT a vacuum. Next, you must shock your pool. Shock the heck out of it. Raise your Free Chlorine levels by at least 2 parts per million and hold it at that level for at least 30-40 minutes before letting people back in.

Now that I’ve thoroughly grossed you out, this is in no way discouraging you from swimming in a pool again. Pools are meant to be fun, relaxing, and a great way to invite friends and family over for an afternoon barbecue. The purpose of this article is to let you know that even though your pool might look clean, it’s probably not as clean as you make it out to be. And of course, accidents happen. No matter how icky the accident might be, there’s always a solution to make your pool swim-able again. Oh, and one more thing. After you’re done partying in your pool kingdom, always take a shower to get rid of all the germs and bacteria you may have picked up. Result? You’re less likely to get sick. Score one for hygiene!

We have some great articles on pool maintenance that you should take a look at—especially if you’ve got a pool party in the near future. After all, a clean and sanitary pool is what we aim for.

Happy Sanitary Swimming!

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Rachel Godoy
Rachel enjoys talking pool shop and sharing her knowledge of the industry to anyone who's willing to listen. Aside from her love of pools, Rachel enjoys travelling the world, watching under the radar films, playing video games, and fostering animals of all kinds.