Get out your magnifying glass, detective. You might be well-versed in how to care for your pool, but you can’t turn water to milk—and you wouldn’t want to, anyway. So when you notice that your pool is looking more creamy than clear—just when you’re ready to dive in, no less—it can be pretty confusing. But don’t worry, it’s a common problem among pool owners. And though it does indicate that something is off with your greater circulation system, it’s fairly easy to diagnose the issue and get back on track. In this article, I’ll explain why a cloudy pool is not a problem to be overlooked, explain why it might’ve happened, and most importantly, how to fix it—and fast, too.
So My Pool’s Cloudy. Does It Even Matter?
Uh, yes. It absolutely does matter that your pool is cloudy. And though you might be tempted to, I would urge you not to add some pool flocculent or pool water clarifier and consider the task done. These will only perpetuate the problem, since they treat the cloudiness and not the actual underlying cause of that milky water.
In most cases, a cloudy pool indicates that your chemical balance is way off—and that means that the gunk your pool filter is supposed to weed out and/or the potentially harmful bacteria that your sanitizer is supposed to neutralize (whether that’s adding chlorine to your pool or using a salt generator) is largely living unchecked. And that’s surrounding you and yours on every swim. Not only is it gross, but it’s also potentially harmful. The last thing you want is to get sick from your pool. Are you with me now?
But Why is My Pool Water Cloudy in the First Place?
I know, it’s tempting to fix the problem and move on. But if you don’t determine the cause of cloudy water, it will strike again and again. Here are the potential culprits—and keep in mind that you’ll want to stay on top of these moving forward.
Debris & Algae Invading Your Pool
Those floating leaves are known to be annoying and even deterring for swimmers, but you don’t want to skim them out only when you’re about to cannonball. They actually make your sanitizer work much, much harder—and if they’re focused on the impossible task of breaking down a solid leaf, there’s a lot of smaller, more ill-willed bacteria that will be allow to float around undisturbed.
And don’t forget the contaminants that the swimmers leave behind: sweat, sunscreen, leave-in conditioners, moisturizers, and more can also suck up your sanitizer’s power. This is why it’s important to always check your levels and consistently add more chlorine as needed. If you skip a week and are already dealing with a fair amount of contaminants, that’s essentially offering up your pool house to dirty, dangerous, all-around-unwelcome cloudy water.
And if you have an algae bloom, you are in some serious hot water—whether you have a pool water heater or not. Unfortunately, it’s best not to swim with algae. Even though the algae itself usually isn’t toxic in residential pools, they cause a series of problems: they inhibit your sanitizer to seriously extreme degrees, and low visibility could lead to drowning. Yes, drowning. So really—if you have algae, keep out until you clear it up with sanitizing chemicals, pool shock, and a lot of scrubbing and vacuuming. Get it out of here.
Circulation System’s Busted
Uh oh. Better check your equipment and make sure that everything is in working order. Are there any leaks, or debris clogging the inside or outside of your pump? That would certainly explain why the sanitizing chemicals you’re using aren’t working.
If it’s your pump that’s dying, get ahead of the curve and get a variable-speed pump—it will essentially be required by federal law starting next year, and it pays itself off in energy saved. I recommend the 2HP Energy Star Variable Speed In-Ground Blue Torrent Cyclone Pump, which is the most economical pump on the market, is available for rebates, and comes with a lifetime warranty.
The cause of your cloudy water could also be that your circulation system isn’t busted, exactly—it’s just run too little per day. Make sure you’re running your pump daily for the correct amount of time, which is typically eight hours but could vary based on your pool’s specific circumstances.
Is the problem with your above-ground pump? These are notorious for not starting up due to electrical issues. Try the Copper Force Above Ground Pool Pump, which has a start capacitor to circumvent this very issue. According to customer Doug Paar, “The pump is very quiet and has good pressure. I would recommend.”
Pool Chemistry’s Off
Pool chemistry is the heart and soul of a cloudy pool issue—but you don’t have to be a science whiz to fix the problem. It’s especially important to check your pool’s pH level. Chances are, it’s too high, meaning the water is less acidic and more basic than it should be. Although “soft water” might sound like a good thing, it can actually make it difficult for your sanitizer to work, causing bacteria growth and cloudiness.
One cause of an out-of-whack pH level is alkalinity, which also works as a stabilizer. Both high alkalinity and high pH can seriously wreck your pool, especially metal and vinyl materials.
You also want to check that your calcium isn’t too high—it’ll flake if you have too much, clog up your filtration system, and yes—cloud your water.
If you’re really having to blast your pool water with chlorine, you’re also creating a serious amount of chloramines, which are the noxious (and frankly, obnoxious) byproducts of chlorine. These lead to skin, lung, and throat irritation, and also prevent chlorine from working. I know, sort of like a chicken and egg problem. But you can clear your pool of chloramines by shocking it... ah, but here I am spoiling my own article. Next, I’ll explain how to fix that cloudy water.
How to Fix Cloudy Pool Water
Okay, enough diagnosing—I think you get the point. Now that you understand the underlying causes of cloudiness (and yes, oftentimes one of these issues will lead to the others), you can come back to your DIY pool maintenance routine with renewed knowledge to keep your water flowing safely. Now, let’s blast out that cloudiness—for it to never return again. High five.
Even without blockage, is your pool water barely moving? If a larger horsepower will turn over your water volume at a sufficient rate—and won’t overwhelm your filtration system—then a more powerful unit like this Blue Torrent 2 HP Variable-Speed Pump is the one to try. As customer Bill Britton says, “Runs great. Super quiet.”
Commit to a Deep Clean
First, let’s knock out the grunt work—it’ll make the rest of the steps here all the more effective. Scrub your pool floors and walls using a brush like the patented 360-Degree Bristles Pool Brush, which was developed by pool maintenance experts to help get tight corners without any of the aches or pains associated with a good clean.
Once you’ve scrub-a-dubbed, remove large debris like leaves and twigs with a skimmer net on a telescopic pole, and vacuum—or, if you’ve invested for the long haul, turn on your robotic pool cleaner.
If algae is the culprit in your pool, make sure you vacuum to waste or clean out your robotic cleaner immediately. That’s the kind of gunk you DON’T want ever circulating back out. No, thank you.
Shock Those Clouds Away
If there was ever a time (and by the way, that time is usually once a week), it’s now. Go ahead and shock your pool to get rid of the excess chloramines—and keep it simple with affordable and effective shock conveniently sectioned into 1 lb. bags. This will also sort out the cloudiness caused by bacteria, algae, and other contaminants.
If you’re dealing with algae, get ready to double or even triple the amount of shock you’re using—and wait for your water to clear up before swimming, which could take about a day. But at least you know how long it’ll take ahead of time, and can get to other tasks—sorry, DMV, jury duty, and every other bureaucratic holding cell.
The Filter Is Your Friend
Oh, pool filter... where would we be without you? For clearing up cloudy water, this part of your pool’s greater circulation system is huge. Give it the boost that it needs by deep cleaning it out by backwashing your filter (or if you have a cartridge filter, cleaning the cartridge), or replacing your filter media before running it again—and the best time to do this is after you’ve shocked your pool to make sure the extra sanitizer has reached your filter.
Is water not pushing through your filter properly because your pump’s flow rate is weak? Try a booster pump like the dual-voltage Universal Booster Pump to increase performance. According to customer Jerad Wilson, “Great pump, quick delivery, and great pricing. Would buy from here again.”
Let the Bottom Drains Do Their Job
Make sure that any debris that your vacuum missed is properly flushed out by turning on your bottom drains, and wave that gunk goodbye. If you have a super-efficient robotic cleamer like the Blue Torrent MyBot In-Ground Robotic Pool Cleaner, you can probably skip this step.
Only an in-ground pool has bottom drains, but if you have a manual pool vacuum, you can flip it over on the center of the bottom of your pool to suck out debris that way instead. Nice trick, huh?
Test Your Chemicals!
Now that you’ve blasted away the cloudy-bearing bacteria, it’s time to make sure it’s real by checking your water chemical levels with test strips. If you find that you’re off, make the necessary adjustments and finish off the job.
Except for built-up debris, the causes for cloudy water all go back to the chemical balance of your pool water—and even with debris hidden inside your pipes or pump, if you tested your pool water frequently, you’d know there was an issue before you realized your pool looked murky. I’m always happy to help, but it would be great to never see you on this page again.
Back to Sparkling Water—Let’s Keep It This Way.
Now that you’ve tracked the cause of your murky pool and followed the necessary steps, your water is effectively reset—and this is the kind of blank slate any pool owner can get used to. The only clouds you have to worry about from here on out are the ones in the sky. Enjoy.