How to Identify and Remove Organic Stains From Your Pool

Sorry grocery shoppers, but organic isn’t always a good thing. At least when it comes to the stains tarnishing your pool walls and floors. No matter how gleaming the rest of your pool walls and floors look, any kind of greenish brown or bluish red stain is going to make your water look, well, kind of gross.

The good thing about organic stains is that they’re usually not coming from disgusting sources (yes, I said usually). Unfortunately, they will compromise the effectiveness of your sanitizer if left unaddressed, which will lead to a myriad of bad outcomes. But they’re actually really easy to remove once you know what you’re doing. And the sooner you remove them, the better for your chemical balance.

I’ll explain what organic pool stains are, how to be sure that you have them, and how to get rid of them—quickly, easily, and before they start to suck up all those chemicals you add to your water.

What Are Organic Pool Stains, Anyway?

We call these organic pool stains to distinguish from their same-result, different-source cousins, metal stains. Unlike metal stains, which often come from traces of metal in a pool owner’s water supply, organic pool stains are the result of organic debris, such as leaves and berries. These stains form when debris settles onto pool floors, or in less common cases, even against pool walls.

While all pools contain microscopic bacteria that is invisible to the human eye, organic pool stains are noticeable—and no matter how clean the rest of your pool is, the presence of a stain will call the rest of your pool’s cleanliness into question. Unfortunately, organic pool stains actually can be an indicator that your pool isn’t quite as maintained as you thought.

Why Are Organic Pool Stains Harmful?

Organic pool stains are harmful for two reasons: First of all, they indicate that you might be sleeping on a robust pool maintenance schedule. Secondly, their presence can begin to affect your sanitizer, or signal that it already needs a boost.

Remember, organic stains form when debris like leaves and berries are able to sit in your pool for an extended period of time. They need enough time to settle before they actually leave a stain. And that means that unless they entered your pool at exactly the right time, the skimming that you do once a day and the brushing that you do three times a week isn’t as thorough as you might have expected. And if that’s the case, then your sanitizer might already be compromised.

In order to understand how skimming, brushing, and sanitizer is linked, think about the job your sanitizer is charged with: find bacteria, including the kind that could potentially make swimmers sick, and neutralize it. Usually, this bacteria is microscopic, and that’s the typical size sanitizer was developed for.

But large pieces of debris, such as leaves and berries, are way out of the sanitizer’s league. So what happens? Well, your sanitizer will focus on these organisms and try to neutralize them until it’s exhausted and has no juice left for the microscopic bad guys.

That’s just one reason why skimming and brushing your pool keeps your pool chemicals working at their optimal levels at a consistent rate. Stay on top of those stages of maintenance, and you’ll find yourself spending less money and time on pool chemicals—and more energy to enjoy your pool.

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How to Identify Organic Pool Stains

So how do you know what kind of debris has caused your organic stains? It all goes back to one classic characteristic: color. While I know it’s probably tempting to skip to the next section and test out whether or not a stain is organic, I encourage you to understand just what is coming into your pool and causing this nasty-looking outcome.

The reason why I think it’s helpful to identify the organic source of pool stains is for prevention. If you’re finding that your stains are usually leaves from a nearby tree, it might be time to trim it back, or to use a pool cover during the fall season. If you’re finding that your stains are berries from a nearby bush, it might be helpful to pick them as soon as they’re ripe. If you’re finding that your stains are coming from a neighbor sneaking into your pool late at night—well, I can’t help you with that one.

Want to get rid of the mustard algae in your pool? Learn more here. And if you want to get rid of white water mold, here is the solution.

Green and Brown Stains

Green and brown stains are usually caused by leaves, stems, or any other kind of plant matter.

Red and Blue Stains

If you’ve got red and blue stains, consider yourself lucky. It means you have a berry tree or bush, or another kind of fun fruit-bearing plant nearby. It’s usually berries that create these colored stains.

Watch Out for Copper!

If you have blue, green, or black stains in your pool (or a mixture of the three) it’s very possible that you have a mixture or organic debris such as leaves and berries. But it can also be a stain of another breed: a metal stain, or more specifically, copper.

Metal stains usually enter the pool through its water supply, but copper stains in particularly often come from algaecide, which usually contain copper. If you’re seeing stains this color and you use algaecide (or you don’t use a metal filter on your garden hose when you top off your pool), it’s time to read up on how to get metal stains out of your pool.

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Not Sure It’s Organic? Put It to the Test

Not sure if the stain (or stains, yikes) you’ve got is organic or metal? All you have to do to know for sure is apply a small amount of chlorine directly to the stain. If the stain easily begins to come off under chlorine, you’ve got an organic stain. If it doesn’t seem to budge under chlorine, it’s more likely to be a metal stain.

How to Get Rid of Organic Pool Stains—In Six Steps

Now that you know that the stain you’re looking at comes from organic debris, and you know that it’s best to remove the stain as soon as possible, it’s time to put knowledge to action. You’re about to find out one more thing: it’s easy to remove organic stains.

 1. It’s a Test

First, you want to use water test strips to confirm your chemical levels. It’s important to keep an eye out especially for your alkalinity and pH levels. Alkalinity should be between 100 and 150 parts per million (ppm), with an ideal level of 125 ppm. pH should be between 7.4 and 7.6, with an ideal level of 7.5. If your chemical levels are off, rebalance them.

 2. Shocking!

Next, it’s time to add pool shock to your pool. You can use a normal dose, a double dose, or a triple dose depending on the severity of the stain(s) you’re dealing with. Since a normal dose is 1 pound of pool shock per 10,000 gallons of water, a double dose would be 2 pounds of pool shock per 10,000 gallons of water, and a triple dose would be (you guessed it!) 3 pounds of pool shock per 10,000 gallons of water.

Once you’ve determined how much pool shock you need based on how many gallons of water your pool contains, walk slowly around the perimeter of the pool and distribute the pool shock into the water. You want to do this at dusk or else the sun will stop the shock from working, so do this next step and then call it a day.

3. Brush, Brush, Brush

While the shock is still dissipating in your pool, brush the stain. It’ll also help to brush the entire pool down for any other organic material you might not be catching. You want to make sure all that organic debris is coming up off the floors and walls and into the newly-shocked water. Every corner counts here, so I recommend using the patented 360-Degree Bristles Pool Brush. No need to crouch or strain with this one.

4. Let the Pump Run

Let your pool pump run for about eight hours. This will help to circulate all the shock you just added to your water. See you in the morning!

5. Brush, Brush, Brush… Again

Whew. I really hope you got that brush I recommended, because it’s time to brush again. Focus on the stain, but it’s also a great opportunity to brush down every part of the pool. No corner or stair is safe.

6. Rinse, Wash: Repeat

If you’re still seeing stains, it’s time to repeat the process. Just keep shocking and brushing until they’re gone—and this time, let’s make sure they’re gone for good.

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Back in Business!

See you never, stains. While this was a fairly straightforward process, it could also get a little time-consuming. Thankfully, you know where your organic stains are coming from, so you can prevent a repeat of this particular process. Great job. Enjoy your pool as it should be: unstained, clean, and crystal clear.

This article provides instructions for effectively backwashing your pool filter. And if you're interested in learning how to clean your pool's bottom? Click here.