It makes sense that this is one of the most common questions among pool owners today: will chlorine in my pool kill COVID-19? Whether cooped up at home or not, what all people who own pools have in common is that they love to swim—but only if it’s safe to do so. Thankfully, the consensus is unanimous: as long as you chlorinate and maintain your pool properly, the COVID-19 virus doesn’t stand a chance.
And let’s be real: during a crisis fueled by fear and doubt, it can be hard to know who to trust. So I turned to the true public health authorities, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). It’s not complicated, but if you’ve always been a little unsure about how to use chlorine, now is certainly the time to learn. While implementing expert recommendation, I’ll explain why chlorine is a reliable killer, how to choose the right chlorine for you, how much chlorine you need, how to add it to your pool, and how to make sure you’ve got it just right.
Will Chlorine in Your Pool Kill the COVID-19 Virus?
Yes, chlorine in your will kill the COVID-19 virus. That’s the short answer. However, the longer explanation is one you should also pay attention to, because chlorine will only kill the COVID-19 virus if it’s used and circulated properly.
“There is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread to humans through the use of pools and hot tubs. Proper operation, maintenance, and disinfections (e.g., with chlorine and bromine) of pools and hot tubs should remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.” - CDC
To ensure that you’ve removed or inactivated the COVID-19 virus, you just need to properly operate, maintain, and disinfect your pool. It’s easy, and totally worth it.
Operation and maintenance is a no-brainer, though you should be sure you’re running your pump the proper amount of time every day, troubleshooting when things go wrong, and routinely checking that there’s no debris clogging your system.
Science Lesson: How Does Chlorine Kill the COVID-19 Virus?
I won’t bore you with needless biological details, and anyway—I’m no scientist myself. So I’ll let the World Health Organization weigh in. What it comes down to is simple: because the COVID-19 virus cell has a fragile outer membrane, it’s easier to kill.
And chlorine is perfect for the job. It’s a tried and true killer of unwanted pathogens, and the right concentration is safe for humans. It’s even commonly used to sterilize drinking water. The same concept applies to swimming water. If only air itself could be effectively chlorinated—according to the CDC, the virus transmits while airborne.
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How to Choose Chlorine That Will Kill the COVID-19 Virus.
Here’s another short answer: all types of chlorine (or bromine, for your hot tub) will kill the COVID-19 virus—but of course, this only happens when you use the proper amount. Thankfully, chlorine is inexpensive, effective, and safe. Now that’s a recipe for any pool owner’s dreams.
As far as what kind of chlorine to use, the options are abundant as ever. However, chlorine tablets are usually more or less unanimously recommended by pool experts, as opposed to powder or liquid. The reason? They’re cost-efficient, they dispense chlorine at a steadier rate, and they’re simply the easiest to use. Consider the argument settled.
Chlorine tablets come in one-inch and three-inch sizes. For most pools, the three-inch size is best—they’re cheaper to use, and you can use fewer than you would one-inch tablets—after all, each three-inch tablet sanitizes a whopping 5,000 gallons.
If you have an outdoor pool, just make sure your chlorine is stabilized, or it’ll break down in the sun, and prove itself to be a dud. If you have an indoor pool, stabilized and unstabilized should work equally well, so you’re lucky. I mean, an indoor pool alone sounds pretty great to me—no need to open your pool at the beginning of the swim season.
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How to Determine How Much Chlorine Your Pool Needs.
The ideal chlorine combination of your pool should be between 1 and 3 parts per million (ppm). In order to kill COVID-19 and other pathogenic bacteria, you’ll want to make sure your chlorine concentration doesn’t fall below 1 ppm (though the World Health Organization recommends as little as .5 ppm). Go above 3 ppm, and your eyes, nose, lungs, and throat won’t thank you. Chlorine is definitely safe, but again: that’s dependent on how much you use.
Since each three-inch chlorine tablet sanitizes 5,000 gallons, you can add tablets based on your pool size and double-check the chlorine parts per million levels with test strips later. For the purposes of finding how many tablets your pool needs, round your volume up to the nearest 5,000—so you’re not undershooting it. If your pool has a capacity of 30,000 pounds, you’ll want to use six tablets (that’s one tablet for every 5,000 gallons). If only algebra was always this easy.
Get ready for more calculations, but only if you’re not sure how many gallons of water your pool contains. Scratching your head? Just multiply the length, width, and depth of your pool in feet, and then multiply that figure by 7.5 to convert the number to gallons. If you prefer formulas, follow the one below:
[Pool Length in Feet] x [Pool Width in Feet] x [Pool Depth in Feet] x 7.5 = [Volume of Your Pool in Gallons]
How to Add Chlorine to Your Pool—The Right Way.
There’s no use in adding the correct amount of chlorine to your pool if it’s not actually circulating the chemicals evenly throughout your system. Thankfully, you have options. There are two ways to ensure your chlorine is disseminated throughout your pool water—and any active trace of the COVID-19 virus is long gone. And here’s a hint: that floating chlorine dispenser you remember from your childhood isn’t one of them.
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Why That Floating Chlorine Dispenser Doesn’t Work
What’s the problem with floating chlorine dispensers? They’re just not consistent. When they get caught in one place, which they do, they release too much chlorine in one area of your pool. Plus, they don’t release water that is directly circulating through your larger system. With this device, some areas of your pool may be chlorinated enough to be COVID-19 free, but other areas might be well below the CDC-recommended concentration. Plus, they can destroy your pool liner.
If You’re Willing to Pay: the Automatic Chlorinator
Both the most sophisticated and costly chlorinating device on the market, the automatic chlorinator hooks up to your return line to sanitize water before it enters your pool. It also allows you to load the feeder with tablets in bulk, without worrying about how many. You then set it for a chlorine level of 1 ppm to 3 ppm (remember, that’s the recommended amount as determined by the CDC), and let it do the work. It’s easy to see why this method is a tried and true favorite of pool maintenance experts.
Keep It Simple: The Pool Skimmer
The pool skimmer method is the only one that allows you to drop in chlorine tablets and call it a day. However, you’re not dropping the correct amount of chlorine into your pool, but your pool skimmer, which looks like a little basket-lined bucket and is built into the side of the pool. While your pool filter is on, add in the tablets and watch sanitizing water push its way through your return jets, which will spread chlorine evenly throughout your pool.
Of course, although this method doesn’t require buying anything but the tablets, it’ll cost you in energy costs to run your filter while the tablets dissolve and circulate. My recommendation? Make a long-term investment that’ll save you significantly. Variable-speed pool pumps like this Energy-Star-certified model have the option of running for longer stretches of time at a cost-saving lower speed, and tend to pay themselves off in under two years.
How to Check Your Chlorine Balance.
The amount of chlorine you’re using should be accurate for your specific variables: your environment, how frequently the pool is used, and the natural water quality of your area. This is when test strips can be handy. I especially recommend them for when you’re just starting to gauge how much chlorine you need, or when you’re using a new method of circulating chlorine.
Most superstores, hardware stores, and pool-supply stores sell pool and hot tub test strips, which are inexpensive and couldn’t be simpler to use. Just dip them in water, swirl them around, and read the results within seconds. But as the CDC recommends, be sure you’re adhering to the expiration date on the package.
Don’t Skip Your Weekly Dose of Pool Shock.
Are you looking to treat your pool as much as possible? Again, adding extra chlorine won’t do much except give you additional physical irritation. But if you’re not already familiar with pool shock, now is the time to change your life.
The science here is simple: after a chlorine particle attacks and kills bacteria, it creates what we call a chloramine. This is an inactive particle that exists in your water until it can be broken apart by oxidation. That’s what pool shock is for.
You don’t need to use pool shock as continuously as you do chlorine, but I recommend at least once a week. It’ll clear out all the inactive particles and leave your pool water fresh. Just remember to add it at dusk or at night, or the sun will burn out the compound that makes it effective.
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Now That You’re Informed, Swim Without Stress
Once you’ve properly chlorinated your pool (and checked it with test strips), you’re good to go. And by go, I mean into the backyard for a cool, refreshing dive. Sure, nothing is safer than total isolation, but that’s not how most Americans are living—most of us are going to the grocery store, and receiving packages, and taking precautions along the way. But thanks to the powers of chlorination, if you’re looking for the safest place to avoid coronavirus, you might not need to look further than your own pool. Stay safe, have fun, and as much as you can, enjoy.