Can You Swim in a Cloudy Pool? What You Should Know

Swimming in a clear, sparkling pool is an enjoyable activity for many of us. However, we’ve all encountered that moment when the pool water looks cloudy and murky, leaving us to wonder, “is it safe to swim in that?” In general, experts suggest that swimming in cloudy pool water is not entirely safe, but there might be exceptions.

Can You Swim in a Cloudy Pool

Cloudy pool water can be caused by various factors, including poor filtration, imbalanced pH levels, or algae growth. While it may not always be dangerous to swim in a cloudy pool, cloudiness indicates underlying issues that could pose potential risks to your health. Therefore, it is recommended to address the cause of the cloudiness before jumping in for a swim.

To help you decide whether it is safe to swim in a cloudy pool, in this article we will go over the causes and potential risks associated with such water conditions, as well as offer practical advice on how to properly maintain your pool water and ensure a safe swimming environment.

Risks of Swimming in a Cloudy Pool

Illness and Infection

Cloudy pool water can be a sign that the pool’s chemical balance is off, particularly concerning chlorine or other sanitizers. 

Chlorine plays a crucial role in keeping pool water clean by neutralizing harmful bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. When the water becomes cloudy, it can mean that the chlorine levels have dipped below what’s needed to effectively kill off these microorganisms. 

Swimming in unsanitized water exposes swimmers to a variety of health risks, from minor skin irritations or infections to more serious conditions caused by harmful pathogens. 

For instance you can even get a UTI or stomach bug. This may be due to the presence of bacteria such as E. coli or giardia in the water. These bacteria can cause symptoms such as stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea, and pain or burning when urinating.

Skin, Eye, and Ear Irritations

A pool’s chemical balance isn’t just about sanitizers like chlorine. There’s a whole ecosystem of chemicals at work, including pH levels, alkalinity, and calcium hardness, to name a few. When these levels are out of balance, it can result in cloudy water. 

Apart from the cloudiness, an imbalanced pool can lead to a host of other problems. Swimmers might experience skin, eye, and ear irritations. For those with sensitive conditions, such as asthma, imbalances can trigger or exacerbate symptoms. 

Furthermore, an imbalanced chemical mix can harm the pool’s physical structure and equipment. Metals present in the water can cause staining, and high calcium levels can lead to scaling, both of which affect the pool’s appearance and longevity.

Increased Risk of Injury

One of the primary concerns when swimming in a cloudy pool is the reduced visibility. When the water becomes murky, it becomes challenging to see through to the bottom. This obscured vision presents several risks. 

For starters, if there were any submerged objects or toys in the pool, swimmers could inadvertently trip or collide with them, leading to potential injuries.

Children who dive into the water without checking the depth can make a fatal mistake if the cloudy water makes it hard to judge the depth.

Additionally, in situations where a swimmer might be in distress or has sunk to the bottom, the clouded water can make it nearly impossible for others to notice and help them in time. 

What Causes Cloudy Pool Water?

Chemical Imbalance

Cloudy pool water can be a result of various chemical imbalances. One of the most common reasons is an improper level of chlorine, which is essential for keeping your pool water clean and clear. 

When there are not enough chlorine molecules to neutralize contaminants, your pool may become cloudy. On the other hand, excessive chlorine levels can also cause cloudiness, as high concentrations can lead to the formation of chlorine byproducts that contribute to haze.

Another chemical aspect is the pH level, which measures the acidity or alkalinity of your pool water. Imbalanced pH levels can cause cloudiness due to the reduced efficiency of chlorine and the precipitation of calcium carbonate. 

Similarly, high levels of calcium hardness can cause scaling on your pool surfaces and lead to murky water.

Equipment Malfunction

Equipment malfunctions, such as a faulty or clogged filter, can also contribute to cloudy pool water. 

The main function of the pool filter is to remove impurities and contaminants from your water, ensuring its clarity. If the filter is not working correctly, these particles will remain in the water, causing cloudiness. Regular maintenance and cleaning of your pool’s filter system can help prevent this issue.

Debris, like leaves, dirt, and other foreign materials, can also make the water appear cloudy. Using a pool cover and skimmer can effectively reduce the amount of debris entering your pool, maintaining clear water.

Algae and Bacteria

Biological elements, such as algae and bacteria, play a significant role in causing cloudy pool water. 

Algae can multiply rapidly and cloud your pool water if there is inadequate sanitization or an imbalance in the water chemistry. In addition to making your pool look unappealing, algae can also create a slippery surface that poses a danger to swimmers.

Bacteria and other harmful microorganisms can proliferate in cloudy water, posing potential health risks to swimmers. These microorganisms can cause infections, rashes, and other illnesses if ingested or come into contact with the skin.

Calcium and Water Hardness

One factor affecting pool water clarity is the level of calcium and water hardness. High calcium levels can cause your pool water to look cloudy and lead to scaling. To maintain clear water, you’ll need to test and adjust the calcium hardness levels regularly. 

A water testing kit can help you determine the proper amounts of calcium and hardness, ensuring a well-balanced pool. In addition, using a pool shock treatment can eliminate any existing calcium buildup, keeping your pool sparkling clean.

Oils and Personal Care Products

Another factor contributing to cloudy pool water is the presence of oils and personal care products from swimmers. Sunscreens, lotions, and natural body oils can accumulate in your pool, reducing water clarity. 

To minimize these effects, encourage guests to rinse off before entering the pool. Regular maintenance, including the use of an automatic pool cleaner and the addition of a pool clarifier, can also help break down these oils and improve water clarity.

How to Prevent and Treat Cloudy Pool Water


Sometimes, despite your best efforts, the pool can get cloudy anyways. Not to worry. To clear up a cloudy pool, follow these steps:

  1. Test the Water: Use a pool testing kit to check pH levels, chlorine levels, alkalinity, and calcium hardness. This will give you a clear indication of any imbalances.
  2. Adjust Chemical Levels: Based on the test results, adjust the pool’s chemical levels. This might involve adding chlorine, pH up or down solutions, or other chemicals.
  3. Shock the Pool: Consider giving your pool a “shock” treatment using pool chlorine or a non-chlorine shock product. This helps kill bacteria and algae and restores water clarity.
  4. Use a Pool Clarifier style=”font-weight: 400;”>: A pool clarifier binds tiny particles, making them easier for the filter to catch.
  5. Improve Filtration: Ensure that the pool filter is clean and functioning optimally. Running the filter 24/7 until clarity is restored can be helpful.
  6. Brush and Vacuum: Brush the sides and bottom of the pool to remove any settled debris. Follow this with a thorough vacuuming.
  7. Avoid Overcrowding: Too many swimmers can introduce oils, lotions, and other contaminants that contribute to cloudiness.

Afterwards, continue following the steps outlined in the “Prevention” section to keep your pool water nice and clear.


Prevention is always better than cure. Here are some preventative measures to ensure your pool remains clear:

  1. Regular Testing: Test your pool’s water regularly, ideally once a week, and adjust chemicals as needed.
  2. Maintain the Filter: Clean and backwash the pool filter regularly. Ensure you’re using the right size filter and pump for your pool volume.
  3. Regular Cleaning: Brush and vacuum your pool at least once a week. This helps in removing debris and contaminants that could lead to cloudiness.
  4. Shock the Pool: Regularly shock your pool (typically once a week during peak usage or after heavy use) to kill off bacteria and contaminants.
  5. Maintain Proper Water Levels: Ensure that your pool’s water level is optimal. Low water levels can affect the efficiency of the skimmer and filter system.
  6. Avoid Phosphate Build-Up: Phosphates can be a food source for algae. Use phosphate removers if necessary.
  7. Educate Swimmers: Ask swimmers to shower before entering the pool and avoid bringing in lotions or oils that can contribute to water cloudiness.
  8. Cover the Pool: When not in use, especially in areas with a lot of trees or during windy days, covering the pool can prevent debris and contaminants from entering the water.

By implementing these preventive measures and maintaining a regular pool care routine, you can significantly reduce the chances of your pool becoming cloudy.


Photo Credit: Dan Harrelson (CC BY 2.0)