Bather Discomfort

Skin irritation, stinging eyes, sore throat

There are three possible causes and they're all to do with water balance - use your test kit to see which is the most probable

1st possibility - incorrect pH.  The water could be too acidic or too alkaline. The pH of the eye is around 7.4 - 7.5 - anything much above or below this level will irritate the eyes of bathers

Cure: - Adjust the pH


2nd possibility - High levels of Combined Chlorine (chloramines).  Chloramines are an irritant and if you get unpleasant Chlorine smells reminiscent of the old Public Pools its almost certain that the problem is due to high chloramines

Cure: - Superchlorinate the pool to react-out the chloramines

Note: - This is a very common problem, especially in commercial or busy pools. When Chlorine combines with organic debris - such as is found in pool water, provided there is enough Chlorine, this organic material is oxidised into nitrogen gas and chloride salts. Nitrogen gas is tasteless, colourless, and odourless, and high levels of chlorides merely impart a slight salty taste to the water and actually improves the water quality

If, however, there is insufficient Chlorine, or very high levels of organic material are present, the normal process of oxidation is not fully completed.  Instead of rapidly oxidizing the organic material to harmless by-products, the oxidation process is swamped by the high level of organics.  The oxidation process slows down and starts producing chloramines; compounds of Chlorine combined with organic material

(An analogy of this is a garden bonfire.  If the bonfire burns out completely there is little smell associated with it.  If, however, rain puts the fire out, before it has completely burned through, the whole mess stinks - because the combustion process is incomplete.)

Instead of Nitrogen gas and Chloride salts being produced, Nitrogen Trichloride gas is produced.  Nitrogen Trichloride is a type of tear-gas, and gives the bather sore eyes. It is this pungent gas which produces the harsh Public Baths smell so often confused with high levels of Chlorine

It is not sufficient to simply test for Free Chlorine, especially at a commercial or heavily used pool. The level of Combined Chlorine Compounds, known as Chloramines, must also be checked. The maximum acceptable level of Chloramines is 1 ppm. A correctly operated pool should be able to maintain a Chloramine level of 0.5 ppm or less

High levels of Chloramines will "soak up" free Chlorine residuals very quickly, causing the situation to worsen, and increase overall chemical consumption


3rd possibility - incompatible detergents used for cleaning the pool sides and removing scum lines (tide-marks). The resulting chemical reactions can cause eye and skin irritation.  Similar reactions can occur if soap or shampoo gets into the water, e.g. if bathers jump in to rinse, except that in this case the reactions take place directly on the skin - Ouch! 

Cure: - Superchlorinate to react-out the detergents. Change to cleaners that are chlorine compatible or stop using them altogether and open up a can of elbow grease

A green tinge to blond or tinted hair

Caused by - an excess of copper in the pool, either from copper-based algaecides or from corroding copper fittings in the circulation system

Cure: - Discover the source of the copper pollution.  If the source is corroding copper fittings it is likely that the pH of the pool is too low. Replace the fittings with PVC and correct the pH.  Wash the affected hair with warm water containing a solution of aspirin

Note: - If the source of the copper is an algaecide it will be necessary to dilute the copper by replacing half of your pool water, or to use a metal sequestering agent

Do not use algaecide unless you suffer an attack of algae.  Most Multi-Action Chlorine tablets contain an algaecide and are frequently the source of copper, often at levels high enough to stain grout and plaster blue

Trichloro, regular fortnightly Superchlorination and a correct pH are all you really need to keep algae away


Allergic reaction to Chlorine

An allergy is a ‘hypersensitivity to a substance’ and the offending substance is known as an ‘allergen’.  Before making any radical and expensive changes to the way in which you sanitize your pool, be sure that you really are suffering from an allergy and not something else. The discomfort could be caused by something else like incorrect pH or excessive chloramines. See the ‘Skin irritation, stinging eyes or sore throat’ section above

Try using another pool sanitized with Chlorine and see if you get the same reactions. If you don't suffer the same discomfort your pool water is the most likely culprit

Chloramines are formed by the breakdown of nitrogenous compounds such as perspiration, cosmetics, mucus, etc. when free Chlorine reacts with them. The chloramines are eventually broken down into harmless substances

However, the reactions will take place on the skin if, e.g., you have been exercising or sweating.  Wash nitrogenous compounds from your skin by showering before entering the pool.  You will find the pool water much more comfortable

If these suggestions don’t help alleviate the problem, then you may be one of the very few who experience an allergic reaction to Chlorine. Chlorine is unlikely to be the original or primary allergen, but those suffering from allergies can unfortunately find themselves sensitised by Chlorine

Cure: - If you have a genuine allergy to Chlorine the only remedy is to change to non-Chlorine sanitation

Note: Some alternative sanitizers require the periodic use of Chlorine


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For free and unbiased advice, a site visit or no-obligation Quotation*, please make initial enquiries by email. Tell us a little about your pool problem and include a daytime phone number. Thanks, we look forward to meeting you soon

We supply all plant and equipment featured on this website, including what you see on this page.

All our work is Guaranteed; Parts and Labour

For free and unbiased advice, a site visit or no-obligation Quotation*, please make initial enquiries by email. Tell us a little about your pool problem and include a daytime phone number. Thanks, we look forward to meeting you soon

We only offer Quotations: - a fixed, agreed price that cannot, and will not, be increased. We do not give 'estimates', as an estimate offers no guarantee of final price.


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Ken Walker - MyPoolGuru©