Water Clarity Problems

Why is my pool cloudy/milky?

There are four possible causes - your test kit or pool professional will give you the best idea as to which is the most likely.

  • Fine suspended particles floating in the water can lead to a milky white discoloration. This is likley due to a precipitation of dissolved hardness salts as result of high pH or high total alkalinity, or both. (Precipitation is a process where dissolved minerals become transformed into very small solid particles).
    • Lower the pH or alkalinity using dry acid.
    • To correct pH, add dry acid at a rate of 1 pound per 10,000 gallons per day  until correct level is attained.
    • To correct alkalinity, the dose should be doubled.

It is important to add the acid a little at a time because both pH and Alkailinty will be lowered by dry acid. And always treat the Alkalinity FIRST.


  • Build up of dirt and bather pollution due to insufficient chlorine or poor filtration
    • Backwash filter, then superchlorinate by adding an unstabilized chlorine such as sodium hypochlorite or calcium hypochlorite to raise the free chlorine to 10ppm.
    • Add a clarifier to polish the water.
  • The effectiveness of the chlorine has been reduced in pools using stabilized chlorine because the water is over-stabilized, meaning the levels of stabilizer (cyanuric acid) are too high. This prolongs the time it takes to kill organisms which can proliferate and lead to haziness in the water.
    • Replace some of the pool water by draining to waste (or carrying out an extra large backwash), then top up with fresh water. This will lower levels of stabilizer.
    • Superchlorinate to 10ppm using the products recommended above.
  • The filter is blocked or is ineffective
    • Check sand and replace if necessary. Your pool professional should be called in if you do not feel you are able to replace filter sand.
    • Sand particles can become coated with calcium in some circumstances, especially in hard water areas. If the filter is not blocked and seems all in order in all other respects, treat with a filter cleanser to increase the filtration properties the sand.
Why is my water cloudy/green?

At some stage, chlorine levels have fallen, or chlorine has become ineffective, allowing algae to form in the water.

    • Shock (superchlorinate) with an unstabilized chlorine such as calcium hypochlorite or sodium hypochlorite, or use an algeacide. Shock dosing usually produces the fastest results. For greenish discolorations (where the water is no more than tinted green), superchlorinate to 10ppm. For more serious problems, where the water is pea-soup green and the bottom is not visible, shock in a 2 stage dose 6 hours apart. This will kill the algae.
    • Brush off any algae that may remain on pool surfaces. Look for growth behind steps or ladders and around underwater lighting.
    • Backwash the filter or clean cartridge 24 hours after treatment to remove dead algae from the filter media.

Thereafter maintain chlorine at around 3ppm to prevent a recurrence.

    • A regular treatment program of an algaecide or a chlorine with added algaecide is recommended for all pools. Consult your pool professional for the best treatment for your pool.

Bather Discomfort Problems

Why do my eyes burn/sting?

There are three possible causes - your test kit or pool professional can help you to see which is the most probable.

  • This could well be a pH problem - the water could be too acidic or too alkaline. The pH of the human eye is around 7.4-7.5 - anything higher or lower will irritate.
    • Correct the pH. To lower the pH, add dry acid at a rate of 1 pound per 10,000 gallons per day until correct reading is obtained.
    • To raise pH, dose at the same rate with soda ash.
  • High combined chlorine. Chloramines are known to be an irritant. Note carefully the results you get on your DPD no3 test. Also, if you get an unpleasant chlorine smell, its odds on that the problem is due to high chloramines.
    • Break the chloramines down by superchlorinating the pool.
    • Aim to allow no more than one third of the total chlorine to be in the form of combined chlorine.
  • Some detergents used for cleaning pool sides and removing scum lines are incompatible with chlorine. The resulting reactions in the water can lead to eye and skin irritation. Similar reactions can occur if soaps or shampoos get into the water.
    • Superchlorinate to clear out the detergents.
    • Change to cleaners that are chlorine compatible or abandon their use. Ask your pool professional for advise ot these chemicals.
    • Have phosphate levels checked for your pool, as this could cause other problems with water balance.
Why is my blond or tinted hair turning green?

High levels of copper in the pool. This can arise either because of over-use of copper based algaecides, or because the pH of the pool water has been allowed to drop to a point at which it starts to corrode the copper in your pool equipment.

  • Correct the pH.
  • Treat your pool with a metal removing chemical. Ask your pool professional for advise on choosing this product.

Problems with Chlorine Levels

I have added chlorine, so why is there no reading on the test kit?

These are the two most likely causes.

  • The chlorine level in the pool is so high that it bleaches the coloring agent in the test kit.
    • Determine the approximate level of chlorine by diluting the sample of pool water with an equal quantity of natural or distilled water; multiply the answer by 2. If there is still no reading, repeat the process and multiply the answer by 4...and so on.
    • If the actual chlorine reading is not too high (i.e. around 10ppm), suspend dosing and allow it to drop over a period of time.
    • If the chlorine reading is significantly higher, the chlorine level should be lowered. The best way is through dillution (adding fresh water) of the pool water.
  • High  levels of ammonia in the pool water.

See a pool professional for advice on the treatment of ammonia.

Why is my chlorine level difficult to maintain?

There are three possible causes.

  • In outdoor pools, the hypochlorous acid (free chlorine) is being decomposed by ultra violet from the sun's rays.
    • For pools using liquid chlorine (sodium hypochlorite) or calcium hypochlorite, add stabilizer (cyanuric acid). This should be dosed directly into the pool, NOT pre-mixed with the chlorine.
    • Alternatively, switch to a stabilised chlorine such as - dichlor granules or trichlor tablets
  • High water temperature. The logic is simple. Micro-organisims are more at home in warm water and breed more quickly. A greater number of organisims will create a greater and higher chlorine demand.
                As a rough rule of thumb to bear in mind if there is a heat wave,      if the pool water temperature goes above 80 degrees farenheit, the chlorine demand will double for each increment of 10 degrees.
    • The dose rate of chlorine must be increased proportionately. Keep a close check on chlorine levels in hot weather.
  • Because chlorine levels have not been high enough, there has been a build-up of pollutants, and therefore an increase in chlorine demand.
    • Super-chlorinate the pool.

Water Balance Problems

Tendency for the pH to remain low (below 7.2).

This is usually due either to low pH of water supply (especially in soft water areas) or to the use of acidic chlorine , such as trichlor

    • Correct the pH. To raise the pH, add soda ash as directed per day until correct reading is obtained.
    • Consider changing to a high pH chlorine source to help achieve a natural balance between the low pH of the water and the high pH of the chlorine donor. Dichlor is roughly pH neutral; calcium hypochlorite and sodium hypochlorite are high pH chlorine donors.
Tendency for the pH to be permanently high (above 7.6).

This is due to either (1) high pH of mains water (especially in hard water areas) or (2) to the use of alkaline chlorine donors such as calcium or sodium hypochlorite, or (3) to hardness salts being leached from new concrete or mosaic pools.

To Remedy:

  • The remedy is the same irrespective of which factor is at work here - correct the pH. To lower the pH, add dry acid as directed per day until correct reading is obtained.
  • For (1) and (2), consider changing to a low pH chlorine source to help achieve a natural balance between the high pH of the water and the low pH of the chlorine donor. Trichlor is the obvious chlorine donor to choose. For (3), the difficulties with new concrete pools will clear up of their own accord given sufficient time.
pH values are erratic and fluctuate.

The reason will be that the total alkalinity will be too low to buffer the pH

  • Add sodium bicarbonate to ensure the total alkalinity remains above 100ppm.
 pH is locked.

The water is over buffered due to high alkalinity. This is a not uncommon problem in hard water areas where the mains feed water has a high total alkalinity.

  • Add dry acid to lower the total alkalinity to below 200ppm
Tendency for the alkalinity to be too low.

The local feed water is low in bicarbonates so that whenever the pool is topped up from the mains, it dilutes the bicarbonates in the pool. This is a particular problem in soft water areas.

Add sodium bicarbonate to raise the total alkalinity to around 100ppm.

Problems with Pool Surfaces

Why is there a loss of grouting in mosaic/tiled pools, or sharp edges around tiles?

There are two possible factors at work here:

  • In soft water areas, the grouting is being etched by the pool water. This is because there is insufficient calcium in the water. There is a tendency for water to form an equilibrium by searching for calcium - in this case from the grouting or plaster substrate.
    • Regrout the pool and increase calcium levels in the water by adding calcium chloride  so as to achieve a minimum calcium hardness level of 250ppm. Alternatively, use calcium hypochlorite for shock dosing or for regular sanitisation - calcium will be automatically added to the water in using this sanitiser.
  • High levels of sulphate in the water. You will need to get your pool profesional to test for sulphates to confirm this diagnosis.
    High sulphates are caused by (a) high sulphates in the mains water (b) the frequent use of dry acid (sodium bisulphate) or (c) use of aluminium sulphate as a water clarifier.
    • If you suspect factors (b) or (c), dilute with fresh water and switch to alternative methods of lowering the pH (e.g.using trichlor as the main pool sanitizer), or clarifying the water (a sulphate-free treatment). There is not much you can do about (a).
Pool surfaces feel rough and scaly.

The balance between pH, total alkalinity and calcium hardness is incorrect, and the water is technically 'scale forming'.

  • Test for pH, total alkalinity and calcium hardness and bring them within recommended parameters. It is best to carry out a 'Langelier' water balance calculation (see water balance), or ask your pool professional to do this for you.
Pool surfaces feel slippery.

This is probably algae forming on the pool surface due to insufficient chlorination at some stage, or to a 'dead spot' in the water circulation.

  • Sweep the affected areas vigorously to remove as much algae as possible, then shock dose with an unstabilized chlorine (follow the procedure set out for killing algae). Prevent a recurrence by periodic use of an algaecide