How To Clear Cloudy Swimming Pool Water With These 3 Easy Methods

I hate a cloudy pool as much as I hate cloudy lemonade — which is weird, because I really like regular lemonade.

Anyway, as I’m sure you know, cloudy pools are ugly, dirty, and generally not ideal for swimming due to a number of potential health risks.

The worst part? Cloudiness can strike your pool in a matter of hours, leaving you scratching your head as to what exactly went wrong. (I guess that’s why you’re here in the first place, right?)

No worries. In this article, I’ll walk you through the exact steps to identify, clear and prevent a cloudy pool for both inground and above ground pools.

Why Is My Pool Water Cloudy?

There are actually several reasons your pool water could become cloudy, but before we talk about the why, let’s go over the what.

The first thing to note is, cloudiness comes in various forms, and some of them are naturally worse than others.

Here’s how I’d break it down:

  • Flat: The least severe form, in that your pool water still has it’s color but it doesn’t have the sparkle it once did.
  • Hazy: The water is starting to lose it’s color and it’s now difficult to make out small details on the pool floor.
  • Milky: The water is no longer translucent, meaning the pool floor is not visible at all. This is pretty much as bad as it gets.

What Causes Cloudy Pool Water?

Regardless of what stage you’re at, it’s important to fix the root of the problem before treating the symptom — because we’re not about to slap on a bandaid and call it day.

There are a number of potential causes to be aware of, so let’s go through each in more detail.

Cause #1: Imbalanced Pool Chemicals

If, like me, you didn’t pay attention in your school chemistry lessons, it could be that the problem is due to a chemical imbalance in the water. (In fact, this is one of the most common causes of a cloudy pool.)

Having too much of one chemical or not enough of another is a quick way to a cloudy pool, so checking for high pH, total alkalinity or chlorine levels is a good place to start.

Here’s a basic guide to the optimal chemical levels:

  • pH: The ideal pH level for pool water is somewhere between 7.2 and 7.6, roughly the same as human tears and the optimal level for the chlorine to work effectively.
  • Chlorine: You’ll want to keep your chlorine levels between 1 and 3 parts per million (ppm), though commercial pools should run between 3 and 5 ppm due to heavier use.
  • Total alkalinity: This should typically read between 80 and 120 parts per million (ppm), and between 100 and 140 ppm for painted, vinyl, and fiberglass inground pools.
  • Calcium hardness: Finally, the ideal measurement for calcium hardness is between 200 and 400 parts per million (ppm), and it’s advised that you check this on a monthly basis.

Measuring your pools chemical levels is pretty straightforward with a decent test kit, so make sure you do that weekly to stay on top of any sudden changes.

Do You Have A Cloudy Pool After Shocking?

Cloudy pool water as a result of shocking your pool is very normal, so if you’ve shocked your pool in the last 24 hours, there’s nothing to worry about just yet.

As long as your pool is circulating and your filter is running correctly, the cloudiness should clear up within a day at most. Just let it do it’s thing for while.

If it has been longer than that and you see no signs of improvement, however, it could be due to using a low quality shock product which I don’t recommend.

Do You Have A Cloudy Pool After Opening?

So you peeled back that pool cover after a long winter only to find a mist of cloud has found itself into your pool. Not cool.

Well, don’t get too beat up about it, it’s not your fault. (Well, actually it might be :P)

If you didn’t properly winterize your pool, it’s possible the chemicals were out of whack, and the water was left to slowly deteriorate over the months.

If that’s the case, the procedure would be the same in that you should use a testing kit to check all the chemical levels and see what’s up. If you find an imbalance, adjust as needed.

If the water doesn’t properly clear after checking and adjusting the chemicals, there are some additional steps you can take that we’ll cover shortly.

Cause #2: Circulation & Filtration Issues

Pool water that isn’t being properly circulated is always at risk of becoming cloudy.

That’s because circulation pushes your pool water through your filter, so without it, the filter is unable to work it’s magic and keep your water squeeky clean.

There are a few moving parts to this so let’s go through them:

  • Pump size: Check that your pump is powerful enough (as in the right flow rate) to cycle your water roughly every 8 hours. Underpowered pool pumps are bad news, nuff said.
  • Running time: Following on from the above, you need to have the filtration system up and running for long enough each day to ensure a full cycle can be completed.
  • Maintenance: It’s important to properly maintain your equipment to ensure it runs effectively. That includes removing blockages, cleaning and timely part replacements.

Cause #3: Environmental Effects

If it’s nothing to do with your chemicals or your filter, then the only reasonable explanation left is that it was caused by the surrounding environment.

Yep, Mother Nature can be a real b*tch sometimes. Here are some of the likely environmental causes:

  • Leaves & small debris: While leaves will be easy enough to remove before they dirty up your water, it’s really the build up of smaller dust and particles that can get you into trouble.
  • Insects & small animals: Insects and small animals will always find their way into your pool eventually, but the biggest things to keep an eye out for is droppings, particularly bird poop. (Yeah, I said poop.)
  • Surface runoff: Heavy rain can cause water to accumulate on the ground, in some cases making it’s way to your pool bringing plenty of other nasties with it (depending on your pool type and setup).

If that wasn’t enough, you also have to account for the countless things that we take into the pool every time we go for a little swim. (That’s right, you’re not as clean as you like to think. 😉

How To Clear Up Cloudy Swimming Pool Water

Now that we’ve looked at (and hopefully identified) the potential cause for your cloudy pool water, let’s talk about clearing it up.

As you might expect there are a few ways to fix cloudy pool water, so, in typical Poolonomics style, let’s break them down one-by-one.

Method #1: Using Pool Clarifier

Swimming pool clarifier is a chemical that’s used clean up your pool water, and they’re pretty damn good at it too.

How do they do it?

Well, it works through a process called “coagulation” and it’s really not as complicated as it sounds.

Cloudy pool water is essentially a buildup of tiny particles, and your filter can have a difficult time catching those because of their size — but that’s why coagulation is useful.

Coagulation aids your filter by clumping those smaller particles together, making them much easier to remove. (If you want to nerd out on the specifics of how this works, read this.)

Method #2: Using Pool Flocculant

When it comes to pool chemistry, pool flocculant works similarly to pool clarifier in that it clumps those pesky particles together to make them easier to remove, except it does have one distinct difference.

Rather than work with your filter to eventually remove the particle clumps, flocculant attracts them to the bottom of your pool where they’ll need to be removed via vacuuming.

There’s a few important points to note about this process:

  • Manual: You won’t be able to use an automatic pool vacuum to do this, it’ll have to be done manually.
  • Water: As you vacuum out the cloud particles, you’ll naturally lose a considerable amount of water, so it’s a good idea to keep the hose running as you’re doing this.
  • Filter: It should take around half a day to clear out the debris from the bottom of your pool, during which point your filter should be turned off

Why would anyone choose to go this route?

Well, simply put, it clears your cloudy pool water fast. If you’re in a hurry to clear up your cloudy water for whatever reason, this is the way to go.

Method #3: Assisting Your Filter

The last method is just letting your filter clean up the mess.

We all know how important filters are for swimming pools, but we also know they can’t function properly without a bit of help from time to time.

A good example of this is your pool’s skimmer, which works in harmony with your pool filter to siphon off debris from the surface of your pool. (I know, it’s like magic or something.)

The problem in this case is, however, is that the cloud particles won’t be floating to the surface. Not without a little nudge, at least. *wink wink*

You can do this in two ways...

Way #1: Stir it like a cuppa’ tea

This one involves getting your giant spoon out and stirring your pool like the BFG. Just kidding. (But seriously, you could do that if you had a giant spoon.)

Ideally, though, you’ll want to use a pool brush to get the particles in motion and eventually pushed to the top pool. That way, your skimmer and filter can do their thang.

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Way #2: Suck it up with your drains

If you have an inground pool with a bottom drain, you do have another option that’s less labour intensive.

Your bottom drain will allow your filter to pull water from the pool floor, at the same time sending a flow of clean water to the surface — essentially giving you the same effect.

If you don’t have a bottom drain, there’s a little hack you can use that also works with above ground pools.

Hack: Simply connect your manual vacuum cleaner as usual, but instead put the vacuum upside down in the middle of your pool, forcing it to pull water from the bottom. What a ninja!

That Bit At The End

As annoying as it as to wake up to a cloudy pool, it’s not quite as devastating as many first-timers believe.

The methods outlined above are by the far the easiest and most affordable ways to clear a cloudy pool, and also prevent it from happening again the future.

As long as you follow this advice, you’ll be up and running again in no time. Good luck and happy swimming!

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