Pool foam is yet another addition to the ever-growing list of potential problems you can face as a pool owner.
The good news is, a foamy pool is one of the easier issues to deal with, so let’s talk about what it is, why it happens, and how to get rid of it.
What Is Pool Foam?
Pool foam, or froth, is a collection of bubbles that settle on the surface of your swimming pool when the water is too “thick”.
When pool water is thick, it means there are excess chemicals in it. This, coupled with strong winds or air from the filtration system—such as your pool pump, return lines and return jets—causes bubbles to form, eventually creating a foamy substance.
How To Get Rid Of Pool Foam (Emergency Fix)
A number of different factors can lead to a foamy pool, and the best way to tackle a problem like this is always to identify and address the root cause.
With that being said, if time is of the essence and you need a quick, easy solution to tide you over, you’re in luck!
Enter, the defoamer. (No, it’s not a bad Hollywood movie)
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This little beauty is an anti-foam chemical that simply pours directly into your skimmer or filter intake, and it breaks down the foam in your pool within hours. It also prevents new foam forming for as long as you continue to add it.
If you need a quick and easy (albeit temporary) fix for pool foam, this is the way to go about it.
How To Get Rid Of Pool Foam (Permanent Fix)
If you want a long-term fix to pool foam that doesn’t require a lifetime supply of defoamer, you’ll need to tackle the underlying excess chemical issues that lead to thick water.
There are a few different categories here, so let’s through each of them.
Standard Pool Chemicals
Chemical imbalance is always a prime candidate when troubleshooting any issue, particularly those to do with your water.
This could be having too much or too little:
- Sanitizer, such as chlorine (including tablets), bromine, biguanide, or any other chlorine-free alternative.
- Total alkalinity (pH buffer), or simply the amount of dissolved alkaline substances in the water.
- Pool stabilizer, also called cyanuric acid.
- Calcium hardness level, and particularly low calcium hardness from having a low calcium level in your water.
Another common cause stems from the pool opening kits that contain a cocktail of chemicals to help you kickstart your pool season.
While these can offer a convenient way to get your pool up and running, they may also add unnecessary substances to your water—such as clarifier, scale remover and algaecide—which, in excess, can lead to the formation of pool foam.
Note: Algaecide is actually one of the most common causes, especially if using it as a preventative measure. If algaecide has no algae to kill, it will linger in the water until it eventually breaks down by itself.
Everyday chemicals are those that aren’t supposed to be used in a swimming pool, but still manage to find their way in.
This can happen when people use a pool without properly showering, bringing in various products on their personal body, such as:
- Hair gels/waxes and hairspray
- Traces of shampoo and conditioner
- Deodorants and perfumes
- Skin creams
- Body soaps
But it’s not just the chemicals we put on our bodies. If you consider everything that can potentially make contact with your pool water, you have to think bigger.
This means laundry detergents used on clothes, and particularly swimming costumes, as well as household cleaning agents used on things like pool toys, floats, covers (including safety covers), and even vinyl liners.
Finally, it’s worth pointing out that some household products can be successfully used in swimming pools for various purposes, such as:
- Bleach, or sodium hypochlorite, as a sanitizer (bleach is essentially a weaker form of pool chlorine).
- Baking soda to clean areas of the pool, and also to raise pH and total alkalinity.
- Muriatic acid to acid wash your pool, but it can also be used to lower pH and total alkalinity
- Borax can also be used as a pool cleaning agent, as well as to raise the water pH level.
With that being said, using too much of any chemical product in a swimming pool can lead to undesirable conditions, and these are no exception.
The solution is to shock your pool to oxidize combined chlorine (or chloramine), raise free chlorine levels and “reset” the water chemistry in your pool. Also ensure that your pool shower is put to good use before entering the water.
Even without the makeup and endless hair products, the human body produces enough organic material to dislodge your pool chemistry.
At the risk of turning this into a biology lesson, these organic contaminants can include:
- Feces (yes, it happens)
Too much organic material in a pool creates what we call a “high organic load”, which can not only lead to foam but also increases the demand on your sanitizer — so it’s bad news all around.
The solution is the same as the last point; start with a chlorine shock treatment to get your chemistry back into ideal ranges, but also encourage bathers to rinse off before entering the pool to prevent it in future.
Still Got Foam?
If your water chemistry is immaculate and you’re still seeing foam on the water surface, you may have a more serious issue with your pool.
Namely, your pool is drawing in more air into the circulation system than it should be, leading to the formation of bubbles. In other words, a part of your swimming pool is damaged or defective.
This could be anything from a damaged o-ring or seal to a more expensive issue like a faulty pump or filter. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to try the usual cleaning protocol first, such as backwashing or cleaning your filter.
If you’ve tried everything suggested in this article and still can’t get rid of your pool foam problem, it may be time to call in a professional.
No Longer Foamy, Homie!
When it comes to sorting out issues with your swimming pool water, pool foam ranks high as one of the least problematic and easiest to fix.
Simply keep your water balanced and your bather load to manageable levels and you should be able to keep the foam at bay.