Do you sometimes wonder how to tell if somebody peed in the pool? One of the most common pool myths is the one where parents tell the kids they put a chemical in the water that will turn green or purple (pick a color) if they pee in the pool.
That is not remotely true (even if we might kind of wish for it), nothing of the kind exists. However, when it comes to pee being in the pool, you may as well resign yourself to the fact that there probably is some in there. Unfortunately, there are often traces of urine in most swimming pools. Not good, right? Wondering what to do about this unsavory situation? We’ve got some ideas if someone peed in the pool.
What’s That Smell?
A chemical reaction occurs when chlorine is combined with sweat, urine, and body oils. You know that strong odor we think of as “chlorine”? It isn’t just chlorine. It is a chemical compound called chloramines (or trichloramine) which is what you get when chlorine mixes with those substances.
Worst case scenario, a chemical gas called cyanogen chloride can form, which is actually quite dangerous, causing red eyes, skin issues, and breathing problems. Fortunately, the large volume of water in the typical residential pool dilutes the much smaller percentage of urine, so the harm to you will be negligible. If you smell a bad odor though, you need to take action.
It is a common misconception that if something nasty, such as urine, gets into the pool water, the chlorine will magically dispel it. Not exactly. What happens is the chemical reaction described above. Chlorine will kill any bacteria in urine, but can’t remove the urine itself. The only way to get rid of urine in pool water is to drain the pool and refill it. Hopefully, the situation will not call for such drastic measures.
What Is An Immediate Remedy?
An immediate remedy when you suspect somebody has peed in the pool is to shock the water. Adding shock is putting a large dose of free chlorine into the pool water. This heavy chlorine load will cause a further chemical reaction, turning those chloramines into nitrates. The icky smell will dissipate and your pool water will be more sanitary and safe for swimming.
Can You Measure the Amount of Pee in Your Pool?
There is a very interesting and entertaining YouTube video by a fellow named Mark Rober called “How To Measure How Much Pee There is in Your Pool”. Mark joins up with researcher Lindsay Blackstock from the University of Alberta to look at her method of measuring pee in a pool.
It turns out that you can’t measure urine amounts specifically, but you can measure the concentration of an artificial sweetener called Acesulfame Potassium which can only get into pool water by passing through someone’s body in urine. Her results indicating just how much pee there is in swimming pools are pretty shocking. Check out her paper, “Sweetened Swimming Pools and a Taste of Global Media Attention.“
Professor Ernest Blatchly from Purdue University has worked out a mathematical equation to figure out approximate amounts of pee in your pool. If you really want to get into the technical aspects of it, his paper is available to read here.
Not feeling the mad scientist urge to set up a pee detection lab in your home? Rather than going to elaborate means to determine if there is pee in your swimming pool, it may be more expedient to accept the fact that is undoubtedly present and take appropriate measures to prevent it.
How to Put an End to People Peeing In the Pool?
Would you believe that the CDC (Center for Disease Control) has actually started a campaign to stop people from peeing in swimming pools? They have put out an article explaining the health effects of urine, sweat, and other body fluids producing chloramines in the pool and the unpleasant side effects on bathers. The article cites symptoms such as nasal irritation, asthma, itchy eyes, and rashes as some of the nasty results of swimming in a pool full of chloramines. The piece also has a number of good suggestions on how to combat the problem.
Are you beginning to feel as if you need to take drastic measures to combat the peed in the pool problem?
- Close off outside access to your pool.
- Only use the pool yourself.
- Don’t pee in your pool.
There, problem solved. No? Think that is a bit anti-social? There may be other options.
We think the best way to stop people from peeing in the pool is education. Make sure your kids and their guests understand that if they pee in the pool it will stay there, and that’s what they will be swimming in. Here are some additional measures you can take:
- Talk about the problem with pool users
- Put up a sign indicating the pool is not a toilet
- Require users to shower before entering the pool to remove sweat and body oils
- Make sure everyone knows where the bathroom is and uses it before entering the pool
- Take frequent bathroom breaks
Managing the Situation if Someone Peed in the Pool
You can take some preventative measures to ensure that your swimming pool water is in its best possible condition at all times.
- Make sure your pump and filtration systems are working efficiently
- Know the proper chemical balance for your pool water, test often, and maintain that balance for a sanitary pool
- Add enzymes to your pool water from time to time. Enzymes boost the efficacy of chlorine and can also break down organic matter such as urea
- Always shock the pool after heavy usage
How to tell if somebody peed in the pool? Well, you can’t unfortunately. The best course of action is to assume that it happens from time to time and take preventative measures. Educating users and managing behavior by suggesting showering first and frequent bathroom breaks could work wonders. Shock your pool after a swim gathering. In particular, make sure your water is balanced and that you use enzymes as needed. And always remember that Aqua Pools is your first line of defense with great pool sanitation products and testing supplies.