Myths of Chlorine Odors
One of the biggest problems in the pool service industry is dealing with chlorine and its unpleasant properties such as skin irritations and odors. The most noticeable of these two attributes would be the odor, as most bathers will smell a “strong chlorine” odor and assume that the body of water has been over sanitized when in fact it is the opposite.
This problem is identified as “combined chlorine” which is what occurs when free chlorine combines with human waste products (skin cells, bacteria, urea (sweat/urine) and causes strong unpleasant odors. Combined chlorine has little sanitation value which is why pool owners can have a high “chlorine” reading and still experience cloudy, algae infested water. This combined chlorine reading has to be addressed in order to properly sanitize the water.
The solution: despite popular belief, when these chlorine odors are present it is because there is not enough free chlorine available in the water. The only methods available to remedy this issue is to add additional chlorine to “shock” or heavily “oxidize” the water which will break up these combined chlorine molecules, or to add additional oxidizer. These oxidizers help breakup the molecular bond of combined chlorine and allow free chlorine to properly sanitize the water.
There are certainly times when strong chlorine odors are due to over sanitized water but 90% of the time it is actually the opposite situation. It is important for pool owners to be aware of this to avoid frustrations of cloudy water and algae breakouts despite testing for “chlorine” and finding a high residual.
As your pool service professional, we regularly test for the “free” chlorine level which is the amount available to sanitize the water. We take every precaution when sanitizing the pool so that skin and odor irritations are minimal while still providing a proper and safe sanitizing level for the pool.