The smell of chlorine is associated with summer as well as relaxing days by the pool. Although that “pool smell” reminds us of cleaning supplies and sparkling clear waters, chlorine is actually odorless. Let’s jump into pool chemistry 101 and learn a little more about that iconic smell.
That familiar smell coming from your pool is not chlorine. The smell actually comes from chloramines. Without adequate treatment, these chemical compounds can build up in your commercial pool. Not only do chloramines create the smell we associate with swimming pools, but they can also cause irritation of the eyes, lungs, and skin.
When added to pool water, chlorine acts as a disinfectant. Chlorine destroys germs that can cause diarrhea, earaches, and athlete’s foot. Two chemicals, hypochlorous acid (HOCl) and hypochlorite ion (OCl), released along with chlorine, must be consistently monitored by pool owners and operators. Combined, these two chemicals create “free available chlorine” or FAC. Adequate levels of FAC ensure that the water is safe for swimmers.
Chloramines form when chlorine combines with contaminants from the bodies of swimmers. Perspiration, oils and yes, even urine, react with the chlorine to create that familiar pool smell. Chlorine that is bound in chloramine is unavailable as free chlorine and becomes combined available chlorine (CAC). The challenge for pool operators is maintaining adequate FAC levels in spite of the formation of chloramines.
Controlling the Odor
To reduce chloramines, ask swimmers to shower before entering the water. A quick rinse is all it takes to remove many of the contaminants that form chloramines.
Many swimmers believe that the “chlorine smell” is the cause of skin and eye irritation, when in fact the opposite is true. Adequately chlorinated pool water has no odor and will not hurt the skin or eyes. Super chlorinating or “shocking” your pool with extra chlorine will destroy the true source of the chemical smell and irritants: chloramines. To effectively treat the water through super chlorination you must add enough chlorine to bring the FAC concentration to approximately ten times the CAC.
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