Pool Care For Dummies
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You never think it will happen to you, but sometimes it does. I’ve heard some wacky stories in my pool maintenance career; some are more common than others. In this article, I cover some of the most common mishaps that I see in the wonderful world of pool ownership, and how to gracefully handle them with as little panic as possible.

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Someone peed in my pool

If you have kids, or know someone who has kids, or just see movies of kids in pools, then you know that pool pee is 100 percent a possibility. In fact, I think it’s more of an inevitable situation — not so much if, but when. Now, this isn’t something I consider okay to do in a pool, but if I had to choose between someone peeing in a pool and any of the other things I cover in this article, I’d choose the pee.

Although urine isn’t something I think very many people would enjoy swimming in, it’s really not terribly dangerous. The chlorine levels in your pool at the regular 2 to 4 parts per million (ppm) will be enough to sanitize the compounds in urine and make it safe.

When urine gets in the water, combined chlorine is created. A good indicator that urine is present in your pool is a strong chlorine smell. (Hence public pools being very stinky — it’s from all of that dirty chlorine in the water.)

To handle pee in your pool, shock your pool by using a regular dose of oxidizer. (Use more oxidizer if the pool is cloudy.) If you’re using biguanide chemicals, such as Baquacil or SoftSwim, use a full gallon of your shock for every 10,000 gallons of pool water. Then, let the pool filter run continuously for a 24-hour period, and all can be forgotten.

For how to handle other unfortunate pool problems, and everything you need to know about pool ownership and maintenance, check out my book Pool Care For Dummies.

Someone pooped in the pool

If someone poops in the pool, treat it immediately. The reason fecal matter in your pool is such an issue is because of the bacteria that may be involved in why it even ended up in your pool in the first place. So, if you're wondering, "can you get sick if someone poops in the pool," the answer is yes.

If it’s regular poop in the pool, your chlorinated water should kill the bacteria. But, if it’s diarrhea caused by viruses, those viruses can be spread through the water after the pooping in the pool and infect others. Treat the water, no matter which type of accident occurs.

If the feces are solid, the protocol involves following these steps:

  1. Have all swimmers exit the pool immediately.
  2. Remove any fecal matter from the water and dispose of it in a sanitary manner. Anything you use to remove the feces from the pool should be thoroughly sanitized afterward (or disposed of), too.
  3. Add in a small dose of your sanitizer or oxidizer to raise your chlorine levels to over 2 parts per million (ppm).
  4. Wait one hour.
After one hour, the pool is perfectly safe to swim in, and you can all pretend it didn’t happen.

Remember diarrhea is usually from an issue inside the body, such as a virus. You want to take stricter precautions to prevent anyone from becoming ill after this type of incident. If the accident is in the form of diarrhea, follow these steps:

  1. Have all swimmers exit the pool immediately.
  2. Remove as much of the fecal matter as possible and dispose of it in a sanitary manner. Thoroughly sanitize anything you used to remove the fecal matter or dispose of those items, as well.
  3. Add a double dose of your shock oxidizer.
  4. Run the pool filter for a 24-hour period before re-entering and test every 8 hours to be sure the chlorine level stays high on your test kit for the full 24-hour period.
During any treatments, always be sure your pH is in proper range to ensure that oxidizer is as effective as possible. Test with your home test kit before and after treatment.

I found a dead animal in the pool

This can be a common occurrence when you’re a pool owner. Some people definitely have it worse than others, but it’s never fun finding a critter belly-up in the pool. Honestly, most of the time, a dead animal in the pool isn’t a big health threat to humans, other than being very unpleasant. Based on what type of animal you find, you want to treat it accordingly:
  • Small animals: When you’re dealing with a small animal, such as a squirrel or chipmunk, within the first 30 minutes, your regular chlorine levels should kill any and all bacteria that could have been introduced. Remove the animal and allow an hour before entering the pool to give your chlorine time to sanitize any bacteria.
  • Larger animals: If you’re dealing with something about the size of a cat, you’ll have more bacteria to kill. Remove the animal and make sure you raise your sanitation levels to over 3 parts per million (ppm) by adding in a partial dose of your oxidizer. Allow the pool water a few hours of filtration before swimming, just to be safe.
  • Raccoons: The reason I specify raccoons in this list is because they’re more likely to be infected with a worm called Baylisascaris, which can easily spread to humans. The eggs of this worm are resistant to chlorine, thus making the treatment of your pool a little bit different after finding a raccoon in it.

    If you find a dead racoon in your pool, start by removing the deceased animal, and then shock the pool with your regular oxidizer. (Be sure the pH is in range to ensure the chemicals are 100 percent effective.) Then filter the pool continuously for 24 hours. Filtering for this length of time should turn over the pool enough times to filter out any eggs that may be in there. You’ll want to be sure to sanitize your filter, as well:

    • For a DE filter: Remove the internal assembly with gloves. Clean off all of the media and double bag as much as possible by hand and then spray off the residual. You can spray the internal assembly and the inside of the filter tank down with a mild bleach for extra sanitization if desired. Then you can reassemble the filter, and all pesky eggs should be eliminated.
    • For a sand filter: Remove the sand and start fresh, you can spray the inside of the tank with a mild bleach solution after the tank is empty of sand for extra sanitation.
    • For a cartridge filter: Rinse thoroughly and use an acidic cleaner on the cartridges before returning them to the filter.

My dog took a dip

Most dog and pool owners will run into this scenario pretty often. My dogs personally don’t love the pool, but I certainly know of plenty of dogs who can’t get enough of the water. The tricky part with dogs swimming in your pool is that your filter can get clogged with fur and they can make keeping up with maintenance more difficult.

Normal chlorine levels will help any bacteria that may have been on the dog from becoming a problem. But, a dog swimming in the pool will introduce more contaminants than a human will. Treat your pool as if a dozen kids had just gone swimming. Hit it with a small dose of oxidizer after each swim that your dog takes to help keep your pool clean.

The real problem you’ll face with your faithful friend in the pool is dog hair causing issues. Dog hair will clog your filter very quickly, so always pay attention to your filter pressure if you have a dog that swims regularly.

As the filter gets dirty the pressure will rise on the pressure gauge. Once it reaches 7 to 10 psi higher than it started at when it was clean, it is time for the filter to be backwashed or cleaned out.

Also check your skimmer and pump baskets every few days if a dog is swimming daily; the fur can clog up the baskets and cause strain on the pump motor.

A dog swimming definitely will introduce a lot more contaminates into the pool water than a human will, so treat your pool like ten kids just went swimming after your dog is done. If you hit it with a small dose of oxidizer after every swim, you will be safe!

Keep your dog safe around the pool. Always supervise the dog while it’s in the pool, just like you would a kid. And never assume that all dogs can swim. I grew up with a Doberman that almost drowned falling off the end of a dock at a lake house because he couldn't swim. Lastly, the main concern with your dog (and all living things, really) is if they drink too much water. This concern is especially important for pools that use salt. The levels of sodium that your dog may ingest by drinking the pool water could actually become fatal, so always monitor your dog to be sure it isn’t drinking too much pool water.

There are thousands of tiny black bugs in my pool

If you know what I’m talking about when I mention these little pests, you’re probably rolling your eyes right now. These tiny bugs, called springtails, live in large swarms and tend to enjoy your pool as much as you do.

We pool pros see them mostly in the middle of summer, but you can get them any time of the year. They can’t fly, and they can’t swim (but they’re light enough to not break the water’s surface tension by standing on it). And if you try to touch them, they jump into the air the same way that fleas do. They’re annoying little pests that drive many pool owners crazy, so let me give you some pointers:

  • Break the water’s surface tension so that the bugs sink. After they sink to the bottom of the pool, vacuum out their bodies and go about your business. You can reduce the surface tension in a couple of ways:
    • Buy a product at your local pool store called Bug Off. This product will do exactly what you need.
    • Make a mixture of water and dish soap. Spray the mixture around the border of the pool’s surface, and then spritz the surface of the pool evenly. The biggest downside to using dish soap is the obvious side effect of suds and an oil slick effect on the pool’s surface. That will filter out over time, but that’s why I prefer the chemicals made for pools that are designed to perform specific tasks.
  • Get skimmer socks and place them over your skimmer baskets. This fine mesh is enough to filter out the tiny bugs and allow you to remove them from the pool after they die.
  • Prevent moisture and limit light use. These bugs love lights and moisture, so to prevent them swarming your pool as much as possible, limit your pool light use and keep your pool area as dry as you can and clear of leaves, which may trap water and attract the bugs. If you offer a less attractive environment for the springtails, you may be able to avoid getting them at all.

Because of their tiny size, you can try to skim springtails off of the pool’s surface, but it may not work very well. They’re tiny enough that they can fit through your pool net, and you end up spreading them around.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Kristine Blanchard started working with swimming pools when she was just 5 years old. Her professional pool care career started when she was a teenager. Now over a decade into her career as a pool pro, she’s serviced pools in the field, performing pool openings, closings, weekly maintenance, and repairs on all types of pool equipment. She’s also worked in a pool supply store where she’s shared her knowledge in classes for new pool owners and employees.

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