Cloudy Water: Causes and Solutions

After a long day at the office or school, pool owners and their families count down the moments where they can unwind in their own slice of paradise. Once they arrive home and prepare for poolside fun, they rush out to the water’s edge.

This time, the pool isn’t crystal-clear, the deep blue bottom heavily obscured by a new, chalky color. This is cloudy pool water and while it appears harmless on the surface, it can be quite the inconvenience to owners and the pool’s own health.

For new owners, this matter creates no shortage of questions. What caused the murkiness? How can it be prevented? Cloudy pools are a common issue, and there are plenty of solutions to pinpoint the problem. We’ll offer more clarity about what causes cloudy pool water and preventive measures you can take to keep your pool clear year-round.

What Causes Cloudy Pool Water?

When it comes to the unclear water, there can be numerous reasons as to why owners experience this problem. Many are within your control, others won’t be, but all can be corrected. If you see murky water, consider these as possible culprits:

Poor water chemistry: The key to a healthy pool is good chemistry – making sure chemicals are properly balanced. If you notice your water is clouding up, you can obtain test kits from a local pool store and find out how the levels are. If one chemical level is off, it is a matter of time before the others experience an imbalance, so the sooner you know, the better.

Start with checking the total alkalinity and calcium hardness levels, which maintain pool conditions and prevent surface corrosion. High levels can cause scaling, the visible form of the cloudy water. Left unhandled, the scaling can damage your pool and clog filtration equipment, leading to thousands of dollars in reparation costs.

You’ll then want to take a look at the pH level. This level is particularly important as it reinforces the strength of your chemicals, but improper levels will cause the exact opposite. At a high level, pH prevents calcium from dissolving, leading to scaling. At a low level, it makes chlorine, a pool’s main line of defense against bacteria, too reactive and deplete fast. If you see an imbalanced level, don’t delay adjustment.

Poor filtration: Another reason for a cloudy pool is when a filtration system is not working. When this happens, water cannot circulate properly and contaminants gain the opportunity to disrupt the harmony of your clean water. When this happens, take a look at your skimmer basket which traps any debris floating in your pool. Left unattended, it can fill up and be unable to contain unwanted debris, creating a cloudy pool!

If the skimmer basket isn’t overflowing, your next stop is the pool filter. While they remove harmful substances from the water, filters can’t do this indefinitely. When filters are caked with these materials, it can lead to a clog and allow contaminated water to continuously circle in pools. Take action if you see a filter in this state.

Low chlorine levels: When microorganisms and pathogens enter the water, chlorine immediately reacts to contain their potential damage. However, this fills your pool with chloramines – essentially, chlorine that cannot sanitize water after combining with and deactivating bacteria. This leaves very little free chlorine to keep pools safe from contamination.

Be sure to check chlorine levels regularly. Testing kits often include a way to measure the amount of free chlorine vs. the total chlorine in a pool. If the total chlorine is higher, it means your pool doesn’t have enough chlorine to stop microorganisms from creating a problem!

Rain: Rainwater isn’t harmful to people if caught in it, but it can be a danger for pools. During condensation, water vapor can mix with certain air pollutants, creating acid rain. This caustic rainwater lowers alkalinity levels, leaving pools susceptible to attacks from bacteria and other pests.

Pool with decorative planter. Rain runoff can lead to cloudy water.

While planters add aesthetic appeal to a lanai, rain can turn them into unwitting accomplices for cloudy pool water. When these decorations overflow from rainwater, the runoff can transfer soil into the water. Soil carries phosphates, vital for plant growth but bad for pool chemistry. Phosphates further lower alkalinity and create a breeding ground for algae, leaving you to deal with two unwanted problems!

A Variety of Solutions

While a cloudy pool can stem from various issues, there are no shortage of solutions to combat the problem. Whether its preventative maintenance or post-storm cleanup, take action the moment water visibility is lacking:

Balance chemical levels: If the issue lies with your pool’s chemistry, make sure you balance your chemical levels. Calcium, alkalinity and pH use the same stabilizers, so you will not need to spend much on cleaning materials. If you see levels are high, add muriatic acid to bring them down. If the levels are low, use baking soda to make them rise. Calcium is more reactive to these substances, so use them in small increments until you reach appropriate levels.

Shock your pool: Chlorine remains at the front lines of the fight for good pool health, so make sure this level is correct. To do so, you will need to shock your pool – adding in a stronger dose of chlorine to the water.  Make sure this level stays between 1 -3 ppm. Chlorine depletes quickly under sunlight, so if you need additional protection, add in cyanuric acid.

To simplify the matter of maintaining chlorine levels, Waterscapes’ pools use saltwater generators, machines that transform salt into a pure form of chlorine. These machines provide a consistent steam of the chemical, ensuring the level has minimal fluctuation.

Skimming the pool surface: Oftentimes, the simplest pool cleaning chores carry the greatest impact for your pool’s health. When leaves and other debris enter these oases, they carry a host of bacteria and harmful materials. If you see leaves and large objects in abundance, take action by skimming the pool’s surface. This simple act can stop contamination early on and prevent your basket from overflowing.

Take care of your filter: A filter is vital to proper pool health. If you don’t regularly tend to it, it can be easily damaged and open your pool up to more than just cloudy water. To keep your filter in good health, make sure it runs at least eight hours a day to properly circulate water and any materials.

Pool not having cloudy water

If you notice any materials floating in the water, consider the possibility of your filter being clogged and give it a thorough cleaning. To aid in cleaning, Waterscapes uses multi-cartridge filters, requiring only a rinsing from a hose to solve the issue. By doing this, you can ensure your filter keeps harmful substances out of your pool.

Cloudy pool water’s appearance can fill you with uncertainty about how to manage it, but there’s no shortage of solutions to handle the problem. As one of Southwest Florida’s most experienced pool builders, Waterscapes is dedicated to creating luxurious custom pools and helping owners resolve any aquatic issues they might face. If you are ready to bring your vision of paradise to life, contact Waterscapes today.