Will Sunscreen Impact My Pool Water?

Posted by Blue Haven Pools on 08/08/2021

woman applying sunscreen to arm

Any time you’re out in the sun, you should be wearing sunscreen. This is such an oft-repeated mantra that you’ve certainly heard it, and we hope you’re following through with this important instruction. If you have a pool, though, you may be wondering: can sunscreen make the pool water cloudy? And if so, what can be done to remedy this situation?  

How Sunscreen Affects Pool Water 

Sunscreen can have several different effects on pool water. Because sunscreen harms your pool’s chemical balance, it can cause the water to become cloudy or even have an iridescent “oil spill” look to it. What’s more, the reaction between sunscreen and the chemicals in your pool can cause swimmers to experience irritation to their skin and eyes. What’s a pool owner to do? Should you ban sunscreen from your pool?  

Absolutely not. Sunscreen is vital to protecting the health of your skin, and you should use sunscreen any time you’re outside. This includes days you’re not at the pool or the beach, and days when the sky is cloudy and overcast. When you’re shopping for a sunscreen, choose at least a 50 SPF, but don’t be too concerned about the numbers beyond that. Sunscreen with 50 SPF blocks 98 percent of UVB rays, while those with 100 SPF only block 99 percent, so the difference isn’t too dramatic. More important is to look for a sunscreen that also keeps UVA rays at bay, preferably a physical sunscreen like zinc oxide rather than a chemical sunscreen. Choose a water-resistant sunscreen and you’ll be able to swim for 40 or even 80 minutes without needing to reapply. You will need to reapply eventually, though, because water-resistant doesn’t mean waterproof, and some of the sunscreen will wash away while you swim. Apply your sunscreen 30 minutes before you get into the water, so that it can have the opportunity to sink into your skin and you won’t lose as much to the pool.  

Removing Sunscreen from Pool Water 

Speaking of the pool, while sunscreen is very important for your health and the health of your friends and family, we’re sure you’d like to know how to go about removing sunscreen from pool water. We’re happy to help! 

Tip 1: First, encourage swimmers to apply water-resistant sunscreen early and shower before entering the pool. As mentioned, applying sunscreen 30 minutes before swimming helps it to be absorbed into the skin. Showering before getting into the pool removes dirt and oils that can disturb your pool’s balance, and it can also help carry away excess sunscreen that would make the pool cloudy. Because the sunscreen is water-resistant, it will still be effective but will be less likely to leave oil slicks in your pool. If you are going to be swimming a lot, consider purchasing sun-protective swimwear with a long-sleeved swim shirt. This will allow you to use less sunscreen and therefore bring less sunscreen into your pool water.  

Tip 2: Use enzymes to combat sunscreen residue in your pool. There are scum-removing solutions that break down organic materials in your pool naturally, thanks to enzymes. The enzymes in these treatments convert the ingredients in sunscreen into materials that can be removed by your pools filtration system. Some of these scum-removers will also protect your filter from oily residue that can prevent it from functioning properly.  

Tip 3: Focus on filtration. Proper filtration is a vital component of pool maintenance. Make sure your pool filter has the correct flow rate and the proper turnover rate/run time so that it can work effectively. Periodically perform pressure-based backwashing to help your filter work well. Make it a habit to check on the filter every day and perform filter maintenance at least every other week during pool season. Keeping your pool filter clean will help reduce the amount of residue in your water so that it can stay sparkling and clean.  

Tip 4: Scrub the pool. Brushing the sides of the pool and using a soft, abrasive sponge on the backsplash can help rinse away residue so that it can be filtered out of the water.  

Tip 5: Use shock treatment. If you’ve treated the pool with enzymes, cleaned the filter, and scrubbed the sides and backsplash, yet you still see scum or build-up, it’s time to give the pool a shock. Making sure the pool filter is clean and running, use a chlorinating shock treatment to bring your pool water back to the right balance. This process should take 24 hours and during that time no one can swim in the pool. Check the chlorine levels before you allow any swimmers back in, and don’t let anyone swim until the free chlorine levels are back down  between 1 and 4 ppm.  

Trust Blue Haven Pools for All Your Pool Needs 

Whether you want to install your dream pool or you need help maintaining the pool you already have, you can depend on Blue Haven Pools to help with all your swimming pool needs. We’re Oklahoma’s premier provider of custom inground pool designs, and we even offer features like sun shelves rock waterfalls, pool fountains, beach entries, pool mosaics, and much more. We’ll install your decking and pool, and help you find the right supplies and chemicals to keep it beautiful and clear. With over 30 years of experience, we’ve got the resources and knowledge to provide a pool you’ll enjoy for years to come. Contact Blue Haven for more information or call 405-817-1946 today!