Swimming in a pool is one of the best ways to stay cool during the hot summer months. However, many factors can impact your swimming experience. One of these factors is chlorine levels in your pool. Chlorine pools have been popular for decades because they provide swimmers with better protection from waterborne illnesses and contaminants than other types of pools do.
But what about all those chemicals? Isn’t it time to consider an alternative? If you’re considering switching to a chlorine-free pool, well, this post is for you. It goes through reasons why switching might be the best idea and ideal alternatives to chlorine pools. Read along.
What Are The Disadvantages of Using Chlorine in Swimming Pools?
There are several advantages to pool owners who use chlorination because it works by killing bacteria and algae, harmful to swimmers. However, some disadvantages are making pool owners consider switching to a non-chlorine pool. They include:
1. Chlorine Smell
What is chlorine smell? Chlorine smell is the strong odor emitted by liquid chlorine. While chlorine has a vital role in keeping your pool clean, chlorine smell can irritate swimmers with sensitive breathing systems.
The chlorine smell gives a harsh chemical taste and odor to your skin, eyes, nose, and mouth, affecting swimmers’ experience, especially those with sensitive breathing systems.
2. Health Risks
Swimmers who use chlorinated pools regularly may also be at risk of developing chronic respiratory problems like bronchitis. It can cause many health issues, such as asthma attacks for some people if inhaled too much.
This is because they inhale more chlorine than the body can absorb, which causes what is known as “chloramine” to build up in their lungs, resulting in inflammation of the airways that makes it difficult for them to breathe normally.
Chloramines are compounds formed by combining free available chlorine with nitrogen-containing amines found in human perspiration, urine, saliva, and other organic materials.
Inhaling chlorine fumes also pose risks such as nausea, vomiting, fainting spells, and headaches because it irritates lung linings when inhaled directly into the respiratory tract.
Swimming in poorly chlorinated pools has been linked to an increased risk of certain childhood cancers. There are also studies suggesting possible links between long-term chlorine exposure and bladder cancer.
3. Bleach Swimming Costume
Chlorine is one of the ingredients found in bleaching agents. The bleaching effect will leach into your fabric and discolor it when you swim in a chlorine pool. With repeated swimming, the swimsuit will reduce its quality and wear out. The fabric may become stiff or feel sticky after being treated with bleach, making the swimsuit uncomfortable for long periods.
4. Chlorine Causes Dryness and Irritation
Chlorine causes dry skin in several ways, including increasing water loss through the epidermis. Its molecules are larger than other substances found in regular tap water- causing them to remain on top while allowing smaller particles like sodium ions to pass below, making the water feel “softer.”
Chlorine also strips away natural sebum from the skin’s surface that helps protect it from infection, leaving your skin prone to acne and other infections. That’s why most swimmers use a moisturizer after showering, as it helps restore some of the moisture lost during exposure to chlorine water.
Chlorine is known for its irritating side effects on the eyes, nose, and throat, leading to breathing difficulties or asthma attacks if exposed for an extended period.
5. Chlorine Increases Pool Equipment Wear and Tear
Chlorine eats away pool equipment by corroding it. This includes metal screws, brackets, and any other component of the filter system that is made of metals. When chlorine comes in contact with these components, they will be eaten away slowly. The corrosive nature of chlorine makes its presence reduce the life span of your pool’s filters, heaters, pumps, and more.
6. Chlorine Dissipates Quickly
Chlorine dissipates quickly. This means it doesn’t stick around for too long in the water before evaporating into nothingness. Because of this, chlorine needs to be added regularly depending on how much bather load you have and what type of filter system your pool has (sand or cartridge).
If chlorine is not replenished enough throughout the day, algae will grow without any chemical disinfectant present to kill them off.
7. Chlorine is Vulnerable to Sunlight
Chlorine is very vulnerable to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. When chlorine comes in contact with sunlight, it will begin to break down into hypochlorous acid and then ultimately into oxygen gas, increasing chlorine consumption.
This process is called photolysis, where light energy breaks apart water molecules containing chlorine atoms while releasing hydroxyl free radicals (·OH). That’s why you’ll hear pool owners adding Cyanuric Acid to try and stabilize the sanitizer.
What Are Chlorine-Free Alternatives for Chlorine Pools
So, what made you want to switch to chlorine-free pool? Is it listed above? If not, I won’t judge. The point is, you want your swimming pool to be chlorine free. But since a swimming pool cannot stay without a sanitizer, you will need to find an alternative. Do you know yours? If you don’t, never worry; below is a list of six possible chlorine-free alternatives.
1. Bromine Sanitizer
Bromine is a halogen cousin element of chlorine but is less harsh. It’s sometimes called the “third halogen” after fluorine and chlorine.
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Bromine can be used as an alternative to chlorine pool sanitizer. It also has unique characteristics that differentiate it from other alternatives such as saltwater systems or ozone generators.
According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), bromine is more efficient at reducing unhealthy contaminants than other sanitizers apart from chlorine, especially when it comes to waterborne pathogens like cryptosporidium.
Bromine sanitizes pool water through a process called ionization. It forces the contaminants’ chemical bond. What’s more, the halogen has a lower pH than chlorine, which can help balance pool water chemistry.
It is an excellent disinfectant that can destroy microorganisms. It’s also effective against many algae strains which may cause problems in swimming pools.
One of the biggest benefits of using bromine instead of chlorine is its efficacy in killing bacteria and viruses, according to studies done by NSF International.
Advantages of Using Bromine Sanitizer over Chlorine
- The bromine odor is much more pleasant than the chlorine scent
- Bromine pools are less harsh on skin and hair than chlorine pools
- The water feels silkier with a consistent amount of bromine coverage taking place
- Bromine is more stable in water, meaning it doesn’t evaporate as quickly
Disadvantages of Using Bromine Sanitizer over Chlorine
- Requires constant monitoring to ensure that the pool has enough sanitizer in it at all times.
- It cannot be used in water that is already cloudy
- Bromine is more expensive than chlorine, but it lasts significantly longer
2. Natural Swimming Pool
A natural swimming pool is a clean alternative to chlorine-treated pools. Natural Swimming Pools are not filled with chemicals but are instead filled with plants. These chlorophyll-rich aquatic plants act as filters for the water, allowing it to be self-cleaning and clear through photosynthesis while using 80% less energy than traditional filtration systems.
The porous soil on the bottom of these ponds slowly releases excess minerals into the water, which help balance pH levels naturally without chemical additives needed. They also have built-in UV lights that kill harmful bacteria colonies automatically before they can form. This all means no more dry skin or hair from harsh chemicals.
It’s an easy way to enjoy a cleaner and healthier swims year at your own home without sacrificing style. This type of natural filtration effectively removes organic compounds from water, making it healthier for people to swim in the pool without skin irritations or red eyes caused by chlorine irritation.
According to research, these pools also produce less wastewater than regular chlorinated pools because they are used more efficiently. There is no need for backwashing filters or ozone systems that can clean up chemical residues remaining after treatment with chlorine products.
That’s why this kind of pool maintenance needs only half the amount of time dedicated per week compared with regular indoor pools.
Advantages of Natural Swimming Pool over Chlorine Pools
- It uses 80% less energy than traditional filtration systems
- Some come with built-in UV lights for killing harmful bacteria colonies automatically
- It can be self-cleaning and clear through photosynthesis
- Removes organic compounds from the water, making it healthier
Disadvantages of Natural Swimming Pool over Chlorine Pools
- Requires more maintaining than traditional pools
- It has to be filled with plants rather than chemicals (less appealing to some)
- Cannot be used with other chemicals (unless approved by manufacturer)
3. Pool Ozonator
A pool Ozonator uses ozone to kill bacteria and other harmful microorganisms in the water. Ozone (O₃) is a gas that contains three atoms of oxygen. When it mixes with water, ozone turns into ordinary oxygen and releases free radicals, which break down organic material such as algae or mold on contact.
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Ozone is a more powerful oxidant than chlorine, but it breaks down much faster. This means that Ozonators need to be replaced or recharged regularly.
Advantages of Using Pool Ozonator over Chlorine
- Creates soft water
- It’s pH neutral
- Prevents calcium scaling
- Used in conjunction with a sanitizer
Disadvantages of Using Pool Ozonator over Chlorine
- It’s an expensive investment
- Safety Concerns if not well-contained
- Require some level of chlorine for sanitization boost
- It can result in a high electricity bill
You can read my complete article on pool Ozonators here.
4. Pool Mineral Systems
Pool mineral systems are another potential alternative to chlorine and other chemicals. They remove contaminants from the water, such as bacteria, algae, viruses, and more, without harsh chemicals or salt like traditional pool systems do. Pool Mineral System is an excellent option for businesses looking to create a healthier space that’s also easier on our environment.
It creates cleaner water in your public swimming pools with ease. The mineral system can reduce chemical use by up to 80% while maintaining complete control over the pH balance of the water – all at less cost than traditional methods. This means you rectify a chlorine-smelling pool without compromising safety or comfort.
However, you need to add some chlorine to the mix to ensure it’s 100% effective. But since the chlorine levels stay at 0.5 ppm, that’s something you can work with if you’re looking for a chlorine-free pool. The effect of the low levels of chlorine might not even be felt at all.
Advantages of Using Pool Mineral Systems over Chlorine
- No corrosion effect
- Safe for metal, concrete, and clothing
- Reduces equipment wear and tear
- They are easy to maintain
- Softens the pool water
Disadvantages of Using Pool Mineral Systems over Chlorine
- Does require some sanitizer boosting (bromine/chlorine)
- You have to change the mineral cartridge every few months
- Mineral oxidation can potentially stain your pool surfaces
5. Pool Ionizer
A pool ionizer is a device that uses electricity or some other kind of energy source (heat, etc.) to generate ions. The ions, in turn, are used to purify a pool. The idea is that the pool ionizer will remove contaminants from the water and replace them with equally effective but safe compounds.
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Like pool minerals, pool Ionizers do require some sanitizer boost. You can decide to add bromine if you want to go chlorine-free all the way. You might not need the boost in small swimming pools, especially those that aren’t used frequently.
Advantages of Using Pool Ionizers over Chlorine
- Easy to use and maintain
- Less chlorine consumption
- Reduced pool equipment wear and tear
- Safe around the pool
- Softer-feeling water
Disadvantages of Using Pool Ionizers over Chlorine
- Works well with small pools
- Require sanitizer boosting
Read more about pool ionizers here.
Biguanide, or rather polyhexamethylene biguanide (PHMB), is another chlorine-free alternative that can be used in place of chlorine to disinfect water.
Biguanide was originally a pre-surgery microbial scrub. It was patented as PHMB in 1977 and marked safe for pools and spas under the name Baquacil. It’s EPA approved as the only non-halogen water sanitizer for use in pools and spas.
It kills microorganisms without creating harmful chemicals like chloramines, which occurs when chlorine combines with nitrogen compounds found in surface or groundwater bodies of water.
For this reason, many cities across Canada have started switching over to using biguanides as their primary method for treating drinking and wastewaters due to their environmentally friendly nature.
It has been tested as a new form of water treatment that has been highly successful within communities across Canada.
You can use the same idea in your swimming pool. Some pool owners have tried it and shared some positive experiences in online forums such as poolspaforum.com
Advantages of Using Biguanide over Chlorine
- Eliminates chlorine usage completely
- Works well at cold and warm pool temperatures
- Gentle on skin, eyes, and hair
Disadvantages of Using Biguanide over Chlorine
- It’s expensive compared to chlorine
- It doesn’t prevent cloud water that well
What’s is the Best Way to Switch a Chlorine-Free Pool
Switching from a chlorine pool to a chlorine-free pool might be simple, but the process requires patience.
If you’re using chlorine as your pool sanitizer, by you have found one option above to suit you, you’ll have to wait until the free chlorine in your pool water dissipates completely before introducing a new pool sanitation system.
You have to keep in mind that while the chlorine dissipates, you cannot swim in the water. Also, you want to ensure the pool stays clean to prevent contaminants from accumulating and wreaking havoc since the guards are down. The water has to keep moving to prevent algae blooms from growing.
Once you switch to the new sanitizer, it’d be best to give it time to disperse to all pool corners and clean the water before taking a bath.
If you use a pool ionizer or mineral system, you don’t have to wait for the chlorine to dissipate completely. All you need is to keep it as low as 0.5 ppm.
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Timing is always the key during the switching. You want to do it in the spring after opening the pool for the season. That gives chlorine enough time to dissipate during the closed period (winter), and when you open the swimming pool, you can switch to your needed sanitizer.
Do pool ionizers cause pool stains?
Yes, but in rare cases. You cannot get pool stains if you maintain your ionized swimming pool properly. That includes cleaning more often. But, if you were to give the oxidized copper ions from the ionizer time to rest on the pool surfaces, it can cause blue-green stains.