The smell of chlorine around a pool is usually accompanied by irritation to the eyes, nose, lungs and skin of the swimmers. The pool smell is not due to chlorine but to chloramines, chemical compounds that build up in pool water when there is not enough free chlorine.

Chloramines are the result of two ingredients:

  • chlorine and
  • sweat, oils or urine that are brought into the pool by the swimmers.

Chlorine disinfectants are added to pool water to destroy germs that can cause illness. Sweat, oils and urine are unwanted additions to pool water. Showering before swimming can help minimize the formation of chloramines and the smelly pool.

The Chemistry of Chloramines

When chlorine disinfectants are added to water, two chemicals are formed: hypochlorous acid and hypochlorite ion. Hypochlorous acid is known as “free available chlorine” or FAC and has the potential to destroy waterborne germs. Pool operators manage the FAC level of pool water for the safety of swimmers. Free available chlorine is reduced when it reacts with swimmer waste to form these smelly chloramines.

Minimizing Chloramine Smells

Swimmers with red, irritated eyes complain that there is too much chlorine in the pool. When pool water is irritating, there is almost always not enough free chlorine in the pool water.

Chloramines, which produce the typical pool smell, can be destroyed using chlorine or non-chlorine shocks. A shock treatment destroys the ammonia and organic compounds that combine with chlorine to make chloramines.

18 thoughts on “Chloramines

  1. Who could ever have guessed that the chlorine smell means too little chlorine.

    Chloramines sound mean and dangerous. I did a quick search for chloramines and found some pretty bad press. Try a chloramine search and you’ll see it for yourself.

  2. I’ve been told that wee in the pool makes more chloramines and chlorine smell. I seem to notice more smelly pools are frequented by kids and younger people.

    So I should try stay away from the kiddies and pools full of sweaty sunbathers. I prefer swimming at pools that enforce a strict shower before bathing anyway.

  3. I grew up with a chlorine pool and on the swim team and had brittle hair and itchy skin. When we installed an chlorine free system in our pool I found a whole new experience. My eyes didn’t burn anymore and the feeling it gives the skin is hard to describe- like putting on lotion but there is no lotion that feels as good. . We went ahead and had the system put in our house too and the water from the tap tastes way better than bottled water. Bottled water to me tastes dead and slightly metallic. I can’t recommend it enough. It uses no chlorine and no salt so there are no chloramines in the water.

  4. I have high combined chlorine and high phosphates..i have used phosfree and shocked sever times still no help..any ideas

  5. If you are waiting till the odor of your pool is bad to make the determination that the water is out of balance you have waited way to long. You should be testing your pool water on a regular basis and making adjustments along the way to prevent your pool water from ever having a strong odor.

  6. I agree with Lu. We have a Saltwater Generator. Ours is an above ground pool by Intex. Lu is right, the water feels like lotion and you don’t have that burning in your eyes when you swim. Mostly, though, the one thing that I love about this new Saltwater Generator is that it saves me time. All I need is regular salt. I don’t need to go to some special pool store to get chlorine, I just need salt. And, it doesn’t need that much of it. You pretty much set it up once and it runs and keeps it clean and free of germs for an entire season. You just have to be careful and follow the directions (and give the salt at least a day to fully dissolve before running the pump) otherwise you’ll be disappointed. I think most people who don’t like their system, just didn’t set it up right.

  7. Why don’t you do a post on SWGs? My kids like that they can open their eyes underwater in our saltwater pool, which they have a hard time doing in their friend’s pools. We don’t have smell issues or red eyes, just clear slightly salty water.

  8. We have serious problems with two things:
    1) Algae keeps coming back despite ever-other-day brushing and vacuuming.
    2) Our pool does not retain chlorine at all.
    Also a question: has any of you heard about Ahh-some water clarifier? If so, what has been your experience with it?
    Geronimo in SoCal.

  9. Have you ever tried this Pool Magic product, Its fantastic for removing algae and you can either use minimal chlorine or some other oxidiser. Maintains the swimming pool to a very high standard at low cost and great convenience in time and chemical saving. try it……………..

  10. ive been involved in a indoor waterpark , we frequently experience heavy bather loads , and have been fighting chloramines on a more frequent level . use clarifier if you have an algae problem , shock the pool first with at least enough to have a 2.2 ppm . then 12 hrs later throw in double the ammount of clarifier then recomended . it will keep the organics low and youll have a nice healthy pool….
    atmm were looking to install a uv system..more on that after we have it running for at least a month or so…

  11. Hey Denis… I have always heard that to much solids in water is not a good thing. You have to keep on shocking a pool that constantly is having solids added to it. Liquid cl2 is a good alternative to use or even salt generated systems.

  12. There are several inaccurate comments being posted.
    1) Ionization does not work on indoor pools. If it did, you would see them on large numbers of pools.
    2) Chlorine free pools, Hmmm. No such thing for commercial pools. Salt water pools do, and will have chlorimines, even more, than chlorinated pools. Just like ionization, if salt generators made sense, and were a better option than good old chlorine, the generators would take over the industry.
    3) You can get rid of, or lower to respectable levels, chloramines in pools. You have to eliminate, or reduce to legal levels, both organic and inorganic
    combined chlorine. Have a combined chlorine problem?
    4) Algae problems can be a complex issue. The best, and most common method is to raise your chlorine level to 3-5 ppm. Keep your cyanuric acid level under 50 ppm. Keep your TDS 1500 ppm under the source water and not over 2000 ppm.

  13. Thank you for explaining Chloramines, I was confused when it was mentioned by a friend of mine. I think I may stay away from them, but I feel better informed. Thanks again!

  14. I had been searching for further reviews of salt chlorine generators for their effectiveness in swimming pool use. I have read from other reviews that for commercial pools, this type of equipments are not effective thus are only being utilized for home personal use. Has any of the readers have any experience with this?

  15. Well written. There is a lot of misinformation out there bout swimming pool maintenance and chemical use. There are a lot of mothers taking their children to the community centre with the belief that the nasty chlorine smell on the pool deck means that there is lots of chlorine in the pool to make it safe. Thanks for explaining chloramines in a easy to understand way.

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