Cloudy pool water is a very common issue and it can be both easy to fix as well as complicated depending on the cause. Often it can be a combination of things causing the cloudy water and this will require a combination of things to clear up the pool.
Here is a common scenario that you may run into if it is multiple issues causing the cloudy water. Say there was a pool party over the weekend and the pool is very cloudy on Monday. It could be a combination of the heavy bather load plus the pool running out of chlorine or the chlorine combining with the organics in the water creating Combined Chlorine or the filter is dirty due to the suntan lotion and organics in the water. You can see how all of this comes together and how each of these can contribute to the cloudy water.
So, it is not always as simple as the causes and solutions below. If it is a combination of things it may take longer to correct it, or you may need to do more steps. For example, in the above combination, you can backwash the pool filter or take it apart and clean it. Run the pool pump for 24 hours and add chlorine to a shock level of 10 ppm. If you just added the chlorine but did not clean the filter or run the pool 24 hours the cloudy water issue may not go away. Or if you cleaned the filter and ran the pool for 24 hours but didn’t raise the chlorine level to 10 ppm the cloudy water may persist. Below are some common causes and the solutions but keep in mind you may need to combine the solutions in a scenario with multiple causes.
#1 Cause: No chlorine in the pool. It seems like a simple thing but it happens all the time. If you get busy and forget to check the pool, unusually hot weather, heavy rain or a pool party all can zero out your chlorine level.
Solution: Simply bringing the level of chlorine up to 10 ppm in your pool will reverse the cloudy water - known as "Shocking the pool." Also, run your pool for a longer time to help speed up the process.
#2 Cause: Combined Chlorine. Ever smell a chemical like the smell at a hotel or the local YMCA? Chlorine has no odor and what you are smelling is Combined Chlorine. Chloramines are what is now in the water and not only do you get an ammonia smell but the water will be cloudy.
Solution: Raising the chlorine to 10 ppm will cure this. Sometimes you will need to raise it to 20 ppm, basically, super chlorinate the pool to kill the Ammonia that has formed in the water.
#3 Cause: Not running the pool long enough. You need at least one cycle of water through your pool each day. One cycle is all the pool water going through the pool filter and then back into the pool. If the chlorine is fine but the water is cloudy chances are you are not running the pool long enough.
Solution: Set your pool to run longer.
#4 Cause: A filter leak. This happens mainly with D.E. filters and a filter leak can cause your water to be very cloudy or partly cloudy.
Solution: Take the filter apart and inspect it and if there are broken grids simply replacing them will solve the problem.
#5 Cause: Adding Soda Ash or Baking Soda to the pool. When you add a base to the pool it can become cloudy for a short period of time. After a few hours or by the next day it should clear up. A good way to avoid this is to add the base directly to the skimmer.
Solution: Manually vacuum up the dust on the pool bottom, the pool will clear up very quickly,
#6 Cause: High Alkalinity or High Calcium Hardness. Not very common but this could also cause your pool to be cloudy. But these need to be very high for this to happen.
Solution: Add Muriatic Acid to lower down the Alkalinity.
These are the basic causes for cloudy pool water and they are easily corrected. It could also be something unusual but these are the most common causes I run into on my pool route.
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