Where there’s water, there’s life. While this may be a rallying cry for astronomers in search of ET, it’s a far more troubling prospect for pool owners.

One of the most common pool problems is the flowering of new life in the form of algal blooms. Algae is a catchall term for a wide variety of single-celled microorganisms; there are thousands of different kinds, but a few can be commonly found in swimming pools.

Pool algae tend to come in a few common types, distinguishable by color; green, pink, yellow, or black. If your pool water is anything other than clear, then it may be time to call in a professional.

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Dangers of Pool Algae

But really, what’s all the fuss? Surely there are all kinds of algae in pools, rivers, lakes, ponds, and so on? And don’t people swim in them safely all the time? Well, yes, but…

The difference with pool algae is that it exists in a closed, concentrated system. Natural bodies of water typically have natural and constant drainage, circulation, and filtration; this dilutes the organisms present in these significantly larger bodies of water.

Aside from the slimy, unsightly nature of algae, it can pose significant safety risks to anyone taking a dip in a contaminated pool, presumably to practice their waterbending.

Safety and health risks

hand lifting algae out of water

If you’ve ever touched algae, you probably knew right away thanks to its characteristic sliminess. Algae can cover surfaces—the pool itself as well as pool ladders and decks—with a slimy, slippery coating, creating a potential recipe for disaster.

Algae growth also turns water in swimming pools opaque, making it difficult to see what’s happening beneath the surface. If someone is in distress or begins drowning, the cloudy water could prevent people nearby from realizing what’s happening in time to offer assistance.

Time is of the essence when it comes to saving drowning victims, so any barrier to a quick rescue is unacceptable.

While the algae themselves are unlikely to cause illness, there are some exceptions. The conditions that permit pool algae to gain a foothold also allow bacteria to flourish, including the infamous E. coli.

Add in the fact that these bacteria use algae as a food source, and you have a rapidly multiplying health hazard on your hands. To curb the bacteria, you’ll have to stop the algae in its tracks.

What Causes Pool Algae Growth?

Water is a magnet for living things, whether it’s a deer stopping for a cool drink or bacteria in search of a maternity ward. Water, sunlight, and a less-than-dutiful pool owner are the only ingredients required to give your pool some serious curb appeal to photosynthetic algae looking for a home.

When chlorine levels are too low, pH levels are too high, or both, algal blooms can form within a few short hours under the “right” conditions.

Conditions that can contribute to a microorganism explosion include the presence of nitrates, phosphates, and carbon dioxide as well as poor circulation, filtration, and sanitation.

How to Kill Pool Algae

If your pool begins doing its best imitation of a chameleon, the first thing to do is make sure the pool is off-limits to any would-be cannonballers. Then, you should identify the type of algae that is taking up residence in your pool; the appropriate treatment may vary, depending on which you’re dealing with.

How to kill and remove algae:

  • Brush pool surfaces to detach algae and make it more susceptible to treatment. Use steel brushes for concrete and nylon brushes for vinyl pools.
  • Shock your pool by adding several times the normal amount of chlorine to your pool. The temporary spike in chlorine levels will kill algae.
  • Add algaecide solution to the pool to kill algae. Works best in combination with shocking.
  • Remove dead algae using a pool vacuum.

Using brushing, shocking, and algaecide in concert is the most effective way to remove algae.

How to Prevent Pool Algae

man cleaning a pool

Unless the next summer blockbuster you plan to see is “Algae 2: Slime Harder,” routine pool cleaning, maintenance, and monitoring are essential. Setting up a maintenance schedule with an experienced pool services professional for regular cleanings is a great way to stay on top of your pool’s water quality.

In addition to maintaining proper levels of chemicals, effective algae prevention requires pool owners to keep their pool filtration system in good working condition and ensure that the pool has good circulation.

It’s also important to properly close your pool in the fall or winter and open it again in the spring. It would be a shame to pull back your pool cover as the weather warms to find something more akin to a bog than a swimming pool.

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Why Not Just Drain the Pool?

Phew, this all sounds like a lot of work, right? Why not just forego the lengthy pool cleaning, drain the pool, and start from scratch? Well, that’s because it can end up causing even more problems.

Why you shouldn’t drain your pool:

  • If your pool has a liner, draining it can cause the liner to shrink, damaging it and likely voiding any remaining warranty.
  • In-ground pools are susceptible to possible cracks or blistering, and the weight of the dirt pressing against the pool could cause deformation of the structure.
  • High groundwater levels can cause an empty in-ground pool to “pop,” or lift out of the ground due to upward hydrostatic pressure.
  • You can expect a big, fat water bill after you fill that bad boy back up with thousands and thousands of gallons of water.

In other words, don’t drain your pool. It’s not worth the trouble; it’s only recommended when absolutely necessary. However, I’m sure your utility company won’t mind.

The bottom line: As Jurassic Park taught us, “Life finds a way.” There will always be some small amount of algae in the pools of even the most fastidious pool owners.

However, improper pool maintenance and irregular cleaning can easily turn a normally negligible amount of algae into a full-on invasion force, leading to a number of potential safety risks.

Shocking your pool with chlorine and treating it with algaecide will help get things back under control, but the best method of pool algae prevention is having an experienced professional—like a Best Pick—perform regular pool cleaning, monitoring, and maintenance throughout the year.

Regular, consistent pool care will help keep your pool in pristine shape and ready for morning water aerobics or impromptu pool parties.