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Coronavirus Pool and Hot Tub Safety

by Matt Giovanisci | Last Updated: July 25, 2020

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SwimUniversity.com is all about taking care of your pool and hot tub so you can enjoy them. That’s what they’re for. But we want to talk with you for a moment about taking care of yourself and your loved ones.

If you own a pool or hot tub, you may have some specific questions and concerns about them in relation to COVID-19. We want to answer those questions for you, and direct you to some reputable, authoritative sources where you can get more information.

Can Coronavirus Spread Through Pools and Hot Tubs?

The CDC has made this clear on their website, saying that there’s no evidence of any danger from coronavirus as long as the pool or hot tub is properly sanitized. It goes on to say that sanitizer, such as chlorine or bromine, should remove or inactivate the virus.

Please note the part that says, “Proper operation, maintenance, and disinfection …”

Is Swimming in a Chlorinated Pool Safe?

Yes, as long as the pool is properly chlorinated with a chlorine level of between 1 part per million (ppm) and 3 ppm, with 3 ppm being ideal. However, if you’re sick, it’s a good idea to stay out of the pool.

Is It Safe to Use a Hot Tub?

Yes, as long as the hot tub is properly chlorinated with a chlorine level of between 1 ppm and 3 ppm, with 3 ppm being ideal. However, if you’re sick, it’s a good idea to stay out of the hot tub.

Does Chlorine Kill the Coronavirus?

The CDC has said that sanitizers such as chlorine and bromine should remove or inactivate the Coronavirus (COVID-19). This means that chlorine kills the coronavirus. The CDC also recommends using diluted bleach to disinfect households.

A Warning About Pools and Hot Tubs

While swimming or soaking themselves are safe, we have two serious warnings for you.

1. Do Not Swim or Soak if You’re Sick

While chlorine and other sanitizers can kill some viruses, they will not cure you if you’re ill due to a virus. Simply swimming or soaking in chlorinated water is not a magical remedy. If it were, no one would be dying from this disease.

In addition, this is a respiratory disease. Swimming can put undue pressure and stress on your lungs. And sitting in the humid environment of a hot tub can make breathing a little more difficult than it already may be if you have COVID-19.

2. Do Not Allow Anyone Who Has COVID-19 to Swim in Your Pool or Soak in Your Hot Tub

As the CDC said, there is no evidence that simply swimming or soaking in pools and hot tubs will spread the coronavirus.

However, someone who’s sick may still cough into their hand, and then touch the pool ladder or the side of the hot tub, parts that are not submerged in chlorinated water. And then if you or someone else touches those parts after they do, and then you touch your face, nose, eyes or mouth before you wash your hands or put them in chlorinated water, there’s a chance you could become ill.

Here’s something else to consider. The COVID-19 coronavirus lingers on those surfaces. In fact, it can survive:

Should I Shock My Pool or Hot Tub?

We’re always proponents of regular shocking, pandemic or no pandemic. But right now, we think it’s an especially good idea to shock your pool or shock your hot tub right now. Then shock it weekly for as long as you keep your pool or hot tub open during the pandemic.

What if I Use a Sanitizer Other Than Chlorine?

You’ll notice the CDC specifically mentioned chlorine and bromine in its information about pool and hot tub safety. If you use a different sanitizer, you can still rely on it to keep the water clean as long as you keep the level where it should be.

But to remove coronavirus from your pool or hot tub, we highly recommend using chlorine shock, if possible.

Bromine

Pool: Between 3 ppm and 5 ppm, with 5 ppm being ideal
Shock: Use chlorine shock; follow the manufacturer’s instructions and be sure to shock at dusk or night.

Hot Tub: Between 3 ppm and 5 ppm, with 5 ppm being ideal
Shock: Use chlorine shock; follow the manufacturer’s instructions and be sure to shock at dusk or night if your hot tub is outdoors.

Minerals

Pool: 0.5 ppm chlorine
Shock: Use chlorine shock the first time, then alternate with non-chlorine shock to avoid raising the chlorine level above 0.5 ppm. If you decide to use chlorine shock more often, just keep a close eye on the chlorine level. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and be sure to shock at dusk or night.

Hot Tub: 0.5 ppm chlorine
Shock: Use chlorine shock the first time, then alternate with non-chlorine shock to avoid raising the chlorine level above 0.5 ppm. If you decide to use chlorine shock more often, just keep a close eye on the chlorine level. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and be sure to shock at dusk or night if the hot tub is outdoors.

Salt Water

Pool: 1 ppm to 3 ppm chlorine, with 3 ppm being ideal
Shock: Use chlorine shock. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and be sure to shock at dusk or night.

Hot Tub: 1 ppm to 3 ppm chlorine, with 3 ppm being ideal
Shock: Use chlorine shock. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and be sure to shock at dusk or night if the hot tub is outdoors.

Biguanide

Pool: 30 ppm to 50 ppm
Shock: Use only a biguanide oxidizer, not any kind of shock. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Hot Tub: 30 ppm to 50 ppm
Shock: Use only a biguanide oxidizer, not any kind of shock. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Important: Please note that the CDC specified chlorine and bromine in their statement about the safety of pool and hot tubs with regard to coronavirus. Most of the sanitizers listed here will accommodate chlorine shock. However, you cannot use chlorine products with biguanide. The active ingredient in biguanide—preservative-free polyhexamethylene biguanide, better known as PHMB—was originally derived from a surgical disinfectant. Please do further research to ensure that biguanide will be sufficient to eradicate coronavirus specifically. We recommend getting in touch with the manufacturer of the biguanide brand you use.

Ultraviolet, Ionizer, or Ozonator (Hot Tub)

Shock: Use chlorine shock. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and be sure to shock at dusk or night if the hot tub is outdoors.

Important: Please note that the CDC specified chlorine and bromine in their statement about the safety of pool and hot tubs with regard to coronavirus. Most of the sanitizers listed here will accommodate chlorine shock. However, you cannot use chlorine products with ultraviolet, ionizer, or ozonator hot tub sanitizers. Please do further research to ensure that the device you use will be sufficient to eradicate coronavirus specifically. We recommend getting in touch with the manufacturer of the device you use.

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Should I Add Extra Sanitizer?

It’s not necessary. As long as you keep your sanitizer within the recommended range—preferably, toward the higher end of that range—you’ll be fine. Adding too much sanitizer can cause skin and eye irritation, and really won’t kill the coronavirus, or any virus, any deader.

Should I Disinfect My Pool and Hot Tub Surfaces?

Yes. And not just because of coronavirus. Bacteria love damp, humid environments, and all types of viruses can be lurking on surfaces like pool ladder handles and diving boards or hot tub headrests.

Clean all the surfaces not submerged in sanitized water with a diluted bleach solution by mixing 5 tablespoons (⅓ cup) bleach per gallon of water (74 ml per 3.8 litres of water) or 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water (20 ml per litre of water)

Are Public Pools and Hot Tubs Safe?

As long as the pool or hot tub is being properly maintained and sanitized. The problem is, unless you take your own test strips or testing kit with you, how will you know for sure the water is sanitary? There’s a test you can perform without any equipment.

A Word of Warning About Public Pools and Hot Tubs

If you approach a public pool or hot tub, and you get a whiff of that “pool smell” or what some call a “chlorine smell,” turn around and walk away. That smell is not chlorine. It’s actually an indication that there’s not enough chlorine in the water.

As chlorine is exposed to organic contaminants such as sweat, urine, and other bodily fluids, it combines with the ammonia in these contaminants. That’s how it works to sanitize the water.

When the chlorine combines with these substances and is gradually used up, it forms substances called chloramines.

The chloramines then off-gas into the air above the pool or hot tub, producing that telltale smell. So that lovely aroma is actually caused by used chlorine, which means there’s not enough chlorine left in the pool or spa to properly sanitize the water.

A properly sanitized pool or hot tub shouldn’t have any scent at all. No matter what chemicals you’ve added to the water, it should smell like clean water. In other words, odorless.

General Information about Coronavirus and COVID-19

First, we want to make clear that we are not doctors, scientists, epidemiologists, microbiologists, or any other kind of specialists related to medicine and health. You should always look to those experts for information about your health and well-being.

That said, we did gather some information for you from those kinds of authoritative sources. You’ll find a list of the sources we used at the bottom of this article.

What’s the Difference Between Coronavirus and COVID-19?

You may be seeing references to several terms. Here’s the difference:

Is This Really That Big a Deal? Isn’t the Common Cold a Coronavirus?

Yes, the common cold is a coronavirus. Coronavirus is a broad term for a family of viruses. A handful of them cause common colds in humans: 229E, NL63, OC43, and HKU1. The one we’re concerned about now is a new coronavirus, the COVID-19 virus. This is why it was initially referred to as novel coronavirus. Novel means new.

We’ve never encountered this particular coronavirus before, which is why there’s no vaccine for it. And because no one has ever had it before, our bodies do not have any sort of natural immunity built up to fight it. This is part of why it’s so dangerous.

The other reason it’s dangerous, though, is because of the effects it can have on the body. It’s more than just a regular cold with a stuffy nose and mild cough.

As noted above, the COVID-19 virus causes SARS-CoV-2. It is a severe acute respiratory syndrome. It has three symptoms that a common cold does not normally have:

In addition, COVID-19 has a few emergency warning signs related specifically to the shortness of breath symptom:

All of these warning signs are indicative of the body and brain not getting enough oxygen. If these warning signs are not immediately treated by medical professionals, the patient will die.

How to Protect Yourself

Follow the recommendations from the CDC, and from the World Health Organization (WHO):

Also, learn to properly wash your hands, following the WHO’s instructions. Who knew we were doing it wrong this whole time?!

A Word of Warning About Misinformation

In a time like this, it’s imperative that we rely on good sources of information.

Sources to Trust

Get your information only from authoritative, reputable sources such as the following:

Hoaxes and Misinformation

You’re probably seeing a lot of myths and misinformation flying around on social media, such as:

None of those things are true. Not one of them. Check out the WHO’s Coronavirus Myth Busters page to get the real scoop on some of these things.

If you see something on social media that doesn’t have a link to a reputable source or isn’t posted by a reputable source, you can do a few things:

If, by some chance, you’ve mistakenly shared anything like this recently, consider taking it down to so you’re not a part of this spreading of misinformation.

What Else Can I Do to Help?

We’re sure you’ve seen plenty of suggestions online, everything from washing your hands and staying home to offering to shop for the elderly or other people who may be homebound.

All of those suggestions are wonderful, and we hope you’re participating in at least some of them (especially washing your hands and staying home as much as possible!)

But if you’d like to do more, you can help WHO:

Simply make a donation to the WHO COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. Also, please consider making a donation to your local food bank to help those who have been laid off or lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

Wash Your Hands, Keep Your Distance, and Stay Healthy!

We want you to be safe and healthy so you can continue to enjoy your pool and hot tub without worry. Remember, when it comes to maintaining your pool, now more than ever, it’s imperative that you keep sanitizer levels where they need to be. Not too low, but not too high, either.

We’ve covered pool and hot tub care during a pandemic pretty clearly here. But as far as general coronavirus and COVID-19 information, we’ve barely scratched the surface. Do your own reading, talk to your health professionals, and do everything you must do to protect yourself, your family and friends, and your community.

We’re all in this together.

Happy (and Healthy) Swimming!

Sources:

Matt Giovanisci is the founder of Swim University® and has been in the pool and spa industry since 1995. Since then, his mission is to make pool and hot tub care easy for everyone. And each year, he continues to help more people with water chemistry, cleaning, and troubleshooting.

Frustrated by adding chemicals and trying to keep your pool clear all the time?

We cut out all the confusion of pool maintenance in this easy-to-read illustrated ebook and video course. It'll help you save $100 right away on pool care!

Click here to learn more
The Pool Care Handbook

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