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Why Peeing in a Pool Can Be Dangerous

by Matt Giovanisci | Last Updated: May 16, 2019

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Look, we don’t like talking about this any more than you do. But it’s necessary. Why? Because people of all ages, from all backgrounds, at some point in their lives, pee in a pool.

But now we’re talking about your pool. So you need to know why it’s not a good idea, and what to do about it if—when—it happens.

Pee in a Pool Can Be Dangerous

No, really. This isn’t hyperbole. There are extenuating circumstances, though.

You know that “pool smell” you’re undoubtedly familiar with? It’s not produced by chlorine, but by chloramines.

When the chlorine level has dropped below ideal levels, it can’t do its job as effectively. When this happens, other substances it would normally eradicate stick around and combine with what chlorine is left, creating chemical compounds—chloramines.

The primary ingredients in chloramines are chlorine and contaminants such as perspiration, body oils, and yes, urine.

Urine is comprised of, among other things, urea. When the liver processes ammonia to prevent it from poisoning the body, urea is produced. In addition to broken-down proteins and other substances, urea also contains nitrogen.

Nitrogen and chlorine will form chloramines, more specifically trichloramine (NCI3), a volatile and irritating chemical compound. This is the dangerous part.

Respiratory Conditions

Trichloramine is blamed for not only exacerbating upper respiratory conditions such as asthma, but for causing them in professional swimmers. Granted, it’s unlikely that anyone is going to be using your pool to swim 10,000 meters a day or train for the Olympics.

But if anyone who uses your pool already has a respiratory condition like asthma, chloramines can trigger an attack and possibly make the condition worse. And in some cases (related to area, ethnicity, and other factors), asthma can be fatal.

Are we saying swimming in a pool with low chlorine can be fatal? No, not at all. We’re simply saying that chloramines are irritating to people in good health, stinging the eyes and throat. But to those who are already ill in some way, or have a predisposition for certain illnesses, they can cause worse reactions than just a little irritation.

This is how urine in a pool can be dangerous, and why you need to stay on top of your pool’s chlorine level.

Other Reasons No One Should Pee in a Pool

Do you really need more than one reason? This really shouldn’t be something that even needs to be explained. But we’re going to go ahead and put it all right here for you.

But not for you. This is for when, you know, someone else pees in your pool so you can just show this article to them and avoid a whole awkward conversation. Because we know you know better. Nope, this isn’t about you at all.

So heads up. We’re gonna get a little graphic to make our point. It’s tough love time.

It’s Just Gross

Let’s say that one again. It’s GROSS. Think about it this way: Would you want any part of your body touching the water in a toilet bowl after someone peed in it? If the answer is no (and we hope it is), then you definitely don’t want your entire body in the pool after someone’s peed in it.

It’s Inconsiderate

You put a lot of work into keeping your pool clean and the water balanced, and the cost of pool chemicals and tools adds up. When there’s urine in the pool, you have to stop everything and sanitize the heck out of it. Then get the water chemistry back to where it was before The Unfortunate Incident.

And hey, even if it’s your pool and you figure you can do whatever you want in it, well, you’re not the only one who uses it, are you? And even if you are, we’ll refer you back to the sanitizing, chemical costs, and major inconvenience.

It’s Lazy

Seriously. Come on. You’re having a good time swimming, floating around on an inflatable lounge chair, maybe having a tropical cocktail, and suddenly the urge hits you. You really can’t put the fun on hold for five minutes to climb out of the pool and go to the restroom? Really? Really?!

Well, if that’s the case, just give up now and go get yourself an Axiom chair.

How Do You Prevent Pee in the Pool?

Before you allow anyone to swim, explain that you expect them to use the restroom when they need to and not pee in the pool. Explain why this is important for everyone’s health, and that you want to keep your pool safe and clean for everyone.

Put up a sign, humorous or not, about not peeing in the pool. Tell them you’ll charge them for all the extra chemicals and time you’ll have to spend cleaning the pool afterward if they pee in it. OK, maybe not that last one. Unless you really want to.

Admittedly, it may be difficult to get full cooperation from young children who would rather not get out of the pool for any reason. Just to be on the safe side, shock your pool after younger kids have been in it.

If you do this mid-day to be able to enjoy the pool for the rest of the afternoon, be sure the pump stays on and wait at least two hours for the chemicals to dissipate before you allow anyone back into the pool. If you want to roll the dice, you can wait until dusk, the best time of day to shock. It’s up to you.

There’s No Such Thing as Urine Detector for Pools

You may have heard this one when you were a kid swimming in the neighbor’s pool. You may even use it yourself when your kids are splashing around.

But of course, you know it’s just a myth, and there’s no chemical you can add to a pool that will turn the water blue when someone pees in it.


This doesn’t mean you can’t still have a little fun with the myth, though.

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

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How to Discourage Kids From Peeing in the Pool

OK, we don’t advocate lying to your kids. In fact, we prefer the approach of sitting your kids down and explaining to them exactly why peeing in a pool is bad for everyone.

But maybe your kids are too young to wrap their heads around any potential danger in what they know as the awesomely fun swimming pool. Or maybe the neighbors’ kids who come over just won’t care and will ignore the lecture. Or maybe you just want to have a little fun with their little minds. You have another tool at your disposal.

  1. Save an empty, opaque pool chemical bottle.
  2. Rinse it well. You don’t want to throw off your water chemistry with any chemical residue.
  3. Fill the bottle with water.
  4. Before kids go swimming in your pool, tell them that bottle contains a chemical that will turn urine blue (or red, or whatever color you like) so everyone will know who the culprit is. Then pour the chemical (water) into the pool in front of them.

Hopefully, this will keep them from peeing in the pool. Or at the very least, you’ll have a funny story to tell their prom date in a few years.

This may also work for some adults who seem to think it’s OK to pee in a pool. You know they’re out there.

What If Someone Urinates In My Pool?

You know it’s going to happen. No matter how many times you remind people, no matter how many signs you put up, no matter how swimmers may scoff at you—”What? Of course I would never pee in a pool! That’s just disgusting!”—someone, sometime, will let loose in the water.

If someone decides to urinate in your swimming pool, or, heaven forbid, releases any other kind of, um, bodily waste, you’ll need to act quickly.

  1. Get everyone out of the pool. Immediately. And send them to the shower. Immediately.
  2. Remove the offending substance, if possible. And this will only be possible if the substance is in solid form.
  3. Break out the pool shock and double shock your pool. This doesn’t mean do it twice. It means whatever dose you normally use when you shock the pool, use twice the amount all at once.
  4. Run the pool pump for at least two hours to distribute the shock, and filter the contaminants from the water.

Then, the next time that particular person comes over, tell them they’re not allowed to swim. Or maybe just don’t have them over anymore.

Important: Normally, you would wait until dusk or dark to shock the pool, and run the pump overnight. Sunlight eats away the chlorine faster than it can do its job. But in this case, the goal is to sanitize the water immediately rather than let contaminants make their way through your filtration and plumbing systems. Yuck. If it’ll make you feel better, shock the pool again the following evening.

There Couldn’t Possibly be Pee in MY Pool!

Are you sure about that? A former NASA engineer named Mark Rober actually took the time to measure the amount of pee in a community and a private pool, as well as the spas attached to both.

The results are, well, disappointing, to say the least. But not as disappointing as what’s found in an olympic-size pool. We’re gonna have nightmares about that one.

When Ya Gotta Go, Get Out!

Hey, did we mention how gross it is to pee in a pool, and how there’s probably a perfectly good restroom less than a hundred yards from said pool?

If you’re not convinced by now, the only other advice we can give you is wear goggles, put on a nose plug, and don’t open your mouth underwater.

Happy Swimming!

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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