By J.L. Simmerman
ummertime means more time spent in the pool, but no one likes to smell like they’ve spent the day in the pool. Chlorine can dry your skin, ruin your favorite swimwear, irritate your eyes and dull your hair and highlights. Fortunately, there are other options.
One of the best alternatives to a traditional chlorine pool is an ozonated pool. Ozonators pump electrical-arc created gas into the water directly and allow the flowing water to circulate it throughout your pool. Some systems combine the gas distribution system with a UV light system that further increases effectiveness. You may still need to add some chlorine to an ozonated pool, but these devices reduce the need for chlorine up to 90 percent without sacrificing cleanliness, according to Los Angeles water treatment specialists Gourmet H2O.
Substituting bromine for chlorine can be easier on your skin and eyes. Popular in spas and hot tubs, bromine provides bacteria and algae control even in high temperature waters – ideal for a heated pool or pool/spa combo. Bromine isn’t quite as effective as chlorine, though, and many pool owners will opt for a combination of bromine and lower-level chlorine (often a 10-to-1 ratio, according to Aqua Magazine) to offset the oxidation limitations of bromine.
Polyhexamethylene biguanide, known as PHMB or popularly referred to as Bacquacil or SoftSwim pools, eliminates the use of chlorine through chemical substitution. PHMB creates a gel-coated bacteria that sinks to the bottom of the pool where it can be sucked up by the filter or cleaner. It may require more frequent maintenance for that reason. PHMB also doesn’t treat your pool for algae, so you’ll need to add algaecide on a regular basis and clean/replace your filters more often, according to the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals. Before switching to PHMB, you’ll need to completely drain your pool and start over with fresh water, as it is not compatible with chlorine.
Ionizers are another option to help you reduce the amount of chlorine needed in your pool, but are only effective under specific conditions, such as if only one or two people use your pool regularly. If you live in an area with heavy air pollution or lots of vegetation, your ionizer’s effectiveness drops exponentially.
Salt water is an increasingly popular choice for many pool owners, but the saltwater chlorinator simply converts a portion of the salt into chlorine, so it’s not so much a chlorine alternative as it is simply less harsh than a traditional chlorine pool. Saltwater pools can be a great alternative if you’re looking for a gentler option for your skin and swimwear, or if you simply can’t tolerate the smell of chlorine since the combination of salt and chlorine in the water isn’t as offensive.