Is it Safe to Swim in a Pool Without Chlorine?

In today’s day in age, many people are looking for more natural alternatives to just about everything. When it comes to a pool, though, can you really afford to do without chlorine? Is it even safe to do so?

Chlorine both sanitizes and oxidizes a pool keeping it clean while swimmers are in the water and when the pool is stagnant. While there are ways to reduce the amount of chlorine in a pool, it is unsafe to swim in a pool without chlorine (or the chlorine derived from electrolysis in saltwater pools).

Consequently, even if you are wanting to go a more natural route for your backyard summer fun, you will still need some type of chemical balance that can both sanitize and oxidize your pool. While there are alternative sanitizers, many people forget that chlorine is also an oxidizer- an important component of keeping harmful bacteria and fungi at bay. Let’s take a closer look.

Why is Chlorine Important for Pool Safety?

If you are anything like me, my friends, or my family, then you will want to protect yourself from putting harmful substances in and on your body. This might have sent you down a path of seeking out alternatives to chlorine in your pool. And, while there are options for reducing the amount of chlorine used in a pool (which we will get into later), well-balanced chlorine is still considered to be the safest and most effective chemical for reducing harmful bacteria exposure in your pool.

Specifically, chlorine sanitizes your pool and reduces the harmful bacteria that come from swimmers’ skin, detergents, and extraneous substances. Additionally, chlorine acts as an oxidizer, so it creates a pathway for enough oxygen to remain in the pool water- especially when the water becomes heated and stagnant.

There are some people who have heard that exposure to chlorine can be dangerous to swimmers, and while this can be true when there is an imbalanced proportion of chlorine added, this is not the case when a pool owner properly administers the appropriate amounts of chlorine to the pool and tests the water before swimmers enter.

Along with that, chlorine helps with pool safety in many preventative measures including (but not limited to) reducing the harmful bacteria and fungi that would otherwise develop in the pool and cause harm to swimmers. Chlorine is both active (in its sanitization) and proactive (in its oxidation) as it creates a healthy option for backyard swimmers.

Since the types of bacteria and fungi may vary based on the region that you are located in (and its climate, environmental exposures, etc.), it is most important to note that these might not all be entirely consistent, but there are plenty of types of harmful bacteria out there, and they will be drawn to your pool without chlorine (or a similar sanitizer and oxidizer solution). To avoid this, be sure to use an appropriate balance of chlorine in your pool.

What Happens if You Don’t Put Chlorine in a Pool?

Even if you and your fellow swimmers follow strict showering procedures before entering the pool, you are still bound to bring in harmful bacteria from somewhere- and if it does not come from you (or your clothes), then it can still seep in through the air. Unless you and your friends and family want to turn into the next sponge that will absorb this harmful fungi and bacteria (which could wreak incredibly negative consequences), you will want to ensure that the water is both sanitized and oxidized.

Chlorine acts as a protectant for swimmers in the pool and the surface of the pool as well. Fungi and bacteria can grow exceedingly quickly without a proper chemical balance. This can result in the degradation of your pool’s protective liner or the build-up of substances harmful to human exposure.

If you were to opt not to put any chemicals (including chlorine) in your pool at all, then you would very quickly begin to see the results of fungal and bacteria build-up, and many more issues could be caused below the surface. Not only is this disgusting for swimmers to enter into, but it is also harmful and can have many negative health consequences.

Even if you were to opt for some chemicals but avoid chlorine, you would still need an alternative that could both sanitize and oxidize the pool. While some people consider chlorine alternatives, they often forget to add an oxidizer and then wonder why their pool is still experiencing a build-up of unwanted substances. It is because they did not cover one of the facets that chlorine would typically take care of.

Can You Reduce the Amount of Chlorine Used in a Pool?

Now that we have covered many of the basics of why it is incredibly important to achieve an appropriate balance of chemicals (especially chlorine) in your backyard pool, you might still be wondering if there are ways to reduce the amount of chlorine you use. This could be for health or economic reasons. Regardless of your rationale, there are ways to reduce the amount of chlorine used in a pool (although it should not be removed entirely).

You can reduce the amount of chlorine used in a pool by using a UV generator light, ozone generator, or a mineral (copper or silver) sanitizer. While you will still need to achieve the appropriate balance based on your selected option, these can help to reduce chlorine itself.

It is especially important to remember, though, that even chlorine alternatives like saltwater pools still use chlorine- just in a different format. Specifically, in saltwater pools, the process of electrolysis is used to derive a chlorine gas from the salt sanitizer. This is used as opposed to the direct addition of chlorine through a liquid or tablet form. Still, an appropriate sanitizer and oxidizer balance is achieved.

Still, you can feel more confident in your options of reducing the amount of chlorine used in your pool (while still achieving a safe and healthy chemical balance) by using one of a few options.

UV Generator

A UV light generator is a system component that will be attached to the pool’s sanitizing system and can help to reduce the amount of chlorine needed in the pool by increasing the sanitization that is achieved by other means. UV light is used to break down harmful bacteria that would otherwise be broken down by chlorine. In this way, the UV generator can reduce some of the sanitizing load from chlorine. Still, since it does not oxidize the pool, you will still need to use chlorine at a reduced proportion.

Ozone Generator

An ozone generator works to reduce the amount of chlorine that is needed in your pool by amplifying the oxidation process. Through the creation of bubbles (that is even more functional with high exposure to water through the floor return line) over a prolonged period, the ozone generator helps to create an environment in which high levels of chlorine are not as necessary for oxidation. Still, you will need to ensure an appropriate balance of chlorine for sanitation purposes.

Mineral (Copper or Silver) Sanitizer

You can also use a mineral sanitizer that will be pumped into the water ions to reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and fungi through natural sanitization. This can help to reduce the amount of chlorine that you will need based on the enhanced sanitization system. Still, it is important to consider if swimming in water that has copper or silver ions embedded is a better alternative for you and your friends and family than achieving an appropriate chemical balance with chlorine.

Chlorine Alternatives (Bromine)

There are other alternatives to chlorine that can help to reduce the amount of chlorine that you may need (including chemicals that can both sanitize and oxidize- what chlorine is used for in the first place. 

Bromine is a common sanitizer used for hot tubs, and you could arguably use it in your swimming pool to replace chlorine. However, there are few arguable benefits to doing so considering the larger quantity you would need for your pool and the higher cost of bromine. Still, it is an option if you so choose.

Jed Arnold

Jed spent every year from the ages of 15 - 22 as a Lifeguard (Red Cross) and ages of 17 - 22 as a Certified Pool Operator (CPO). Between working for over a dozen facilities and owning a pool, he carries over a decade of pool experience.

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