Poop Happens — How Long Before It’s Safe to Swim Again?

Pool Chemicals for Clean Pools

We love our kids and pets, but they often find the most curious ways to make more work for the adults in their lives.  Take the backyard swimming pool, for example.  We spend countless hours every month ensuring that the pool stays clean and safe for our family and friends.  We clean the filters, we test the chemical balance in the water and adjust the pool chemicals as needed, we scrub the sides and bottom of the pool regularly to remove dirt and debris, and more.  So, when one of our beloved children (furry or otherwise) decides to use the pool as the drop zone for their poop, we understandably freak out.  What now?

The first steps are probably obvious — clear all the swimmers out of the pool and then remove the offending poop from the water.  But, then what?  How long will it take before it’s safe to go back into the water?  Well, it depends on what’s in the poop.  Poop can contain the E. coli bacterium, the Hepatitis A virus, the Giardia parasite, and/or the super nasty Cryptosporidium parasite.  Not many private pool owners have the desire or ability to test the poop to find out what kind of contaminants it contains, but it is important to note that the disinfection time varies greatly depending on the contaminants that the poop introduced into the pool water.

The best approach is to take the most cautious route in case water is contaminated with the hard-to-kill and chlorine-resistant parasite Cryptosporidium.  Disinfecting means hyperchlorinating the pool water by increasing free chlorine to either 10 parts per million (ppm) or 20 ppm.  The difference comes with the amount of time you’ll have to wait before it’s safe to swim again.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), increasing free chlorine to 10 ppm means you’ll have to wait approximately 26 hours before swimming again.  At 20 ppm, swimming can resume after about 13 hours.  If you’re using a chlorine stabilizer, though, the game changes a bit.

For full details about what to do when you’ve had poop in your pool, read the CDC’s instruction sheet on “Hyperchlorination to kill Cryptosporidium.”  Additionally, instituting a mandatory pre-pool time potty visit for both kids and pets can help prevent future accidents.



5 thoughts on “Poop Happens — How Long Before It’s Safe to Swim Again?”

  1. Deb

    We’re in a condo complex that had a child leave a poop in the pool. The Board emptied the pool, scrubbed every surface, re-filled with water & chemicals. But won’t re-open the pool for four days. Does this seem reasonable??

    1. Trey Collier

      If all chemicals are set correctly, then it should be able to be opened within 12hrs of the testing. But, there may be health code inspections that are scheduled and have to pass before they are allowed to open.

  2. Gina

    My grandkids went to a friend’s house but the pool guy was doing maintenance cleaning the pool and told them to wait 15 minutes before going in the pool after he finished. Two days later, both if them have fever up and down for 12 hours already. Will getting in the pool too soon after the pool chemicals were put may cause the fever?

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