Why Does Pool Water Smell Musty? [Solved!]

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Anyone who has ever visited the pool area of a hotel can probably attest that the water there usually doesn’t smell quite so good. And that’s a shame because, let’s face it, the pool is probably the most scenic and relaxing place within a hotel, which we all know is usually the best place to be! But that beauty can be quite the wrecking ball when it comes to the pool water. Especially in the summertime.

The high heat and humidity of the summertime is enough to make even the cleanest water stink. Yet, with regular cleaning and proper ventilation, you can easily make it smell fresh again. But that takes time and effort, which many people probably aren’t willing to commit. Especially since hotels are already investing in spa pools and other forms of relaxing environments in an effort to attract and retain customers.

Let’s dive into the details to find out what makes pool water smell so bad and why you should care.

Deterioration From Within

While it’s true that clean water looks better and can be much more refreshing to swim in than dirty water, it doesn’t hurt to know that the latter also contains bacteria and other microorganisms that can make you sick. Especially if you’re a frequent swimmer or otherwise exposed to the water’s stench. Bacteria can make you sick, and while it’s rare, things like E. coli and shigella can cause gastrointestinal distress, headaches, and earaches. It doesn’t take much to make the water stink, and that’s really sad because there’s so much potential for harm.

But you probably already knew that dealing with raw sewage is dangerous and can cause many illnesses. What you may not know is that even clean, apparently healthy water can have harmful bacteria that can make you sick. Take HIV for example. It can live in almost any water source and the chances of you coming in contact with the virus are extremely high. Especially if you’re a gay man, methamphetamine user, or sex worker. These are all groups that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers to be at high risk for HIV acquisition. Which means your chances of getting infected are much greater than typical individuals.

Even with proper cleaning and proper ventilation, there’s still a lot of bacteria and other microorganisms floating around in pool water. And while that doesn’t necessarily pose a threat to your health, it’s still best to be safe than sorry. Microorganisms can cause various ailments from flulike symptoms to digestive distress, skin rashes, and even death. So, for the sake of your own health and the well-being of others, it’s best to avoid coming in contact with these creatures and the water that they call home.


Nutrients are chemicals that are essential for plant and animal life. They include nitrates, phosphates, and chlorides. These chemicals help keep water clear and fresh by preventing it from becoming polluted with solid substances such as soil or dust. Without enough nutrients, fish and plant life cannot survive. That’s why it’s essential for every pool cleaner to keep an eye on how much nitrates, phosphates, and chlorides are present in the water.

Nitrates can potentially be toxic to humans, especially people with a weakened immune system. They can also cause blue baby syndrome in infants and children. This is a form of hypoxia that can lead to seizures, organ damage, and even death. Nitrates have basically the same effect on fish and other aquatic life as they do on humans. Although the symptoms may be different, the end result is usually the same.

Phosphates are important for forming bones, building teeth, skin and tissue elasticity, and helping the body’s organs function. They are also necessary for all living organisms, including plants and animals. And lastly, chlorides are compounds that act as the bodies’ most vital electrolytes. Chlorides also help maintain the proper electrical balance in humans. Meaning that too much or too little chloride will cause you to become either hypo or hyperactive, respectively.

These chemicals can be naturally present in some water sources, but often times they’re found in excessive quantities, which puts our health at risk. Excessive nitrates and phosphates can occur from improper fertilizer use or animal waste, while chlorides can be the result of industrial pollution or the manufacturing process for some detergents.

Temperature And Humidity

The heat and humidity of the summertime are just right for breeding and thriving of bacteria and other microorganisms. Hot weather encourages the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms, including parasites. That’s because bacteria need heat to multiply. Which is bad news for anyone who gets infected by one of these microbes. The opposite is usually the case during the wintertime, when the heat and humidity cause water quality to deteriorate and become more unstable. In addition, the cold weather inhibits the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms.


When it comes to pool water and heating the sun is always the name of the game. The UV rays from the sun can break down molecules in the water and make it more stable. That’s why the water looks clearer and fresher when the sun is shining brightly and heating the water directly. If the UV rays are blocked by clouds or other forms of pollution then the pool water can become stagnant, causing health risks.

Viral Load And Physical Impurities

Some viruses, such as HIV, can live for a long time in water sources. That’s why it’s so important to test and check for these viruses in your water. If you encounter them in your pool, you must treat it immediately to avoid any potential health risks. Viruses are often measured in terms of their “viral load”, which is the number of viruses per milliliter of fluid. This viral load can be determined by testing a small sample of the water for viruses. However, the majority of viruses, including HIV, can’t be tested for using commonly available kits because they tend to be too large. That’s why you must obtain a special test kit that can identify the virus directly.

In addition to testing for viruses, it’s also important to check for physical impurities in the water. Sometimes the chlorine in our pool’s water can cause skin irritations and damage. In addition, some minerals can cause the hair, nails, and teeth to decay. This is why it’s always a good idea to test for these substances before and after using the pool, especially if you’re an adult with diabetes or hypothyroidism. Minerals and chemicals such as aluminum can also become oxidized over time and start clumping together. This can lead to serious health issues, so you must be diligent about testing and clearing the water of any contaminants before using the pool.

The water in your pool will never smell quite as good as the pristine waters of a mountain lake. It will always have that dull, musty odor that brings back memories of a summer spent camping.

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