How To Clean A Dead Body Out Of Your Swimming Pool
Every spring pool professionals receive questions about how to clean a dirty pool. This can get a bit repetitive especially when the same solution applies to any water quality problems in a pool - remove the debris, shock, test and balance. This would be a pretty common chemical adjustment process over the course of a few days after cleaning a dirty pool. No matter how many times I have said this to pool owners there are still some that insist that their problem is unique and not responding to conventional treatments.
For example if I ask you what your water chemistry values for free chlorine, pH and total alkalinity are and you tell me "they are good" I am going to be honest...I am skeptical that they are actually good. Nothing personal.
So we can look at this from a different perspective - Imagine you have a giant, bloated, stinking dead body in your swimming pool. Whether this is the case or you just have a bag or two of leaves in the bottom the remedy is exactly the same.
Remove All Of The Pieces Of The Body From The Pool
After a body has been floating on the surface of your pool for a few days, or even a few weeks, it may sink to the bottom. Until you are able to remove the all of the
body pieces from the pool you will not be able to hold a free chlorine level. You can try to use your pool vacuum to get the body off the bottom but the larger pieces
might get stuck in your vacuum - or even worse stuck in the suction line of the pool. For this reason the best method to get a dead body off the floor of your pool is
to use a large leaf skimmer net with a deep net like this light duty skimmer or this heavy duty version for extra heavy bodies.
Whether you have a rotting torso in your pool or just some leaves be sure to scoop them all out as your first step of the cleaning process. It might take a fair bit of effort but there is no short cut to this.
Cleaning Up The Crime Scene That Is Your Pool
OK so you dragged the corpse out of your pool...you should probably get rid of it before the dog from next door starts to investigate the smell and you wind up in jail. This is a swimming pool article so I will not go into detail about how to dispose of your dead body too much except to say that at some point you will need to crack out some bleach or chlorine to clean up all the evidence. When you do this be sure to pick up an extra 5 or 10 liters for your pool.
Once the debris has been removed from the pool you need to shock with a sanitizer like chlorine. This will sanitize the debris, bacteria and organic matter that you were not able to scoop out. If you add 5 liters of chlorine to your pool and the next day you test the water and have 0ppm free chlorine, this means that you simply need to add more. You need to continue to dose with sanitizer until the amount of sanitizer in the water overcomes the amount of debris and bacteria in the water. Once you reach this point you begin to develop a "residual" sanitizer level. Get the chlorine level to at least 1 or 2ppm free chlorine minimum and you will notice a drastic increase in the clarity of the water. To avoid over-sanitizing the water add 5 liters to a dirty pool and half that amount if you can see the bottom of the pool. After the initial 5 liters of chlorine you should wait 24 hours and add 2-3 liters at a time until you reach your desired free chlorine levels. If liquid chlorine is not available or convenient consider buying a concentrated product like Granular Chlorine
Bodies Out, Chlorine In - Now Time For A Test!
So you removed the bodies (or leaves) from your pool, and you have added chlorine until you are able to register a free chlorine level, so now you need to test your
water. If you do not know enough about water chemistry to know what you need to test for then you should absolutely read the 10 minute pool
chemistry crash course. Specifically you need to know that the order of operations for correcting the levels in your pool is total alkalinity first, then pH, then the chlorine...but in this one particular case I have told you to reverse this and get some chlorine going in the water first. This is not how you normally do things, but let's be honest here - there is a dead body in the pool and you want to sanitize the heck out of the water. How can you honestly worry about balanicng the pH level of the water just-so when there are still fingernails from a dead body floating around in the pool. Let's break the rules and shock this mutha before we do anything else. (Serious note - there is a reason why you adjust the alkalinity and pH first and you shoudl consider following this conventional protocol for almost all situations to prevent possible damage to your pool).
In short, you need to verify the acidity of the water (pH) as well as the range of pH buffer in the water (total alkalinity). Some pools will also require the calcium hardness levels to be adjusted so you should check these levels as well. In more recent years phosphates have become a problem in residential swimming pools and many water testing labs do not test for this as a part of regular water analysis so you may like to request having a phosphate test. If you do not have access to a water lab you can pick up a Phosphate test kit for swimming pools online. Once you know your pH, alkalinity and calcium levels you can begin the corrective action by adjusting the total alkalinity before adjusting the pH. Wait 24 hours between adding chemicals to your pool to allow them time to work to their full potential.
Is a Pool Ever So Dirty That It Can't Be Cleaned?
There comes a point where you simply can not clean a pool since the water is so dirty or filled with debris that you can not even see to scoop it out (also something
keeps biting the pole!) In extreme cases you may find it easier to drain and refill the pool than scooping, vacuuming etc. The problem with this is that many
swimming pools can not be drained without causing damage. Inground vinyl liner pools need at least 12" of water in the shallow end as the minimum amount. If you
drain lower than this the liner will likely end up needing to be replaced. Concrete pools can be drained completely however there is risk in doing this as the pool
needs water in it to stabilize in the ground. With the wrong set of circumstances an empty concrete pool can lift out of the ground. Fiberglass pools also should not
be drained for the same reason.
Even if you can not see the bottom of your pool you can still work to scoop leaves and debris out while working "blind". Just work in a systematic way that will allow you to cover most of the floor area. If you continue to scoop, skim and chlorinate the water you will be able to clean your pool in just a few days whether you have a dead body in it or it just smells like you do.
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