Swimming pool hygiene practices

Old May 17, 16, 7:27 pm
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Swimming pool hygiene practices

After having been to swimming pools and hot spring spas in various countries, I wonder what people from various places think of it?

My first thoughts/observations stem from France where going to thermal baths means:

1) having to wear real bathing suits and not (mostly applying to men) shorts

2) having to shower before entering the pools - (some places make it tricky for you not to shower). There's some one checking or at least the entry makes you shower (motion-activated shower walkway in some instances)

Of course this doesn't seem to make a difference in some places. I remember going to a hot springs in the Pyrenees where the water had a film of oil) on it. Not sure if it was body oil but I've never observed it anywhere else.

In Iceland (at least at the Blue Lagoon), bathers are required to shower (as one would in one's bathroom) with soap/shampoo before entering the pool. Of course there is still hair and other grime in the pools (embedded in the clay).

In Japan, onsen bathers make a very public ritual about body cleansing before entering the pools.

In Italy, I don't remember the bathing rules but swimmers have to wear swim caps at least in some places (Cavalieri in Rome for one).

In Thailand, Malaysia and China, there are signs asking swimmers to shower before swimming but it is a mere suggestion, it seems.

In BC, Canada, the hot springs (3 commercial ones I've visited) require bathers to shower but not everyone does this and it is not always enforced.

I noticed that for hotels in BC and in California, pools/hot tubs have no place to shower by the pools. In the last few days at a Palm Springs-area hot bore water resort, it appears to be a free-for-all as far as bathing suits go for men: sport shorts, surf shorts, underwear, long underwear loose boxers, cotton shorts. Not much better at a somewhat-upscale hotel on the coast south of S.F.

I like the idea of showering before entering the pool (will always do that given the option) and also wearing real swim wear but this seems to go against the grain in North America.
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Old May 17, 16, 9:12 pm
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I am a former competitive swimmer and lifeguard and current parent of two competitive swimmers, one of whom also teaches and lifeguards at a private pool. Sometimes I think I've spent half my life at a pool.

Noone showers before getting in pools here. It's not done. I don't know why, but it is not.
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Old May 18, 16, 7:32 am
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Originally Posted by YVR Cockroach View Post
1) having to wear real bathing suits and not (mostly applying to men) shorts
It depends. Most public swimming pools throughout Europe require you to wear proper bathing suits and bathing caps (including longer one like men's fastskins made by speedo).

In open-air pools and hotel pools I've never seen anyone complaining about shorts, I usually wear. My shorts are usually surfing shorts by Quicksilver/Speedo/etc...

More problematic is probably drying and washing them correctly. Proper bathing suits are pretty unhygienic if you don't dry and clean them properly given that bacteria love hot & humid conditions.

Originally Posted by YVR Cockroach View Post
having to shower before entering the pools - (some places make it tricky for you not to shower).
Again. Proper swimming pools tend to force you to go through a shower, whereas open-air swimming pools and hotel pools are more liberal. In open-air pools, the shower's probably useless anyway given how many people pee in it, have drinks and food in the pool, etc... .

Originally Posted by YVR Cockroach View Post
I remember going to a hot springs in the Pyrenees where the water had a film of oil) on it.
Might have been sun screen.

Originally Posted by YVR Cockroach View Post
In Japan, onsen bathers make a very public ritual about body cleansing before entering the pools.
Understandable given that traditional Onsen don't receive comparable water treatment as pools.

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As a longtime swimmer with multiple daily trainings, I can only give one specific advice: The more intense the smell of "chlor", the more pee is in the water. The smell results from the reaction between the water treatment and pee.

The smell was usually stronger in school swimming pools (where we trained a lot). But go to a freshly cleaned pool in the morning: There's barely any smell.

Don't worry too much about hygiene at hotel and open-air pools. Take a proper shower afterwards and you'll be fine.
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Old May 18, 16, 10:19 am
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Originally Posted by YVR Cockroach View Post
In Italy, I don't remember the bathing rules but swimmers have to wear swim caps at least in some places (Cavalieri in Rome for one).
We stayed about 1-1/2 weeks at the Cavalieri about 5-6 years ago. I think I swam in the pool about every day, and not once did I wear a cap. No one questioned me at all.

Around that same time, I remember swimming in the Olympic practice pool in Barcelona, and they specifically told me I needed to wear a cap, and even gave me one to wear.
But when I swam in the same complex (but the outdoor main pool) last year, I didn't need a cap (from what I observed, apparently you don't even need to wear a suit )

I've swum in countless pools (and many natural water spots) around the world, and the only thing consistent about attire and bathing rules is that there is no consistency.
At some pools in Japan, you can't wrap a towel around your waist (because you might not be wearing anything underneath).
I normally do bring a cap with me, just in case, since some pools do have rules that they are needed.
I always wear a Speedo-style suit, and have never been denied entry for wearing one; but have seen guys denied entry for wearing cut-offs or boardshorts.
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Old May 18, 16, 1:57 pm
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Originally Posted by VickiSoCal View Post
I am a former competitive swimmer and lifeguard and current parent of two competitive swimmers, one of whom also teaches and lifeguards at a private pool. Sometimes I think I've spent half my life at a pool.

Noone showers before getting in pools here. It's not done. I don't know why, but it is not.
My son started his swim career in California, and I, too, have spent a whole lot of hours on the deck.

VickiSoCal is right that showering before swimming is not the norm in California. School pools, Y pools, gym pools, public pools: never once saw a sign suggesting it.

When we moved to Pennsylvania, we found the pre-swim shower not only the norm but apparently also the law, which, admittedly is rather poorly enforced. His swim coaches required it (Y swim team) but the large apartment complex pool where he lifeguarded all last summer didn't even have a shower.

One obvious difference between the two areas is that almost all California pools are outdoors, receiving direct sunlight, and in Pennsylvania most pools are indoors. (properly maintained) Outdoor pools have always seemed cleaner to me.
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Old May 28, 16, 12:03 am
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I wasn't all that sure if what one smells as chlorine is due to urine. This article seems to state that it's anything nitrogen based.

What you’re smelling are chemicals called chloramines, particularly one called trichloramine. They’re formed when the chlorine disinfectants in a pool react with nitrogen-based compounds in swimmers’ sweat, urine, hair, or skin.
Just wish people would stop using swimming pools and hot tubs/spas as a bath, or worse, toilet.
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Old May 28, 16, 10:38 pm
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Originally Posted by WorldLux View Post

<snip>

----
As a longtime swimmer with multiple daily trainings, I can only give one specific advice: The more intense the smell of "chlor", the more pee is in the water. The smell results from the reaction between the water treatment and pee.

The smell was usually stronger in school swimming pools (where we trained a lot). But go to a freshly cleaned pool in the morning: There's barely any smell.

Don't worry too much about hygiene at hotel and open-air pools. Take a proper shower afterwards and you'll be fine.
Yep! When there's lots of available chlorine (which you want) there is little smell. But if it smells strongly, you're not smelling chlorine, you're smelling chloramines - that's essentially used chlorine, and it's not available for sanitation purposes anymore.

More in depth explanation for readers of this thread here

Last edited by JDiver; Aug 8, 16 at 6:38 pm Reason: Spell checker (iPad Air 2) correction correction
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Old Jul 31, 16, 9:30 am
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That overwhelming chlorine smell you describe is exactly how the jacuzzi at my gym smells. I see so many sweaty guys come in after their workout, peel off their shirt and shoes, and get right in. Ewwwww!

I go to Aqua Zumba 2-4 times a week and find that showering before I get in the pool helps me overcome the "shock" of the water. And showering after helping get the chlorine off my skin and suit!
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Old Aug 8, 16, 6:41 pm
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Originally Posted by techgirl View Post
That overwhelming chlorine smell you describe is exactly how the jacuzzi at my gym smells. I see so many sweaty guys come in after their workout, peel off their shirt and shoes, and get right in. Ewwwww!

I go to Aqua Zumba 2-4 times a week and find that showering before I get in the pool helps me overcome the "shock" of the water. And showering after helping get the chlorine off my skin and suit!
The strong "chlorine" smell isn't available chlorine. The shower is getting the, ahem, products of used chlorine off of you and out of your suit. I'd avoid going into that noxious soup of whatever.
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Old Sep 4, 16, 3:53 pm
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I'd like to know more about Hungarian thermal baths since I'm planning on swimming at World Master Champs next year.
But as a competitive swimmer, I don't see people showering to get in. Once we hit the pool deck for competition (I've competed in Australia and USA), we just go in. Now I can explain the differences between warming up in the two countries, but that's just a load of boring swimming jargon and possibly off topic.
But for those who swim outdoors VS indoors, I find air quality is terrible indoors and that chlorine fume is strong and makes the aquatic center (indoors) much warmer than say swimming outdoors. However, it doesn't make it quite hot as a California summer.
The swim cap rule... Force of habit as a competitive swimmer=swim cap anyway. Even rec, even lazy river sometimes... in fact I should probably be kicked out for disturbing the peace half the time for not being lazy...
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Old Nov 1, 16, 3:29 am
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Like the OP, I am really puzzled by the current fashion for people to go swimming in (non swimming) shorts or indeed even in their underwear (both genders, and equally strange in my view).

I agree that some countries like France have a very clear rule about showering (although in most countries, that really means "rinsing yourself" rather than using soap etc) which I find reassuring to an extent, but in a way even more interesting are "cultural norms". For instance, you just don't see people in Japan hitting the baths or pools without having thoroughly showered first. It is so usual that it wouldn't come to people's minds to specify it as a rule but I think that the result is great as long as you are in places patronised by Japanese people and visitors wanting to respect their ways rather than "I'll do whatever I want" types of visitors (and yes, I do think that to an extent, the choice of place will mean a strong concentration of one or the other). A number of other countries like Germany and Austria also seem to think of showering as an automatic prerequisite as it should be.

I actually use hotel swimming pools a lot when travelling, and it has happened to me to get ready to but give up just because of other I believed seemed to behave in a way that struck me as unhygienic. I also dislike swimming pools that do not force people to walk through a foot pool with cleaning solution before entering the swimming pool. That is also pretty systematic in France and a few other countries and avoids many an issue.
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Old Nov 2, 16, 7:26 pm
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I'm curious what issues does it avoid? I've been swimming in pools in the US where no one showers or rinses their feet first and have never had a problem.
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Old Nov 2, 16, 10:44 pm
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Other than the ickiness factor, it'll serve to reduce the (lingering) smell of chloramines. Some of us are more sensitive to it than others.

My local worker safety agency has this to say:

How workers are exposed

Chloramine can be generated wherever water is treated with chlorine. The most common areas are:

Swimming pools
Hot tubs
Water parks
Spas

When people are in chlorinated water, their sweat, makeup, and urine add nitrogen to it. The nitrogen reacts with chlorine to create dissolved chloramines. These are then released into the air when the water is disturbed. Lifeguards, swimmers, facility employees, and others who spend a lot of time near treated water will be most affected.

The risks

The severity of symptoms depends on the concentration of chloramines in the air. In higher concentrations, symptoms can develop within a couple of minutes of exposure. The most common results of chloramine exposure are:

Irritation of the eyes

Irritation of the upper respiratory tract, causing coughing and shortness of breath

Some research suggests that long-term exposure to chloramine gas can significantly decrease lung function and cause occupational asthma.
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Old Nov 3, 16, 10:11 am
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On the subject of swimming pools, has anyone been to the Water Cube in Beijing?

I posted in a thread in the China forum:
http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/china...ater-cube.html

But it hasn't gotten any replies yet
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Old Mar 1, 17, 12:56 pm
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It's just not sweat and grime anymore....

How much pee is in our swimming pools? New urine test reveals the truth
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