Having previously been a swim teacher, I am all too familiar with chlorine. I would spend hours in it each day while teaching, and no matter how much I scrubbed and washed, I somehow seemed to smell chlorine wherever I went? (Any fellow swim teachers feel me?). What was worse is it would leave my skin SUPER dry and flaky, so I would be moisturising all the time to try and counteract this problem.
The Issue with Chlorine
According to some studies, swimming in chlorinated pools may actually increase your risk of developing cancer. Some researchers found more than 100 chemical byproducts in pools that used chlorine as a disinfectant.
But what’s crazy about this is it doesn’t just affect people who swim in pools. Chlorinated pools and other sources can also release a gas known as chloramine.
What Are Chloramines?
Chloramine is a gas that smells like chlorine, which you may have smelled before when inside an indoor pool area.
Waste and chemicals like sunscreen, sweat, skin oils, and even urine mix with chlorine to create chloramines. You can find this oxidised chlorine gas around chlorinated pools and other water sources, with unventilated indoor pools being especially concerning due to the lack of fresh air flowing through, but some outdoor pools can be problematic too.
So, how do you know if there are chloramines in the air? If you smell that strong chlorine scent wafting around that’s a pretty good indication there are chloramines in the air. This gas can cause symptoms like coughing and irritation of sinus areas, with serious effects being wheezing or provoking asthmatic reactions.
What to Do About It?
You can choose not to swim in chlorinated pools and to filter your tap water, which would greatly reduce chlorine exposure, but this does take a lot of the fun out of going to the pool for a fun day out.
Here are a few things you can easily do to minimise chlorine exposure:
- Avoid chlorinated pools as much as possible. There are many pools nowadays that use UV filters or salt filters (which do still contain chlorine, but in smaller amounts), and you can go to many places outdoors to swim that do not use chlorine.
- Rinse before you swim. Wetting skin and hair before entering the pool may help to reduce the amount of chlorine your skin and hair may absorb. Plus, rinsing your body not only helps remove organic matter like dead skin and sweat, but it also removes residue from consumer products like lotions, shampoos, and sunscreens which all contribute to the creation of toxic byproducts (like chloramines) when they come into contact with chlorine. Rinsing off reduces the chances of creating harmful byproducts.
- Create a protective layer on the skin. Using an oil to form a protective physical barrier may help in reducing chlorine exposure. Using a homemade lotion with added Vitamin C is not only great for the skin, but also can help protect against exposure to chlorine (recipe down below). Some pools may not allow patrons to swim with lotion on their skin, so just double-check the pools rules if using a public pool.
- Pump the Vitamin C. There have been many published studies sharing how vitamin C can help to neutralise chlorine in water. By taking vitamin C (ascorbic acid) internally as well as applying it onto the skin, it may help to dramatically reduce chlorine exposure. Showering in a shower that has a vitamin C filter before and after swimming can help a lot too.
- Use chlorine-free systems at home. If you tend to swim in your pool at home, you can choose to avoid using chlorine altogether. There are many UV based systems on offer now that require minimal or no chlorine to operate. These systems are able to kill over 99% of bacteria on their own, so only trace amounts of other chemicals need to be used. You can use a UV filter and pump system, and use food grade hydrogen peroxide as a safeguard. Just ensure it is food grade 35% hydrogen peroxide, as often the ones you get from the drugstore are only 3%. Always use caution when handling chemicals like these.
DIY Dechlorinating Cream
This recipe is courtesy of Wellness Mama, and works a treat in preventing chlorine exposure.
- 1/2 cup oil (almond or olive)
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 1/4 cup beeswax
- 2 tbsp warm water
- 2 tsp vitamin C powder
- 2 tbsp shea butter or cocoa butter (optional)
- Essential oils (optional)
- Place the oils and beeswax in a pint-sized or larger glass jar.
- In bowl, add the water and vitamin C powder then stir until dissolved.
- Fill a medium saucepan with a couple of inches of water and place the jar containing the oils and beeswax inside the saucepan and turn on medium heat.
- As the water heats, the ingredients in the jar will melt. Shake or stir occasionally to combine. When all the ingredients have completely melted, pour the mixture into a small blender or food processor. (You can keep it in the jar if using an immersion blender that will fit in the top of the jar.)
- With the blender or food processor on, slowly add the water/vitamin C mixture until blended and emulsified.
- Store in an air-tight glass jar.
- Use before swimming (ideally after rinsing skin) to help minimise chlorine exposure. The reason this is only a small batch is because there are no preservatives used in this solution, so it will only last for around one swimming season.
If you want to be even more thorough, you can apply an after swim chlorine neutralising spray!
After Swim Chlorine Neutralising Spray
Spray this on hair, skin and swimwear to neutralise chlorine.
- 4 oz distilled water
- 1/2 tsp sodium ascorbate
- Mix the sodium ascorbate with the distilled water until dissolved.
- Use within 24 hours (the solution breaks down and loses its effectiveness after 24 hours).
- How to use: Generously spray the solution all over immediately after swimming.
Note: Another option is to add 1 tsp sodium ascorbate to an empty 8 oz water bottle and bring it along with you to the pool. After swimming, take the bottle to the shower and fill with water. Shake to combine mixture, then pour over your hair and body.
Dechlorinating Post-Swim Routine
After using the after swim chlorine neutralising spray, I change then come home and have a shower.
(Just a side note: Some tips for removing chlorine from your water at home is to install carbon water filters into all of the home showers. Mixing vitamin C into shampoo or body wash, or adding a few teaspoons of vitamin C to your bath water can provide an added layer of protection).
Next, I rinse my swimwear in a bucket of water with a teaspoon of sodium ascorbate (I do this after each use), then pour the whole bucketful (that includes water, swimsuit, and all) into the washing machine, and add a scoop of natural non-toxic detergent. Next, I run the washer on the delicate cycle, and once that’s finished, I hang my swimmers out to dry on the line.
This just helps to reduce fading and breakdown in my swimmers.
Adding vitamin C powder to pre-made sunscreens can help reduce chlorine exposure while still protecting your skin from the sun at the same time.
As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products.
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What do you do to prevent chlorine exposure? Do you have some other natural tips to help? Share with me below!
Wells, Katie. (March 16, 2019). How to Minimize Chlorine Exposure When Swimming. Wellness Mama. Retrieved from https://wellnessmama.com/10658/minimize-swimming-chlorine-exposure/
5 Tips to Reduce Chlorine Exposure in Pools. (August 11, 2014). Adya. Retrieved from https://adyawater.com/blogs/adya-news-1/15069621-5-tips-to-reduce-chlorine-exposure-in-pools
McDaniel, Claire. (August 24, 2017). 4 Ways to reduce your pool chlorine exposure. Clear Comfort. Retrieved from https://clearcomfort.com/4-ways-to-reduce-your-pool-chlorine-exposure/
Sohn, Emily. (September 21, 2010). Chlorinated Pools May Increase Cancer Risk. NBC News. Retrieved from http://www.nbcnews.com/id/39139307/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/chlorinated-pools-may-increase-cancer-risk/#.XJl52pgzZPY
Land, Brenda. Using Vitamin C To Neutralize Chlorine in Water Systems. Recreation Management Tech Tips. Retrieved from https://www.fs.fed.us/t-d/pubs/html/05231301/05231301.html
Bren. Chlorine Itch and Swimming Pools: 5 Ways to Naturally Protect Swimmers. Bren Did. Retrieved from https://brendid.com/chlorine-pools-5-ways-naturally-protect-swimmers/