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More on Pool Chemistry

I’ll never forget the first summer I was on the swim team, and we were swimming two hours a day, every day, in a highly chlorinated pool. My father (an avid swimmer) had warned me that I probably should get a special swimmer’s shampoo, but being a highly opinionated pre-teenager, I completely ignored him. I ignored him day in, and day out, until, about one week after I started, I noticed that my brown hair now looked sort of, um, green. It got progressively greener for about a week, until I finally (!) figured out that I could listen to my parents just this once and get the swimmer’s shampoo. So that is a cautionary tale in listening to one’s parents (if only my kids were reading this!), and also a tale in what chlorine in a pool can do. So what is chlorine? Why do we need it? And why does it make my hair green?

1. What is chlorine? It is a chemical (like everything else in this world!) that is extremely good at killing bacteria in the pool. This means that all the germs/bacteria that people bring into a public pool (or the germs and bacteria that grow naturally in a standing body of water) are killed and cannot harm you. Too much chlorine, though, can make your eyes burn, or your hair green, and in large quantities, may make you sick, so the people in charge of the pool need to carefully regulate the chlorine content to make sure that everyone is safe.

2. Why do we need it? To answer this one, have a “fun” fact: Researchers were recently able to measure how much urine is in public swimming pools, and they found up to 75 liters in a regular-sized swimming pool (see HERE or HERE)! Note that this is about one hundredth of one percent (0.01%) of the total volume of the pool. This (and other reasons) are why we need to have that chlorine disinfectant.

3. Why does it make my hair turn green (see HERE – hopefully it doesn’t make your hair this green!)? Well, it doesn’t actually, at least not directly. The presence of the chlorine oxidizes copper, which is a metal also found in pools, and that oxidized copper coats your hair and makes it green. Anyone’s hair can turn green, but it is especially a problem for people with blond or lighter colored hair (because the green change is more easily seen on the lighter color).

4. What can you do about green swimmer’s hair? Luckily you have lots of choices! Wear a bathing cap, or buy some swimmer’s shampoo online (my personal favorite: see HERE. Also did you know you can use home remedies? Check out this link (HERE) although fair warning that I’ve tried none of these tips myself, and some of them sound a bit odd (ketchup in hair?).

What do you use for dealing with swimmer’s hair issues? Share in the comments below!

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