How to Minimize Chlorine Exposure When Swimming

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Wellness Mama » Blog » Health » How to Minimize Chlorine Exposure When Swimming

We go to great lengths to remove chlorine (and other contaminants) in our drinking water and shower water, and it made me think about the effect of this common chemical in swimming pools and how much that exposure can affect us.

The Problem With Chlorine

You don’t even have to swim in the pool to be affected by some of the health risks. Chlorinated pools and other water sources also release chloramines.

Chloramine is a gas that smells like chlorine and you’ve probably smelled this in hotels with indoor pools.

Sweat, sunscreens, urine, and other chemicals and waste combine with chlorine to create chloramines. This oxidized chlorine gas and is present in the air around chlorinated pools and other water sources. As you can imagine, this is especially a concern in indoor pools without ventilation but can also be problematic in outdoor pools.

Negative Effects of Chloramines

A strong smell of chlorine is a pretty good indication that there are chloramines in a pool. This potent gas can also cause symptoms like coughing and sinus irritation. On the more serious end, it can cause symptoms like wheezing and even increasing asthma symptoms.

The CDC reports that:

Breathing of irritants may increase sensitivity to other types of irritants such as fungi and bacteria.

Even the American Academy of Pediatrics acknowledges the dangers of Chlorine. Their study of over 800 children revealed that chlorine exposure had a noticeable effect on children with allergies or asthma. They also found that even children without allergies or asthma were affected by prolonged or regular chlorine exposure.

What to Do?

Our whole family loves the water, so while not swimming and filtering our home water would eliminate chlorine exposure, I’m not quite ready to throw the baby out with the pool water!

Thankfully, there are a few things that can be done to help minimize chlorine exposure:

  1. Avoid chlorinated pools whenever possible. In many places there are options that use salt filters (though these still contain chlorine but in smaller amounts) or UV filters. There are often great places to swim outdoors in some places. Obviously, not swimming in water sources that use chlorine is an easy way to reduce exposure. Thankfully, our local indoor pool uses salt and UV filters and no chlorine.
  2. Use Vitamin C: Check out this great article and the attached lectures for a great background on how vitamin C helps neutralize chlorine and undo the damage of chlorine exposure. Turns out taking vitamin C (ascorbic acid) internally and making some type of solution to rub on the skin can reduce a lot of exposure. Turns out they even make vitamin C shower filters that are pretty inexpensive and which dechlorinate shower water. Since vitamin C is often used in anti-aging serums, this is a win-win solution!
  3. Protect the skin: Providing a physical barrier on the skin with an oil can also help reduce exposure. I like using my homemade lotion and adding vitamin C. It is great for skin and protects from chlorine exposure (recipe below!). A commenter pointed out that many public pools do not allow lotions on the skin before using the pool so check with the rules if you use a public pool and check with your pool instructions if using your own pool.

Do You Have a Pool?

If you have a pool and swim regularly, the effects of chlorine exposure can be even more pronounced. Thankfully, if you own a pool, you also have the ability to control the methods used and limit your chlorine exposure.

There are many great chlorine-free filtration options available now. If you are building a pool, you can start with one of these for about the same price as a regular chlorine pump and system. If you already have a pool, you can convert it relatively easily to a chlorine-free system.

Chlorine-Free Systems

Many places now offer UV based systems that require minimal or no chlorine to operate. These systems kill over 99% of bacteria on their own, so trace amounts of other chemicals can be used. Our method is to use a UV filter and pump system and use food grade hydrogen peroxide as a safety net.

The goal with hydrogen peroxide is to keep it at about 50 ppm. We use simple test strips to test and add about 2 cups of hydrogen peroxide per 1000 gallons of water every couple of weeks.

The important note here is to use food grade 35% hydrogen peroxide. The stuff from the drugstore is only 3% and you’d need a whole to shock a pool. 35% hydrogen peroxide is super concentrated, so use caution when handling it, but it is completely safe once in the pool because it is diluted so much.

Not only is this the most natural method I’ve found, it has been really simple to use and the only other factor we have to look at is balancing the pH. It is also pretty comparable cost-wise to other methods.

If you swim in a pool that isn’t your own or can’t convert to a chlorine-free system, something as simple as a de-chlorinating lotion can help. It can also be helpful to shower in a shower with a vitamin C filter before and after swimming.

How to Make a DIY Dechlorinating Lotion

When we are going to swim, we apply a quick lotion barrier to the skin. (Skip to the end of this post to find a simple sunscreen recipe that will do double duty.)

How to Make Lotion

  1. Combine oils and beeswax in a pint sized or larger glass jar. I have a mason jar that I keep just for making lotions and lotion bars, or you can even reuse a glass jar from pickles, olives or other foods.
  2. In another small jar or bowl, add the vitamin c powder to the warm water and stir until dissolved.
  3. Fill a medium saucepan with a couple inches of water and place the jar with the oils inside the saucepan and turn on medium heat.
  4. As the water heats, the ingredients in the jar will start to melt. Shake or stir occasionally to incorporate. When all ingredients are completely melted, pour into a small blender or food processor. (Keep in the jar if using an immersion blender that will fit in the top of the jar.)
  5. With blender or food processor on, slowly add the water/vitamin C mixture until blended and emulsified.
  6. Store in an air-tight glass jar.
  7. Use before swimming (preferably after rinsing skin) to minimize chlorine exposure. This is purposefully a small batch since no preservatives are used and it will only last one swim season.
  8. Enjoy and be chlorine free!

Other Options (No DIY required)

Those who use sunscreen can add vitamin C powder to pre-made sunscreen to get the benefits of chlorine reduction and sun protection at the same time.

This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Shani Muhammad, MD, board certified in family medicine and has been practicing for over ten years. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor or work with a doctor at SteadyMD.

Do you worry about chlorine exposure? How do you avoid it?

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


179 responses to “How to Minimize Chlorine Exposure When Swimming”

  1. JR Avatar

    The lotion is MAGIC. I am a swim instructor and spend up to 32 hrs a week in an indoor, chlorinated pool. I have tried all sorts of commercially available barrier creams, eczema oils and lotions etc (a lot of which contained nut oils and lanolin which cause probs when working with little kids). I was desperate. I couldn’t sleep for the itching at the beginning of term and I was only doing 20hrs in the water then. I even thought my Chronic Fatigue was coming out of remission. I found this page and made the lotion. I also added Ascorbic Acid to by eczema oil and lotion and my shampoo and conditioner. After a week…NO MORE ITCHING. Not only that but I am back up to over 30 hrs in the water and the fatigue symptoms are almost gone. I have been applying the lotion in the morning. At my lunch-break (after 5 hrs in the water) I shower with eczema oil then re-apply the barrier lotion. I have finished my first batch and just made my second. A batch lasted 2 weeks – 20 applications (I’m a sz 18). Not only has it helped me but my daughter who gets a burning rash from chlorine so was going to have to miss out on school swimming lessons. We found this half-way through and she was able to complete the program with no more rash. Thank-you so much. You have enables be to continue working in a job that I love and I can now teach my daughter to swim as well.

  2. Ana Avatar

    If you own a pool, does iodine work instead of chlorine? They’re both halides, and I’m wondering if iodine would work as well. Not sure about your position on it.

  3. Misty Avatar

    Hi Katie,
    I have found so much life and encouragement from reading your blog and am so grateful for the time and energy that you invest in all of our lives. A heart felt thank you for sharing all of your findings after researching things so well.

    I have been trying to find the best solution for our smaller pool that does not have a pump… :/ We have been dumping and scrubbing and refilling it, but it’s really too much water to be doing that all summer. We decided on getting a solar power chlorine-free sun shock (copper & silver ionizer)…. It came in the mail today and I’m feeling conflicted now because I have read comments on different sites from people expressing concern about absorbing heavy metals into our bodies while using them. (?) Is this a legitimate concern when using a copper ionizer? I haven’t been able to find much online expressly addressing this. Really hoping you might be able to weigh in.

    Thanks so much for your time!

    1. Shasha Avatar

      I was sky high in Cu (copper). Zinc competes with Cu and helps lower it from absorbing in food. A person needs both Cu/Zn but not too much. I had to detox the Cu with Mo. Colloidal silver poisoned me…is a heavy metal and was hard to detox orally. I needed EDTA/DMPS IV chelations to remove the silver and other heavy metals. Once the liver gets bogged down with one heavy metal it may build up more. Hair tests show good minerals/heavy metal levels. Cu may kill algae…like a penny in a small fountain. Silver may kill bacteria, but if you get too much they can hurt you.

      Low Chlorine may help and taking iodine. Best wishes.

  4. Kathi Avatar

    Thanks Wellness Mama. I appreciate the post and the recipe. I whipped up a batch and will give it a try before I hit the pool next time. I do love how it feels on my skin. I added a few drops of lavendar essential oil and it smells good too!

  5. LaDonna Mazzorana Avatar
    LaDonna Mazzorana

    1) I would like to clarify what chloramines are (please see article in Wallstreet Journal about the facts on chloramines They can lead to problems like the crisis in Flint, Michigan. Adding this treatment in our public water has brought our town national attention & brought Erin Brockovich’s office to our citizens assistance. Chloramines are actually a disinfectant, a combination of chlorine AND ammonia. This combination is much more dangerous than just chlorine, although they both have LOTS of health hazards. as teacher of chemical free lifestyles for the past almost 20 years, I appreciate your bringing this discussion to light. 2) I would also, like to mention that by watching the Wellness Journey Class at, you will find out why I would NEVER take Ascorbic Acid again and why it really is NOT Vitamin C (only 5% of the molecules, the rest synthetic & why it could be hazardous to your health). Larry Law co-founder of Angie’s Option was a college professor that poured 40,000 hours of research to help his wife overcome a critical health crisis and used all this research to put into this WELL researched wellness class. ANYONE taking supplements should see this video for their own health and well being. Just one example you will discover in this class, that a particular research in the 90’s was halted because they were literally increasing lung cancer by over 40%, heart disease over 20% and birth defects by 400% by certain supplementations. You can download a free brochure from this site to help you with your safe supplementation journey. This class is free to the public if you can find a class in your area or you can download an on-line version or order a DVD of the class for less than $15. You will come away with the tools to know how food has been altered, safe supplementation and a new science on the immune system/cell communication called Glycobiology. After 20 years of our own research, this class blew me away! 3) Regarding showers and chlorine or chloramine, since I will not use Ascorbic Acid. …. I take less showers, quicker showers and at times have put a safe, pure CITRUS ESSENTIAL OILS on a muslin cloth/tea towel wrapped around the shower head with a rubber band securing it to the shower head. This has been a huge benefit to me and cuts back on the skin issues that chloramine and chlorine cause. PS keep up the your work, you come highly recommended by Dr. Axe, wish I had more time to read your posts!

  6. Michaela Avatar

    Visited Dominican Republic recently…. Beautiful beaches, sun, the sand. My skin glowed.

    Then saw a bunch of people sitting in pools on our way back to the room. A cloud of chlorine, heady and heavy lingered with the pungent smell… Why? I don’t get it. I for sure opt out!

    Love your blog Wellness Mama!

    Have a fantastic day!


  7. Rusty Avatar

    Chlorine is definitely a worry, and thank you for raising the awareness! Until reading your article I was only worried about my dietary intake of chlorine, which is far higher than most people realize.

    I don’t advocate this for everybody, but I want to share one strategy I use to minimize the effects of chlorine. Before doing this yourself, please do your own research, and decide for yourself.

    There is a once common chemical called sodium thiosulphate (or thiosulfate for those in the US). It was used in Black & White photograph development. It is most commonly found now in pet shops as ‘Chlorine Neutralizer’ for aquariums. It neutralizes both chlorine and chloramines. It combines with chlorine to produce sodium chloride (common salt) and a little rotten egg gas (not enough to even smell).

    As the pure crystals are now difficult to find, I use six drops a day of a chlorine neutralizer for aquariums (carefully reading the label to buy a brand that contains nothing else!) in my coffee. I’ve been doing this for several years.

    It also helps to remove iodine stains – it reacts with iodine and all the other halides in the same way as it does with chlorine.

  8. Ugyen Avatar

    After all, Swimming is a very good exercises. At least 30 minutes exercises is essential to stay healthy and longer life…. Nice article and it was worth reading… Thanks for the tips…

    1. Shasha Avatar

      I agree swimming is good for health/exercise. I saw a group of older people who used to swim and they were very limber/flexible. I think the Cl may have killed yeast/infections in them and exercise makes more neurons/mitochondria. Sweating releases heavy metals. Good clean water is needed, but Cl may help infections/hurt by blocking thyroid. Taking iodine may help push the Cl out of a person.

  9. Shasha Avatar

    Sunlight is UV and may kill some germs, but reverse osmosis water has UV as part of the treatment. It would be nice it only water was in the pool due to new natural kind of filter.

  10. Liz Avatar

    I have been following you for years now. I love most of the things you post and share. They are very helpful and educational. When this came up in my email I thought to myself, man, where does she draw the line? Don’t you drive yourself insane living like this? We can fear so many things in life. There are so many things that aren’t good for us or safe for us but really when do you draw the line? It’s got to be madening trying to avoid so many things. I am saying this from a place of love and not hate. I am not writing this to you in a rude tone at all but from a person, who like you, tries to eliminate the bad. I read new things every day that aren’t good for me or my family. It’s just there gets to be a point where you just have to live.

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      I absolutely agree Liz and I completely understand where you are coming from. I think it really is about picking your battles and choosing the things that make the biggest difference for your family. With this blog, I hope to just bring awareness to the potential battles to fight, not to suggest that we all have to fight each one. The reason this one is a battle I have to fight is that chlorine really messes me up for a long time if I’m exposed, even in drinking water.

      1. Steve Avatar

        As someone who deals with people everyday who have a variety of reactions to chlorine and chloramines, this is a real issue and each person should prioritize it for themselves. The reactions range from minor irritations to serious skin, eye and respiratory issues that can last for days, weeks or months depending on the extent of the exposure. We especially hear from people who are managing autoimmune disorders, cancer recovery and just sensitivity. We don’t try to consul folks who are allerigic to pollens by saying “pick your battles”, we try to help instead.

    2. Lori Avatar

      It is overwhelming! But we can still enjoy everything life has to offer and live! I believe it’s best to be educated about everything that can have a negative effect on our health and then decide what is acceptable in moderation. Thank you Katie for being such a great educator!

    3. Shasha Avatar

      I do whatever is needed to be healthy…buy reverse osmosis water/avoid gluten/dairy/soy/sugar/GMO/heated oils/saturated fat/take vitamins/good oils/minerals…probiotic…LDN..detox. If you do what the average person does they may get very sick. American food may destroy the brain/body. Cl/F/Br may hurt people. When you lose your health you lose everything. Low thyroid causes clots and much more in me. Blocking my thyroid with Cl hurts me. Each person has to decide what helps/hurts them. Many people are blind to what is hurting the. I am high in Uranium on a hair test. Where did that come from? Cl in a swimming pool may kill yeast/infections, but you need to figure out if it is blocking your thyroid. I don’t drink tap water with F/Cl which can block thyroid. I am willing to do what is needed to stay healthy. Fire fighters…60% may get cancer/Parkinson’s due to the fumes in the fire like Br. Cl is not a little thing. You can set your goals for health. My liver did not detox well due to Celiac and I built up heavy metals and other things hurt me. Each person is different. Just take what information you want and leave the rest. The world is not like it used to be. Animals are dying due to the water/soil/air/food and people also are, but the poison may taste good or swimming is fun etc. Do what helps you the most.

  11. Cindy Avatar

    I’ve never heard of the UV filter system. We have a saltwater system and it does seem that the chlorine smell is stronger than when we had a chemical chlorine pool. But the levels test normal. Is the UV system something you add to the saltwater system or is it a stand alone system? I would love to get rid of chlorine completely.

  12. Nadya Avatar

    Pretty controversial topic.
    I am the one cleaning cartridge filter in our pool. I would not want any extra oil/greases in there.

  13. Dylan Avatar

    My nephew and I were swimming the other day and I was thinking it couldn’t be good to swim in all that chlorine. This proves my suspicions. I’ll pass along the info to my sister about the homemade lotion to protect the skin. I might even have to try it out.

    Congrats on the awesome website too!

  14. Lori Avatar

    Chloramines are not just a byproduct of oils, etc. mixing with chlorine. I just wanted to point out that many municipalities have turned to using chloramines to disinfect tap water instead of chlorine due to an EPA requirement to decrease the amount of Trihalomethanes (THMs), which are disinfection byproducts that are formed when organic matter in the water combines with chlorine. Chloramine forms THMs too but in a lower amount.

    Chloramines do not break down and naturally dissipate into the air as easily as chlorine does and it is very hard to get rid of it. Most filters do not remove chloramines. You have to have a special type of filter to reduce it effectively. Chloramines can cause even worse problems than chlorine. Google for a full description of the harmful effects of chloramines on our body and our household plumbing pipes, water heater and plumbing fixtures.

  15. Lori Avatar

    Chloramines are not just a byproduct of oils, etc. mixing with chlorine. I just wanted to point out that many municipalities have turned to using chloramines to disinfect tap water instead of chlorine due to an EPA requirement to decrease the amount of Trihalomethanes (THMs), which are disinfection byproducts that are formed when organic matter in the water combines with chlorine. Chloramine forms THMs too but in a lower amount.

    Chloramines do not break down and naturally dissipate into the air as easily as chlorine does and it is very hard to get rid of it. Most filters do not remove chloramines. You have to have a special type of filter to reduce it effectively. Chloramines can cause even worse problems than chlorine. Go here to find out more:

  16. Peggy Daven Avatar
    Peggy Daven

    I have a non chemical treatment system for my pool. I’ve had it for 10 years. It uses copper ionization and titanium oxidation if I remember correctly. It is from a company called ECOsmarte in MN. I also have their smaller system for our indoor hot tub. They sell a whole house water filtering system also. We chose not to get tube whole house system as we have well water. We are blessed to have our own pool but I have gone to water aerobics at a public pool and I love it EXCEPT FOR THE CHLORINE! Hope this is helpful.

  17. Rick X Avatar

    WOW we’re all concerned about ALOT of stuff and it’s OBVIOUS our gov’t agencies & many companies don’t care about our health concerns, just the profits they can make. It is becoming more & more critical that we CONTACT our legislators & gov’t officials & tell them they need to stop accepting “legal lobbyist” money & start having a conscience. We as consumers are being taken for a huge ride…. NOW it seems if we buy “regular food” it’s really FRANKENFOOD GMO modified and who knows what else. TOO often now too, there are VERY TINY warning labels on products stating that IN CALIFORNIA THIS PRODUCT HAS BEEN SHOWN TO CAUSE CANCER… and they sell that poison crap in all other states LEGALLY… and unless we REFUSE this stuff & LET manufacturers know we disagree (by not buying their products AND writing to them) they’ll keep on doing what they have been doing. WHY do you think the current generation is not expected to live as long as any others? They/WE are all being poisoned with processed denatured FRANKENFOODS and chemicals FORCED on us (ie fluoride in water DOES cause lowered iq… & Hitler used it in concentration camps to dumb down & make prisoners less resistant…………. and we’re getting it dumped on us with CLAIMS it helps prevent cavities and THAT has been proven to NOT be the case..) It’s all around us AND notice how other countries have BANNED USA produce because they KNOW GMO is toxic poison FRANKENFOOD>

    ABOUT the chlorine in pools/hot tubs. I recently discovered a company that uses ENZYMES to keep pools clean… I”m still researching I fired off a LOOOONNNG email with alot of questions….. I’m hopeful that we , as consumers, will prevail… unless we just give in……….. and that’s not MY strategy

    1. Dianne Umscheid Avatar
      Dianne Umscheid

      Rick….you are so totally on point w/ every aspect of your comment. I wish I knew more like minded people like you. I live in SD, not very progressive in becoming responsible for their own health. Recently (6wks ago) lost my mom to lung cancer and all I could do was sit back and watch for 2 yrs…..nothing I tried to help w/ was taken seriously…feeling helpless is horrible. The ongologist was next to god!!!! Thank you for sharing as you did. It would be great to communicate thru other methods. Nor sure how that works. Keeping doing what u r doing and I will too.

  18. Donette Avatar

    I have been trying to find instructions for switching a home pool to iodine. There have been many articles and studies of College competitive pools switched to iodine being beneficial in many ways, but I cant find any i formation on process and chemical testing levels to switch my home swimspa to iodine. I have hypothyroid and iodine deficient, which chlorine further depeletes iodine, but I can barely walk if I dont go in swimspa/jacuzzi at least 3 hours each day

  19. Allan Avatar

    Did I use read YOU say ‘for those who use sunscreen……’ Where have you been? How can you insider yourself ‘wellness’? Any more like this and you will lose me forever! ?

    1. Shasha Avatar

      People need the sun light to make Vit D. Astaxanthin may help prevent sunburn.

      I can’t have saturated fat…clogs my blood vessels. I avoid too long of time in the sunlight, but enough to make Vit D. Scottish/English/Irish are low sunlight heritage that causes autoimmune Celiac which gluten hurts the gut lining so less nutrients absorb…then the brain/body malfunction.

      Too much zinc may hurt also if people use it to block the sunlight.

  20. Jaime Avatar

    We are buying a house that has a pool and they use bromine instead of chlorine. Is this safer or just as bad as chlorine?

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