The "smell" of chlorine? It just may be pee.

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I used to smell like the pool itself by the time I was done with swim practice as a child. As a competitive swimmer, I smelled like chlorine all the time, actually. Or did I? Did I smell like chlorine ... or something else?

I never put much thought to it until reading an article last night from the Water Quality Health Counsel titled Before Swimming, Be Sure to Shower. According to the article, a clean pool does not smell of chlorine; rather it smells of nothing. The smell we associate with chlorine comes from "irritants produced when the chlorine reacts with impurities." This means that the pool is not clean. No, my dear friend, you are not swimming in a clean pool. You are swimming in soup of sweat, skin cells, anti-deodorants, perfumes, hair sprays, boogers, saliva, and pee. Lots and lots of pee, most likely. I know that I peed in the pool a few times during my childhood because the bathrooms were down a large flight of stairs and at the end of a long hallway. I just wasn't going to walk that far when I could let it go in the deep end.

The article does not mention exactly what happens to make the chlorine smell we all associate with cleanliness, but anyone with a bit of aquarium experience can fill in the blanks (me). Chloramines are what you are smelling. When nitrogen-containing stuff is introduced to a pool, chlorine reacts with it to form chloramines. Specifically, trichloramines, which are triple-saturated chloramines, cause the smell ... and the eye-burning irritation many of us remember from our childhood. The chlorine is free and floating in the pool until it needs to be called to duty, of course. We want it to be there, in case little Johnny drank too much Sunny D earlier in the day and is as lazy as I was... . If anyone is interested in reading a fantastic and well-written article breaking down the science of de-pooping a pool, it can be found here at HowStuffWorks: "Pool Chemicals."

What does all of this tell me? It tells me that the home-town pool I used to swim in three times a week for close to ten years was full of pee. If I did not wear goggles, my eyes burned terribly. The smell hung in my clothes. You could smell the pool at the bottom of the stairs, thirty feet away from the entrance. Usually I am happy to learn things; in fact, I relish learning. On this particular occasion, however, I think ignorance was bliss. Or piss.

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4 Comments on "The "smell" of chlorine? It just may be pee."

Deja Poo's picture
Comment Quality Moderatorj 1000+ points

And why would you think that it's only the little buggers that are letting loose in the pool? (Hint: never trust an adult who is standing, unmoving in the pool with a big shit eating grin. Or should I say, ...a big piss drinking grin?

Yo quiero Taco Bell.

Blind Mullet2's picture
m 1+ points - Newb

Good point raised above. I used to find it difficult to pee in the pool if I was moving, so yeah, any bastard standing still is a suspect.
When we were kids, there were 2 of us who were real good friends, and there was a nuisance guy who used to hang around with us, who was forever boasting about how good he was at everything.One time we challenged him to swim the full length of the 50-yard pool underwater. We conned him into starting at the deep end, and the rule was that he was not to surface until tagging the shallow end wall where we stood (in the water).
Well, being the macho galoot that he was, he accepted the challenge. As soon as he dived in, we both took a long, satisfying leak and waited for him to swim through our piss cloud.

He didn't disappoint us.

ChiefThunderbutt's picture
PoopReport of the Year AwardComment Content ModeratorComment Quality Moderatorf 5000+ points

A word of advise to any of you pool pisser wannabes. It is a very bad idea to pee in the pool from the high diving board. You will call unnecessary attention to yourself. Stealth is the way to go!

If I had two faces do you think I'd be wearing this one?

Deja Poo's picture
Comment Quality Moderatorj 1000+ points

Good point, Chief. It may come out as a solid stream but after a few feet, that stream will deteriorate to droplets. I would imagine, too, that if there's even the slightest crosswind, your pee might not even make it to the pool but instead shower down on the deck.

I suppose that you could make a betting man's game out of it. Start a "pool" on how long one can urinate from the board before the mandatory lifeguard blows the whistle.

Yo quiero Taco Bell.