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Does Chlorine Kill Coronavirus?

You might not catch COVID-19 from swimming, but a pool party is still super risky

Finally, some good freaking news: Chlorine (most likely) kills coronavirus germs. No official studies have been conducted, but chlorine is known to work as a disinfectant and COVID-19 isn’t believed to be spread through water, regardless. This means that you probably can’t catch it from swimming in a pool that someone with the virus has been in. 

Buuuuuut that’s probably not a reason to get too excited. 

At very least, the fact that chlorine kills coronavirus means that your personal backyard pool is a safe place to be, germ-wise, so long as you properly maintain it. Hypothetically, you could social distance in a pool, too. Germs won’t swim from one person to another and infect you. 

Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean you should have the whole gang over for a pool party. While chlorine might kill coronavirus germs, it’s not a cure for the virus itself — if you’re hanging out with someone who is sick, a dip in the pool isn’t going to keep you safe. The problem is that in order to get into a pool, you probably need to touch other things. A sick person could touch their eyes, nose or mouth and then touch the handrail to get in the pool, or some other common surface. The risk of touching shared objects is lessened when the pool is outdoors and not public, but it’s still there. 

Plus, a sick person will continue to produce more germs during and after swimming –– if you inhale one of their respiratory droplets while standing in some chlorinated water, it’s still going to enter your body and probably infect you. So really, you’re only safe while, like, completely underwater. 

One practical upside of all this, though, is that jumping in the pool might be an okay move after going grocery shopping or some other activity where you might have been exposed. While the risk of transmission from skin or clothes is low, swimming in a chlorinated pool would reduce it further by removing any germs that you might have picked up, but not ingested, while you were out. The pool isn’t a bath and won’t get you clean like a shower will, but it probably wouldn’t hurt if you wanted to go straight from your car to your pool, on occasion. 

But again, let me stress that all of this really only applies to outdoor, private pools that are well maintained. The chlorine in a public pool might kill the virus just the same, but everything else that comes along with the public pool experience negates that benefit

And none of this should really change anything about your habits. You definitely need to keep washing your hands with soap and water and disinfect surfaces as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But, at very least, you can enjoy knowing that you won’t catch COVID-19 from your pool water.