Dress Code for Public Swimming Pools (Easy Checklist)


When you’re preparing to head out for a nice day at the local pool, you might be wondering what to wear. Everyone knows that items like sunscreen, goggles, and towels are essentials for a trip to the pool, but figuring out how to dress for the public pool can be harder than you think.

Public pools enforce a strict dress code to preserve the cleanliness of the pool water and keep attire family-friendly. Those that fail to comply with the pool’s dress code guidelines may be prohibited from using public swimming facilities in an effort to keep pool-goers safe.

Believe it or not, there are places that enforce strict dress codes. These dress code guidelines may vary slightly from one pool to another, but it’s universally understood that all public swimming pools have some semblance of a dress code—whether written or unwritten—that you should be following. Below, we’ll outline what’s generally appropriate versus what’s inappropriate for swimming at the public pool.

Appropriate Swimwear for Public Pools

Deciding on what to wear to the local swimming pool can be somewhat of a hassle. Unfortunately, you cannot just wear normal clothes.

You have to take special care that the clothing fabric is safe for pool water. Plus, you’re probably going to want to pick a swimming outfit that makes you look good. On top of all this, you have to make sure your swimwear fits your local pool’s dress code!

With all this to keep in mind, it can be easy to forget why public pools even have a dress code in the first place. Generally, public pools enforce a strict dress code because of the possible safety risks that normal clothes pose to you, the rest of the people in the pool, and the pool itself.

Those managing your local pool prioritize safety over everything else. If they failed to enforce a dress code, they wouldn’t be fulfilling their duty of protecting people’s health. Honestly, you should be worried if there isn’t a dress code being actively enforced!

It’s important to know that there are no explicitly stated universal guidelines regarding the dress code of public swimming pools. A swimming pool’s dress code is contingent on a number of factors, such as the:

  • general attitude of those managing the public pool
  • pertinent laws and guidelines of the state, city, or county
  • receptiveness of local community to the pool’s dress code

Although the details of a pool’s dress code are largely subject to interpretation, there are a few broad dress code rules that apply to practically all standard public swimming pools. If you cannot find any explicit rules governing what’s appropriate for your local pool’s dress code, you can revert to the following (source):

  • Swimwear Must Cover Private Parts – Both males and females must wear swimwear that cover their private parts. This shouldn’t be a problem for most of the standard swimsuits available for purchase.
  • Wear Proper Swimwear Material – Many public pool dress codes use the term “proper swimwear material” but they fail to define what that entails exactly. Proper swimwear material is defined as any material that’s specifically designed for the purposes of swimming. This includes spandex, polyester, nylon, and any similar material that’s non-absorbent.
  • Infants & Toddlers Must Wear Swimwear Over Diapers – It’s fine for infants and toddlers to wear diapers in the pool. In fact, infants and toddlers are required to wear diapers if they’re not yet potty-trained. Any infant or toddler that does wear a diaper must have it completely covered up by a swimsuit. No part of the diaper should be left exposed to the water.

Pinning down the exact rules of whether or not you can wear normal street clothes on the pool deck is a bit more tricky. Some pools allow people to wear street clothes on the pool deck at all times. Other pools only allow people to wear street clothes over proper swimwear. A few pools simply do not allow street clothes to be worn at all.

Since this topic can vary so much, it’s best for you to conduct your own research and see what the general consensus is at your local pool. If the large majority of people are wearing street clothes on the pool deck, it’s safe to say that normal clothes are allowed.

Inappropriate Swimwear for Public Pools

While many public swimming pools don’t necessarily state formal rules on what you should be wearing in the pool, they do institute formal rules on what types of clothing you should not be wearing in the pool. In other words, public pools tend to place much greater emphasis on what’s considered to be inappropriate swimwear.

If you cannot find an explicit set of rules concerning what’s inappropriate to wear at your local pool, you can revert to the following:

  • Nude Swimming is Prohibited – Anyone who enters the premises of a public swimming pool should cover up their private parts. They should not totally expose their bodies to other pool-goers.
  • Revealing Swimwear is Forbidden – This rule is similar to the last one, but swimmers should not display any of their private parts. Even if the swimwear is made of material that’s suitable for pool water, it still cannot be worn if it’s too revealing. Examples of revealing swimwear that’s strictly prohibited include thongs and French-cut swimwear.
  • Street Clothes Cannot Be Worn in the Pool – Street clothes—particular ones made from cotton—can gradually make pool water unsafe for swimming. Examples of street clothes that’s outlawed include T-shirts, jeans, shorts, skirts, and leggings. Under some circumstances, you may be allowed to wear normal clothes on the pool deck, but you’re never allowed to wear normal clothes in the pool water itself.
  • Sports Clothes are Not Allowed in the Pool – Sports clothes may seem like they’re made from non-absorbent materials, but looks can be deceiving. Oftentimes, they present many of the same problems associated with regular street clothes. Examples of sports clothes that are considered inappropriate for swimming pools include sports bras, leggings, dri-fit shirts, and compression garments.
  • Regular Underwear is Not Permitted in the Pool – Undergarments may look eerily similar to swimwear, but they do not serve the same function. Again, looks can be deceiving, so just wear regular swimwear instead.

These dress code guidelines hold true for nearly all public swimming pools. This dress code is enforced for good reason. There are a number of justifications for why these rules are enforced.

For one, any type of revealing clothes tend to contradict the morals of other people in the swimming pool. In general, public pools want to support a family-friendly atmosphere. Just because you’re fine with wearing revealing clothing doesn’t mean that the people around you share the same perspective.

With respect to why cotton clothes cannot be worn, you may be surprised to find that cotton clothes are actually dangerous to wear. They absorb water extremely well, which can weigh a swimmer down and make it difficult for them to stay at the water’s surface. It goes without saying, but any type of clothing fabric that increases the risk of drowning shouldn’t be allowed in the pool.

In addition, cotton clothes that are exposed to water can let loose small fibers that find themselves in the pool’s filtration system. With enough of these fibers, the filtration system can become clogged or even damaged. The expenses of repairs can cost a considerable sum of money, which is something that public pool managers obviously want to avoid.

Regular underwear is heavily cotton-based, which is why it’s not typically allowed in public swimming pools, despite its uncanny similarity in appearance to regular swimwear.

Street clothes that aren’t made from cotton are considered inappropriate for public pools for an entirely different set of reasons. Unfortunately, normal street clothes are regularly exposed to harmful pollutants, bacteria, contaminants, and chemicals.

When you venture into a public pool wearing street clothes, there’s a strong chance of exposing other people to the same pollutants, bacteria, contaminants, and chemicals that are on your clothes.

You can learn additional information on the logic behind why public public pools prohibit street clothes by clicking over to Why You Shouldn’t Wear Normal Clothes in Swimming Pools.

Swimming pools may be regularly treated with chlorine, but this isn’t enough to keep the pool completely safe and clean. Not to mention that the high chlorine concentrations can do serious damage to normal street clothes.

Do All Public Swimming Pools Enforce the Same Dress Code?

Now that you have a basic grasp of what you can and cannot wear when you’re swimming in a public pool, let’s revisit the topic of whether or not all public swimming pools have the same dress code.

We touched on it earlier, but not all public swimming pools follow the same dress code guidelines. Even if there were a national set of guidelines governing pool dress code, they probably wouldn’t even be interpreted in the same exact way.

In truth, not all public pools have strict dress codes. At some pools, the dress code may be so relaxed that it doesn’t even seem like there’s one at all. At other pools, the rules are so rigidly enforced that pool-goers are forced to follow them at all times.

If you’re unsure of where your local pools stands on this topic, follow the guidelines provided earlier and you should be perfectly fine. Although the dress code rules offered throughout this article are somewhat generalized, they cover all the bases.

Even if you do break a minor facet of the dress code, it’s not the end of the world. At worst, you’ll likely just have to change up your swim outfit slightly, store the prohibited swimwear in the locker room, and the issue will be resolved (source). Ultimately, there aren’t any dire consequences for breaking the pool’s dress code.

At the end of the day, you shouldn’t spend so much time worrying about how you’re going to dress for the pool. You should be spending more time thinking about what fun activities lay ahead!

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Austin Carmody

I am the owner of HydroPursuit. I enjoy kicking back and getting out on the water as much as I can in my free time.

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