Swimming Pool Rules: A Comprehensive List w/ Descriptions


Swimming in the local community pool can be a treat, but everyone must follow a few rules to promote both swimmer safety and pool cleanliness. The vast majority of swimming pools enforce the same rules and regulations. Once you’ve become familiar with this set of rules, you will know how to conduct yourself at practically all public pools.

Below, you will find an extensive list of specific swimming pool rules and regulations. These pool mandates have broken down into the following categories for you:

  • Pool Deck Rules
  • Swimming Rules
  • Diving Rules
  • Slide Rules
  • Locker Room Rules

Pool Deck Rules

The pool deck is the land area that surrounds the entire pool. There are certain safety rules in place that govern behavior on the pool deck to prevent accidental injury and potential sickness.

Walk, Do Not Run

You’ve probably heard lifeguards say this to children before. Since the surface pool deck is hard and slick, people must take extra care around the pool’s perimeter to avoid falls. If you slip and injure yourself around the pool, there’s a chance that you might incapacitate yourself and fall into the pool. It goes without saying, but this would severely increase your drowning risk.

No Street Shoes

Every day, people walk around in their street shoes onto dirty, germ-infested surfaces. Street shoes are exposed to outdoor sidewalks, hallway floors, sweaty gyms, and public bathrooms. With all this opportunity for contamination, you must keep street shoes off the pool deck to ensure the safety of others.

Generally, public pools only allow certain types of footwear on the pool deck, namely flip flops and sandals. Having designated pool footwear helps mitigate the risk of contamination, thereby stopping the spread of illness before it even has a chance to take root. So make sure to pack your flip-flops and sandals!

No Glass Bottles

Any kind of glass bottle is strictly prohibited at public pools. If a glass bottle breaks anywhere near the pool, the entire pool must be shut down immediately. This is done to prevent swimmers from accidentally stepping barefoot on the tiny glass shards and seriously injuring themselves.

These glass shards are not only a glaring safety hazard, but they’re also a massive inconvenience to clean. Under some circumstances, a pool may shut down for multiple weeks due to a glass breakage incident. Nobody wants to close down the pool during the peak of summertime, so leave those glass bottles at home.

Use of Strollers & Car Seats is Prohibited

While strollers and car seats certainly ease transportation, they present a safety hazard on the pool deck. If a stroller or car seat falls into the pool by accident, it can trap a child underwater. For this reason, strollers and car seats must be stowed far away from the pool deck.

You can ask the pool desk for a safe place to store your stroller or car seat while you’re at the pool. Typically, they can accommodate your stroller or car seat in the lobby or locker room if need be. This way, you won’t have to go through the hassle of moving back and forth between your car and the pool.

Swimming Rules

Now that you know how to conduct yourself on the pool deck, let’s move onto the rules governing pool use. Since the pool is where the most safety hazards lie, it only makes sense that the pool is where the most safety regulations are enforced.

All Swimmers Must Shower Before Entry

Everyone must cleanse themselves with a shower before entering the pool, particularly those that have just come from the gym. All pool locker rooms come equipped with showers for this very reason.

Unfortunately, not all swimmers are as clean as you would be led to believe. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average person has approximately 0.14 grams of fecal matter on their body at any given moment (source). It is for this reason that diarrhea is the most prevalent recreational water illness.

While it may be true that pool water is treated with high concentrations of chlorine, this disinfecting chemical can only do so much. Showering before pool entry helps greatly in keeping the water free of harmful pathogens and fit for swimmers.

Avoid Swimming if You Feel Sick

If you already feel like you’re coming down with sickness, you should not enter the pool water under any circumstances. Since all swimmers share the same water, illness can spread at an extremely rapid rate. It may be tempting to swim despite potential illness, but you must prioritize the safety of all the other swimmers above all else. Needless to say, if the situation were flipped, you wouldn’t want a swimmer with a contagious illness entering the pool.

Lifeguard Must Be On Duty for Pool Entry

When it comes to large public pools, swimming is not allowed unless there’s an active lifeguard present. Busy, spacious swimming pools tend to be slightly more dangerous than your average pool. Since the pool is so vast and crammed with people, it can be harder to identify a swimmer in distress.

Oftentimes, there’s more than just one lifeguard on duty for these types of pools. At my local pool, for example, there are always at least three active lifeguards positioned around the pool border. Practically all community pools require a lifeguard. If you do not see a lifeguard on duty, always check in with the pool staff first to confirm that you have the all-clear to swim in the water.

Kids Must Be Accompanied by an Adult

Any child that wants to swim may only do so if they’re actively supervised by an adult that’s 18 years old or above. Lifeguards cannot be relied upon solely to guarantee the safety of your child. This rule typically applies to any child below the age of 12.

Ideally, the supervising adult should attend to the child in the water, but it ultimately depends on several variables, such as:

  • child’s comfortability in water
  • child’s mastery of swimming fundamentals
  • depth of water
  • how busy the pool is

At the end of the day, you can never be too safe, so you should always be vigilant whenever your child is in the pool.

Exit the Pool to Use the Restroom

This should not even have to be said, but the pool is not your personal toilet. If you have to use the restroom, exit the pool and go to the designated restroom area. Urinating in the pool only contaminates the water, putting others at risk for illness.

Sadly, many people have a false notion that pool chlorine will automatically eliminate the germs from urine. This is not the case. Chlorine only works to a certain extent.

To prove this point, you should know that a well-kept pool does not have a distinct “chlorine” smell. In fact, this smell actually is not chlorine at all. That’s the smell of chloramine, the chemical byproduct of chlorine reacting with pool impurities, like urine, for example (source). In short, public pools that reek of chloramine are so overloaded with impurities that additional chlorine is needed.

In all likelihood, your local pool has smelled like chloramine at some point. This shows that chlorine cannot be relied upon to purge the pool of every single impurity. In a few words, if you have to pee, go to the bathroom!

Swim Diapers Only, Not Regular Diapers

Not only must toddlers be accompanied by an adult, but they must also wear swim diapers if they have yet to be potty-trained. Regular diapers, on the other hand, are not fit for public pool use. The reason being that swim diapers are specially designed to allow liquids to pass through, whereas regular diapers absorb liquids (source). This causes regular diapers to become heavy and bloated in the pool, which can result in extreme discomfort for your toddler.

The biggest advantage swim diapers have over regular diapers, however, is their ability to keep solids in. In other words, swim diapers are better equipped to stop fecal matter from spreading throughout the pool. Unfortunately, this advantage comes at the expense of keeping urine within the diaper.

Toddlers may not be able to control their bathroom urges, but swim diapers can help mitigate the potential contamination that comes with these uncontrollable urges.

Wear Clean, Family-Friendly Swim Attire

The community pool is meant to be a wholesome place for the entire family to enjoy. To uphold this family-friendly atmosphere, public pools enforce a specific dress code to keep swimwear age-appropriate. Swimsuits that are overly revealing or see-through cannot be worn at public pools, for instance.

You can find further information on what cannot be worn at public pools by clicking over to What Not to Wear in the Pool (Simple, Easy Checklist).

Preventing unnecessary contamination to the pool water has been a common thread with these rules, so it should come as no surprise that only clean swimsuits are allowed. You shouldn’t wear the same swimsuit that you used the day prior, for example.

Food, Drinks, & Gum are Prohibited in the Water

Food and drinks may be allowed on the pool deck at certain pools, but rarely are they ever allowed to be taken into the water. Food droppings and spilled drinks can quickly turn cleanly pool water into filth. Nobody wants to feel like they are swimming in the aftermath of someone else’s meal.

Plus, chewing on food or gum in the water is a choking hazard. Even though this ban can be frustrating, it’s important to remember that the pool staff is only looking out for your personal safety. So if you’re hungry, make sure to eat outside the water.

Refrain from Ingesting the Pool Water

Few people ever purposefully drink the pool water, but public pools still want to clarify that pool water is not safe for consumption. For one, pool water is filled with a whole host of chemicals, like chlorine. Secondly, various harmful microorganisms are invisible to the naked eye that lurk in the pool’s depths, such as E. Coli.

While you may accidentally swallow a bit of pool water here or there, you should keep this ingestion to a minimum. This fact should be made known to children in particular. If they ever get thirsty, they should drink from a water bottle, not the pool.

Keep the Pool Entryways & Exits Clear

The stairways and ladders leading to the pool are not places where swimmers should congregate. These entryways and exits should be left unobstructed for the most part. This way, swimmers can enter and exit the pool at their leisure without any further issues. If you want to hang out, you should do so in the shallow end of the water or alongside the pool wall wherever possible.

Don’t Sit or Hang on Lane Dividers

The purpose of the lane dividers is to provide each lap lane swimmer with sufficient space to do their workout. Contrary to popular opinion, these ropes are not meant to be a place to sit and rest. All pool-goers are asked to be courteous to the lap lane swimmers by steering clear of the lane dividers. There’s plenty of pool space to go around, so there’s no need to sit or hang on these ropes.

No Pets

While you may be perfectly fine with the idea of bringing your pet into the pool, other swimmers nearby may not be as comfortable with the idea. The unfortunate truth of the matter is that not all pets bode well in the water. If a pet starts to thrash around in the water, it can put other swimmers at unease.

Additionally, pets may further pollute the water with drool, fur, and fecal matter. Even the best-trained pets can be guilty of bringing these harmful contaminants into the water. For all these reasons, the majority of public pools forbid pets from swimming in the water, regardless of how well they may be able to swim.

No Roughhousing

It’s only natural for children to want to play games in the swimming pool. Games like Freeze Tag and Marco Polo are among some of the most popular pool activities out there. Nonetheless, certain pool games can get out of hand quickly in terms of roughhousing.

Any game that involves rough physical play—like Chicken Fighting and Noodle Jousting—cannot be done in public swimming pools. These highly physical games may be acceptable at the beach or your backyard pool, but the injury risk is too great for public pool staff to allow this sort of behavior.

Along those same lines, pushing people into the pool is strictly prohibited, even if the person you’re pushing into the water is a friend or family member. If you’re ever caught doing this, there’s a strong chance that you will be asked to leave the pool.

Diving Rules

Not all public pools treat diving the same way. At some community pools, swimmers may be allowed to dive in certain areas. With other community pools, diving may be forbidden entirely for one reason or another.

Since diving rules vary greatly, it’s best to check with your local pool staff what the exact diving rules are. Even if diving is allowed, however, there are still certain safety regulations that you must follow.

Dive in Designated Areas Only

You cannot dive just anywhere around a public pool. The water depth often ranges, with a designated shallow end and a designated deep end. It should go without saying, but swimmers cannot dive in the shallow end under any circumstances. As a general rule of thumb, you should only dive into the pool if the water is at least 10 feet deep (source). If the water is any shallower, there’s a strong likelihood of impacting the bottom of the pool on accident.

Standing Dives Only

Only regular standing dives are permitted from the pool’s edge. Other, more complex dives are prohibited to prevent swimmers from unintentionally crashing into the pool deck. Examples of some restricted diving movements include the following:

  • flipping
  • jumping backwards
  • turning
  • twisting

Don’t Run & Dive

As aforementioned, running is not allowed on the pool deck. For this reason, anyone that wants to dive must do so from a stationary position. They cannot run into their dive since the danger of slipping and falling is too serious to ignore. This rule applies whether you are on the pool deck or the diving board.

Only Dive When the Area is Clear

Wherever you are intent on diving, that portion of the pool must be empty of swimmers. Diving is not allowed in crowded sections of the pool, no matter how skilled a diver you may be. Verbal communication is your best tool in this type of scenario to guarantee your own personal safety and the safety of those around you.

Slide Rules

Water slides have their own special set of rules pertaining to their usage. While park slides may have no regulations, they do not carry the same injury risks that water slides do. If you want to enjoy the water slides at your local pool, you need to be familiar with the following rules.

Lifeguard Must Be On Duty for Slide Use

At least one lifeguard is posted on water slide duty at all times to ensure the operation runs both safely and smoothly. Their main responsibility is to prevent too many swimmers from sliding down at any one time. This way, swimmers won’t accidentally crash into one another and injure themselves.

In the event that no lifeguard is present, that usually means the water slide is closed and unfit for use. So if there’s no lifeguard in sight, that doesn’t mean you can use the slide!

Lie on Your Back, Feet First

The safest way to go down a water slide is on your back with your legs out in front. This sliding posture protects the eyes from splashing water, minimizes any feelings of disorientation, and reduces the likelihood of serious injury in the event of a collision. While lifeguards do their very best to keep swimmers from crashing into one another, accidents are bound to happen. Sliding feet-first into another person hurts a lot less than sliding into them head-first.

Keep the Bottom of the Slide Clear

Once you’ve reached the bottom of the slide, you only have a short amount of time to get clear of the splash zone. People are coming down the slide constantly. If you linger in this area too long, someone will eventually slide into you. The fault won’t lie with them either. The blame will lie entirely on your shoulders.

Locker Room Rules

Last but not least, you must follow certain rules in the locker room to ensure people’s safety and privacy. Violation of such rules may bar you from pool access before you’ve even had the chance to walk onto the pool deck.

No Camera Photography Allowed

Nobody is permitted to take pictures in the locker room. The locker room is a place for people to shower and change their outfits without worrying about their privacy being compromised. Even phone use is prohibited in most locker rooms to protect people’s privacy. Simply put, wait until you are physically on the pool deck to get on your phone.

Only One Locker Per User

There’s a limited supply of lockers to go around, especially during crowded pool days. For this reason, pool-goers are only allowed to store their belongings in a single locker. If everyone were allowed unlimited locker space, there would be no room for anyone to store their stuff. So pack for the pool accordingly and be careful not to bring along too many of your possessions.

Lock Up Your Locker

Sadly, theft is an issue at community pools. Some people search for open, unattended lockers to steal people’s belongings for themselves. The best protection against theft is to remember to bolt your locker before heading to the pool. Rushing yourself to the pool as fast as humanly possible can be tempting, but you should always take the extra time to guarantee that your belongings are safe and sound.

Sources: 1 2 3

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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