Going to the local pool is something that families everywhere look forward to during the summertime. Nonetheless, it’s important to note that every public pool enforces a community dress code to protect the health and well-being of all pool-goers. Whether this dress code is written or unwritten at your local pool, you should have a basic understanding of what clothing items are generally prohibited in public pools.
Here’s a list of items that you shouldn’t wear in swimming pools:
- Compression Wear
- Land Shoes
- Land Socks
- Regular Diapers
- Revealing or See-Through Swimwear
- Street Clothes
- Workout Clothes
Below, we will outline specific examples of each of the listed items so that you can know exactly what you should leave at home and what you should bring to the pool. In addition, I will explain the reasoning behind why these items are prohibited in depth.
Items That Shouldn’t Be Worn in Swimming Pools
At first glance, compression wear seems to resemble normal swimwear in many ways, particularly in regards to wet suits. Unfortunately, these similarities in appearance do not translate to similarities in function.
The material that compression wear is composed of is not built to be soaked in chlorinated water repetitively. Compression wear may hold up after a single dip in the pool, but the material will gradually wear down over time. Regular types of swimwear can deal with the harsh effects of chlorine because they are specially designed for pool use. Compression wear, on the other hand, is meant primarily for exercise on land.
The elastic material is especially vulnerable to the debilitating effects of chlorine. Once the elastic material has been structurally compromised, compression wear essentially becomes unusable, regardless of whether you’re on land or in the water. Rather than deal with complaints from guests, many public pools opt to outlaw compression wear completely.
So next time you go to the local pool, remember to keep the following items at home!
- Compression Shirt
- Compression Shorts
In addition, wearing jewelry in community pools is generally forbidden. The foremost reason why pools enforce this ban is that too many people unknowingly lose their precious jewelry to the pool’s depths. Just wading around the pool can slide off an engagement ring, unclasp an expensive bracelet, or rattle a gemstone loose.
It goes without saying, but searching for a small piece of jewelry at the bottom of a pool does not always yield results. While there’s still a slim chance that a good samaritan could recover your lost jewelry later on, it is not worth the risk. We all know about the monetary value of jewelry, but oftentimes the sentimental value of jewelry goes overlooked. It’s far better to leave your jewelry at home where it can be kept safe and sound.
Aside from potentially losing your jewelry, it’s also important to bear in mind that jewelry does not cooperate well with pool water. The disinfecting chemicals circulating within the pool water can tarnish metal, cause noticeable discoloration, and even damage the jewelry itself (source).
The ban on jewelry within the pool is not only meant to be in the pool’s best interest but your best interest as well. The last thing that anyone wants to deal with after a nice day at the pool is jewelry that’s been lost or damaged. In short, try not to swim with the following accessories:
While it may be true that some public pools have rough flooring that causes blisters, this is no excuse for you to wear street shoes in the water. After walking around all day, there’s no telling what sorts of germs and pollutants could be lurking on the underside of your shoes. Not everywhere you walk is germ-free. Sidewalks, hallways, and bathroom floors are not always the most sanitary.
Community pools may be heavily chlorinated, but these disinfecting chemicals can only do so much. Contrary to popular opinion, there’s a limited supply of chlorine dispersed throughout the water. Once the pool water reaches a certain contamination threshold, more chlorine must be added to maintain the pool water’s cleanliness.
Shockingly, few people are aware that a well-kept pool is not supposed to smell like anything. The distinct “smell” that most people associate with chlorine is actually chloramine, a chemical byproduct that accumulates when pool water has not been cared for correctly (source). So if your local pool has this peculiar smell, beware!
This is the major reason why pool supervisors make such a considerable effort to keep street shoes away from the pool water. Some community pools even go as far as prohibiting street shoes on the pool deck. Under these circumstances, only flip-flops and sandals are allowed near the pool.
If you’re truly in need of some protection against blisters, you should strongly consider purchasing water shoes. Land shoes may not be fit for the pool due to contamination issues, but water shoes are perfectly acceptable.
For any new parents with babies at home, it’s worth bearing in mind that any child who has yet to be potty-trained must wear swim diapers, not regular diapers.
The difference between normal diapers and swim diapers is that normal diapers absorb liquids, whereas swim diapers do not (source). The primary function of swim diapers is to keep solids from passing through the material, even while completely immersed in water. This way, any feces is contained within the swim diaper itself, stopping the rapid spread of water-borne illness.
Without swim diapers, everyone else in the pool is placed at unnecessary risk. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, diarrhea is far and away the most prevalent recreational water illness (source). Ingestion of pool water polluted with human feces can result in the transmission of this water-borne illness.
To keep yourselves and those around you safe, be sure that your child is wearing swim diapers before bringing them in the water. If you don’t have any swim diapers on hand, you should not let your child enter the water. It may not be very pleasing to hear, but it’s only fair to the rest of the pool-goers.
Revealing or See-Through Swimwear
Moreover, inappropriate swimwear is strictly forbidden at most recreational pools. Public pools are supposed to be family-friendly so that everyone can enjoy some summer fun together. Revealing or see-through swimwear infringes upon that family-friendly atmosphere, which can cause friction among pool-goers and pool staff alike.
As a general rule of thumb, you should avoid wearing swimwear that is unsuitable for children to see. It’s more than likely that young children will be swimming at your local pool, so be sure to take that into account when choosing your pool outfit. To provide you with an example, bikinis are typically acceptable to wear, whereas string thongs are usually considered to be too revealing.
Similar to street shoes, regular pairs of socks are not allowed to be worn in community pools due to the risks associated with water contamination. Although you may not want to think about it, used pairs of socks are covered in sweat and dead skin. Additionally, dirty socks create a warm, moist environment that acts as a breeding ground for harmful bacteria (source). These microscopic impurities are introduced into the water as soon as someone wears their socks in the pool.
Aside from water pollution, wearing regular socks in the pool also causes complications with the pool filtration system. The majority of socks are comprised of cotton or wool. When soaked in water, small cotton or wool fibers break off and create lint. Rapid accumulation of this lint can clog up the pool filter and render it useless. Oftentimes, manual extraction of this lint is the only way to return the pool filter to its normal function.
You can find more details about why socks should not be worn in public pools by clicking over to Can You Wear Socks in the Pool? (Solved!).
Pool supervisors avoid this problem altogether by banning socks outright. Without this rule in place, the pool water would not be nearly as sanitary.
People are often surprised to find that normal clothes do not bode well with the pool. Sadly, you cannot just wear any clothing item in the pool and expect it to come out unscathed.
The high chlorine concentration found within pools may maintain the cleanliness of the pool, but it does not do your clothes any good. For one, chlorine is a primary component of bleach (source). Thus, normal clothes undergo a slight “bleaching” effect each time they’re exposed to pool water. The longer the time of exposure, the more pronounced this color fading effect becomes.
Long bouts of exposure to pool water also compromise the integrity of the fibers that make up normal clothes. Over time, your clothes may sustain noticeable damage due to the negative effects of chlorine. Needless to say, nobody wants to ruin their favorite T-shirt just because they wore it to the pool.
Further information on why normal clothes do not bode well with pool water can be found at Why You Shouldn’t Wear Normal Clothes in Swimming Pools.
Anything that you decide to wear in the pool should not have buttons or zippers. The street clothes you wear daily outside the pool should always be kept outside the pool. To drive the point home, here are some specific articles of clothing that are restricted inside the pool:
Contrary to popular opinion, “underwear” is not the same thing as “swimwear.” Underwear is designed exclusively for use on land, not water. Boxer briefs may share certain resemblances to swim trunks, and lingerie may share certain resemblances to bikinis. Still, similarities in appearance do not always translate to similarities in function, as we’ve already stated.
Much of the same issues apply to underwear as the other forbidden articles of clothing discussed above, such as contamination risks and filtration problems. However, there’s one issue that stands above the rest.
The main issue of wearing undergarments in the pool is fabric opacity. When soaked in water, there are certain types of underwear that are see-through. Unfortunately, transparent swimwear is not conducive to the family-friendly atmosphere that public pools are trying to promote, which is why there’s a strict ban on wearing underwear in the water.
Lastly, workout clothes are generally not appropriate for recreational pool use. Since people exercise and perspire heavily in their workout clothes, it would not be smart for this type of clothing to be allowed in public waters. You wouldn’t bring your sweaty workout clothes into your bathwater, so why would you bring them into a public pool?
Even if you have clean workout clothes on hand, the people around you are not aware of that fact. In all likelihood, they will assume that you’re coming straight from a workout based on how you’re dressed. As you can probably imagine, issues would inevitably arise if workout clothes were permitted in the water. With the ban on workout clothes inside the pool, such issues are squashed before they have time to manifest.
Below, you will find a list of specific workout clothes that you should not wear in pool waters:
- Gym Shorts
- Long Sports Bra
- Sports Bra
- Tennis Dress
Speaking from personal experience, I’ve tried wearing gym shorts to the pool on multiple occasions, and each time, it has not panned out well. My biggest complaint with wearing gym shorts in the water is how bogged down the material gets. It feels noticeably heavy once soaked, making wading in the water difficult to do, let alone swimming.
How to Self-Assess Any Questionable Clothing Item
Now that you have a general grasp of what types of clothes are prohibited at the pool, it’s important to realize that you may encounter certain types of clothing that do not quite fit the criteria described above. Under these circumstances, you will have to decide for yourself whether or not the piece of clothing in question is fit for pool use.
To streamline this process, here are some quick questions to ask yourself so that you can make an informed decision about what to wear to the pool.
Is This Outfit Made of Cotton?
If your outfit is comprised of cotton, you should not swim in the pool with it. To reiterate, cotton material has a tendency to lint when completely immersed in water.
On a more important note, cotton material absorbs a considerable amount of water, which can weigh you down as you swim. This slight restriction in mobility may not seem like much, but it puts you at greater risk of drowning. Safety supersedes all when it comes to recreational swimming, so you should avoid cotton material at all costs.
Do You Wear This Outfit for Exercise on Land?
Generally, gym clothes are only reserved for use on land. Any outfits that you regularly wear at the gym rarely ever double as swimwear. Although it may be tempting to believe that some of your gym outfits have dual-purpose capabilities, you should avoid wearing these outfits as swimsuits unless they have been clearly labeled as such.
Was This Outfit Bought in the Underwear Department?
If you’ve purchased your “swimsuit” in the underwear department, it’s safe to say that you shouldn’t wear it in the pool. It would be a living nightmare to go for a swim only to find that some of your more private areas have been put on full display. So rather than run the risk of wearing a see-through swimsuit, it’s far better to steer clear of the underwear department when browsing swimsuit options.
As a bonus tip, it never hurts to try on your swimwear while it’s wet beforehand. Your swimsuit may look one way while it’s dry and another way when it’s fully soaked. Taking the extra time to see how you look in your bathroom mirror may very well save you from an embarrassing experience in the future.
Do These Trunks Have a Lining?
This does not apply so much to women, but men should pay close attention to this final question. Practically all male swim trunks are fitted with an interior lining to provide added support and comfort in the water. This offers extra concealment and coverage so that unsuspecting onlookers won’t have to see things that shouldn’t be seen.
Trunks that lack this interior lining can cause mild discomfort and be overly revealing. So once you’re set on going over to the pool, do a quick check to make sure that your trunks have a built-in netting. Otherwise, you may end up feeling both uncomfortable and exposed while wading around in the water.