The 12 Most Dangerous Mistakes You Can Make With Your Pool

Keep your pool area safe for kids, pets, and wildlife with these safety tips. 

By Jen Karetnick | Published May 31, 2022 4:47 PM

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Owning a swimming pool can be awesome. It’s also an awesome responsibility, as open standing water of any kind is a potential safety hazard. Anyone can slip and fall on the pool deck and end up in the water. Pets and wildlife can also slip into pools and be unable to find their way out. Additionally, kids can enter a backyard with a pool without homeowners’ knowledge. In 2021, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported drownings to be the most common cause of death among toddlers and on the rise in older kids.

When you aren’t splashing around, exercising, and cooling off on hot, humid days, you have to take care of your pool and clean it. Of course, that also means keeping special nets, tools, and chemicals around. All of these cleaning supplies can become dangerous when not used or stored properly.

In order to keep your pool safe, check out the below list of dangerous pool mistakes—from landscaping with poisonous plants to not putting away pool floats. Learning about these hazards can help you prevent anything similar from happening around your own pool.

RELATED: Swimming Pools 101

1. Leaving Pool Gates Unlocked

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Most states require some kind of pool fencing or covering—or both—to prevent accidental drownings. Even after installing a pool fence, though, some homeowners fail to regularly lock the gates. A gate alarm like this keypad lock and alarm system available at Amazon can help. The alarm is loud enough at 140 dB that it can be heard from inside a home. If a child tries to breach the fence, any adults in a wide radius around the home will be alerted. This system is waterproof, so it can withstand precipitation and close proximity to a chlorinated pool.

2. Not Installing a Pool Alarm

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What’s the best way to know if someone—or something—has accidentally fallen into the water? When your pool alarm goes off, of course. Just like the pool gate, the water should also be alarmed. This highly rated pool motion sensor alarm available at Amazon floats in water, and an included receiver will go off when waves are detected. The alarm sensitivity is adjustable, and multiple alarms can be used in tandem to cover pools of larger sizes and various shapes.

3. Skipping on Slip Protection

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Remember those public pool signs telling you to walk instead of run? Slip and fall injuries can happen at home, too, where your pool deck can be just as slippery. You can hang a warning sign of your own, or consider painting a concrete deck with an nonslip sealer like TracSafe available at Lowe’s. The clear coating provides traction when walking on concrete, pavers, ceramic, and many other surfaces. After applying two coats, your pool area can resume normal use the next day.

RELATED: How Much Does an Above-Ground Pool Cost?

4. Lacking a Ladder

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Pool ladders can cause accidents when they’re slippery, improperly installed, or missing. Although they can be a nuisance if you frequently cover and uncover their pools, ladders can be extremely helpful for swimmers when correctly installed—especially at the deep end of a pool.

While in-ground masonry pools don’t usually come with ladders, a permanently installed split ladder which leaves space for the cover can be a great choice for in-ground pools that lack steps near the deep end. This Saftron Split Pool Ladder is impervious to chlorine and salt-based systems; comes in a variety of colors; keeps cool in the sun; and is approved for retrofitted installation.

For above-ground pools, always remove and put away ladders when not in use to discourage curious kids from climbing up and falling in.

5. Not Giving Animals a Way Out

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Save the frogs! And the birds, bees, butterflies and any other creatures that accidentally find their way into your pool. Colloquially known as a “frog log,” this animal-saving escape ramp available at Amazon prevents needless wildlife deaths, as well as the need for you to manually remove animals and insects from your pool.

RELATED: 11 Things You Need to Consider Before Putting in a Pool

6. Landscaping With Poisonous Plants

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When landscaping the area around your pool to add both color and shade, make sure you know about the plants you’re using before putting them in the ground. Otherwise, you can unintentionally introduce poisonous plants to your pool landscape.

The best plants for pool landscaping have several things in common: They’re easy to maintain; they don’t shed in or near the pool; they won’t get killed by chlorine, salt, or other pool chemicals; and they can handle humidity and sunlight. If you live in a climate where you only use a pool for a couple of months in the summer, keep pet- and child-friendly plants in pots so that you can bring them indoors when it gets too cold outside.

7. Improperly Storing Pool Chemicals

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Pool maintenance is important, but it’s even more important to never leave chlorine and other chemicals out for kids or pets to spill. That’s why it’s smart to invest in a locking all-weather resin box. There are even options that have wheels and blend in with your pool deck to keep this safety fixture stylish and convenient.

8. Not Putting Away Pool Gear

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While taking care of a pool, it’s easy to forget to put away a skimmer, brush, or vacuum. When left on the side of the pool, someone (even you) can trip over these. Instead, neatly hang these items on a nearby fence or wall using a mounted all-weather bracket-and-hook system, such as the Poolmaster Swimming Pool Maintenance Tool Organizer available at Amazon.

Ensure that one of the items you hang up is a life preserver when setting up your pool organizer. Even in a small pool, a life preserver can stabilize a drowning person—who might be panicking and flailing—with a ring buoy before helping them reach the pool edge.

9. Missing Depth Markers

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You’re not operating a public pool, but you should still mark changes in your pool’s depth. Many kids and adults are risk-takers and might dive in shallow water. Others could dare each other to swim to spots where they can’t stand, or dunk each other in water that’s too deep for them.

Indicate deep water with pool divider ropes and post “no diving” signs next to shallow water. And unless you have a very large pool with a particularly deep end, don’t install diving boards and slides that would otherwise encourage speedy entrances into shallow water.

10. Leaving Floats and Toys in the Pool

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Swan and flamingo floats in lovely blue water look fun, but the sad truth is that leaving floats and toys in a pool tempts kids to enter the water when they shouldn’t. Prolonged time in chlorinated water also causes rubber and plastics to break down chemically.

After swimming sessions end, take your pool floats, noodles, beach balls out of the pool and store them safely in something like this easy-to-assemble rolling mesh organizer bin available at Amazon.

RELATED: How To: Maintain a Pool

11. Lacking Sufficient Lighting

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It’s tempting to install string lights around your pool landscape or add colorful floating lights to the pool surface and consider your lighting work done. While decorative lighting is great for ambiance, your pool needs ample light to be safe in the dark.

One option for lighting your pool are triple-mode motion-detecting solar lights, which can turn into flood lighting with a flick of the remote control. This cordless three-headed light fixture operates at a 270-degree lighting angle and has a 16- to 25-foot sensing distance.

12. Not Covering the Safety Drain

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One of the worst pool accidents can occur when a pool drain’s suction is too strong and a swimmer is caught by it at the outlet. This is called suction entrapment, and such accidents led to the passing of VGBA regulations for pools.

Check your safety drain covers and other pool systems regularly (by a professional, if possible). If any are loose or missing, replace them immediately with products like this suction cover from Hayward.