Stain Removal in a Vinyl Pool

remove vinyl liner stains
by Mark Garcia October 8, 2013

Removing Stains from a Vinyl Liner Pool

Vinyl pool liners are less prone to stains than plaster pools, but they can occur - metal stains, chemical stains and organic stains can occur on the vinyl or on plastic steps or ladders.

I find that pool owners generally fall into two groups, the stain averse - and those who don't seem to notice stains in their pool, or are not bothered by pool stains.

If you are in the 'stain averse' group, and would like to remove stains in a vinyl liner pool, read on ~

Metal Stains: Iron, Copper, Manganese can come out of solution if your pool water has high levels of metals. Heavy doses of copper algaecide can lead to a blue-green staining of pool liners. Maintaining proper pH in your pool is important to mineral stain prevention. High or low pH can lead to minerals coming out of solution, to stain your pool. Home test kits for metal and minerals are not readily available, nor very accurate, but a local pool store may be able to test for metals in a water sample.

Chemical Stains: Bleaching can be caused by corrosive granular pool chemicals laying directly on the surface. Chemicals such as pool shock, pH down, calcium increaser or chlorine tablets, can fade a liner and cause it to pucker. This is not really a 'stain', and unfortunately, although a light brown chemical stain will fade, the bleaching or puckering of the vinyl cannot be reversed.

Organic Stains: Leaves and twigs, acorns, berries. Worms or other dead animals. Bacteria and algae. Pollen and pollution. Your open pool absorbs and absorbs all sorts of organic matter every day. Cleaning, sanitation and filtration keep it under control, usually. Organic liner stains are often removable easily.

Stains on the Vinyl Liner

Stains on the vinyl can come from any of the sources above. You may know exactly what the stain is, based on evidence gathered at the site. Is it metals, or organics? Does it brush off, or rub off? 

The first thing to do - is to clean. A clean pool and a clean filter is proper preparation for stain removal, and a good place to start. Skim, Vacuum and Brush.

The second thing to do - always with any vinyl liner stain, is to balance the water chemistry. Make sure (!) that the pH, alkalinity, calcium levels are spot on.

The third thing to do - always after balancing the water, is to shock the pool, using either non-chlorine shock, or diluted chlorine shock.

If this didn't remove the stain, no worries, it is part of the stain removal process. Vinyl liners can't be drained and acid washed, and draining and pressure washing doesn't usually do much. Vinyl pool stains need to be removed more gently. jacks stain id kit

If unsure of the source of the stain, buy Jack's Stain ID kit to identify the stain. This easy to use, $13 kit will tell you the next steps to take to remove the stains.

For many vinyl liner stains, the prescription from Dr. Jack will be Vinyl Liner Blue Stuff, a powerful sequestrant that prevents and removes stains on vinyl pools. For metal stains, either Stain Solution #1 or #2, may be indicated, depending on the metals discovered. 

Another stain removal miracle for vinyl liner pools is ascorbic acid, sold under the name of Stain Free, the gentle acid is successful on step and vinyl liner stains.

CuLator metal eliminator and stain preventer

To keep metal and mineral stains from returning, add a sequestering agent twice per year, to keep minerals 'sequestered', or locked in solution. Or, you can use the new product CuLator - the only product that actually removes minerals from your pool, by absorbing them in an easy to use pouch that you drop into your skimmer basket.

Stains Behind the Liner

stains behind the pool linerSome stains are actually behind the liner, in between the wall or floor and the liner. They start as a bacterial colony, or can be algae, or mineral crystals. If they are dark enough, and large enough, they may show through the somewhat opaque pool liner, and appear as a stain.

Short of pulling up the liner and treating or patching the floor, and foaming the walls, what can you do when the stain seems to be behind or underneath the liner?

Start with the methods above - good water balance, and give a heavy chlorine shock. This may only work temporarily. If the stains are near the waterline, or high on the wall, you can lower the pool water, and get at the wall with a scraper, and then place a barrier in between the wall and the liner.

Stains on Steps & Ladders

Stains on vinyl pool stepsFor steps and ladder stains, which can sometimes turn an off-orange, or light brown color, usually from leaf tannins, but also from metals such as iron. Jack's Magic makes a product just for this, it's called the Step Stuff, and it's real easy to use. stain free

Stain Free, mentioned above, can also work miracles with vinyl pool steps that have gradually or suddenly, changed their colors.

Stains on the Water Line

Stains at the water line can develop over time on a vinyl pool. They are a mixture of dirt, minerals, oils, pollen, etc., that sticks to the edge of the pool, and are usually easily removable. Use a pool tile and vinyl cleanser. Don't use any sort of kitchen or automotive cleaners on the pool. 

Lower the water and use a kitchen sponge with a textured side. Squirt on a small amount of the Tile/Vinyl cleaner, or spray it on with the new Engage cleaner by Eclipse 3, and clean in rotating motions. Stains at the waterline have a greasy film, and require a little elbow grease to remove, but don't scrub too hard, or you may actually begin to rub off the printed pattern.

Adding a pool enzyme product can help to keep waterline stains from returning. Use Natural Chemistry's Pool Magic, or Pool Perfect, and stop scrubbing the pool or steps every month.

Thanks for Reading!

Mark Garcia