10 Rules for Swimming Pool Etiquette

girls lounging by the pool

 Stocksy / Trinette Reed

You sent the kids to cotillion, and you were a teen graduate of Sears Discovery Charm School, so you're pretty certain your knowledge of all things etiquette ranks up there with the likes of Dear Abby, Miss Manners, and Queen Elizabeth.

But what about good, proper behavior while swimming and visiting a public or private pool? Is your new Trina Turk swimsuit appropriate? It's OK to swim with a rash, right? Fret not—we address your concerns and more in our guide to swimming and pool etiquette.

1. Appropriate Swimwear

First off: wear something, preferably an actual swimsuit that fits. Jeans shorts can weigh you down and act like a sponge when wet. Have you ever seen someone emerge from a pool in a pair of cutoffs? Those things harbor enough water to fill up a kiddie pool.

Of course, you don't have to wear a bathing suit circa 1932, like the one that actress Colleen Moore wore as she lounged on that diving board. If you're the guest at a pool party and your host is older or dresses more conservatively, leave that barely-there bikini at home. This may not be the right crowd to tantalize with your awesomeness.

2. No Splashing

Pools and water can be pretty exciting at any age. For some, the urge to splash is an instinct, like scratching an itch. It can be a way to express joy. It can also be a way to annoy someone or get his or her attention. So, teach your kids not to splash in public pools or if they are guests in someone else's pool.

If it's your pool and you live in a region affected by drought, splashing is a quick way to lose water. Confine any splashing to the center of the pool, so that it stays in the pool. Or, just don't splash.

3. Think and Look Before Entering

When entering a public pool or as the guest at a private pool, don't dive, jump, or push off into oncoming swimmers. Come to think of it, don't do that at home, either.

4. Stay in Your Lane

a professional swimmer in competition

 Stocksy / RG&B Images

This applies to public pools, at which the lanes are often clearly marked slow, medium and fast or something similar. If you share a private lap pool, be considerate. Stay in your lane, or create one.

5. Passing Politeness

Pass other swimmers on the left (or on the right in the United Kingdom and Australia). For serious swimmers, the rule is: tap the foot of the person in front of you before passing. That's tap, not shove.

6. Use the Restroom

Polls come out every other year or so asking things like how many people confess to peeing in the pool—results are surprising when they reveal just how many of us (well, you) pee in the pool. The myth of the pool turning green in certain spots when treated with a special urine-revealing chemical is just that—an urban myth. Still, someone must have potty-trained you to use a toilet, hopefully before age 3, so use it when you go swimming.

7. Keep Toenails Trimmed

At the very least, trim your toenails regularly. Why? Picture this: you're mastering your speed in the pool, and that Michael Phelps-like kick of yours is so powerful that your foot—and toe, with a protruding nail—slices the swimmer who unfortunately invaded your space. Ouch, along with disgusting! Use the toenail clippers that Santa leaves in your stocking each year—it might be a hint.

8. Diaper Do's and Don'ts

Toddlers in swim diapers can be a dirty subject. I've been in a few public pools and at a water theme park when the rumors spread quickly and the words poop, diaper, ewww, and a couple of other expletives can be heard before an unseen voice commands everyone to "Please exit the pool now!"

You see, if you don't take responsibility for your own child's swim diapers, it can become a disaster of epic proportions. Kind of embarrassing, and also kind of germy. You're not in a big ocean, where nobody will be the wiser if your child has a little diaper disaster. Be intuitive, change the diaper frequently and teach your child to communicate with you about hygiene.

9. Wounds, Rashes and Bandages

a bandage on the heel of the foot

Getty Images / Luis Portugal 

Has the doctor been unable to chase down that pesky rash on your left shin? Is that cut between your thumb and index finger taking a long time to heal? Is your fashionista five-year-old sporting multiple Disney Princess Band-Aids due to her many skatepark scrapes?

Walk in another person's flipflops for a minute. How would you feel if a rashy, fleshy-wounded, bandage-wearing person entered the pool and swam beside you? Pool chemicals can't kill everything. Be smart and considerate.

10. Shower

If your host requests it, step under the shower and rinse off before entering the pool. When swimmers use soap to shower away impurities, they help reduce the risk of waterborne illnesses, such as diarrhea, swimmer’s ear, and skin infections, according to the Water Quality and Health Council.