The Rudest Things You Can Do At The Pool

Etiquette experts share the faux pas to avoid during a pool day.
"There are times when our desires are secondary to the health and safety of others," one etiquette expert advised.
Thomas Barwick via Getty Images
"There are times when our desires are secondary to the health and safety of others," one etiquette expert advised.

Summer is approaching, which means pools around the country are finally starting to reopen for the season. But as fun as it is to swim and lounge with friends, your fellow pool-goers can make these relaxing days far less enjoyable.

“When enjoying the amenities of a community or hotel, it is extremely important to keep the concept of etiquette at the forefront of your mind,” Jackie Vernon-Thompson, founder of From the Inside-Out School of Etiquette, told HuffPost. “One must continually be mindful of what they do and say, especially if others are utilising the same amenity. Using courtesy and respect is paramount.”

To help make pool days more enjoyable for yourself and others, Vernon-Thompson and other etiquette experts share some common rude behaviours at the pool and how to avoid these mistakes.

Jumping In When You’re Dirty

“Regardless if it’s your own pool, hot tub or someone else’s pool, always jump in clean,” said Diane Gottsman, the author of “Modern Etiquette for a Better Life” and founder of The Protocol School of Texas. “Avoid getting into the pool covered in sweat or over-lathered up in suntan lotion.”

If you’re sweaty, she recommended towelling yourself off before entering the pool. To avoid putting excess sunscreen into the water, make sure you rub it in properly and give yourself at least 15 minutes for your skin to absorb the sun protection before getting wet.

Personal hygiene is important in and out of the pool. Many cultures take this very seriously, as the pre-swim shower is mandatory in places like Japan.

“Be sure to shower thoroughly before entering a community pool,” Vernon-Thompson advised. “It may sound weird, but make sure you are not all sweaty and just not smelling clean.”

Showing Up With A Contagious Condition

“Don’t use a public pool if you have a contagious condition — for example, a foot or toenail fungus,” said Tami Claytor, the etiquette coach behind Always Appropriate Image & Etiquette Consulting.

Be mindful if you have an open wound as well.

“This is where your humility and integrity shines brightest,” Vernon-Thompson said. “You do not want to subject anyone to any infection or rash that you may have. Don’t have the mindset that the chlorine may keep it from being transferable. Simply refrain from entering the pool. There are times when our desires are secondary to the health and safety of others. This is one of those times.”

Using The Pool As A Toilet

Also related to health and hygiene, remember there are restrooms nearby for a reason — to be used.

“Dare I say, do not urinate in the pool,” Vernon-Thompson said. “There has always been a restroom nearby every pool I’ve been in. Yes, chlorine may be in the pool. However, that is not an excuse for you to exhibit such poor behaviour. Remember, integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching or sees you.”

This rule applies to adults and to children. Consistently check your baby’s swim diaper and institute bathroom breaks for your older kids.

“Use the restroom before getting in the pool,” Gottsman said. “Nothing else should be said here – even little children should be taken inside periodically to go potty.”

Bringing Glassware

“Don’t bring glass anything to the pool area,” said Nick Leighton, an etiquette expert and co-host of the “Were You Raised by Wolves?” podcast.

This is not just a matter of rudeness — it’s a serious safety hazard.

“Bring your favourite poolside beverage in your own plastic or thermal container,” Gottsman said. “Avoid using glassware that will break and cut other swimmers’ feet. If you break a glass, let the pool attendant know ASAP so they can clean up the shards of glass.”

“Be respectful of other people’s boundaries. Too close, too loud and too personal are all things to keep in mind when swimming in a pool with others.”

- Diane Gottsman, founder of The Protocol School of Texas

Hogging Lounge Chairs

“Please do not get up at the crack of dawn, go to the pool deck, spread out towels, books, floaties and then disappear until 2:00 in the afternoon,” urged Jodi R.R. Smith, president of Massachusetts-based Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting. “Especially in locations where pool chairs are in short supply.”

It’s important to save chairs respectfully. One per person should be sufficient. Remember, other people would like to enjoy the sun as well.

“It’s inconsiderate to others to monopolise multiple lounge chairs for your personal use,” Claytor said. “Also, don’t leave unattended belongings on your lounge chair for long periods of time. If you will be away from the pool for an extended period, take your possessions with you, which will allow someone else to use the seat. Don’t appropriate extra lounge chairs for your belongings.”

Be mindful of your towel usage when those are provided.

“If there is a maximum number of towels per person policy, don’t take extras, as this could lead to a shortage and deny other guests access to clean towels,” Claytor added.

Leaving Kids And Pets Unsupervised

“Remember a lifeguard, when present, is not a babysitter,” Smith said. “You are still responsible for your children’s behaviour and their safety.”

Keep an eye on your kids, especially at a crowded swim location. Parental supervision should be constant.

“Lifeguards are responsible for the safety of many people and can’t focus on each individual simultaneously,” Claytor said. “Dangerous things can happen in a split second.”

The same goes for your dog if you’re at a pet-friendly pool.

“Watch your pets and children to make sure they are safe and supervised,” Gottsman added. “Don’t leave it up to older kids who are not there as official life guards.”

Fully Disrobing

“When you are in public, don’t take liberties to get a full body tan,” Gottsman advised. “People will pretend to be OK but most of the time they really are not and would prefer not to see your bare chest or bottom.”

Unless you’re at a clothing-optional resort, swimsuit coverage is expected. Try to respect the dress code rules and norms, especially if there are children around.

“Dress appropriately,” Claytor said. “Always learn the country’s culture. For example, if you are in Dubai, it is acceptable for women to wear bikinis at the hotel’s pool but swimming attire alone should never be worn in the hotel’s common areas or on the city streets.“

Splashing And Jumping Around Strangers

“Look before you leap,” Leighton urged. “Be aware of where other people are before you jump in.”

Limit your swimming activities to the appropriate areas and respect those doing the same. Look out for signs with instructions about jumping or diving.

“Only dive in the pool’s designated diving section,” Claytor said. “Look before you dive to ensure you don’t unintentionally fall on and potentially injure someone.”

Remember that your playful joking with friends can also affect others as well.

“Be mindful of splashing,” Leighton added. “Not everyone around the pool wants to get wet.”

Try to limit splashing, whether your own or your kids', and stay away from others.
Fran Polito via Getty Images
Try to limit splashing, whether your own or your kids', and stay away from others.

Ignoring Lap Pool Protocol

If your pool has lanes for lap swimmers, remember to follow the proper etiquette around things like entering, passing, pausing, lane-sharing, exiting, etc. There are usually lanes designated for slow, medium and fast swimmers, so choose the appropriate lane for your ability.

Don’t just jump in anywhere and start swimming however you’d like with no regard for others in the lane. Calmly enter the lane feet-first at the end, give other swimmers space and follow the same swimming pattern.

Remember to modify your strokes so that you don’t collide or kick people in the face. If you need to rest, go to a corner so that others can still get by.

Disrespecting Boundaries

“Be respectful of other people’s boundaries,” Gottsman said. “Too close, too loud and too personal are all things to keep in mind when swimming in a pool with others.”

Give people their space in and out of the pool. Remember this is a shared amenity.

“Even though you are outdoors, do not smoke near the pool unless in a designated area,” Smith said.

Patience and courtesy are the key to ensuring everyone has an enjoyable time.

“When you are in the pool and someone is sitting on the entrance steps, don’t be inconsiderate and push your way through,” Vernon-Thompson said. “Simply say ‘excuse me’ with a respectful tone or even exit or enter the pool from another area. If you realise someone or others are swimming or gathering in a certain area of the pool, you swim or gather in a different area or simply wait until they have moved if you prefer being in that specific area.”

If you see an empty lounge chair next to someone, don’t assume it’s available and ask politely before grabbing it.

“You never know if another person temporarily stepped away with the intent to return,” Vernon-Thompson said. “Treat people how you would want to be treated.”

If the chair is available, consider moving it a little further away from the area to give the other lounger their personal space.

Making Excessive Noise

“Like other shared spaces, be mindful of the amount of noise you’re making,” Leighton said. “And wear headphones if you want to listen to music. Not everyone has the same taste in music.”

It’s understandable that you want to have fun at the pool, but your enjoyment should not hinder others’. Keep screaming and boisterous conversations to a minimum.

“This also applies to children watching movies or cartoons on iPads,” Claytor said. “Avoid long cell phone conversations. Most people go to the pool for relaxation. Overhearing someone else’s conversation can be a bit annoying.”

Not Putting Your Shoes Back On To Go Inside

“No shoes, no shirt, no service” is not just a cute saying.

“Wear shoes in the hotel,” Gottsman said. “If you are swimming in the hotel pool, that does not mean you should traipse through the lobby wet and shoe-less. Dry off with a towel, put on your flip flops or sandals and protect your feet.”

Forgetting To Tip

Many places offer poolside food and beverage service, so don’t forget to tip your server.

“Remember, it’s hot and they are working in the sun,” Claytor said. “It’s akin to tipping your server at a sit-down restaurant or bar. This rule does not apply at ‘no tipping’ resorts, however.”

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