In the summer months, few things are more inviting than a pool. Diving into the sparkling water helps you cool off, and young and old alike can have fun swimming and playing games. But Bethel, Ohio, grandma Lisa Pack was faced with a problem before her grandkids could come round to enjoy a splash.
Yes, Pack’s pool had gotten dirty, as it always does by the time that July rolls around. The grandma, 49, naturally feared that she now faced hours of work to get it into shape. Furthermore, she foresaw a long and dreary cycle of cleaning, scrubbing and running the filter. And the process promised to be an expensive business as well – the chlorine she’d need gallons of wouldn’t come cheap, after all.
However, help was at hand for Pack. Her daughter, Whitney Bick, had seen something on Facebook that might just come in useful in cutting down the time and effort that it would take to get her pool back into shape. But as the woman listened to Bick’s idea, the grandma likely couldn’t quite believe what she was hearing.
That’s because Bick suggested that Pack could clean up the swimming pool by simply throwing an everyday household cleaning item into the filter basket overnight. Apparently, this object would do the job for her, and she’d be able to avoid the long task of fixing up the water and the need to buy expensive chemicals.
Well, Pack had nothing much to lose, so she decided to give it a go. But little did she know what would happen after she popped a product that she happened to have lying around into the skimmer. Not only did the trick work, but she was also about to become a viral sensation when she shared the success story.
To find out what Pack used and discover the full story of her victory, we go back to July 2018, when the grandma of four was thinking about getting her grandkids over to have fun in the pool. She told Inside Edition later that month that she loved to spend time with the kids, you see.
But the Ohio grandma was faced with a significant problem. As she explained to Inside Edition, her pool just wouldn’t stay clear, mainly because of leaves from trees and mown grass floating around. “It’s always going to get a bit dirty here and there,” she said. So it looked like a big cleaning job lay ahead. And even then, the pool would slide back to a shade of green again before long.
Thankfully, though, Pack’s daughter had a suggestion to make after reading something rather intriguing on Facebook. Perhaps Pack could just pop a Magic Eraser in the filter basket and see what happens? Well, she gave it a go with one of the Mr. Clean products. And to her utter amazement, the next day the ugly green cloudiness had all gone.
And Pack recalled her astonishment on Inside Edition. “By the next day, I pulled it out, and the green steps were crisp white, and the water was crystal clear,” she said. “There’s nothing. There’s no green, there’s no slime on the bottom. There was no green in sight – it’s amazing.”
Pack subsequently felt compelled to share this remarkable phenomenon with the world. So she headed to Facebook and wrote, “Hey everyone, I had to post this. Everyone knows my pool is green by this time of the year. However, Whitney spotted this idea on Facebook, and I figured why not try it, I had a box of Mr Clean Magic Erasers laying around. Now mind you, my pool wasn’t green but it looked like it was getting cloudy.”
And Pack then revealed what had happened and why the picture that accompanied her text featured a dirty sponge. “I throw one of these in the skimmer basket and holla bing holla boom the cloudiness left, and my sponge looks like this,” she explained. “I’m pretty excited to think something so cheap could help so much.”
The pool-loving grandma acknowledged that people might find her choice of cleaning method eccentric. But she urged them to give it a go, too. Indeed, she told Inside Edition, “People think I’m probably crazy for trying this, but it works.” And crazy or not, others did try it – with outstanding results.
Indeed, Pack’s Facebook post caught the imaginations of internet users worldwide. More than 200,000 individuals shared it, in fact, with some 110,000 also having their say in the comments section. And with in excess of 90,000 positive reactions, it was clear that people liked what they saw.
Many commenters urged others to trial the sponge hack. Spring Shaon, for example, wrote, “Patience Williams this might be worth a try.” Meanwhile, others who’d given the method a try reported successful outcomes – along with a few failures to boot. Donna Marie Tillinghast posted, “I [did] that last summer omg it does work.”
That wasn’t the end of the experience for Pack, though. Indeed, an appearance on national television followed. And when Inside Edition uploaded a short video about the pool hack to YouTube, it caught fire there, too. Nearly five million people took a look at the technique, in fact.
On top of that figure, more than 3,000 comments were left, some of them humorous in nature. For instance, Johnson Jackson wrote, “When I read the title I thought that she scrubbed the whole pool with a Magic Eraser.” And there was no doubting the video’s pull. As commenter E E admitted, “I don’t even have a pool, and I’m watching this.”
Another person who gave the eraser hack a try was Jessica Nichole. Her above-ground pool was in pretty bad shape, with the water colored a deep and unattractive green. So having seen the tip suggested on social media, she lobbed some of the sponges into her basket and left them overnight.
The next morning, Nichole was confronted with a dramatic transformation. As she told crafting website Crafty Morning, “We put these in last night, and our pool looks great today!!” That’s right: the water in her pool had turned a much more inviting blue color, with the green of the previous day having been completely “erased.”
But how could a Magic Eraser have cleaned the pool? Well, the product in question – Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser – has only one listed ingredient: melamine polymer. This is a type of foam that when activated by water works like an army of miniature scrubbers and so can rid you of pretty much any mark you come across.
Apparently, the melamine forms a light and frothy mix of fibers. The fibers themselves are extremely hard, though, so they can easily scratch off the toughest of dirt. Moreover, they’re also thin and not tightly held together, meaning that there are plenty of spaces for dirt to be packed away in the eraser.
Melamine foams weren’t invented for cleaning, however. Instead, in their 20 years of existence they’ve tended to be used for keeping sound or heat in or out of a room. Only in recent times did product designers understand that these foams could actually work magic elsewhere. What’s more, that’s when an apparent cleaning capability came to be valued.
Because the fibers are so hard, it’s not a great idea to use them to clean your face. Indeed, that’s going to hurt. And you may remember that a big scandal hit China back in 2008 that centered around melamine. Recognizing that it could make milk look like it contained more protein, unscrupulous manufacturers added it to baby milk among other products. As a result, thousands of people were hospitalized, and some children sadly lost their lives.
But is it safe to use these erasers in your swimming pool? Well, there have been concerns that the sponges include a chemical called formaldehyde. This is a known carcinogen that, if you spend too much time around, can cause a number of complaints including headaches, changes in your mood and other cognitive problems.
However, the manufacturer insists that this is simply a consequence of misunderstanding terminology. The word formaldehyde appears in the technical name of the melamine foam, but the chemical itself has apparently never been part of the eraser. In a similar sense, you put salt, which is sodium chloride, on food without any worries, but sodium would explode if you did that, and chlorine is a poisonous gas.
With the cleaning ability of the melamine foam, Magic Erasers have a lot of power. And there are some unexpected uses for them, too. Not only will the sponge take a stubborn label from a bottle, but it can also get marker off too – even if the pen is supposed to be permanent.
Take a look at the keyboard on your laptop. If it’s kind of mucky, the melamine sponge will shine it up – don’t get the keys too wet though, as computers don’t love moisture. Not keen on the unsightly red hue that a microwave dish can acquire? The sponge eats that up. From shining dull silverware to cleaning a gunky iron, the sponges will live up to the boast of magical cleaning.
If you don’t happen to have a Mr. Clean handy, don’t worry. Apparently, the sheets that you throw in the dryer to soften your fabrics are made from the same stuff. When moistened, they can scrub off stains in exactly the same way. And while we don’t guarantee that they’ll turn your pool water blue, they might at least scare off insects. That’s because bugs don’t like the smell and will stay away from the offensive odor.
Of course, the Magic Eraser can also be used in the normal manner to clean your pool. Where the surface is smooth, it will rub away dirt and slime. But the skimmer basket hack removes the need for elbow grease, although it does require the sponge being left in place for a while, which has raised questions about safety as well as efficacy.
And those questions have prompted some pool professionals to seek answers. A Florida technician named Andrea Nannini put a sponge in a pot full of water that was green with algae. She concluded that although it had soaked up some of the algae, the water hadn’t become completely clear. “I’d say it’s just collecting the algae, but it’s definitely not correcting any water balance,” Nannini told Pool and Spa News.
That wasn’t all, though. Nannini wondered whether the Magic Eraser had chemically altered the water. This thought came up because melamine already has a use in the pool world. It forms part of the test for a stabilizer called cyanuric acid (CYA), in fact. And it may be that the sponges only work in water that has some CYA in it.
This could introduce an element of danger, however. When melamine reacts with CYA, it can result in another chemical called melamine cyanurate. And while CYA itself is considered safe, the new chemical most certainly isn’t. In fact, it’s precisely the same kidney toxin that harmed children in China. Nannini therefore concluded that using the Magic Erasers might not be a great idea.
Just to be sure, Nannini got in touch with Mr. Clean owner Procter & Gamble to find out if using the product would be safe. The firm’s representative told her, “The answer to your question is, no – we have not tested the product in pools, and the chlorine may react or interfere with the ingredients in the product.”
So perhaps some other way to clean the pool might be more appropriate. Of course, a regime of scrubbing, chemicals and hard work is possible, as is simply hiring a pool boy! But there are some other hacks that might come in handy. One involves pantyhose. Yes, they’re brilliant for the small stuff that you find on top of the water. Just secure them on the skimmer, and you’re away.
Filtering out the very small stuff can also be difficult when you have a sand filter. Here, you can improve matters by putting a scoop of diatomaceous earth into the sand. This crumbly rock will ensure that the sand will clump up and become even better at keeping unwanted objects.
Another issue is sunscreen. Essential when it’s hot but prone to form a slick on top of the pool, you need to deal with it before it attracts dirt and bugs. To get the oil out, just lob in tennis balls. The hair on their exterior shells will attract the sunscreen from the water. You can tell by their changing appearance when they’ve done their work.
If you’re not using fabric-softening sheets in your skimmer basket to fend off insects, perhaps you have space for a few plants? Bugs don’t like lemongrass or geraniums, for example. You can also put green plants poolside to encourage the spread of bacteria – the good sort, that is. In fact, it’s even possible to grow plants in the pool itself.
Of course, there are going to be times that you really do need to scrub. And with the potential danger of melamine reacting with CYA in mind, you might prefer to use something natural on the stains. Vinegar will help with calcium stains, while the juice of a couple of limes will shift rust that you find near the pool ladder.
And for cleaning superpower, baking soda might be your best friend. Not only will it get rid of stains on its own, but you can also team it up with vinegar. A dash of sodium bicarbonate in a cupful of vinegar will create oxidization that will often rid you of the most stubborn marks.
Meanwhile, if you don’t like to use so much chlorine in the pool, there’s an alternative. Hydrogen peroxide will keep the water fresh. The stuff you keep for cuts and grazes won’t do, however – it’s too weak for the purpose. You’ll need a solution with a 35 percent strength, although you’ll only use a little amount each time.
Finally, you might be faced by acid levels that have run a bit high. No problem – again, baking soda is your friend. The other way round? If the pH is on the low side, pour in a bit of borax. And an added extra is that borax is also helpful for scrubbing. So with all these various methods to choose from, there is no reason not to indulge in cooling off in the water.