tiles in a swimming pool

How to Clean Waterline Pool Tiles

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Pools keep you cool in summer, but you’ve got to maintain them in return. One of the odd jobs pool owners need to invest a little time in each year is cleaning waterline pool tiles. Though typically hardy and easy to clean, these tiles can quickly get stained and dirty.

The leading cause of waterline pool tile dirt is calcium buildup. However, chemical, pH, and alkaline imbalances, water evaporation, extreme heat, hard water, and other factors can all play a part. The good news is that, in most cases, waterline pool tile stains are completely normal and harmless.

That said, grubby waterline pool tiles can really spoil the look of a swimming pool, even if these aren’t a cause for concern. Luckily, there are various ways to go about getting your swimming pool waterline tiles back into tip-top shape — particularly by investing in the right cleaning tools and trying out the effective cleaning methods listed in this post.

4 Ways to Clean Waterline Pool Tiles Effectively

There are a few different ways to go about cleaning waterline pool tiles, even while it’s full of water. Which method is best for your swimming pool depends on the buildup type and severity. Light scrubbing and applying cleaning products may work, or a pressure clean may be in order.

Method 1: Scrub Away Waterline Pool Tile Buildup

For small or light patches of calcium scale or film, it may not be necessary to get out the big guns. Scrubbing away the buildup by hand is a simple way to sort out minor buildup on your waterline pool tiles. You can use a sponge, old toothbrush, kitchen scourer, stiff-bristle brush, or even a pumice stone to get the job done.

Just be sure to test your implement of choice by scrubbing a small tile section first. If it leaves scratches or damage on the tile, it may be best to opt for a gentler option. Also, note that it can take a lot of time to clean by hand — especially for larger pools. However, the results may be well worth the effort, returning your waterline pool tiles to (or close to) their glory days.

Method 2: Use Cleaning Products to Remove Dirt & Grime

If the waterline pool tile scale or buildup is particularly resilient, you can also employ the use of cleaning products. These could be natural options such as vinegar and baking soda or a specialized tile cleaner. Just be sure to pick the correct solution for your waterline pool tile dirt.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is handy when it comes to removing tough dirt and scale. As it features small granules, it offers superior abrasive capabilities. The fine baking soda particles essentially exfoliate the dirt off, especially when used alongside an equally abrasive brush. Baking soda also cleans while whitening grout and stains and fighting odors. Pick baking soda if you have already tried to get the waterline scale off by scrubbing with no luck.


Vinegar is another natural pantry essential that you can use to remove scale and buildup on waterline pool tiles. The acid inside vinegar is excellent at breaking down stubborn grease and oil. Choose vinegar if your waterline pool tile buildup is particularly greasy or grimy. Just be sure to use white vinegar, as darker types of vinegar can cause stains on grout and tiles.

Tile Cleaner

Specialized tile cleaners come in all formulations and applications, including options for waterline and pool tiles. These products are an excellent choice if your waterline pool tiles feature particularly bad stains or scale. Visit your local pool shop or hardware depot to find the right fit for the job. You can also generally find kits featuring tile cleaning products as well as pumice stones and scrubbing brushes here. If the staining or scale is severe, muriatic acid can also get used, but cleaning with it needs to be done with care.

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Method 3: Pressure Clean Waterline Pool Tiles

One of the top ways pool cleaning companies get professional results is by pressure cleaning pool tiles. Pressure cleaners are excellent at removing stubborn dirt and particles, making tiles look brand new. You can rent or buy pressure cleaners or hire a company to do the pressure cleaning for you. Generally, pressure cleaning pool tiles is much faster than scrubbing by hand, making it the top choice for time-strapped pool owners.

Method 4: Soda Blast Your Waterline Pool Tiles

Another popular method of cleaning waterline pool tiles is to soda blast them. Instead of just water, soda blasting propels small sodium bicarbonate particles against the surface of whatever is getting cleaned. As such, it’s highly effective at abrading stubborn scale and buildup on tiles. Plus, unlike sandblasting, it’s much gentler, allowing you to clean without risking stripping tiles. To soda blast, you’ll need specialized equipment, which you can acquire online or at DIY stores.

How to Prevent Waterline Pool Tile Buildup

After you’ve removed the scale and dirt, the last thing you want to do is clean your waterline pool tiles soon after. Fortunately, there are ways to delay the chore and the buildup, notably by maintaining your pool:

  • Test and maintain water pH and alkaline levels. As the alkalinity and corrosiveness of pool water can damage or cause buildup on tiles, doing so will prevent it.
  • Regularly clear pool debris from the surface of the pool. Naturally occurring minerals, oils, and particles they harbor will eventually cause pool tile buildup as this debris disintegrates.
  • Algae growth in swimming pools can contribute to waterline pool tile staining, as well. Treating algal blooms in the water before they become serious is important to reduce the chance of stains on tiles.
  • Be sure to give your waterline pool tiles a brush every month or so. Regularly incorporating scrubbing into your pool care routine can stop scale buildup before it becomes an issue.

Why Do Waterline Pool Tiles Get So Dirty?

Besides contending with mineral and dirt buildup, waterline pool tiles get exposed to the hot sun and chemicals in your pool water. These elements can affect the condition of waterline pool tiles and grout, resulting in stains, fading, cracks, and wear.


Calcium Carbonate & Calcium Silicate Buildup

Calcium carbonate and calcium silicate are the primary minerals that contribute to the waterline pool tile scale. Several factors can affect the levels of both minerals in your swimming pool water. Yes, including water pH, alkaline levels, evaporation, and even the pool water type.

pH & Alkaline Imbalances

High alkaline and pH levels contribute to scale on waterline tile by causing calcium carbonate to separate from the pool water. Once separated, calcium floats at the top of the water, slowly building up on waterline pool tiles. Inversely, low pH and alkaline pool water levels result in corrosive water, potentially causing etching on and damage to tiles.

Hard Water

Hard water contains a higher concentration of dissolved minerals, including calcium carbonate. As such, waterline tiles of swimming pools containing hard water tend to develop scale more frequently and faster.

Heat & Evaporation

During the hotter months or bouts of extreme heat, you may notice more scale on your waterline pool tiles. When temperatures soar, so does pool water evaporation, leading to a higher concentration of the minerals in it that cause scale.


Getting a swimming pool installed is many a homeowner’s dream, but pools are also a responsibility. From important tasks like maintaining water balance to aesthetics like keeping those tiles clean, pools need a lot of care. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to labor blindly. You can keep waterline pool tiles squeaky clean and looking brand new with the right products, cleaning methods, and care.

Caitlin Greyling

Caitlin Greyling is a professional writer and editor with a fine art, design, and photography background — focusing on sustainability, climate change, equality, travel, tech, culture, and societal issues. She’s currently studying journalism with the NCTJ and has written for The Daily Mail, Durability Matters, CNN, PictureCorrect, Pilot Plans, and more.

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