Before getting an inflatable pool, you might want to consider what it’s made out of before you pick one. We have some allergies in our family to latex, and were worried about harmful chemicals in the plastic affecting our youngest. After hours of research, I have an answer.
Inflatable pools and floats are typically made of polyvinyl chloride, a widely produced synthetic plastic polymer that has been made softer with the addition of plasticizers like phthalates. This form of polyvinyl chloride is commonly referred to as PVC or vinyl by inflatable pool manufacturers.
There are other materials being used, though they aren’t very common. The added chemicals to make the PVC more flexible could be dangerous or cause allergies to some people. It’s important to know what chemicals your inflatable pool are made out of before purchasing or using it.
What Are Inflatable Pools Made Of?
Most inflatable pools are made of polyvinyl chloride. also referred to as PVC. Some inflatable pools are made of naphthalene, a polycyclic hydrocarbon that makes for a softer more flexible pool material. The pool material will typically be layered to create a thicker stronger pool liner or inflatable.
Here are some material types listed by pool manufacturers:
- 12 – 13 gauge Vinyl
- Durable Vinyl
- Durable PVC
- Polyester Mesh
- High Standard PVC
Whenever you see something like vinyl, PVC, durable vinyl, etc. They are all talking about the same material. The only exception may be high standard PVC, where the PVC has been specifically created for direct skin to skin contact, meaning it’s higher grade, non-toxic, and safer for allergies to plastics.
Polyester mesh is typically used on the larger pools that layer the material. Some companies will apply a layer of polyester mesh in between two layers of PVC to strengthen the pool material, increase durability, and extend the life span of the pool.
Look through the pools on my 12 Best Inflatable Pools By Category list to get an idea of the different materials used and how that correlates to price and quality.
How To Pick A Safe Pool
If you’re concerned about the chemicals in the plastics of inflatable pools, you’re not alone, and there is something you can do. The main concern with people when buying an inflatable, is does it contain phthalates. Phthalates are used to soften the vinyl or PVC, making it more flexible and durable.
Recent studies show that prenatal exposure to phthalates is associated with adverse impacts on neurodevelopment, including lower IQ, and problems with attention and hyperactivity, and poorer social communication.noharm-uscanada.org (source)
Now that may sound pretty scary, but to be clear, this stuff is also in shampoo, soaps, lotions, detergents, and hundred of other products people are using everyday. The concern with pools, is that the phthalates are leaching into the water and into the skin.
I personally don’t think the risk out-weighs the fun of playing and cooling off in a pool. But there is something you can do if you’re worried about this type of thing. Look for a pool that promotes using an environmentally friendly food grade material that does not contain phthalates, like this OlarHike Large Inflatable Pool on Amazon.
Intex, a company that makes many inflatable pools and inflatable pool floats states that they are committed to using clean safe materials. It’s becoming less common overall for companies to use phthalates in their PVC inflatables.
For smaller kiddie pools, you could look at the hardened plastic rather than the inflatable type. They are less likely to be made with dangerous chemicals that will leach into the water. Typically a hard sided pool will be made with polyethylene, just check for recycling codes 2, 4, and 5 to be sure they aren’t using PVC.
Cleaning the pool and replacing the water regularly will reduce the amount of toxins that build up in the water over time. Smaller pools not treated with chlorine should have the water replaced every day or two anyway.
Here’s a video explaining more about the extent of phthalates and the effect they may have.
Do Inflatable Pools Contain Latex?
A majority of inflatable pools are made out of polyvinyl chloride, also known as PVC, often labeled as vinyl, and do not contain latex. PVC is a synthetic thermoplastic, natural rubber latex materials are not typically added. Most inflatable pools and floats will be latex free.
Some pools, pool toys, and floats may have rubber strips or linings added into the design. If that’s the case, there may be latex in those parts of the inflatable. Latex is a plant material found in rubber trees. If you see rubber listed in the materials list of the pool or floats construction, there is a chance it contains latex.
My wife has a latex allergy, and can still use the inflatable pools just fine. But the rubber lining on one of the pool float toys, will cause irritation to her skin at times. We filter the water and try to keep that pool toy out of the pool for the most part, because latex can seep into the water over time.
What Are Pool Floats Made Of?
Most pool floats and pool float toys are made out of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and will sometimes be labeled as vinyl material. Typically, any pool float that’s inflatable will have PVC in the construction. There are however pool floats with nylon covering or floats made entirely out of foam.
In general, inflatable pool floats are made out of the same material as an inflatable pool. The inflatable pools will typically be thicker or have more layers for durability, but the PVC material is the same as an inflatable pool float.
If you’re worried about the PVC touching your skin, here’s an alternative option, the Poolmaster Water Chair (link to Amazon) as an example of a pool float being covered with nylon. The nylon is quick drying, and covers all the inflatable PVC bladders that keep you floating.
If the PVC was made with phthalates, the toxic phthalates could be seeping into your pool water with these types of floats. Look for companies that use non-toxic, safe materials, like Intex, to avoid damaging chemicals entering your water.
What Are Kiddie Pools Made Of?
Most kiddie pools will be made out of either PVC, labeled as vinyl, or polyethylene. The inflatable kiddie pools will typically be PVC or heavy duty vinyl, and the hard sided or molded pools will be made out of polyethylene or polypropylene.
You can easily tell which material a kiddie pool is made out of by looking for the recycling code. Here’s a handy chart to show you what the most common recycling codes on kiddie pools mean.
|2 – HDPE||High Density Polyethylene|
|3 – V||Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)|
|4 – LDPE||Low Density Polyethylene|
|5 – PP||Polypropylene|
Here’s an example of a pool made with a safe plastic free from plastcizers found in PVC, the Step2 Play And Shade Pool (link to Amazon) has a recycling code of 4, meaning it is made of low density polyethylene.
Some hard sided pools will still be made with PVC which can contain plasticizers, like the harmful phthalates many parents try to avoid. It’s always best to check the recycling code or call the manufacturer to see what the pool is made out of.
Knowing what’s in these inflatable pools can help you make better decisions before you buy. Many companies have gotten better over the years with using safer materials, but the cheap knock-off brands are notorious for skimping on quality.
All of the inflatable pools in my Best Inflatable Pools By Category article are made with safe materials by reputable companies. Have a look through some of those options, and check the materials they’re made out of. If you’re ever in doubt, you can always call the manufacturer for more information on their products.