Pool cleaning industry facing worker shortage, chlorine

Worker shortages and high chlorine prices are resulting in people leaving the pool service industry altogether, causing more pressure on those who stay in business.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Temperatures are heating up in Northern California and with a few more months of summer, the hot temperatures are bound to stick around a while longer.

Amid high demand for services, especially in the summer months, the pool service industry is also facing worker shortages and high chlorine prices.

David Hawes is the President and CEO of H&H Pool Services in Dublin, but he lives in Folsom and was a former president and former CFO of the Independent Pool and Spa Service Association.

I’ve been in business now over 50 years and 2020 was our biggest year in business ever,” said Hawes. “And 2021, we beat 2020 by about 18%. Now that’s just a huge growth, all the while scouring for any place where we could get our material.”

In Aug. 2020, a fire destroyed a Louisiana chlorine plant run by Biolab, resulting in a chlorine shortage. Although Hawes said the supply of chlorine has leveled off this year, the prices are as high as ever with some people paying 100-150% more for the material they use every day.

The shortage and high prices, Hawes said, resulted in people leaving the pool service industry altogether, causing more pressure on those who stayed in business.

“Chlorine is available now. It’s just at a market rate that is tremendously higher than it used to be,” said Hawes.

Nicholas Chaffee of Dynamic Pool Services is a one-man operation mainly focusing on serving Rocklin, Loomis, Folsom, and El Dorado Hills. He says the majority of people have had to raise prices for services by $10, $20, or maybe even $40 a month to keep up with increasing materials costs.

“Now that prices are up and they’ve been up, you know, they never went back down,” said Chaffee.

Chaffee says he’s told his customers these increases are primarily going to be happening during the summer.

Ron Cody with Cody’s Pool Services in Roseville told ABC10 he’s been so slammed with demand, he’s been forced to turn down work.

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Hawes says with the worker shortage and increased demand, it’s frustrating to say “no” as a business owner.

I’m telling you right now, price is probably going to drive another 10-15% of the companies out of business in the next three months,” said Hawes. “As you get into the summer months and their expenses go up and they are selling themselves on price — just be ready to pay more for thorough, good quality service.”

But Hawes says they’re going to keep providing good service despite the hardships.

In terms of chlorine shortages and worker shortage, I think we’re just going to struggle through the end of this year. We’ll make it, you know, we’ll have a few bruises and a few scars, but we’re going to make it and hopefully, the consumer will just continue to seek out quality folks to provide that service,” said Hawes.

Because of the hardships facing the industry, especially with the worker shortages, Dawes says it inspired him to help create a program to get people on the career path in the pool service industry.

The program called the Pool & Spa Apprenticeship and Training Committee was approved in 2020. Their second class is finishing up in September and they’re getting ready to start a new group in October. 

Next year, Dawes says they plan to take the program nationally and start expanding to other sunbelt states.

“We’re excited about the prospect of maybe being able to offer an alternative to what’s out there now and give people a career path and workforce development that will help them,” said Dawes.

Tips from Hawes to find a pool service

  • When you call service providers, make sure they’re taking on new accounts before discussing the price.
  • Talk to friends and neighbors and see who’s servicing their pool, then call the business and see if they can take you on as well.
  • Hawes says he’s more likely to add a customer if they’re in the same neighborhood or service area.

Tips from Chaffee to keep your pool clean

  • Remove a lot of the large debris and keep it from decomposing in the water.
  • Brush the walls to prevent organic matter from building up.
  • Consider rinsing off before you get into the pool to get the oils off your body