Frederick M. Hueston, PhD  

Stone Care Consultant 

It was one of those rare, cool mornings here in the South. Well, cool meaning it was below 70 degrees. (Sorry to all my Northern friends. Don’t mean to rub it in).       

Just as some of you up North are getting ready to winterize your house, take you boat out of the water, and so on, we are just getting ready to enjoy the fall weather. Nice cool mornings and only mid 70s and low 80s temps are here.  

One of the tasks we have to perform is to clean our swimming pools. Well, I don’t have a swimming pool, but this old man has cleaned many in his lifetime. Ironically, as I woke up this morning I had a call on my voice mail from a major theme park that had a problem with some tile on their swimming pool, and they were requesting my help.  

Before I called them, I needed to get a cup of Jo and wake up these old bones. So, it was off to my local greasy spoon to listen to all the know-it-all locals talk politics and tell the same old stories over and over again. 

It’s worth it since they have the best coffee in town. Yes, that’s right, I said coffee, not a latté, Grande or otherwise, like those other fancy coffee places. I’m just an old-fashioned guy who likes a cup of good coffee. 

I managed to have my three cups morning fuel and thought it was time to call the theme park, so, I pulled out my cell and made the call. A husky voice on the other end said that they were cleaning the coping on the swimming pool and no matter what they tried to remove all that white mineral building up, nothing would touch it. He went on to say that since I have solved so many stone and tile problems for them, someone suggested they give me a call. “Do you think you can come down here and take a look?” he asked. I told him I would rearrange my schedule and be there that afternoon.

I went back to the office since I had a few reports to write and some phone calls to make. I figured I would grab some lunch around noon and head on down to the theme park.  

Lunch was good. An open-face turkey sandwich smothered with gravy. I know, a heart attack on a plate, but ohhhh, so good. I finished my lunch and headed down the road to see this pool that wouldn’t clean.

I arrived at the theme park and was escorted to the pool by my new husky-voiced friend. And yes, his appearance matched his voice. He looked like a big grizzly bear. His beard and facial hair covered every inch of his face and he had to go about 300 lbs. 

We walked over to the pool and he pointed to the pool coping. Sure enough, there was a white film on top of the tile. I’ve seen this many times in swimming pools and fountains. It’s basically the result of calcium deposits from the water as well as the pool treatment.  

I asked him what they tried to use to clean it off. He told me they tried strippers, acids and solvents and nothing would budge it. I thought this was kind of odd, since acid will usually just attack the calcium, fizz and bubble and dissolve it away. 

My next thought was that they did not use an acid. So, I told “Grizzly Adams” that I would like to perform a few tests. He said, “Fine, but first let me get some cones and rope-off an area for you.” The pool was still open, so he wanted to make sure that no guests were injured.

I went back to the ole Woody and pulled out some chemicals, including a very strong Muriatic acid. I set up my chemicals and took some of the acid and poured it on the white film. 

To my surprise, nothing happened. I also agitated the area with a scrub brush to no avail. Now, I was really puzzled. I stood back and took a deep breath and started to think.  

I was staring out in the distance and noticed two woman with some tiny bikinis on. Sorry, folks, I’m a guy, can’t help but look. Anyway, I noticed that they were putting on suntan lotion. 

All of a sudden a light bulb went off in my head… all these people putting on suntan lotion. I bet there is a coating of oils on the surface of the tile, covering the white film. If this is the case, then the acid would not cut through. 

So, I grabbed some alkaline degreaser and applied it to a small section. I rinsed it and then hit it with the acid again. Bingo, it worked. I tried a couple of other areas just to make sure and it worked each and every time. So, now it was time to go tell Grizzly Adams how to clean the pool coping. 

Now, some would think I was a dirty old man looking at bathing beauties, but at least I have a good excuse.  Another case solved.

The Stone Detective is a fictional character created by Fred Hueston, written to be entertaining and educational. He has written over 33 books on stone and tile installations, fabrication and restoration and also serves as an expert for many legal cases across the world. You can send any email comments to him at