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Chlorine & Salt Water-How to Take Care of a Saltwater Pool

Updated on May 17, 2015

Salt Water Pools Have Chlorine Too

The Difference Between Salt Water Pool and Chlorine Pool

Taking care of a saltwater pool is quite different than taking care of a chlorine pool. The saltwater pool has an electrolytic cell that processes the salt, breaking down the salt crystals, releasing the chlorine into the water. One misconception about salt water pools is that they do not contain chlorine. So if salt water pools simply have a cell that is just turning salt into chlorine, what is the difference between a saltwater pool and a typical chlorine pool?

With a saltwater pool the water stays balanced and ready to swim in without irritating the eyes, because the chlorine generating cell is slowly breaking down the salt crystals, as a result, making the sanitation much more constant. Quite different when one considers that with a Chlorine pool- gallons of chlorine and acid are added in one fell swoop, and in time when the chlorine gets burned out, meaning that during the hot months your pool may burnout all of its chlorine reserve by the time you are ready to add more chemicals. The pool will need to be "shocked" again with more gallons of chlorine to effectively kill any minor algae that is starting to grow. Chlorine has gotten a bad rap because many pool users have reported a bad "chlorine smell" coming from the pool after a pool servicing.

When chlorine produces an unpleasant odor, it is due to chloramines, not chlorine. When Chlorine is really going to work; killing bacteria in your pool, the nasty smell is the chloramines, which are byproducts of chlorine, produced when your pool is on the verge of an algae breakout. Contrary to popular belief, when people smell this rancid odor, they often think that there is too much chlorine, it could actually mean that there hasn't been enough, because its being used up at an excessive rate.

Saltwater is also easier on the skin and will not cause excessive dryness if you keep the chlorine generator in good working condition and the chemistry levels balanced.

Always Check the Chemistry

Check the pool's chemical levels weekly with a pool test kit, or test strips. Salt water levels should be calculated using a handheld meter to determine if salt must be added. (Many salt systems have their own salt reading,however they usually tend to be very inaccurate, it is best to used a handheld meter) First, calculate how many gallons of water you have in your pool and how many parts per million your salt level needs to be raised to determine how many pounds of salt you need. If this pool is filled with new water the reading reading will be 0. A basic formula is -a 40 pound bag of salt will raise a 20,000 gallon pool approximately 225 parts per million. When chlorine levels drop the pH in a salt pool will always be on the high side, muriatic acid should be added to reduce the pH as needed. Add baking soda if the alkalinity in the pool needs to be raised.

Remember to clean out the salt cell every 3-6 months as it will become calcified, The way to clean it is to remove it from the pvc (pipe) union. dilute muriatic acid to approximately 20% ( four parts water one part muriatic acid). Salt cell should be on a stand so that one side is closed. Pour the solution in the salt cell and let it stand until the bubbling stops.

Still Need Chlorine

Even though you have a salt water pool and a working salt generator, remember, you will still need to add chlorine at some point. The simple reason being that the generator will keep the pool sanitized by adding what is necessary, but, with the changes in temperature, debris, and use, your pool can become immune to the level of chlorine that once keep your pool perfectly sanitized, therefore, your pool will need to be shocked with high amounts of chlorine periodically to maintain a clean, healthy, pool.

There are other chemicals that will help shock your pool, and at the same time, boost the clarity, keep algae at bay, and add the the beauty of your water. High end professional pool services use these products on a regular basis. If you wish to go the extra mile on your own, check your phosphate levels, they should be kept as low as possible because phosphates are food for algae. Even if there is no obvious growth of algae in your pool, by keeping phosphates down, your pool will look more sparkling and clear because algae can actually be in the water, not necessarily on the walls, or looking obviously green, giving it a dull look. To keep that photographic clarity, keeping the water free of oils and phosphates is necessary.

A good phosphate remover is, Phosprevent. Just be aware that when these products are used the water will look cloudy upon initial use and the cloudy look will last several hours, until the phosphates are gobbled up.


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    • profile image

      Hop Cassidy Pools 

      6 years ago

      Seem a lot harder than a chlorinated pool.

    • Skarlet profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from California

      Wow! That is interesting. I was at one of the big pool shows here in San diego and there was a pool company telling me a little about this. Some of the resort pools are using it.

      Phosphate removers starve the algae, that is why your pool can remain algae free no matter what. I love phosphate remover but its expensive, so I have often used algeside instead. That works by smothering the algae. Sometimes if you have a real problem you just need to use something different as a "shock", because as you said the algae gets used to the chlorine.

      Thank you for your comment.

    • tsadjatko profile image

      6 years ago from now on

      I've heard of salt water pools but never looked into it - thanks for the information. Definitely useful.

      I have a large above ground pool and in the beginning had such a hard time keeping the balance so algae wouldn't grow I was ready to throw in the towel. It seemed that the algae became immune to chlorine, even shocking. Then I discovered PHOSfree. It reduces phosphate levels in your pool. Phosphates are the limiting nutrient for algae growth. Reduce phosphates to near zero and enjoy an algae free pool! I put just one cap full in every couple weeks in a 10,0000 gallon pool and never see any algae. As a matter of fact it went all winter with no chlorine or phosfree or cover and still no algae. I have the dinky little filter that came with the pool and that is all I need! I have three filter cartridges I rotate all summer cleaning one about every two weeks with a brush and hose and swap it with the last one I cleaned. This has been the least expensive pool I've ever had!

      Hey here is a concept I'd love to try someday:

    • The Frog Prince profile image

      The Frog Prince 

      6 years ago from Arlington, TX

      Wowser! Best thing since sliced bread as far as pools go and I think I've had every kind made but this one.

      The Frog

    • Skarlet profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from California

      Thank you teaches12345, they are relatively easy to take care of as long as they are maintained well.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      We would love to have a saltwater pool. Our friends have one and the maintenance is low key and the water feels better on your skin.


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