Swimming pools are always a lot of fun, especially when we have great weather all-year round.

Dealing with chlorine?

Not so much.

Just think of the smell, and the red eyes even days later if you are sensitive to harsh chemicals.

While maintaining your swimming pool is a must if you want sparkly clean blue waters, you can get away from the chlorine additives.

Swimming pool

What Is a Salt Water Pool?

Contrary to popular belief, the swimming pool is not salted by the cries of millions of pool owners when reviewing their yearly pool maintenance bill. No, no.

Salt water swimming pools are powered by salt chlorinators, also known as salt chlorine generators.

Salt chlorine generators quite literally turn salt into chlorine for swimming pool water sanitisation. They use electrolysis to create a pure form of chlorine from a small amount of ordinary salt.

And the great news, the salt is used over and over again.

Obviously, chlorine is a highly effective sanitising agent, but using the method just described above, the converted chlorine performs exactly the same functions: killing bacteria and algae, as well as oxidising dirt and chloramines.

So, saltwater swimming pools can be just as sanitary, plus the water feels smoother and fresher. Many swimming pools owners have chosen to switch from chlorine to saltwater for these reasons, and because saltwater can mean lower maintenance costs and easier upkeep.

The absence of chlorine means there are no harsh smells and no need to store toxic chlorine chemicals on your property.

Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

Salt Water Pool vs Chlorine Pool

Just to recap, salt water pools have clear benefits over the traditional chlorine pools, such as:

  • Not as harsh on your skin, eyes or hair
  • Requires less maintenance
  • No need to handle chemical chlorine, considering them safer for pool owners
  • Water feels softer to swim in
  • No harsh odours
Salt Water Pool vs Chlorine Pool

However, you still need to consider a few things when deciding on a saltwater pool for your home. Firstly, you can cop some higher upfront costs when installing your salt chlorine generator system to get your swimming pool going.

Saltwater is also known to corrode pipes, handrails, ladders, etc., resulting in possibly hefty repairs and replacement costs. Saltwater residue can damage areas surrounding the pool, or your pool equipment, again, you may need to whip out your wallet.

Finally, the systems in salt water swimming pools are more complex than in chlorinated pools. This means that technicians are often required for both large and small repairs or maintenance, which means… you get the drift. This is when you start crying into your new salt water pool to try and save some goddamn money.

Not all is lost, though. Salt water swimming pools admittedly have greater health benefits for people who suffer from allergies or asthma. By eliminating the harsh chemicals, there is a lesser risk of lung inflammation. Overall, salt water pools are also far more stable than chlorine pools. As we mentioned a few times already, they require less maintenance and fewer chemical testing and adding tasks.

Salt Water Pool Maintenance

Which brings us to salt water pool maintenance. Now, listen to this.

In a salt water swimming pool, you won’t be able to smell the chlorine like you can in a traditional chlorine pool. If you remember anything, remember this: not smelling chlorine does not mean that your swimming pool isn’t over-chlorinated.

You may not even notice if the chlorine level is ten times higher than it should be.

If you have a saltwater pool, you’ll need to test the free-chlorine levels and pH at least once per week and add salt as needed (or rather, only when needed). You might be tempted to skip this task every now and then, but we urge you to stay on top of it.

swimming pool salt meter level test

Not only is over chlorination not good for your health, but it’s also bad for your pool. If you want to keep your pool in good condition, make sure that you keep your chemicals balanced. And the only way to really know if your chlorine levels fall within a normal range is to test the water.

How to shock a salt water pool

Like traditional chlorine pools, salt water pools are also prone to the occasional algae outbreak that may require the use of stronger sanitising agents. In these cases, it is important to learn the proper way to shock your saltwater pool.

Some pool owners believe that salt water pools function entirely differently than chlorine pools. In reality, both saltwater pools and traditional pools use chlorine molecules in their sanitation process. The only difference between these two types of pool is the source of the chlorine.

So, to sum it up, yes, you can still use shock treatments in a salt water pool. This will function the same as a shock treatment in a traditional chlorine pool, by temporarily raising the chlorine concentration to more intense levels in order to kill off growths of microorganisms such as bacteria and algae.

The salt content of your pool does not have an impact on the effectiveness of chlorine based shock treatments, nor do these chlorine based shock treatments have any effect on the salinity levels of your pool water.

Now, before you take drastic measures to shock your pool,

  • You will first want to balance other aspects of your pool’s chemistry. Make sure that your swimming pool’s pH, total alkalinity, and calcium hardness are all within the ideal ranges before introducing a shock treatment to prevent the development of unwanted stains that may be caused by chemical interactions (because no one likes skid marks in a pool).

  • Then you need to figure out the correct amount of shock product to use for your pool by following the instructions provided on your product label, because different varieties of shock products have varying concentrations of active ingredients, so the amount you need for your pool may differ between brands.

  • When performing a shock treatment for your salt water pool, you are aiming to create free chlorine levels that fall between 10-30 parts per million (ppm) depending on the severity of your contaminant problem.

  • As you prepare to add your shock product to your pool, make sure that your filter and pump system is running. You should also turn your salt chlorine generator to a low setting, or consider turning it off completely.

  • Finally, add your shock product to your swimming pool according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Many shock treatments that consist of granules can be spread across the surface of the swimming pool, but others need to be pre-dissolved in a bucket of pool water before being added.

  • After shocking your pool, you should wait 24-48 for your chlorine levels to return back to their normal range before turning your salt chlorine generator back on to its regular settings. On a final note, as a rule of thumb, you should wait at least 8 hours to swim after adding chlorine shock to your pool water. You’ll know it’s safe to swim if your free chlorine levels have dropped down to the normal range of 5 ppm (parts per million) or less.

What should the chlorine level be in a salt water pool?

As we mentioned above, you should check your chlorine and pH levels every week. You can use an easy pool test kit to do this.

Chlorine Levels

Your chlorine should be about 1 to 3 ppm. Since we live in a warmer climate, the sun’s rays can evaporate more of the chlorine from your swimming pool. So, you need to test the stabiliser levels, which should be between 70 and 80 ppm.

pH Levels

A salt water swimming pool’s pH level should be between 7.2 to 7.6 ppm. If pH levels get unbalanced, you can add in hydrochloric acid to reduce the pH or add baking soda to increase the pH levels.

testing pH level in a swimming pool

Salinity, alkalinity, stabiliser, and calcium

Aside from checking your pool water for pH and chlorine levels, you should also check your pool water for salinity, alkalinity, stabiliser, and calcium every month.

Ensure that your pool’s salinity is between 3000 and 6000 ppm. Check your salt Chlorinator owner’s manual to be sure since there may be slight differences depending on your Chlorinator Make and model. Use a salt metre for this if your salt chlorine generator doesn’t come with one.

Your pool’s alkalinity levels should be between 80 and 120 ppm. Use baking soda to raise it or hydrochloric acid to lower it.

Cyanuric acid or CYA is an effective stabiliser for salt water pools. Make sure to keep this at 70 to 80 ppm.

Your salt water pool’s calcium levels should be between 200 to 400 ppm. Calcium is essential for your water to stay clear and to prevent scaling and corrosion.

Salt water pool chlorinator

To sum it all up, automatic saltwater chlorination with a salt chlorine generator is an effective and hassle-free way to keep your pool sanitised, safe and healthy.

Once the salt levels are set and optimised, a saltwater chlorinator will run automatically and conveniently at set filtration times and dispense the right amount of sanitiser for your pool. This means it will reduce the amount of time you spend buying and manually dispensing chlorine, and gives you more time to relax and enjoy your pool with your family.

However, if what you want is to have more time away from your family (school holidays are never-ending) here is a red-hot tip from our very own Marcus on how to clean the chlorinator cell (for a 5-minute break), under the pretence of saving money on pool maintenance.

On a final note, if you are now keen to get your salt water swimming pool going, or you have more questions about salt water pool maintenance, contact us now, and we’ll be happy to service your needs.