Salt Water Pool vs Chlorine Pool [An Expert’s Take]

There has been a long fought battle about salt water pools vs chlorine pools. The truth is one is not always better than the other. Both salt water and fresh water pools use chlorine to clean the pool, but the real kicker is how they get chlorine available to clean the pool.

 
This is because both have their pros and cons. The biggest factors include the cost and time to main the pool as well as health of the owner. Another big factor is your pool type - the best above ground pools use chlorine.

You don't need to make a decision about which one is the best. You just need to choose which one is best for you. With our comparison guide about a salt water pool vs chlorine pool you'll be able to decide which one is best for you without any problem.

Salt Water Pools

Salt water pools are great alternatives to traditional chlorine pools. Though they really only started gaining some traction in the 80’s they are slowly becoming more popular because they have a variety of benefits.

Salt Water Pool

Funny play on salt water pools

One thing that should be cleared up is that salt water pools are actually a type of chlorine pool. They just have a lot less chlorine in them. What a salt water chlorinator does is when it take water in, it uses a process called electrolysis to produce chlorine that helps clean the pool in addition to the salt.

While we broke one false rumor already, we’re going to shoot down some more and tell you what you really need to know about the truth of salt water pools.

Salt Water Pool Cost

The cost of a salt water pool is typically what turns away most people. This is because salt water pools typically require a higher upfront cost which includes purchasing a salt water chlorinator or salt water generator as well as the initial salt needed to fill up the pool.

Salt Water Pool Infographic

How a salt water pool works

The typical salt water system (chlorinator or generator included) is approximately anywhere from $500-$2200. It’s a big range, and we definitely recommend going for quality.

However, even if you go with a better salt water system that will last longer, the price for maintenance afterwards is about $100 / year. This pays for itself after 8-10 years because chlorine pools also require an upfront cost for a chlorine water system, but require much more in chemicals per hear – approximately $400-6oo /year for proper maintenance.

Salt Water Pool Maintenance

The maintenance required for salt water pools is one of the biggest reasons to get them. They require very little maintenance unlike chlorine pools – even less if you have a great swimming pool cover or a top robotic pool cleaner. This is because the pH levels of a salt water pool don’t matter as much as a chlorine pool.

Instead, to maintain your salt water pool system you need to clean your salt water chlorinator, add some other chemicals, and add  PROPER salt to the pool.

Salt Water Chlorinator Calcium Buildup

Calcium buildup in a salt water chlorinator

Salt water chlorinators will slowly build up calcium because of the salt in the system. This is natural. However, if they are not cleaned properly and the build up continues then it may restrict water flow into the filter and will no longer be effective.

Cleaning the chlorinator isn’t the easiest process and many people hire a professional to do it.

For your benefit, we have attached a video from Hayward to help guide you. However, your chlorinator or pool system may require different cleaning depending on the model so just use this as a general guideline:

It is important to clean your salt water chlorinators, but doing so frequently or improperly may cause long term damage to the chlorinator, reducing it’s product life.

The other thing you need to do to maintain your salt water pool is keep up the water:salt ratio. It varies from location to location, but generally you will need to occasionally add salt. Many people make the mistake thinking that the salt from Costco is okay.

However, this is not true. It may be 99% sodium but that 1% difference can create salt water stains or rings, damaging your pool or ruining the look of it. Instead, you want to make sure you purchase high quality salt without impurities.

Salt Water Health

Salt water maintains healthy skin

Salt water maintains healthy skin

Salt water pools are better for your body and skin than chlorine pools contrary to popular belief that it will sting your eyes. This is because the amount of salt in pools is lower than what people think, and is actually typically about a 1/4 that of ocean water.

It is actually chlorine that hurts your eyes, damage your skin, and damage your clothes. Because salt water pools contain much less chlorine than chlorine pools they don’t affect your body as much.

In fact, salt water is actually  GOOD for your skin and hair. It often helps replenish damaged skin cells and can almost serve as a moisturizer.

 

Don't get a Salt Water Pool If...

Salt water pools aren't for all types of pools so there are some scenarios where you should DEFINITELY go with a chlorine pool.

Don't use salt water if you have a metal pool. It will corrode the lining and walls and permanently damage it very quickly through a process called galvanized corrosion.

Don't get a salt water pool if you have a wooden deck.

The salt water, like for metallic pools, is very harsh to wooden pool decks. So if you are thinking of building one out or currently have one then just stick with a classic chlorine pool. Concrete pool decks are typically fine, but some claim salt water is still more corrosive to concrete.

Salt Water Pool Pros


  • Cheaper in the long run
  • Requires less maintenance
  • Better for your skin and body

Salt Water Pool Cons


  • Higher initial price
  • Doesn't kill bacteria as fast
  • Not great for all types of pools

Chlorine Pools

Chlorine pools are the most common type of pool and make up about 80% of the swimming pools in the United States. This is because they were the first efficient pool system to be created which was back in the 1950’s.

Here we will mention the most important points about chlorine pools so that you will know which type of pool is best for you.

Cost

chlorine tablets

Another reason they are the most popular types of pools is because they have a lower initial cost. Chlorine pool systems require less parts and so is drastically cheaper than salt water pools.

However, it is much more expensive to keep servicing your chlorine pool. This is because you have to constantly purchase chlorine tablets or liquid to keep the pH levels within the proper range of 7.2-7.6 which will result in about $400-$600/year.

If you want to take a look at our favorite chlorine tablets you can find them on Amazon right here.

Maintenance

Chlorine pools require a lot more maintenance to do than salt water pools. We mentioned this before, but it is because the pH level is more delicate so maintaining it is more important. In addition to having a great pool cleaner, monitoring the pH levels once a week is the recommended minimum you should check your pH levels with a test kit.

There are various ways to get chlorine into the pool. The most convenient are the best chlorine tablets which are really easy to throw in, and know how much you really  need to add without having to measure it out.

Here is a video that will help you learn:

Adding the chemicals to the pool is easy if your pH levels are off. You can just easily gently place them in a pool and you'll want to put 2-3 chlorine tablets a week. When you open the chlorine tablet container make sure not to inhale deeply or allow children near it as this could cause some health issues.

Another maintenance aspect of chlorine pools is shocking the pool. Shocking the pool should be done once a month for most pools, but twice a month if you are using a pool spa. This is to get rid of existing chemicals and substances so that chlorine in the pool can concentrate on killing bacteria and algae (though you could just use the best algaecide for this).

In the past I used a different pool shock, but In the Swim’s is the best and my personal favorite now. You can find it on Amazon here to check it out.

It is the best pool shock for the price and I have never had any problems with it such as having my green turn pool from a bad pool shock. 

 

Chlorine Pool Pros


  • Cheap initial cost
  • Available for all types of pools
  • Easier to get help and information about

Chlorine Pool Cons


  • More expensive over the long run
  • Requires more maintenance
  • More likely to get green pool

Salt Water Pool vs Chlorine Pool Conclusion

Most of the time there is no real clear cut choice for swimming pools. There are pros and cons to both of them and it is just about what best fits your need.

If you can afford a higher up front cost to save money, want to worry less about pool maintenance, or have sensitive skin then salt water pools may be better for you.

On the other hand if you want to pay less up front or have a pool deck or metal lining pool then a chlorine pool will most likely be better for you.

If you want advice on what type of pool may be best for you then let us know in the comments!

Laurie S.

As a multi home owner for 15 years I've tried out a ton of pool products and methods and have found out the best ones that work for me. I love helping out other people with real, honest advice and spending time with my family. If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact me in the about or through a comment.

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