Do Salt Water Swimming Pools Work?

By: Marcus Sheridan

By nature, 'Salt' is Sodium Chloride. The method by which a salt-chlorine generator works is that it applies a process of electrolysis to the dissolved salt in the water as it passes through a pool's filter system. This electrolysis takes away the 'sodium' part of salt and what is left is chloride, or chlorine. This form of chlorine is very natural, and does not have the normal byproducts you will find with other types of chlorine- ie. red eyes, strong odor, etc.


What makes this system so enjoyable for pool-owners is that because the chlorine is produced and dispersed into the pool on such a consistent basis, it is much more difficult for the water to get cloudy or develop algae, and as we all know, algae will make or break just how much one enjoys swimming pool ownership. This consistency in the chlorine levels also makes pool maintenance much easier due to the fact that one does not need to check the chlorine levels on a daily basis, nor is adding of chlorine tablets or weekly "shocking" of the pool water necessary. I can personally attest to these benefits considering my ownership of a composite (fiberglass) pool in my yard with a salt-chlorine generator. In fact, I did not have to add any chlorine or shock this past summer, despite the fact that our pool had up to 19 children at one time and was used every day by my two children as well as the rest of the neighbors. No one complained of red eyes and my water maintained excellent clarity throughout the whole season. Never was there a trace of algae. My pool is roughly 17,000 gallons and we only added two bags of salt the entire season. Our chemical cost for the entire year was less than $50! Needless to say, my wife thinks that salt chlorinators are the greatest thing since sliced bread and I would tend to agree.


Although there are very few drawbacks to salt-water chlorination, I'll list here what I've been able to observe. The initial investment one will spend on a good salt system will fall somewhere between $1000-$2500. Although this may sound like a lot, it really isn't when you figure that it will save on average over $500 a season for those using a different method in sanitation. The system will quickly pay for itself over just a few swimming seasons, but even if there weren't monetary benefits, it certainly is worth its weight in gold when one figures the time and stress that are alleviated with its implementation.

One other drawback with salt is that it does not work as well in a concrete/gunite pool. This is because studies have proven salt-chlorine to be five times more abrasive than regular chlorine on concrete surfaces. This means that a concrete pool owner will have to replaster their pool at a quicker rate if salt water is used. This principle does not apply to composite(fiberglass) pool owners though, with salt water having no negative impact on the longevity of the pool's structure.


Yes, the water does taste like salt, but the salinity levels are very low, and just slightly noticeable. I would certainly not consider the salt levels to be uncomfortable nor distracting.