What is a Saltwater Pool and How Does it Work?

Swimming Pool Cleaning and Maintenance

guy in pool
Man in pool with deck. Getty Images

A saltwater, or salt water, pool uses a salt chlorine generator to make the chlorine for your pool, eliminating the need to buy chlorine. The generator converts salt to chlorine, which is made by passing electricity through water. Owners of chlorine systems report that the increased salinity reduces the chemical smell and gives pool water a silky texture.

Why Have a Saltwater Pool?

If you've gone swimming in the past decade or so, you probably have detected a slight salty taste on your lips from at least a few of the swimming pools. Not that we're accusing you of drinking pool water, nor are we recommending you take up the practice. Point being, saltwater pool systems have become increasingly popular for both public and private pools as a method of pool cleaning and maintenance. Gone is the unmistakable aroma of chlorine, and in its place is a slightly salty smell, or—better yet—no distinct odor.

A good reason to incorporate a salt chlorine generator into your pool equipment is because it makes the chlorine, eliminating the need to go to the pool supply store and buy more jugs of chlorine. All you need to do is periodically add salt to the generator. It still disinfects your pool water and attacks that algae, bacteria, and other mysterious organisms that lurk in your pool.

Fun Fact

It's possible to switch any chlorinated pool to a saltwater pool. 

What Kind of Salt is Used for a Saltwater Pool?

Common table salt can be added at a concentration of about 3,000 parts per million. Salt chlorine generators usually come with salt concentration test kits, or you can buy a kit or app.

A computerized control unit converts household AC current (120 or 240 volts) to low-voltage DC current and sends it into an electrolytic cell mounted in a plumbing fitting. The current passes from one electrode to another (anode to cathode) and chlorine is generated as the salted pool water passes between electrodes. Production or output of chlorine can be varied by adjusting the production level on the controls or by varying the amount of time the generator operates each day.

Because salt is corrosive and tends to build up on surfaces, chlorine generators self-clean after a few hours of use. Units come equipped with sophisticated sensors to gauge the flow rate through the system and will shut down the unit if problems are detected.

Saltwater pools go by many different names or terms. Among them:

  • Salt chlorine generator
  • Saltwater chlorination
  • Chlorine generator
  • Salt pool system
  • Saltwater or salt water pool system

More About Saltwater Pools

Interested in learning additional information about saltwater pool systems? Learn more:

Source: The Ultimate Guide to Pool Maintenance by Terry Tamminen; McGraw-Hill.