Saltwater Pool vs Chlorine Pool

Saltwater Pool vs Chlorine Pool

Dipping your toes into the decision of choosing between a saltwater pool and a chlorine pool can be as tricky as deciding your next big summer vacation.

On one side, you’ve got the saltwater pool, boasting a softer touch on your skin and a promise of lower chemical warfare in your backyard oasis. Yes, the upfront cost might pinch your wallet a bit harder with that salt chlorine generator and the initial salt buy.

But think of it as an investment; in the long run, you’re looking at fewer chemical purchases and less time spent on maintenance. It’s the kind of low-maintenance relationship we all dream of, right?

Flip the coin, and there’s the chlorine pool—your more traditional swim buddy. It’s like the comfort food of pools, with lower initial costs because you’re skipping the fancy salt chlorine generator.

Yet, as we all know, sometimes comfort comes with its complications. In this case, it’s the higher ongoing costs for chlorine and chemical stabilizers and a bit of a tougher love on your skin and eyes.

This article is your diving board into the deep end of understanding these two pool types. We’ll navigate through the costs, maintenance, and how each option might affect your swim sessions. Buckle up; we’re about to make a splash in the saltwater or chlorine pool debate!

WordPress Tables Plugin

This table presents a snapshot of what to expect from each pool type, highlighting that both saltwater and chlorine pools have their unique advantages and challenges. Your choice will depend on what factors you prioritize, such as ease of maintenance, initial investment, and how the water feels during use.

Understanding the Basics: What’s a Saltwater Pool?

A saltwater pool is a swimming pool that uses a salt chlorine generator for sanitization. Instead of adding chlorine directly, you add salt to the pool, which the generator then converts into chlorine through a process called electrolysis. This chlorine keeps the pool water clean by neutralizing bacteria and algae. After purifying the water, it reverts back to salt, allowing the cycle to continue. This system is known for being gentler on the skin and eyes and requires less handling of harsh chemicals.

The appeal of saltwater pools lies in their softer water and lower maintenance needs. Swimmers often report less irritation, and pool owners appreciate the reduced need for frequent chlorine additions. The initial setup might be pricier than traditional pools, but the ongoing ease of use and comfort make saltwater pools a popular choice for many.

What are the Types of Salt Used?

In saltwater pools, the type of salt used is crucial for the efficient operation of the salt chlorine generator and the overall pool health. There are primarily three types of salt recommended for use in these pools:

  1. Solar Salt: Produced through the evaporation of seawater, solar salt is a natural choice that contains a mix of salt and other minerals. It’s widely available and cost-effective, but its impurities, such as organic matter and other minerals, can sometimes lead to issues with pool systems and require more frequent cleaning of the salt cell.
  2. Mechanically Evaporated Salt: This type of salt is made by heating seawater to speed up the evaporation process, resulting in purer salt compared to solar salt. While it has fewer impurities, mechanically evaporated salt can still contain anti-caking agents and other additives that may affect your pool’s chemistry.
  3. Mined Salt: Also known as rock salt, this is the purest form of salt for pool use. Mined from underground salt deposits, it is typically free of organic contaminants and dissolves quickly in water. Mined salt is considered the best option for saltwater pools because of its purity, although it may be more expensive than other types.

When choosing salt for your pool, it’s essential to avoid salts with added anti-caking agents or high levels of impurities, as these can lead to staining, cloudiness, or damage to the pool’s systems. Always opt for a salt that is specifically designed for use in saltwater pools to ensure the best performance and longevity of your pool equipment.

Types of Saltwater Pools

They mainly vary by the system used for salt chlorination and the construction of the pool itself.

  1. In-ground Saltwater Pools: These are permanent pools installed into the ground. They can be made from various materials like concrete, fiberglass, or vinyl. The saltwater system is integrated into the pool’s existing filtration system.
  2. Above-ground Saltwater Pools: These pools are similar to traditional above-ground pools but are equipped with a salt chlorine generator. They’re more cost-effective and easier to install than in-ground pools.
  3. Commercial Saltwater Pools: Found in public or resort settings, these larger pools have advanced saltwater systems to accommodate more swimmers and higher usage.
  4. Residential Saltwater Pools: Designed for home use, these pools range from small, inflatable options to large, in-ground designs. They offer the benefits of saltwater systems on a scale suited for family and friends.

The choice between these types depends on budget, space, and personal preference. Each type offers the gentle, low-maintenance benefits of saltwater chlorination in different settings and scales.

How Does a Saltwater Pool Stay Clean?

A saltwater pool stays clean through a fascinating process that involves transforming salt into chlorine, which then sanitizes the water.

Salt + Electricity = Chlorine

Salt Electricity Chlorine

Here’s a simplified breakdown of how it works:

  1. Salt Addition: First, a specific amount of salt (sodium chloride) is added to the pool water. This salt concentration is much lower than that of seawater, making it gentle on the skin and eyes.
  2. Electrolysis: The heart of a saltwater pool system is the salt chlorine generator. This device uses electrolysis to break down the salt (sodium chloride) dissolved in the pool water into its components, sodium and chloride. When an electric current passes through the saltwater, it splits the salt molecules.
  3. Chlorine Production: The chloride part of the salt molecule is converted into chlorine gas during electrolysis. This chlorine gas dissolves in the water and forms hypochlorous acid, the active sanitizing agent that kills bacteria, viruses, and algae in the pool.
  4. Continuous Cycle: The beauty of this system lies in its cyclical nature. As the hypochlorous acid sanitizes the pool, it eventually converts back into salt, and the process begins anew. This means that the salt is constantly being recycled, minimizing the need for additional salt or chlorine to be added regularly.
  5. Self-regulating: The system can be somewhat self-regulating, as the production of chlorine can be adjusted by controlling the generator’s operation, matching the pool’s sanitization needs based on its usage and environmental factors.

This process keeps the pool clean and safe for swimming without the harsh effects and smell of traditional chlorine. Additionally, because the chlorine is produced and used up within the pool system, it reduces the need for transporting, handling, and storing chemical chlorine, making it a convenient and eco-friendly option for many pool owners. 

The Cost of Saltwater – Analyzing Maintenance and Upfront Costs

Diving into the world of saltwater pools, you’ll find the waters both inviting and a bit complex, especially when it comes to costs. Let’s break it down into two main categories: upfront costs and maintenance costs.

Upfront Costs:

  • Salt Chlorine Generator: This is the main cost difference compared to chlorine pools. Prices can range from $1,100 to $2,500 depending on features and size compatibility.
  • Salt: The initial salt amount needed depends on your pool size, but generally costs $50 to $125.

Maintenance Costs:

  • Salt Replenishment: Top-up salt is needed periodically, costing around $10 to $25 per 40-pound bag. Frequency depends on usage and water volume.
  • Salt Chlorine Generator Cleaning: Generators require occasional cleaning, which can be done yourself or by a pool professional. DIY cleaning supplies might cost around $20, while professional cleaning can range from $50 to $100.
  • Reduced Chemical Costs: Saltwater pools generally require fewer additional chemicals compared to chlorine pools, leading to some savings over time.


  • Saltwater pools have a higher upfront cost due to the salt chlorine generator.
  • Maintenance costs for salt can be lower than chlorine tablets or bleach, but factor in generator cleaning and potential part replacements due to saltwater corrosion.

Here are some additional points to consider:

  • The lifespan of a salt chlorine generator is typically around 5-7 years, so factor in replacement costs over time.
  • Local labor rates can affect installation and cleaning costs.

By comparing these costs with traditional chlorine pool maintenance, you can decide which system is more cost-effective for your situation. 

Saltwater Pool Pros and Cons

Pros of Saltwater PoolsCons of Saltwater Pools
Gentler on skin and eyesHigher upfront costs
Softer water feelSaltwater can be corrosive
Less day-to-day maintenanceComplex systems may require professional help
No harsh chlorine smellIncreased energy consumption
More cost-effective over timeRegular monitoring and balance of levels needed

Saltwater pools have been gaining popularity for their perceived ease of maintenance and gentler swimming experience. Let’s explore the pros and cons to give you a comprehensive understanding.


  1. Gentler on Skin and Eyes: Saltwater pools have lower levels of chlorine, which means they’re less likely to cause skin and eye irritation compared to traditional chlorine pools.
  2. Softer Water Feel: The salt in the water can make it feel softer, which is often more pleasant for swimming.
  3. Less Maintenance: While you still need to check the pool chemistry, saltwater systems generally require less day-to-day maintenance because the salt chlorine generator continuously produces chlorine as needed.
  4. No Harsh Chlorine Smell: With a saltwater system, you’re less likely to experience the strong chlorine smell associated with traditional pools, as the chlorine levels are lower and more stable.
  5. Cost-Effective Over Time: Though the initial setup cost is higher, saltwater pools can be more economical in the long run due to reduced chemical costs.


  1. Higher Upfront Costs: The initial investment for a salt chlorine generator and the setup of a saltwater pool can be significant.
  2. Saltwater is Corrosive: If not properly maintained, the salt can corrode certain materials, potentially damaging pool fixtures, accessories, and even landscaping around the pool.
  3. Complex Systems: Saltwater chlorination systems can be complex and might require professional assistance for troubleshooting and repairs, which could add to the overall costs.
  4. Energy Consumption: Salt chlorine generators require electricity to operate, which can increase your energy bills.
  5. Regular Monitoring Required: Despite lower maintenance, it’s still essential to regularly check the pool’s salt, pH, and chlorine levels to ensure everything is balanced correctly.

The Traditional Choice Explained – What’s a Chlorine Pool? 

A chlorine pool, the traditional choice for swimming pools, uses chlorine in various forms—tablets, liquid, granules, or sticks—to sanitize and disinfect the water. Chlorine is a powerful chemical that kills bacteria, viruses, and algae, ensuring the pool water is safe for swimming. When added to the pool, chlorine reacts with water to form hypochlorous acid, the active sanitizer that neutralizes harmful microorganisms.

  1. Sanitize with Chlorine: The key ingredient is chlorine, which comes in various forms like tablets, granules, or liquid chlorine (similar to household bleach). Choose the form that works best for you and your pool size.
  2. Consistent Chlorination: The key to sparkling water is maintaining a steady chlorine level. This ensures proper disinfection and keeps the water clear. Regular testing is crucial – use pool test strips or a digital tester a few times a week to measure chlorine levels.
  3. Adjust as Needed: Based on your test results, adjust chlorine levels by adding more chlorine if it’s low or by diluting the water (partially draining and refilling) if it’s too high.
  4. Maintain Proper pH: Chlorine effectiveness is also impacted by water pH. Test your pH alongside chlorine and aim for a pH level between 7.2 and 7.8. You might need to add pH increaser or decreaser to maintain this range.
  5. Don’t Skimp on Filtration: Run your pool filter system for recommended hours each day (typically 8-12 hours). This ensures proper water circulation and distribution of chlorine throughout the pool.
  6. Shocking Occasionally: Every 1-2 weeks, perform a chlorine shock treatment. This raises chlorine levels temporarily to kill bacteria and contaminants not eliminated by everyday chlorine levels.
  7. Keep it Clean: Skim debris daily to remove leaves, insects, and other unwanted elements. Brushing the pool walls and vacuuming the bottom regularly help remove algae and debris that chlorine can’t reach.
  8. Simpler System: Compared to saltwater pools, chlorine pools have a simpler setup. There’s no extra equipment like a salt chlorine generator involved.

Here are some additional points to consider about chlorine pools:

  • More Maintenance: You’ll need to manually add chlorine and adjust chemical levels more frequently compared to saltwater systems.
  • Harsh Chemicals: Chlorine can irritate skin, eyes, and hair, and might cause a strong chlorine odor around the pool. Proper handling and storage are important for safety.
  • Cost-effective upfront: Chlorine pools are generally cheaper to install than saltwater pools since there’s no additional generator needed. 

The beauty of using chlorine is its effectiveness and reliability. With regular maintenance, chlorine can keep pool water clear and prevent the spread of pathogens. Pool owners typically add chlorine through tablets, liquid, granules, or a chlorinator device that automatically dispenses the chemical at a controlled rate. This flexibility in application makes chlorine a convenient option for many.

The Dark Side of Chlorine Pools

While chlorine pools are widely used and effective at keeping pool water clean, they do have their drawbacks, often referred to as the “dark side” of using chlorine. Here are some of the key concerns associated with chlorine pools:

  1. Skin and Eye Irritation: High levels of chlorine can lead to skin and eye irritation. Swimmers may experience dry, itchy skin or red, irritated eyes, especially after prolonged exposure. This is because chlorine strips away the natural oils that protect the skin and eyes.
  2. Strong Odor: Chlorine pools can have a distinctive and strong chemical smell. This is not just from the chlorine itself but also from chloramines, which are formed when chlorine reacts with organic matter like sweat, oils, and urine. These compounds are responsible for the “chlorine smell” and can be unpleasant for some people.
  3. Maintenance and Handling: Regular maintenance is crucial for chlorine pools, including balancing the pH and adding chlorine regularly. Handling chlorine can be hazardous, as it is a toxic chemical in concentrated forms. This necessitates careful storage and handling procedures to avoid accidents.
  4. Environmental Impact: Chlorinated water can have negative effects on the environment if not properly managed. When pool water is drained, high levels of chlorine can harm aquatic life if it enters rivers, lakes, or the ocean.
  5. Potential Health Risks: There are concerns about long-term exposure to chlorinated pools and potential health risks. Studies have suggested a link between chlorine and certain health issues, such as asthma and other respiratory problems, especially in indoor pool environments where air circulation may be limited.

Despite these drawbacks, chlorine pools remain popular due to their effectiveness in sanitization and the familiarity of their maintenance routines. However, it’s important for pool owners to be aware of these cons and take steps to minimize their impact, such as ensuring proper ventilation, maintaining the correct chemical balance, and considering alternatives like saltwater systems for a more skin-friendly swimming experience.

Pros and Cons of Chlorine Pools

Pros of Chlorine PoolsCons of Chlorine Pools
Effective at sanitizing the poolCan cause skin and eye irritation
Cost-effective and widely availableStrong, sometimes unpleasant odor
Works quickly to clean the waterRequires regular maintenance and monitoring
Straightforward to use and adjustHazardous chemicals need careful storage
 Environmental concerns with chlorinated water
 Potential long-term health risks

Chlorine pools, a traditional choice for many, come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages. Here’s a quick rundown of the pros and cons to help you understand what to expect with a chlorine pool.


  1. Effective Sanitization: Chlorine is highly effective at killing bacteria, viruses, and algae, ensuring the pool water is safe for swimming.
  2. Cost-Effective: Compared to other sanitization methods, chlorine is relatively inexpensive and widely available, making it a budget-friendly option for pool maintenance.
  3. Quick Action: Chlorine works quickly to clean and sanitize pool water, making it ideal for pools that are used frequently or by many people.
  4. Ease of Use: Adding chlorine to a pool is straightforward, and it’s easy to adjust the levels to ensure optimal water quality.


  1. Chemical Irritation: Chlorine can cause skin and eye irritation, especially if the pool’s chemical balance is not properly maintained.
  2. Strong Odor: The characteristic “chlorine smell” can be overpowering and is actually a sign of chloramines, which form when chlorine reacts with contaminants.
  3. Maintenance and Storage: Regular testing and adjustment of chlorine levels are required to maintain pool health. Storing chlorine also requires care due to its hazardous nature.
  4. Environmental Concerns: Improperly treated or discharged pool water can harm the environment due to its chlorine content.
  5. Potential Health Risks: There are concerns about the long-term health effects of chlorine exposure, including respiratory issues and other ailments, particularly in indoor pool settings.

Choosing a chlorine pool means balancing these pros and cons against your personal preferences, budget, and willingness to engage in regular maintenance. While chlorine pools are effective and economical, it’s important to handle chlorine with care and strive for a balanced pool chemistry to minimize its drawbacks.

Which Pool Type Is Better for Your Home? 

Choosing between a saltwater pool and a chlorine pool depends on your priorities and budget. Here’s a breakdown to help you decide:

Saltwater Pool


  • Softer on swimmers: Lower chlorine levels make the water feel gentler on skin, eyes, and hair.
  • Less maintenance (usually): Saltwater generators automate chlorine production, reducing chemical adjustments.
  • No harsh chemicals: Salt is safer and easier to handle than chlorine tablets or bleach.


  • Higher upfront cost: Salt chlorine generators add to the initial installation price.
  • Saltwater maintenance: While overall maintenance might be lower, you’ll still need to refill the salt and clean the generator.
  • Potential for corrosion: Saltwater can be corrosive to metal pool equipment.

Chlorine Pool


  • Lower upfront cost: Chlorine pools are generally cheaper to install.
  • Simpler system: Easier setup and maintenance compared to saltwater systems.
  • Widely available: Chlorine is readily available for purchase.


  • Harsh chemicals: Chlorine can irritate skin, eyes, and hair, and has a strong odor.
  • More maintenance: Regular testing and chlorine level adjustments are required.
  • Safety concerns: Chlorine, especially in granular or liquid form, can be a safety hazard if not handled properly.
  • Disinfection byproducts: Chlorine disinfection creates byproducts potentially linked to health problems.

Here are some additional factors to consider:

  • Budget: If upfront cost is a major concern, chlorine pools are more budget-friendly.
  • Maintenance time: If you value minimal maintenance, saltwater might be better.
  • Climate: Saltwater generators can be less efficient in colder climates.
  • Skin sensitivity: If swimmers have sensitive skin, saltwater offers a gentler experience.

Ultimately, the best pool type depends on your priorities. Consider your budget, desired maintenance level, climate, and swimmer needs to make an informed decision.

Saltwater vs. Chlorine: Evaluating the Environmental Impact

Both chlorine and saltwater pools have environmental impacts. Chlorine production can use harsh chemicals and create byproducts. Traditional chlorine pools also require frequent chlorine top-ups, which can end up in pool runoff. Saltwater pools use less chlorine overall, but the salt can be harmful to nearby plants if not properly managed. Discharged saltwater can also affect local ecosystems.

Read more:

How to Convert Your Chlorine Pool to Saltwater Pool?

Saltwater Pool FAQ: Common Questions Answered

1. Is a saltwater pool really chlorine-free?

No, saltwater pools still use chlorine, but they generate it from salt through a process called electrolysis. This results in lower and more consistent chlorine levels compared to traditional chlorine tablets or bleach.

2. Is a saltwater pool better for my skin and eyes?

Yes, due to the lower chlorine levels, saltwater pools are generally gentler on skin, eyes, and hair than traditionally chlorinated pools.

3. Does a saltwater pool require less maintenance?

Saltwater pools can require less frequent adjustments compared to chlorine pools because the generator automates chlorine production. However, you’ll still need to refill the salt and clean the generator periodically.

4. Are saltwater pools more expensive than chlorine pools?

Saltwater pools have a higher upfront cost due to the installation of a salt chlorine generator. However, maintenance costs may be lower over time due to less frequent chemical adjustments.

5. Is saltwater corrosive to pool equipment?

Yes, saltwater can be corrosive to metal pool components. Saltwater pools may require replacing certain parts like ladders or handrails sooner than chlorine pools.

Chlorine Pool FAQ: Common Questions Answered

1. Are chlorine pools high maintenance?

Chlorine pools require more frequent maintenance compared to saltwater pools. You’ll need to regularly test chlorine levels and adjust them by adding chlorine tablets or granules.

2. Can chlorine irritate skin and eyes?

Yes, chlorine can be harsh on swimmers, especially those with sensitive skin or allergies. It can cause irritation to the eyes and skin, and dry out hair.

3. Is chlorine safe to handle?

Chlorine, particularly in granular or liquid form, can be a safety hazard if not handled properly. It can irritate skin and lungs, and accidents can occur during storage or addition to the pool.

4. Are chlorine pools cheaper than saltwater pools?

Chlorine pools are generally cheaper to install upfront because they don’t require a salt chlorine generator. However, chlorine tablets and other chemicals need to be purchased regularly.

5. Do chlorine pools have a strong odor?

The chlorine disinfection process can create a strong chlorine smell around the pool, which some people find unpleasant.

Final Thoughts Saltwater Pool vs Chlorine Pool

Deciding between a saltwater and chlorine pool boils down to personal preference, budget, and maintenance willingness. Saltwater pools are praised for their gentle feel on the skin and eyes, minimal chlorine smell, and lower long-term maintenance costs, despite the higher initial investment and potential for system complexity and corrosion. They offer a more natural swimming experience, appealing to those seeking comfort and reduced chemical use.

  • Gentler on swimmers and less maintenance: Go with saltwater for a softer experience and less frequent chemical adjustments.
  • Budget-friendly and simple: Choose chlorine for a lower upfront cost and easier setup.

Chlorine pools, however, stand out for their cost-effectiveness, ease of maintenance, and proven sanitization effectiveness, making them a familiar choice for many homeowners. Despite the potential for skin and eye irritation and environmental concerns, chlorine pools remain a reliable and straightforward option. Ultimately, the best choice varies based on individual needs, prioritizing health, environmental impact, and operational convenience.

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