The Truth About Salt Pools

saltscapesThe Truth About Salt Pools

One of the most frequently asked questions in our store is about “salt pools”.  After responding to this question for several years, it is evident that there is still a lot of mystery about what a “salt pool” really is.  We hope this article will eliminate the mystery and help people understand this technology..the good..the bad..and the ugly.

Generally, people assume that a “salt pool” means that the water is simply salt water and it is much like swimming in the Caribbean. A “salt pool” is a bit of a misnomer. A more accurate way to refer to this technology is chlorine generation.  Salt (sodium chloride-NaCl) is added to the pool and as the water passes through the chlorine generator cell and an electrical discharge converts the salt into chlorine (hypochlorous acid-HOCl).  I just had a gentleman in our store today saying that he had a “salt pool” and he was shocked that it is actually generating CHLORINE.  He also stated that he never had to add anything to his water.  This is another consumer who was baffled and misled by the hyperbole of a slick salesman.

As with anything, there are pros and cons about the technology.  We believe that a customer should carefully weigh their decision to install a chlorine generator and they should fully understand the pros and cons before making a decision.  We want our customers to be fully informed so that they aren’t surprised at the maintenance involved with a swimming pool (or spa) equipped with a chlorine generator.

The good….

  • It is viable technology—it works
  • There is less need to buy auxiliary chlorine (in most cases)
  • People perceive that the water feels softer
  • People perceive that there is little or no chlorine smell
  • Most chlorine generators have the ability to “power boost” or shock the pool

The bad…..

  • The upfront costs of the generator can be significant
  • The generator can be temperamental—not producing chlorine when you think it is or producing too much causing excessively high chlorine levels
  • The cell needs to be cleaned periodically which is a bit of a messy job
  • High phosphate levels can cause the generator to malfunction (can be addressed easily with the regular addition of a phosphate remover)
  • It doesn’t generate chlorine well in cold water (winter months) so the water should be treated with an alternative source of chlorine.  This is specifically applicable in many parts of the country, specifically in the Pacific Northwest where we are located, due to cold but mild winters.
  • pH tends to run consistently high requiring frequent additions of a pH decreaser

The ugly……

  • Salt can damage equipment (pumps, heaters, handrails) and decks which can eliminate any cost savings on chlorine.  This is a well-known fact in our industry and has been well documented in recent years in our industry publications.  Salt is corrosive and most people clearly understand this.
  • Failing to manage the consistently high pH levels can cause calcium precipitant to adhere to the surface of the pool causing it to become very rough.


Unfortunately, although the technology is sound and it does work, we feel that many people are misled to believe that it is a panacea to address the need for chemically treating their swimming pool.  Our customers often find that they were led to believe that they will never need to buy chlorine or that there is no chlorine involved and that adding salt is all they need to do.  They are not advised that salt can damage equipment, and they are misled to believe that there is no other maintenance or balancing involved.  This confusing information can lead to a dissatisfied pool owner.   As long as a customer is fully aware of the pros and cons of chlorine generation, we’re happy to install one on their swimming pool.  We just believe that people deserve to understand the up-side as well as the down-side to any program they use for pool sanitation.


With all of this being said, we have customers who love their chlorine generator and wouldn’t want to sanitize their pool any other way.  We also have other customers who have asked us to remove the chlorine generator that was installed when the pool was built and they have chosen an alternative method of sanitizing their pool.  As long as our customers are happy with their choice, we are happy to support them in their decision and pride ourselves on our ability to provide them with a wide variety of products specifically designed to meet the needs of their pool and spa.

Although there is more to proper water care for a salt pool then just adding salt, it doesn’t mean that your chemical maintenance needs to be difficult!  We are happy to now offer the SaltScapes™ Saltwater Pool Care Products from BioGuard to make all of your saltwater pool needs easy and simple. It is a unique product line that is specifically designed to address the exclusive needs of saltwater pools.

If you have a saltwater pool, ask us about SaltScapes™ and simplify your pool care.  And remember, we offer FREE water analysis to our chemical customers!