19 Saltwater vs Chlorine Pools Pros and Cons

Have you ever jumped into a pool, swallowed a bunch of chlorinated water, and wished that there was a better way to cool off during a hot day?

Did your eyes start burning after being in the pool because the chemical levels were so high? Was your hair starting to feel like it was dry and brittle, like you had over-treated it with a curling iron?

Then there is the issue with your skin. When chlorinated water is in constant contact with this protecting organ, it can create dryness, itching, and irritation at even low concentration levels.

When examining the saltwater vs. chlorine pools pros and cons, it is essential to remember that going away from the traditional route for a swimming pool at home may not always be the best choice. Although there are some distinctive advantages which make it worthwhile to look at a saltwater structure, the disadvantages can sometimes outweigh the benefits you would be able to achieve.

List of the Pros of Saltwater vs. Chlorine Pools

1. Saltwater pools are gentler on your skin, eyes, and hair.
Our skin protects us from the contaminants that are in the water, but it can also absorb the chemicals that come into contact with it. Chlorine often causes itching on the skin and scalp after swimming, even if you are only in the water for a few minutes. People with blonde hair can even have their hair turn a green color if there is copper in the water with this chemical. Your hair becomes dry, brittle, and can start breaking – especially if you have color-treated hair. Switching to a saltwater pool can help to provide relief for many of these issues.

2. Saltwater pools do not require you to store chemicals.
If you have a saltwater pool installed on your property, then you no longer need to worry about how to store your chlorine for water treatments in a safe way. The chemicals that you use to keep the water in your pool safe to use are hazardous to store. If you do not handle them properly, then you could create an unintended injury. Follow these steps if you do keep chlorine around to ensure the safest possible experience.

  • Always wear gloves, a mask, and safety goggles when handling pool chemicals.
  • Store the chlorine in its original container in a cool, dry, and ventilated location.
  • Keep incompatible chemicals away from each other – acids do not mix well with chlorine
  • Reseal the lid to your containers after every use.
  • Keep all pool chemicals away from heat or electrical sources.
  • Make sure every chemical has its own measuring cup that you have labeled.

3. Saltwater pools offer a softer feeling during the swim.
If you have ever gone for a swim in the ocean, then the impact on your skin and eyes was likely similar to what you experienced in a highly chlorinated pool. When you create a saltwater pool for your property, the levels of sodium in the water are 10 times less than what they are in ocean water. Because the content is closer to the natural levels that are found in the body, it feels “softer” when swimming because it is working to maintain the exact moisture balance that the body needs for good health.

Most saltwater swimming pools offer a successful user experience when they maintain a 3,000 to 5,000 ppm salt concentration in the water.

4. Saltwater pools usually require less maintenance throughout the year.
The salt cells in a saltwater pool will still produce chlorine to create a disinfectant effect in the water, but they do so only when it is necessary. That means the constant chemical exposure to the infrastructure of the pool does not occur as it would with a traditional system. You will find that the water is easier to maintain throughout the year, along with the structure itself, because there are fewer issues that can degrade the integrity of your system.

5. Saltwater pools eliminate the smell of chlorine from the environment.
When you own a saltwater system for a swimming pool, then you will pour bags of salt into the water that is in your structure. Once the sodium is in the liquid, then it will go through a generator that you install with the pool. This process emits a charge that will free the chlorine molecules from the salt, which then reverts the sodium back to be used repetitively for this process. That means you receive the disinfectant quality of the chemical without the smell that is typically associated with tablets or liquid treatments which follow the traditional course of disinfecting.

6. Saltwater pools are easier to maintain under most circumstances.
When you have a saltwater pool installed on your property, then most of them can self-maintain water levels for up to two weeks. That means you have fewer testing chores to complete throughout the year, even though you do need to check your cells at least once every three months. It is easy enough to add salt to your water as well, reducing the manual addition of specific chemicals to maintain the integrity of the water. There are fewer times when you will need to shock the pool water as well since the liquid maintains a consistent level of protection every day.

7. Saltwater pools do not require chemical storage as part of your maintenance cycle.
Although you can purchase chlorine sticks or tabs to maintain the quality of the water in your swimming pool to minimize this issue, saltwater systems only need a place to store bags of salt. You don’t need to worry about all of the special handling rules that may be necessary to keep your swimming time safe each day. That means you can avoid the expense of personal protective equipment and separate storage areas.

Although you may need to pay an additional cost for specialists to work with your saltwater pool if something goes wrong, this cost is comparable to the expense of having a professional pool service maintain the quality of the water on your behalf. If you don’t have the time to be committed to the quality of your water, then a saltwater pool will always be the best option to choose.

8. Saltwater pools create less fading with your apparel.
When you have chlorine levels in your water that are strong enough to disinfect the liquid, then they are also at a strength where they could create fading issues with your gear or swimwear. If you use expensive items to support your swimming habit, then you may find it necessary to purchase replacement items more often. The natural chlorine that saltwater systems product is strong enough to disinfect the water to keep it safe, but it also doesn’t cause the same levels of damage to your apparel or gear if you find yourself immersed for long periods of time frequently.

9. Saltwater pools may reduce the risks of certain health conditions in children.
A 2003 study from San Diego State University and Wiesenthal Cancer Group found that children who swim regularly using an indoor chlorinated pool were at a higher risk of developing lung inflammation compared to those who used saltwater systems or did not go swimming at all. This issue could eventually turn into a condition called Swimmer’s Asthma. Although the chlorine in a saltwater pool could potentially create the same results, the lower overall disinfectant levels may reduce the chances of these conditions. You must still work to protect your eyes and avoid swallowing pool water to reduce the impact of these issues.

List of the Cons of Saltwater vs. Chlorine Pools

1. Chlorine pools have a lower initial capital cost compared to saltwater options.
The average cost for a brand-new pool in the United States is approximately $50,000 if you are using shotcrete, gunite, or concrete to create this infrastructure. If you want to add a saltwater chlorination feature to the pool to reduce the amount of chlorine that you use in its chemical state, then you could pay up to $2,500 more depending on the size of the pool. You will then need to consider the cost of salt for the water, which is typically about $6 per bag. A 20,000-gallon pool could require a dozen bags after installing the system.

2. Chlorine pools and saltwater pools both have chlorine in the water.
Many people compare saltwater pools vs. chlorinated ones and believe that a conversion to a salt-based system eliminates the chemical completely. It does not. You will still have chlorine in your water, even when you have a saltwater system installed for your structure. Although you won’t be purchasing the chemicals to treat the water (which can cost up to $400 per year), which means there are fewer impurities in the liquid, you will not eliminate your exposure. If someone is sensitive to chlorine, then they would still be unable to use the swimming pool when converting to this system.

3. Chlorine pools often take less time to clean and maintain per session.
Although your maintenance tasks will be fewer and spaced further apart when you choose a saltwater system over the traditional chlorine treatment, the actual time you spend per cleaning session is much longer. You must maintain the integrity of your cell to ensure that the system works properly. That means you will need to turn off the power, remove it from its casing, and then soak it in white vinegar for up to 8 hours. You will not get to use the pool during this time. The cells require a replacement about every 5 years (some may last up to 7 years), at a cost of up to $650.

4. Chlorine pools maintain the same specific pH balance to be useful.
Saltwater pools are only effective at fighting bacteria when they can rely on the correct parameters of alkalinity and pH in its structure. That is why weekly testing and maintenance are still necessary when you decide to use a sodium-based system to keep your water safe. You must maintain a pH balance between 7.4 to 7.6 if you are going to use the swimming pool regularly. If your pH falls outside of this range, then owners can add a muriatic acid to restore balance.

Chlorine pools require the same balance. It may be easier to keep the pH levels balanced when using the traditional methods of maintenance since what you add to the water tends to create specific results.

5. Chlorine pools can sometimes be less corrosive than saltwater pools.
It is essential to remember that salt is a substance that creates corrosion. That is why many communities are moving away from its use on roadways during the winter. Its contact with the metal components of a vehicle would cause them to rust. This effect occurs when you add salt to your swimming pool water. You must avoid using soft stone materials, such as limestone, with your structure because the water will erode it over time. That includes your decking and coping materials as well.

Your fixtures, liners, lighting, and heaters are all exposed to the higher salt content levels in the water too. You will need to ensure that they are rated to work with your swimming pool before completing the installation process if you plan to use a saltwater system to keep your water safe to use.

6. Chlorine pools do not require an energy cost.
When you install a chlorine pool that uses traditional care systems, then there is a zero energy cost associated with the maintenance of your water. That is not the case with a saltwater system. Your generator will push the water through the cell to create the separation effect, which means you will have ongoing costs to consider each month. You will eventually recoup the initial expense because the monthly maintenance costs and utility fees are still lower than the monthly cost of chlorine, but it takes time to achieve that result.

7. Chlorine pools can provide automatic balancing options too.
If your primary concern for a swimming pool is to maintain the balance of the water correctly to ensure it is safe to use, then a chlorine system can offer a controller that will provide this service automatically if you wish. The initial expense for this system is comparable to the generators used in saltwater systems. You would then pour in the chemicals or insert the tabs to ensure that there is enough available for distribution. You won’t need to worry about the chlorine corroding the pool lining or your equipment either.

8. Chlorine pools do not require the same level of expertise for repairs.
There will come a time when you must hire a professional to repair something that happened with your pool. Most chlorine-based pools can benefit from your DIY experience to limit the number of times you need to bring a contractor to your property. Saltwater systems are a little different. Even minor repairs often require a licensed technician who is familiar with this structure to deal with the complexities of your pool. If you have a series of breakdowns over a season, then the maintenance bill will be significantly higher than if you had gone with the traditional system.

9. Chlorine pools offer a result that is almost always guaranteed.
When you are adding chlorine to your pool on a weekly basis, then you can have the confidence in knowing that the water is safe for a swim. If you choose to have a saltwater system for your property, then the results could be very different. The generators that work to separate the chlorine from the salt can be temperamental. It is not that unusual to have it seem like it is producing chlorine when it really is not. This equipment can also over-produce to create higher levels than you would fund to be comfortable. If there are high phosphate levels in the water, then the generator could malfunction – which means you may need to have a phosphate remover for your saltwater pool to ensure it works correctly.

10. Chlorine pools resist calcium buildup better than saltwater systems.
If you have high pH levels in a saltwater pool over a consistent time period, then it can cause calcium precipitant to begin adhering to the surface of your structures. When this occurs, the swimming pool can feel rough to the touch, creating the potential for scrapes, scratches, and cuts that could be dangerous for young swimmers. You would need to scrape away the extra calcium to repair this issue, which means a full drain before the work begins. That is why the idea of a “no maintenance” pool is outlandish at best. Saltwater systems can work to maintain themselves, but you must constantly check on them to prevent significant repairs from being needed in the future.

The pros and cons of saltwater pools vs. chlorine pools typically come down to the maintenance work you want to do and how much cash you have available right now for the installation process. If you enjoy working with your pool water each week and need a lower upfront cost, then a chlorine pool makes sense. When your skin has issues with chlorine contact or your hair always feels dry after a swim, then a saltwater system could be the better option.

About the Author
Brandon Miller has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a seasoned writer who has written over one hundred articles, which have been read by over 500,000 people. If you have any comments or concerns about this blog post, then please contact the Green Garage team here.