Salt Water vs Chlorine Pool: The Great Pool Debate

Saltwater pools as well as chlorine pools have features and benefits that are unique to each. If you have a swimming pool, choosing between salt water and chlorine water can be one of the most confusing decisions. 

A salt water pool is essentially nothing but a chlorine pool that uses a chlorinator (a salt water generator) to convert salt to chlorine. In other words, instead of adding chlorine to the water, you just need to add salt and it gets converted to chlorine to with the help of the generator. The quality of a salt water pools is great, apart from the benefits of easy maintenance. Alternatively, chlorine pools have very low initial investment and is compatible with all kinds of pool and equipment. The two main factors that are taken into consideration when comparing salt water and chorine pools are:

  • Cost. Chlorine pools use high levels of the chemical in order to kill the bacteria and germs and purify the water. While this is a traditional way of sterilizing water, it has higher levels of toxins which can prove to be very harmful to humans especially during overexposure. On the other hand, salt water pools are considered safer because electrolysis which turns the salt into chlorine is a natural process and thus the treated water contains less amount of toxins in it. 
  • Health. Salt water pools are relatively costlier during initial investment, but you will not have to keep buying chemicals like you would for a chlorine pool, however after a few years you may need to replace and repair metal and wood decking parts as well as replace your pool’s chlorine generator.  

Other than this there are plenty of other aspects that can help differentiate between salt water and chlorine pools. Let’s look at some of the important ones!

Chlorine Pools

You can use chlorine either in the form of liquid, or tablets and granules. These are very easily available in the market since it is the traditional way of cleaning pools. You can use a floating chlorine dispenser or a chlorine feeder which will help to distribute the chlorine tablets. The price of an automatic chemical feeder ranges between $50 to $200. As the name suggests, a floating chlorine feeder will move around the entire pool, thus ensuring that the chlorine is equally distributed all over your pool. Chlorine tablets are very easy to use, and it can be effective for long periods. 


  • It is compatible with all types of pools and pool equipment 
  • Easy to use by simply adding chlorine directly to the water or with the help of a floater
  • Pool parts do not need to be replaced even after continuous use of several years
  • Kills bacteria and algae very fast and clears up your pool water quickly


  • Chlorine needs to be added on a weekly basis, and sometimes even daily
  • Chlorine tablets and granules contain several other by-products that are chemical in nature and this can harm the chemical balance of your pool
  • It requires more of your attention and maintenence as the chemical levels in the pool can be affected very easily

Salt Water Pools

Though the name suggests otherwise, salt water pools are technically chlorine pools because the end reaction is the same as that of a chlorine pool. Some of the options when choosing between salts are solar salt which is organic in nature, mined salt, or mechanically evaporated salt which contains mineral impurities. Rock salt and calcium chloride are best avoided. The salt particles, that is sodium chloride, generates free available chlorine after it passes through a chlorine generator cell. This chlorine then passes freely and automatically throughout your pool. Salt water pools do not require the use of additional equipment such as floating dispensers or chlorine feeders as in the case of chlorine pools. However, you should keep in mind that salt water generators work best only with certain types of pools such as fiberglass pools, concrete pools that have a tiled interior surface or a vinyl liner pool which has polymer lined panels.


  • Maintenance is easier than chlorine pools
  • Salt needs to be added less frequently than chlorine needs to be added to a chlorine pool
  • Salt is much cheaper than chlorine
  • Free chlorine levels are mostly always consistent, therefore reducing the growth of bacteria and algae
  • No extra chemical by-products are found in the water, as in the case of chlorine pools
  • The water in the pool remains soft and does not irritate the skin or eyes


  • Initial cost is higher than chlorine pools
  • Not suitable for use with all pools since the salt can corrode certain metals
  • The chlorine generator, metal parts and wood decking parts most likely need to be replaced after a few years
  • Since the water remains soft and clear, the chlorine levels might go up without you really noticing it, thus making it difficult to keep a check on the level of chlorine present in the pool

How Chlorine Works in Purifying Water

Chlorine comes in different varieties, but basically when chlorine is added to pool water, it is essentially hypochlorous acid and not pure chlorine that is acting on the water. Even if you are using a salt water pool, after you add salt to the water, the salt water flows through a salt chlorine generator which converts the salt to pure chlorine through a process called electrolysis. This pure chlorine in turn, upon reaction with the water, forms hypochlorous acid. Hypochlorous acid in the water kills the bacteria and algae. When chlorine levels are measured in the water, in both chlorine as well as salt water pools, it is actually a reading of the hypochlorous acid. 

The most commonly used chemical for chlorine pools is liquid chlorine which is nothing but sodium hypochlorite. Alternatively, granules or tablets of sodium chlorine in combination with cyanuric acid is used. If you are using a salt for a salt water pool, you simply use common salt or sodium chloride. 

Some of the most sought-after questions regarding salt water versus chemical pools are:

Are salt water pools healthier than chlorine pools? The answer is definitely affirmative! Salt water is not toxic for the skin and is softer than chemically treated water. It does not have chemical by-products and does not pose any health risks and is better to use a salt water pool, especially if you have kids.

Which type of pool is more expensive? The initial investment of a salt water pool is usually higher than a chlorine pool. A salt water generator can cost you between $400 and $1,800. In addition to this, you could be spending between $30 to $50 more on electricity each month. Salt water can be damaging in the long run and you may be required to hire a professional to replace or repair parts. However, in a year you would spend between $70 to $100 on salt, whereas the cost of chemicals for a chlorine pool are much higher ranging between $300 to $800. 

Which pool type is more popular? Currently, based on recent records, salt water pools are more popular than chlorine pools and this trend is only on the rise. In fact, many water park resorts and hotels have converted their pools or are opting for salt water pools because it needs much less manpower and maintenance. Also, adding salt to the pool and then monitoring the chlorine levels seems to be an easier option. 

How much salt needs to added to a salt water pool? When adding salt to your pool, always ensure that it is between 2500 and 3600 ppm (parts per million). Before you add salt to the pool, it’s a good idea to always check the salt levels. Too much salt in the water does not make it very safe for swimming and you should then drain and refill about six inches of water from your pool till optimum levels of salt is reached. 


Whether to choose a chlorine pool or a salt water totally depends upon you. Both chlorine and salt water pools have its advantages and disadvantages. Chlorine pools have been around for about 50 years, whereas salt water pools are more recent and about 30 years old. Some people like to make the initial investment in salt water pools and then not bother too much about the constant maintenance of their pool. Others like to stick to chlorine pools and do not mind the regular maintenance or the cost of chemicals that they need to buy each year! Either way, you will only know which one suits you best when you have tried and tested it. You can always convert a chlorine pool to a salt water pool and vice versa. However, knowing about each type in details will surely help you to make an educated decision. 

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