Saltwater Pool Maintenance the Easy Guide

Michael Keenan


Pool Maintenance

Do you own a saltwater swimming pool? Perhaps you’re considering a conversion. Either way, you need to consider the maintenance of saltwater pools – it is a bit different to regular pool maintenance.

They are a low maintenance option but there are still routine tasks to keep everything in order. This article will provide all the info you need, from daily tasks such as skimming the pool and emptying pump baskets to monthly tasks like testing salinity levels and alkalinity.

I’ll also cover winterization tips and some common FAQs so you can make sure your pool is running smoothly all year long. So let’s dive in – this article has all the information you need on saltwater pool maintenance!

salt water pool maintenance

A Salt Water Pool and Its Benefits

A Salt water system has a ton of benefits, leading to saltwater pools growing in popularity. If you’re one of those folks who gave in and converted to a saltwater pool, you’re in for a treat.

Just to be clear if this is all new to you. A salwater pool is NOT filled with seawater, and you don’t just add table salt to convert your pool!

Regular pool systems rely on a chemical sanitizer like chlorine or bromine to keep the water safe and healthy. A salt water system is sanitized using a salt cell chlorinator. The chlorinator generates chlorine from salt automatically and this acts as the sanitizer.

If you haven’t yet made the switch, the following benefits might just convince you:

Salt water has a much softer feel than the chlorine / water mix that most traditional pools have.

That isn’t to say that your saltwater pool doesn’t have its own share of chlorine, it’s to say that despite this chlorine, it’s still gentler on the swimmer’s body and the pool itself.

Traditional pools also produce compounds called chloramines, notorious for causing eye irritation and even damage to the respiratory tract.

These are absent in saltwater pools, since salt water burns these off during their generating process. Typically, traditional pools require a range of chemicals to keep them clean and healthy.

A Saltwater system produces its own chlorine as it’s needed. This means you don’t have to stock up on these other chemicals or spend time measuring out different products, balancing them in your pool, testing to see if you’ve got it right and then starting over if you haven’t.

With the right settings, the salt cells produce the perfect amount of chlorine, negating the need to add any extra artificially.

Though salt water pools aren’t totally maintenance free, the above benefits draw many folks towards them. It also helps that salt water itself is highly beneficial to human skin, with many anti-inflammatory and healing properties that work wonders for your skin barrier.

pool maintenance skimming leaves

Daily Maintenance Tasks – Salt Water Pools

Maintaining your saltwater pool starts at the “daily” level; though this may seem like a lot of work, doing these tasks will keep your pool in top shape, as well as your salt chlorine generator running well enough to support you through pool season!

Daily tasks include:

  • Clearing the skimmer
  • Emptying the pump basket
  • Skimming all visible debris

You could also add cleaning your pool and filters to this list even if not on a daily basis, doing this frequently will lessen the probable damage control you’ll have to do at a later point. These are all tasks you would do for any pool type.

Weekly Maintenance Tasks

Maintenance tasks that can be done by the week include testing your pool’s free chlorine and pH levels.

You can either use a complete test kit, such as the Taylor Technologies K-2006 Test Kit, or test strips, like the ones that AquaChek sells, to check whether the salt cell generator of your pool is adjusted properly.

It gets easier when you set aside the same day of the week to do your weekly pool maintenance. Whether you choose to do this on your Sunday off or hustle before work one midweek morning, sticking to the same day through the weeks lets you change these tasks into habits.

You also don’t forget to do your tasks or get confused about whether you’ve already done them or not.

Remember, your pool’s pH level should hover between 7.2 and 7.6, whereas the free chlorine levels should be between 1 and 3 PPM. If your chlorine doesn’t fall in this range, you can rectify this by changing the chlorine generator’s settings, this works for minor deficiencies or excesses.

If your chlorine is excessively off, your weekly chlorine maintenance task will turn into a daily one – you’ll have to keep testing your pool every day till the chlorine levels reach the normal level.

To lower the level of free chlorine, you can run the circulation system for less time. You can also dial back the output settings that are on your chlorine generator.

Another popular method used to increase the amount of free chlorine is to “shock” your pool, using super chlorinate to increase the production of chlorine.

To set right off pH levels, use baking soda (is there anything sodium bicarbonate can’t do?) or muriatic acid to set the levels right.

cleaning pool with vacum

Monthly Saltwater Pool Maintenance Tasks

Monthly maintenance tasks include testing, adjusting and balancing chemicals, while also doing a bit more deep cleaning than on a daily or weekly basis.

Here’s what you need to do on a monthly basis:

Check Water Salinity:

Given that your pool is a saltwater one, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that one of the major defining features of your pool is its salinity.

Salinity should remain between 2,700 and 4,500 PPM, but this can vary as each salt cell generator runs uniquely.

The manufacturer’s instructions are also a good guide to determine the pool salt required; sometimes, adding more than the recommended amount can damage the unit.

Some generators have inbuilt control panels that display the water’s alkalinity, failing which, you’ll have to whip out your testing kit or salt meter.

Low salinity levels can be dealt with by adding more salt, whereas excessive levels of salt will require dilution of the water.

Monitor Alkalinity:

Alkalinity is as important as salinity, as it keeps the pH level stable. Excessive alkalinity clouds your pool water, whereas too little could corrode or damage your pool.

The ideal levels are between 80 and 120 PPM. Alkalinity can be lowered using muriatic acid or sodium bisulfate products, whereas to increase it, you can add sodium bicarbonate.

Remember, testing the alkalinity is a process over days, as you need to slowly add the chemicals and retest it every day.

Need Cyanuric Acid? :

Cyanuric acid (CYA) is a stabilizer that keeps your pool’s chlorine from being burnt out from the sun’s UV rays. Without CYA, your pool could lose as much as 90% of its chlorine on a gloriously sunny day.

CYA should lie between 70 and 80 PPM for salt pools. CYA levels can be easily increased by adding more of the acid, but to lower Cyanuric acid levels, you’ll need to dilute it by draining a little of the existing water and replacing the drained water with fresh water.

Sometimes, if the levels aren’t too high, the CYA amount corrects itself in a couple of days.

Calcium Hardness:

Calcium hardness can lead to scaling, if excessive and corrosion, if low. Therefore, it’s important to keep calcium hardness balanced between 200 and 400 PPM.

If the levels are too low, add more calcium to the pool. If it’s the opposite, you’ll need to dilute the pool again, like with salinity and CYA, or you could use a flocculant.

If that doesn’t do the trick, calling a professional may be your best bet.

Quarterly Maintenance Tasks

It’s a good idea to inspect your pool’s salt cell every quarter, to ensure that it’s performing as it should do. Generally, most units are equipped with lights or alerts to let you know when you should check your salt cell.

If your salt cell doesn’t, set a reminder on your calendar so that you don’t overlook this important step!

Turn off your salt cell generator, open the unit and look for buildup. If there isn’t much, a simple rinse and replace will do. If there’s a noticeable buildup or any scaling, a thorough cleaning is in order.

Sometimes, scrubbing off the scale with a brush and spraying it down with a high-pressure nozzle works. In the event that it doesn’t, a mild wash with hydrochloric acid definitely will.

Additionally, though you should be cleaning your pump, pool filter and skimmer daily, quarterly is a great time to do the job thoroughly.

pool maintenance man

Saltwater Pool Winterization

If you live in an area that experiences cold winters including frosts, winterizing your pool might be a good idea. I cover the main information in that guide. For winterizing a saltwater pool the process is mostly the same – except for the chlorinator.

The amount of winterization depends on the type of salt chlorinator you have. Some units require you to drain the water out completely, while some say leaving a little in with some antifreeze is okay.

However, if you have a removable unit, the best option is to detach and store it inside. When in doubt, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of salt should I use for a saltwater pool salt cell?

You can buy pool salt from any pool supplies store or online. It really is just sodium chloride – regular salt. The only difference is that it comes in larger cuts than household salt.

How often should I test the salt levels in my salt water pool?

The salt levels in your pool should be tested once a week to make sure they remain stable.

How do you add salt to your pool for the first time?

Check the owner’s manual of your saltwater chlorinator to know what the proper level of salt should be. Then, test your pool’s salt level with a testing kit and based on the amount already present, calculate the deficiency to be made up.

Distribute this amount all around the pool’s edges and let your pool’s pump system circulate it.

Is it okay to shock a saltwater pool?

Yes, it is still good practice to shock a saltwater pool from time to time. You only want to do this when necessary and in moderation to avoid chloramines.

Are saltwater pools susceptible to algae growth?

If the chemical levels are unbalanced in the pool, even saltwater pools can become breeding grounds for algae.

How can cloudy saltwater pools be cleared?

To quickly clear a cloudy saltwater pool, you’ll need to get to the bottom of why the cloudiness happened. The usual suspects are algae, circulation problems, or an unbalanced amount of chemicals.

Based on this, you can either use a pool clarifier, vacuum to clear contaminants, clean your filter, or balance unbalanced chemicals.

Are saltwater pools less expensive to maintain?

Yes. Chlorine pools cost between $300 and $800 for yearly maintenance, whereas saltwater pools cost between $70 and $100. We’ll let you do the math!

The Final Word

There’s no doubt that saltwater pools are cheaper, easier to maintain and more beneficial health wise, making them a great option. They are gentler on swimmers’ skin and require fewer chemicals than traditional chlorine pools. They also produce their own chlorine so you don’t have to worry about stocking up on different chemicals or wasting time measuring out doses.

Saltwater pools are a great option for those looking to enjoy the benefits of a pool without the hefty maintenance costs that come with traditional chlorine pools.

By ensuring that you keep chemicals in balance, generators clean and your pool sanitized, you can enjoy the benefits of your saltwater pools for years to come!

michael keenan author

Author - Michael Keenan

I'm Michael Keenan the owner and creator of the Outdoor Care Guide. I'm a trained horticulturist with over 30 years of experience in pool care, plant care, and landscape care! Seemed like a good idea to share - I think I can make your life easier and save you some time and money!