Salt Water Pool Cleaning

Salt water pool maintenance is quite simple with the technology available in chlorine generators today. You will also never need to purchase, transport or add chlorine to your pool. Both salt water and chlorine pools need the same standard of maintenance and care, with only few minor variations. You always have to keep in mind that while maintaining a pool (any kind of pool) the steps need to be followed carefully to maintain sparkling clear water.

Your weekly salt water pool maintenance regime will depend on a number of variables that can include pool usage, pool system and other environmental factors. In addition to spot cleaning with a pool skimmer net, the most common thing you'll need to do is balance your water chemistry.

Salt Water Pool

The first step in salt water pool maintenance is knowing your pool’s volume. When you make this calculation, you can then estimate the amount of salt added to the pool. The exact ratio of water to salt is set as 1 million parts water to 3,000 parts salt concentration. With this measurement, you will not be able to taste the salt in the pool water. You will have to be sure that you get this ratio correct because if salt drops in the swimming pool, the production of chlorine will stop, and the growth of bacteria will begin. In order to avoid this situation, you need to regularly test the water to be sure that the salinity of the water is at the correct level. Salt testing kits are available from your local pool retailer.

Weekly Salt Water Pool Maintenance

As a general rule you should ensure that the following levels are checked weekly. It's common for these levels to fluctuate during high usage or extreme weather.

Free Available Chlorine

(1 - 3 ppm) - The free available chlorine levels should be monitored and tested periodically. If your free available chlorine levels are low, you should make sure your salinity levels are sufficient so your chlorine generator can convert adequate levels. Low levels of chlorine can also be caused by calcium buildup on the salt cell, an expired cell or inadequate pool circulation. It might be necessary to occasionally shock the pool to get levels up. 


(7.2-7.6) - A proper pH is important for allowing the chlorine to work effectively which means you will be removing germs and bacteria and creating a safe swimming environment.

Monthy Salt Water Pool Maintenance

Total Alkalinity

(80 - 120 ppm) - A proper level of alkalinity is important to keeping the pH stabilized and prevent it from fluctuating. Low Alkalinity can cause corrosion, staining or green water. High Alkalinity can cause cloudy water and fluctuating pH.

Calcium Hardness

(250 - 350 ppm) - If calcium levels get too low, the water will become corrosive and can leach calcium from plaster and concrete surfaces in contact with the pool water. High levels of calcium can result in scale formation and clogged filter and pipes, resulting in poor filtration and circulation. The water can become cloudy and irritating to swimmers. We recommend contacting a pool professional if your levels are above 350 ppm.

Total Dissolved Solids

Total dissolved solids or TDS of less than 1500 ppm is recommended. Levels are influenced by chemicals that have been added and organic compounds from pool users. A TDS of over 1500 ppm can reduce the effectiveness of the chlorine and other added chemicals and could result in cloudy water. The only solutions are draining some of the pool water and replace with fresh water, increasing frequency of backwashing, and/or cleaning the filter.

Copper, Iron and Manganese

It's also an important part of your overall salt water pool maintenance checklist to test for metals such as copper, iron and manganese to ensure they aren't present.

Yearly Salt Water Pool Maintenance

If you have kept on top of your weekly and monthly salt water pool maintenance, you should only need to do a few checks at the end or start of the pool season.

Pool Salt Cell

Clean Salt Cell

Most new models of salt cells are now “self-cleaning” - equipped with a polarity reversing mode that reverses the charge on the plates and causes the salt build-up to de-bond from the metallic plates. If you do not have this, most cells should only need to be cleaned once a year to avoid calcium buildup. Severe calcium build-up between the plates can reduce flow through the salt cell and can reduce the electrolysis - eventually leading to salt cell failure. The average life span of a cell is roughly 4 - 6 years with average use. If you want to clean it yourself, you can shut off power and remove the salt cell from the system, hose it out thoroughly with a high pressure water stream and then bathe the cell for 5-10 minutes in a 5:1 solution of water:muriatic acid.

Zinc Anode

Many salt water pool owners decide to use a zinc anode as part of their pool system to assure the health of stainless steel hardware and components. Simply stated, the principal behind a sacrificial zinc anode is that it protects any metal in close proximity. It's ideal for a swimming pool because one anode will protect the entire salt water pool system. It is arguably the most important device you can purchase for added protection against possible corrosion and fading of some pool surfaces. You should check this device once a year.

Adding Salt to Your Pool

Hayward Salt & Swim Most chlorine generators have sensors built in that will monitor and display the salinity reading based on the conductivity of the pool water. Cooler water temperatures can decrease conductivity and the generator could show a low salt reading. It's important to take this into consideration before adding salt so you don't add too much.

  • Before adding salt to your pool, be sure to turn off the salt chlorine generator. The generator should not be turned back on until the salt is completely dissolved. Use your pump to circulate the water and help dissolve the salt.
  • For best results, empty the required salt into the shallow end of the pool and let it dissolve and circulate through the main drain. The salt may take about 24 hours to dissolve completely.
  • After the salt has dissolved, turn on the salt chlorinator. Test your water to determine that the salt level is around 3500 ppm.