Will a Salt System Rust My Above Ground Pool

Will a Salt Chlorine Generator Rust My Above Ground Pool?

Will a Salt Chlorine Generator Rust out My Above Ground Pool?

Does a Salt Chlorine Generator cause rust in an above ground pool? This has been a big controversy in the above ground pool industry for many years now. You talk to one pool guy and he’ll say, “It absolutely does.” Yet when you talk to another he’ll say, “No, it doesn’t.” Someone trying to sell you a salt chlorine generator will of course tell you that it would not cause rust while some above ground pool manufacturers will say that it would. So then what’s the answer really? What do I think? Well, I thought you’d never ask. Let me tell you.

My Opinion

My opinion is that it does not cause rust. This statement is pretty definite. It sounds like a statement someone would make if he/she were trying to sell you one or convince you to do something. However, that’s not me. I really don’t care whether or not you buy a salt chlorine generator for your pool and it doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with my opinion. So now that you know I have nothing to gain, here’s why I think it will not cause rust.

My opinion is that salt systems do not cause rust on above ground pools.

So How Would a Salt Chlorine Generator Cause Rust Anyway?

This is a question no one ever seems to ask. They just think salt plus metal plus moisture equals corrosion. It makes perfect sense, right? Well yea, it does, except I’m from the real outside world and in that world it’s just not that simple. Back to the how.

First, a salt chlorine generator produces chlorine. Some think it is this chlorine that is produced that causes the rust. Sorry, but that can’t be true as about ninety-nine percent of all above ground pools use chlorine even if they don’t have a generator. So, if that were the case then all above grounds would get rusty and they don’t.

Others say it’s the salt content that is in the water that causes the corrosion. This is at least closer to a real possibility, but I don’t think so. A salt chlorine generator unit requires a certain level of salt to be present in the water in order to work. That level is only about a tenth of the salt levels present in the average ocean. Some say they can feel or taste the salt in a salt pool, but that is clearly subjective as the salt levels are really pretty low. In addition to this, saltwater surely is corrosive to metal but so is unsalted water.

Any moisture that is continuously in direct contact with metals will cause some degree of corrosion. Certainly, metals that are directly exposed to really salty water will have a greater rate of corrosion than metals that are exposed to unsalted water. However, check this out. The water in an above ground swimming pool is not directly exposed to its metal structure. This seemingly rarely observed fact kind of makes the whole question surrounding whether the salt content of the water will cause rust a moot point.  Then there’s still the question of fumes.

The water in an above ground swimming pool is not directly exposed to its metal structure.

Does the Water in a Salt Pool Create Corrosive Fumes?

This is really the last hope for a salt chlorine generator to rust out an above ground pool. Usually when I visit a pool where the owners think their salt pool caused rust, it’s very often the metal parts above the waterline that are rusted. More specifically, the metal parts under the top rails are the most common places for rust. In that area under the top rails, fumes could gather on a regular basis causing premature corrosion. This absolutely happens. So, the big question is, “What creates these corrosive fumes?” Well, we know that chlorine in the water can create these fumes, but that’s not the fault of a salt chlorine generator as almost all pools have fume causing chlorine in them. So now it comes down to whether the salt content in the pool produces these fumes that corrode the higher parts of an above ground pool? To know for sure, you’d have to ask a chemical scientist and take his word for it. Personally, I think even if it does it wouldn’t be enough to greatly increase the metal’s natural rate of corrosion. Sleepy yet? OK, enough with the technical reasons. Now it is time for the real reason.

The Biggest Reason Why I Don’t Think a Salt Chlorine Generator Causes an Above Ground Pool to Rust

One simple word separates my opinion on this topic from most others here on this perfect planet called the Internet. That simple word is observation! For the last 29 years I’ve been building, rebuilding, relining, repairing, removing and replacing all types of above ground pools from all makers and all models. I’ve installed brand new pools and worked on above grounds that were more than 20 years old and every age in between. These pools have been right on the ocean, near lakes, high and dry, and in wetlands. Some were indoors, buried all the way in the ground, halfway in the ground, and totally above ground in open fields and deeply wooded lots. There were pools with wood decks built around them and some with screen enclosures. I’ve built and worked on above grounds used commercially for swim lessons, dog jumping competitions, and fisheries. The pools I’ve repaired or built have had every type of filter, every size pump, some with extra return lines and some with main drains. I’ve been involved with plumbing of all types of equipment, add-ons like ionizers, chlorinators, ozone generators, and, of course, many salt chlorine generators.

So with all this observation of above ground swimming pools in just about every imaginable scenario, I have been able to find consistencies and patterns that cause things like rust and leaks and so on. I have seen pools rusted prematurely in just about every location – from pools that were installed on top of the ground and were always dry to ones put in the ground that were always wet. In all these different places, there were just as many in the same extreme locales that didn’t have a speck of rust on them anywhere as there were that had a lot of rust. The same is true for salt clorine generators as there are some pools with them that get rust and some that don’t get rust. The same with pools that don’t have salt chlorine generators as some get corrosion and some don’t get corrosion. To make it simple, I’ll say this: I have never been able to make a connection between premature corrosion and salt chlorine generators.

I have never been able to make a connection between premature corrosion and salt chlorine generators.

Lord knows I’ve tried. I would love to be able to point a finger at salt chlorine generators and say they cause rust, but I can’t. I believe this because I just haven’t seen it consistently. So there you have my opinion. Certainly some pool owners will disagree. Many have and that’s cool. I get it especially when you have a pool with a generator and it gets rust. But keep in mind that pool owners who have the same rust in the same area on the same model but don’t have a salt chlorinator will blame it on something else. And that, I must admit, is a little comical to me.

If you have any questions on your above ground pool then we would be happy to help, feel free to give us a call at 1-877-372-6038 or email us at upload@inyopools.com If you liked this article then make sure to sign up for Blog and get our Free 128 Page Pool Care Guide.

58 thoughts on “Will a Salt Chlorine Generator Rust My Above Ground Pool?

    1. For most systems do no need to replace the whole salt generator every few years, only the cell. Salt cells are meant to last 3-5 years and are easily replaceable, most homeowners are able to do so themselves.

      But if you install one of the Chlorease systems that do not have a replaceable cell then you would need to replace the whole generator.

    2. I think the pool companies are pushing no salt system so they can get your money on chemicals…. If everyone used salt they would not make any money….

      1. This is not necessarily the case Katie. You still need chemicals such as algicides, flocculants, ph up and/or down (baking soda works I know) and of course shock.

    3. Salt and steel do not mix. By five years you WILL have rusty rims and rust outer walls at ground level from splashing. Anything steel in the area Will rust and break down!!!! It was a nightmare! I had to remove and treat all the top rims !!!

  1. This is great information… My husband has been saying this a long time…. I believed the salesman and didn’t no go saltwater… I have spent hundreds of dollars on chemicals from them this summer alone… We are now getting a salt system. It voids my pool warranty but with the amount I am spending on chemicals, i am willing to take the chance. My pool will eithe Rust out in a few years or I will spend what I did on the pool in three years worth of chemicals…. Worth the chance that be able to actually enjoy the pool!!

    1. Katy
      How is your saltwater pool holding up? Is it an above the ground pool? We have been wanting to buy an above the ground pool and are getting so stressed out about trying to make a decision between salt and the Clorine
      other than this article we have not found anybody to be honest about any of it !!!!
      If we didn’t want a pool so bad we would’ve given up on getting one by now
      I’m also told that our outside AC unit that will be close to the pool & our storage buildings that are metal will also rust from the salt water air & mist coming from the pool
      Help! I really need some advice from those that are using a salt system in an above the ground pool
      Thanks
      #WaitingToSwim

      1. Hi. A saltwater pool is also a chlorinated pool(Please read my blogposts about this). Get a pool with resin parts to help with any potential rust. I don’t want to repeat what I have already written about salt pools and rust so please spend some time reading my posts.

        And I have never heard about any metal made components of a yard being affected by a salt water pool. That’s just plain silly. Don’t worry about that. That’s the internet telling you crazy stuff. Oh and don’t worry about a plane landing on your house either. Although if one does, I’m sure it’ll be the fault of your salt water swimming pool.

        1. Hello dan great article you wrote. It kind of relates to what I’m experiencing as I pool shop. The wife wants the exclusive inground but it’s not in our budget I told her we could compromise and get a half in half above ground pool. Ok so that’s settled I thought that was going to be the hardest until I started googling and pricing out. Now there’s many companies out there selling models from above ground only, to the half way in the ground or the radiant fully inground from 3K-15K. So here’s my questions what qualifies the above ground to be semi inground I mean let’s be honest after all it is an above ground pool right ? Than there’s the well this above ground model is not rated for salt water but yet this one is what ??? Is this one made of space age metal that won’t corrode. In all reality can’t I take a standard above ground pool bury it half way than coat the part to be underground with roofers tar and call it a day!! Please help me to clarify this confusion created by mass pool companies I feel like it’s all different wording but getting the same product at a higher cost.
          Thank you Mike

          1. You can put any above ground pool halfway in the ground. What makes one pool a “salt water” pool is it’s frame parts being made of resin and not steel or aluminum. Also, there are some very expensive above ground models made to go in the ground. They have thick, extruded aluminum interlocking panels which will last forever but are 2-3 times the cost of a standard above ground.

      2. Put a salt water kit on my above ground pool first year I bought it. the rails lasted two years. I am going to replace pool with a resin model. But its way worth the salt water system, no maintenance at all except running the vacuum. Would never go to a chemical pool. My spa is enough maintenance! LOL

    2. I’ve had a salt water pool for 5 years. Last year the top railings near the steps started to rust. No big deal I thought. Just took cover off today. What a shock, all the top railing are shot and need to be replaced. Rusted beyond belief. Not to mention all the rust pieces in the pool. And of course once I mentioned salt water to the manufactor the warranty was void.

        1. Salt water RUST any metal my pool lasted 2 summers metal completed rusted out after first year sprayed ladder with rustoleum still completely rusted out

        2. I’m thinking about getting a saltwater pool above ground system and I live right on the Hanga River which is saltwater would that be a problem ? Thanks

          1. I’m not at all familiar with the hanga river and not familiar with salt water rivers in general. Regardless, A natural body of salt water will cause corrosion for many things including any unprotected metal on an above ground pool. That is, if the water has a high level of salt (like the salt content of the Atlantic ocean) and the wind blows from it to you often. Fractional salt content may do much less or no damage.

    3. Don’t do it. My pool is 5 years old and I’m already Having to replace the wall due to rust. And salt is t cheaper than buying chemicals. Salt is less maintenance but definitely not cheaper. I spend around $350-400 a year opening and closing my salt pool.

      1. Absolutely agree with many that are saying that their salt water systems rusted their rails and bottom of the pool water from splashing. We have already replaced our rails once and now that they are rusting again and the pool is 23 years old, we are looking to replace the entire pool with a pool with resin rails. We love the salt system, but it definitely does damage to to the steel parts of the pool.

  2. Today, exactly 5 years and 1 week later, my second above-ground pool burst causing unbelievable damage to my house about 20 feet awat. Both times I had salt pools. Both times the pools were bought used. I am beside myself. TWICE

    1. My pool also burst. It moved a 12×24 ft. shed off its foundation and destroyed 2 panels of the privacy fence.
      We were on vacation at the time. What a surprise when we returned. I am going to go to salt water system
      again. We love it.

  3. Just to add my two cents….I purchased an Intex 9′ x 18′ above ground pool in 2013 and converted it to a salt water system. Last week, I uncovered the pool and thought it might be leaning a bit. After further inspection, I found that the support legs on the sides of the pool were rusted out at the ground level. Some were even rusted into causing the legs to bend in the corners, which is the reason the pool was indeed leaning. Now the question is will my salt chlorine generator rust my pool? No, the generator won’t but in time, the salt water will rust the metal parts of your pool…… don’t let anyone tell you differently.

    1. I will second your response i have saltwater with an above ground and all my wall top tracks are rusting if your parts are steel they will rust

    2. I have a different view than you on this. First off, you bought the cheapest pool available on the market and with an Intex pool you certainly get your $400 worth. Intex pools rust often. I wouldn’t blame the salt generator cause odds are, it would’ve rusted without it. The only difference is that you would’ve surmised a different reason for the rust. And I’m sorry to say that I tell people differently almost every day. Ooops.

      1. My steel pool cost $3,000 total; great quality. But I ruined it when I changed to salt. Rust invaded anything steel with a few years. I had to remove and resurface all the top railings, also the pump outer surface rusted. and the bottom of the outer walls at ground level from splashing which I treated also. It was a nightmare. I need to check the base of my supports but I don’t know how.

        1. Sorry you think the salt water corroded your pool. You can dig along the outside bottom of the pool’s uprights to find the bottom connectors to inspect. Clear away any dirt or rocks or mulch so you can see them well. You can then unclip or take the screws off that attach to the upright to inspect. If if is rusted, you can blame the salt water on that too. Although there’s no real way that can be the culprit.

      2. I have a Doughboy pool. It was installed very well and made it through Superstorm Sandy with minimal damage. I had no rust on my pool in a decade. I switched to a salt water system and within 5 years had all of my rails rusting and some rust on a few of the support beams. We changed all of the rails, connectors, etc., but kept the salt system going….we love it. Five years later……the same thing is happening. All of the parts underneath the rails are rusting out as they did the first time and the rails are beginning to rust. Those support beams are now totally rusted out on the bottom. The saltwater system is the cause of the rust in our case. We had absolutely no problems with any rust in the ten years before we switched over. We will most likely replace the pool with one with resin rails, etc. instead of dumping more money into parts that will only rust again. We do not want to change back to a chlorine system.

  4. Very interesting read.

    I will say, i also bought a cheap 15′ round intex last summer and it rusted by the end of it’s first season. For that to be in Baltimore, = 2.5 months of use. We used an intex saltwater generator. The pool was rusted bad when I took it down for winter. Thank goodness I had, or it certainly would have blown out in the second year of use.

    Do you think that’s pretty typical with an Intex? Ultra steel frame model? You say you don’t see a definitive link one way or another, but do you have any statistics you wouldn’t mind providing? like, in your last 5-10 years of work, how many years on average did you see pools lasting when using salt vs chlorine? 5-10 yrs? I know that’s probably not exact #s you have, but any average you could provide would be helpful. Thank your for your work on this… Got some thinking to do.

    1. My stats are from only Central Florida so take that as you will. Typically with any Intex pool, the average life span here is one season. People tend to be proud when they get three seasons out of it and I occasionally hear of one lasting five years. These stats are Intex pools both with, AND WITHOUT their salt chlorine generators.

      My opinion is that Intex is a garbage product whose real staying power is when they are occupying and filling up our landfills. They are cheap enough to where you can run your own experiment by buying them with and without a salt system and see if they last longer without. In the span of ten years, you’ll probably have six or eight pools that you’ll have laid to rest by then.

      I honestly don’t know which will last longer but I do know none of them will last very long.

    2. I had a Intex pool that lasted six years and I used regular chemicals. I got a Coleman two years ago and purchased a salt water system. The first year it started rusting and now this year it is completely rusted and has to be replaced. Coleman sent me a new frame to replace the old one, my liner is still in good condition.

    3. I have an 18×52. Intex pool and run saltwater . Used it three years not a rust problem. Upgrading to permanent with saltwater. Its better for your skin,eyes and bathing suits.

  5. I have had an above ground saltwater pool for 3 years with no problems. You need to make sure your pool is bonded, and drop a zinc anode in the skimmer, connect that to bonding system with stainless steel cable. By the way, your bonding system should be #8 copper wire.

      1. Bonded meaning a #8 solid copper ground wire that halos the pool starting at the motor for filter there is a grounding lug on there than making contact or termination to the pools structure at 4 other points until completing a 360 halo around pool and back to the motor further more preventing electrolysis from corroding the pool. Electrolysis is naturally in the earth !! An anode is another way to prevent it by connecting magnesium to the filter box off of the pool electrolysis will eat at the magnesium before the pool hope this clarifies things for you !!!

  6. I have an Intex 20′ x48″ Ultra Frame pool and purchased a saltwater system, but wife and I talked to a pool store and they convinced us the pool could rust. I want to know if the liner has ever corroded or rusted due to the saltwater system of any Intex pool users.

  7. Help! We just purchased a pool that will be built next month. I want a salt water system but the local pool guy says chlorine is better and salt systems use the same amount of chemicals! Im confused what is the advantage of the salt system?

    1. Kim

      I put a in ground pool in 2012 it was fiberglass and top of the line. the whole salt system works ok but there is a lot more to it than they say.

      If you are installing an aboveground I would not do it. I don’t want to go in to the problems but it is not worth all that they say go with any mineral system and add small chlorine amounts to clean water.

      if you already installed the pool and system be careful scaling or corrosion will start. It is just a matter of time

      salt systems are not worth it

  8. We have used our intex pool for only 2 summers (4 months last year and 4 months this year) and it has already rusted from our salt water! So I beg to differ but salt water in our pool DID rust it! Some of the poles are almost rusted apart! We will be replacing the pool next summer and using salt again because it is so much better for our daughters skin. I can send you pictures if you would like to see!

  9. Excellent honest information in your article. Dan, you are a wealth of knowledge I have an INTEX pool that the legs have rusted terribly where the meet the top rail. The pool is only five months old. I e-mailed INTEX customer service and they told me to call the 1 800 number to resolve.

    My question: What should I expect when I call them? Does anybody have any experience working with INTEX customer no service? Thank you for your time and thoughts on this matter.

    R, – Paul

    1. I don’t know much about dealing with Intex directly but if you bought it from Walmart (which is where most of them come from), I’ve heard you can take it back and they’ll return it or replace it.

  10. I had an above ground pool for a couple years, had no problem with rust, bought a salt chlorine generator last year, rust every where, all the rails were completely rusted. Had to take pool down and throw away. Salt chlorine generators will definitely rust your above ground pool and destroy it.

  11. Dan, I know you have a lot of experience and I enjoy your articles but respectfully I’m fullstop disagreeing with you on this one. You seem hellbent here on disregarding some very basic chemistry (there IS a corrosive element brought into play) and the direct experience of a lot of pool owners who have had their pools adversely affected by saltwater systems.

    1. I’m not sure which chemistry it is that you think I am disregarding. Chlorine is super corrosive. Chlorine is in about 99 percent of all pools. Salt is also present in about 99 percent of all pools. All of these pools, whether they have salt chlorine generators or not, have chlorine and salt in their water.

      You say too that I am disregarding the “direct experience of a lot of pool owners who have had their pools adversely affected by saltwater systems”. Don’t you mean pool owners who think they have had their pools adversely affected be saltwater systems? Unless of course they have some absolute proof which I have yet to see.

      To be more accurate, I’m not disregarding any chemistry or a bunch of pool owner’s opinions. But even if I were, it wouldn’t matter. My opinion on this is based solely on long term documented observation. I simply cannot make a direct link to corrosion and salt systems based on observation. I could link the two based on emotion, logic, and chemistry like you and many other pool owners have, but that would not match overall long term results. And for me, documented long term observation reveals the truth better than any other thing.

  12. Hey Dan, My pool is ten years old and is in great shape other than the top rails. It is a Doughboy above ground pool that we had put in the ground. We purchased the whole salt water system to go with it. There is a moat around the pool that we had a wooden deck built over. So my husband is able to go underneath and work on the hoses when opening and closing the pool. After two years my husband noticed pieces of rust in the pool and realized that it was the top rails rusting. He called Doughboy and they had said that their pools were not made for salt water systems and the dealer should not have sold us the salt water system with it. We then contacted the dealer we purchased the pool from and they came out, disconnected our salt water cell, replaced the rail and installed a frog chlorine system free of charge. To be honest, the frog system is extremely costly to run so other than the algicide I don’t use it and just use the old fashioned chlorine tablet method. The past two years we have been noticing that the rails are rusting a little again so I am thinking the original rust wasn’t caused by the salt water system but my husband still thinks it is. I LOVED the salt water system and would love to go back to it, (the dealer left us everything the cell was connected to and only took the cell), it was so easy to use! I have been wanting to paint the rails with a boat paint or something and go back to the salt water but my husband is not sold on that idea either. In your opinion, do you think something like that would help keep the rails from rusting with or without salt water? Or do you have any suggestions? Thanks!

    1. If you mean the top rails of the pool, then maybe. I’ve seen some people paint them with fancy coatings and that works well. If you mean the stabilizer bar under the top rails, then maybe too. I’ve seen people coat them as well but with not have as much luck. A possible solution is to replace those stabilizer rails with 1/2 or 3/4 inch pvc piping used in electrical. They work well but are hard to make as you would have to use a table saw to cut a channel long-ways thick enough to firmly adhere to the top of the pool’s wall.

  13. This is our second year with a salt water system on our above ground pool. No the chlorine may not rust it faster but I believe the salt does. I have poles rusted completely in two. And as for the water not touching the metal… I dont know about anyone else kids but mine splash and cause waves and hang on the side. Also my ladder is completely unusable. The pool we had before this one last 5 years with just a regular chlorine system. No salt. So in my opinion salt water systems definitely contribute to the metal rusting faster. I wish I could find a pool with better metal bars that would last longer because the salt water system really is so much nicer then the regular chlorine.

  14. Thanks for the very interesting information regarding salt chlorination systems. We installed such a system in our inground pool about 6 years ago – love it! Pool maintenance is much easier now and our vinyl liner does not fade like it did with the traditional chlorine system. But, 3 years ago we got a new lab puppy who LOVES to swim (even more than most labs). Of course, she gets out and shakes off the water indiscriminately. In these 3 years our metal back doors (where she goes often to shake) have rusted out completely, as well as the legs of our patio furniture. Despite some of the information presented here it is clear that the salt is the problem. The top of the doors and furniture have not corroded at all and rust was never before a problem in our 20 plus years of pool ownership – before the salt. We will keep our salt system as we believe it’s a superior system, but we are replacing our doors with non-metal options and looking for some method to protect the legs of our metal furniture. Would welcome any ideas. Thanks again for the dialog.

    1. There are sprays like Guardsman Outside Metal Defense, that advertise they ward off corrosion; some homeowners have even had success with car wax/polish to ward off corrosion. Also, try covering your pool patio furniture when it is not in use to lessen the effects of the elements besides the salt.

    2. Hi. It would be hard for me to believe that the salted water caused your deck furniture to rust, or your door. Really hard! Chlorine gas is what is most corrosive and will do damage when trapped somewhere over a period of time. I have no answer for your corrosion just like I can’t say how the tens of thousands of rusty outdoor furniture and metal doors got that way despite not having a salt chlorine generator or even a pool for that matter. The only thing I can add is that yes, I would replace anything that has corroded with something that has a tougher time rusting or can’t corrode.

  15. Hi Dan,
    Four years ago I had an above ground Imperial pool installed that was manufactured by Cornelius. Last summer I noticed some rust starting around the top rims but nothing too bad. Fast forward to this year and when I opened the pool I was shocked to see that there is significantly so much more rust. Rust is all around the bottom of all sides, it’s on the tops of all rails and sides, and the underside of all rims is horrifying to look at. Big chunks of rust are dropping into the pool and it’s awful. I have a salt generator that I LOVE and I do not blame it for the rust, especially since I am neurotic about ensuring that my water is balanced and clear at all times. The reason for my post is that I have absolutely no idea what to do or who to call about this rust issue. Do I call a pool installer or is there some special type of service person I need to call? And will my whole pool have to go? Is there anything I can do to save it? I’m just beside myself and not sure what my next step should be so I’m wondering if I can get some advice?

    Thanks in advance for any assistance or recommendations that anyone can provide. I just know that I can’t possibly cover this pool at the end of the season and forget about it til next summer as I’m sure another winter in Boston will do the pool in. 🙁

  16. Totally agree with everyone on here, had an intex ultra frame AGP and it rusted away within 3 years, also rusted the metal bases of our polytunnel that covers it, am on the 7th year on the SAME POOL with a chlorine only system haven’t had ANY rust

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