How To Maintain a Salt Water Pool

WRITTEN BY:  Inyo Pools

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There are many benefits to operating a salt water pool. The benefits include softer water, lower cost of operation, and no chloramines. Many people believe that a salt water pool will be maintenance free. Although there is less maintenance required with a salt water system, there are still necessary steps required to maintain a stable pool.

Things You'll Need


Step by Step


Step 1

Weekly, test the pool water for Free Chlorine and pH. The water can be tested using test strips or by a drop test kit. The Free Chlorine level should be 1-3 ppm. The chlorine can be adjusted by the output control on the control box or cell. The pH should be maintained at 7.2-7.6. The pH can be lowered with muriatic acid or raised with soda ash or sodium bicarbonate. Please review your owner's manual for specific ideal levels.

Step 2

Monthly, test the pool water for Salt, Alkalinity, Stabilizer, and Calcium. The water can be tested using test strips or by a drop test kit. Please review your owner's manual for specific ideal levels and make adjustments accordingly. Note: Most salt chlorinators will display a salt reading. However, it is a good practice to test the salt yourself in case the salt chlorinator needs to be recalibrated.

Step 3

To maintain maximum performance, it is recommended that you open and visually inspect the cell every 3 months. Most salt chlorinators will remind you to do this by a flashing "Inspect Cell" light on the control box. Once removed, inspect the inside of the cell for scale build up or any debris that may have bypassed the filter. If no deposits are visable, reinstall. If deposits are seen, use a high pressure garden hose and try to flush the scale off. If this is not successful, use a plastic or wood tool (do not use metal as this will scratch the coating off the plates) and scrape deposits off of plates. If flushing and scraping are unsuccessful, a mild acid wash will be required. Please refer to your owner's manual for specific instructions. Most manufacturers suggest a 4:1 ratio of water to muriatic acid (one gallon of water to one quart of acid). Always add acid to water and never water to acid. Pour the solution into a container to a level where the solution will reach the top of the cell but not the cable (some cables can be removed from the cell). The cell should soak for a few minutes and then rinsed off with a garden hose. Reinstall cell once it is cleaned.

Step 4

Keep the filter, pump, and skimmer clean. The water flow will be reduced if the filter, pump, or skimmer is full of debris. If the water flow is reduced significantly, the salt chlorinator will stop generating chlorine.

Step 5

To winterize the salt chlorinator, most manufactures recommend that the flow switch and salt cell be removed from the plumbing and stored inside out of the elements. There are dummy cells available that can go in place of the real salt cell during the winter months. The control box can withstand freezing temperatures and can remain installed. For warmer climates, where winterizing is not necessary, run the pump continuosly if a freeze is expected.


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Inyopools  Posted: 03/10/2017 16:52 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Mrsderby - Your pool's salt level is within the acceptable range for your size pool. I would have a pool store check your chlorine level. Their reading will be more accurate than your test strip. Also, you may just have to run your system longer. It might take a full 24 hours of continuous running to bring your chlorine level up from 0. Lastly, check the connections from your salt cell to your SCG control unit to make sure they are tight.

Mrsderby  Posted: 03/08/2017 23:01 PM 

Brand new 8500 gallon above-ground pool just set up Sunday. (3 days ago) sand filter.saltwater. we followed the instructions to the letter.checked and triple checked. Ran filter a day. Turned on SW monday. Ran both until this morning. Tried out timers today. Vacuumed. Panel on SW shows no problems. Tonight I tested with supplied strips. Free chlorine between 0 and 0.5. ph is 6.2. Alkalinity is below 40.How is that possible? I have checked all instruction again tonight and we did everything right...almost. we lost track when adding the salt. Should have been 210lbs but we forgot to divide the last bag and we added 240, did that cause that? But the unit says all ok. No one has been in the pool because it is a scalding 55 degrees. Please help.

Inyopools  Posted: 01/27/2017 11:12 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

LOU - Generally, I would say you do not have to add stabilizer more than 1 or 2 times a year. If that worked 3 years ago, what has changed? It could be that your new company is adding smaller amounts each time but there really is no reason to do that. Also be aware that you can have problems maintaining your pool chemistry if you have too much stabilizer in your pool. You might have an independent pool store check your stabilizer level.

LOU  Posted: 01/26/2017 14:48 PM 


Inyopools  Posted: 09/25/2016 11:29 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Craigcam - You generally run a salt water pool 8 hours a day during the season and 6 hours on the off season.

Craigcam  Posted: 09/22/2016 16:28 PM 

How many hours per day should I run the pump/filter on my salt water pool?

lvmunkey  Posted: 09/12/2016 10:22 AM 

Currently, I'm looking into an automatic cleaner. My pool is free form, 16x40 at is widest and longest points. It goes from 3.5ft to 8ft deep. We have a salt system. I haven't been able to find what might be the best, AFFORDABLE, option. Any metal parts would probably be problematic due to rust likelihood. Can you recommend anything?

Inyopools  Posted: 09/05/2016 13:40 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

pool additives - You may need these extra additives if your pool has specific problems like black algae or cloudy water, but in general, a pool can be maintained by maintaining chlorine, pH and stabilizer (and salt).

Inyopools  Posted: 09/05/2016 13:24 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Mike - It is very unlikely that your salt level is "0000". Rain will not dilute it that far. And it's likely that with the amount of salt you've added, that your salt level is now too high. If you can have a local pool store check your salt level. The salt sensor is in your cell. Make sure your cell is clean with an acid solution. Check that the connection from the cell to your control unit is tight. If that doesn't work, you may need a new cell or main PCB.

Anonymous  Posted: 09/02/2016 20:55 PM 

Does a Salt Water Pool maintenance need the following;
1. Sodium Bicarbonate Alkalinity Plus
2. Algaecide Poly 60/Black Algaecide
3. Clarifier Super Clarifier
4. Natural Chemistry Pool perfect + Phosfree 21 Enzyme & Phosphate Removal
Please advise me, I have a new maintenance company and all of the above is being added to my salt water pool.

Mike  Posted: 09/02/2016 17:59 PM 

I live along the Gulf Coast. It has been an extremely rainy year, and even more so in the last month. Due to rain, I haven't been watching the pool system closely. Yesterday, I noticed the system said "0000" Salt, and the Chlorinator was off. I've added 6 bags of Salt and am still getting the same reading from the system. I know that running the pump seems to "build" the salt level a bit over time, and have been adding salt 2 bags at a time since yesterday to avoid going too far. Pool is roughly 15 - 30 - but kidney shaped - average depth 4 1/2 feet. My guess is 15,000 gallons. Assuming a "0000" reading was accurate, how much salt is necessary to get back to 3000 ppm, and is it possible the sensors are screwed up by all the rain instead of actually having no salt? This is the deep south, so summers are very hot. With continuous cycles of hot/dry and then rain, I suppose enough evaporation could have resulted, replaced by rain water, that salt level is reduced to nothing. Thanks for you comments.

Inyopools  Posted: 08/31/2016 10:51 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

mlberg - Your pH level is way low if it is between 3.0 and 3.5. It should be maintained at 7.2 to 7.6. Add soda ash to increase the pH level.

mlberg  Posted: 08/31/2016 0:18 AM 

We have a new indoor saltwater pool. We were told that it would be easier on our eyes, and bathing suits, but that is not the case. If I open my eyes underwater for only a few minutes, my eyes burn. My husband has been checking the pH level, and it has been between 3.0 and 3.5 and the salt is at 3500 ppm. The water is clear. We just don't know what we are doing wrong.

Inyopools  Posted: 08/02/2016 12:48 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

chlorine tablets - It might be that your SCG is not large enough to generate the chlorine required during the summer months, and your pool maintenance man is adding tablets to supplement your chlorine requirement.

Anonymous  Posted: 08/01/2016 16:29 PM 

I pay a company to clean my salt water pool, and the last month or so, the guy has been adding chlorine tablets to it. Is that normal? It seems like that is wrong to me, and I'm never home to talk to him when he comes.

Inyopools  Posted: 07/25/2016 15:24 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

John - I believe you would treat such a pool like any other swimming pool. You would need to circulate and filter the water, chlorinate it to sanitize the water, and maintain the other chemistry, in particular, pH. If you are filling it with actual sea water, you will have to use a regular chlorinator since an SCG will not operate at that level of salt.

John  Posted: 07/25/2016 11:46 AM 

I have a question probably no-one before ever asked and hope you will be able to answer me. In a few months, I will be retiring near the ocean and wanted to know whether one needs to clean a swimming pool filled with seawater from the ocean that has a radius of 4 meters and a depth of 5 meters for a total of 66000 US Gallons and shaped as a cylinder? How often does it needs cleaning since it is impossible to renew filling it several times would be much too costly. What kind of equipment do I need, if any to maintain the pool in perfect swimming condition without having to fear to get any disease? Thank you, awaiting your answer.

Inyopools  Posted: 07/21/2016 11:57 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

salt pool vacuuming - You don't have to vacuum a salt water pool any more frequently than a standard chlorine pool. The debris that you are vacuuming is the same in either pool.

Anonymous  Posted: 07/20/2016 14:07 PM 

HOw often do you need to vacuum a salt water pool? My husband says that we need to do it daily, but that seems excessive. Do salt water pools need vacuuming more often than chlorine pools?

Inyopools  Posted: 06/27/2016 15:36 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Worried - If your pool is clear, it sounds like your pool should be in good shape. If it still has a green tint, you may have to shock it a couple of more times and backwash the filter several times to clear out the residual algae.

Worried  Posted: 06/26/2016 15:58 PM 

Unfortunately we let our conditioning drop to zero which in turn led to our chlorine dropping to zero and our PH was at 8.0 We lowered PH and it is now 7.2. We also added 8lbs of conditioning (26,400 gallon pool). And we shocked the pool using 26 oz of pool brite. Chlorine is still at .5. Our chlorinator shows it is making chlorine and the salt level is a little high at 4,000 ppm. what should we do next?

Inyopools  Posted: 06/14/2016 16:06 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

pattycakes - I'm told that baking soda works for some. Most use a clarifier like Concentrated Clarifier 1 Qt.

pattycakes  Posted: 06/14/2016 13:35 PM 

I have a brand new salt water system,swam the the first day yesterday ~ water is cloudy, can i use baking soda to clear it up???

Inyopools  Posted: 06/12/2016 13:35 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Railer20 - Your salt water system only generates chlorine. You will still need to add chemicals for pH, hardness, CYA, and Alkalinity.

Railer20  Posted: 06/11/2016 9:40 AM 

I just bought the intex sand and saltwatersystem for our 2100 gal above ground pool. Do I just need salt and CYA or do I still have to use other chemicals?

Inyopools  Posted: 08/11/2015 10:19 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

DiverDan - I would slowly pour the chemicals in front of the port going to the pump.

DiverDan  Posted: 08/11/2015 0:03 AM 

I have an Intex SW AGP. Some chemicals have instructions to add the chemical directly to the skimmer. I have not yet installed a skimmer. What other method can be used?

Inyopools  Posted: 07/07/2015 12:19 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Hopeless - That seems short. I would think he should at least check the water, add chemicals and brush the pool down each time. If your pool starts to get green or cloudy, he might have to spend a little more time.I would suggest having him list what he does on each visit. He should at least tell you what chemicals he adds so you know when it's safe to swim.

Inyopools  Posted: 07/07/2015 10:09 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Hummerbug - The only chemical that a SWCG produces is chlorine. You still have to maintain the other chemicals associated with a pool. See our series of guides on maintaining chemicals starting with "How To Maintain A Swimming Pool Part 1 (Chemicals)".  Note: even though your SWCG is generating chlorine for your pool, you may still have to shock it occasionally during heavy use.

Hopeless  Posted: 07/06/2015 15:45 PM 

I pay my pool guy $85 a month and for the last 2 months he is at my house for 3-5 minutes is that the norm?

Hummerbug  Posted: 07/03/2015 15:16 PM 

Brand new above-ground pool & we decided to go with the SWCG set-up. My hubs has had chlorine pools in the past but we're not quite sure what chemicals we need to use with the SW system. I saw that we still need to shock, but what about all the other stuff (Balance / Sanitize / Shock / Algaecide)? We read somewhere about some sort of acid but couldn't find it when we went back.

Inyopools  Posted: 06/22/2015 15:14 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Griffin - Scaling and algae are generally good indications that your pool chemicals are not balanced. If you can, take a sample of your pool water to a local pool store and have it tested. They are generally more accurate that what you can measure yourself. Also ask them to test for phosphate and salt level. And, even though you have a salt pool, you still have to shock your pool occasionally. See our guides starting with "How To Maintain A Swimming Pool Part 1 (Chemicals), for more information.

Griffin  Posted: 06/20/2015 8:59 AM 

I have a new salt water pool (7 months old) and have developed some algae and debris on the walls of the deeper end and hard to reach areas for the skimmer. I have tried brushing and cannot get it off. I also have some scaling. What can you recommend to get the walls and bottom of the pool clean without having to drain it?

Inyopools  Posted: 06/08/2015 15:24 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

cloudy pool - If your sand is that old, you might try "Sand Aid Cleaner" to remove suntan lotions, body oils and other organic materials that have probably clogged up your sand filter system.

Anonymous  Posted: 06/07/2015 12:27 PM 

I have a salt water pool, which I opened in early May, after being covered and with the salt generator turned off for the winter. Of course, it was green, so after algaecide, several shocks, baking soda, salt, and stabilizer, and running the pump 24 hrs/day for several days, all of the numbers are perfect, and the pressure is around 12psi. I have backwashed and rinsed several times, swept and vacuumed, and I run the pump now about 6 hrs/day. The issue is that the water is cloudy and has a slight greenish tint. I know I need to run the pump longer (I will change that today) and will probably replace the sand in the filter at the end of the season (it is >10 yrs old), but would more shock or a clarifier/defloc help with the cloudiness?

Rita  Posted: 05/11/2015 17:50 PM 

We did not know what to do about getting the pool regulated with Free Chlorine and Rob very quickly and nicely told us what to do. I feel much better and am so very glad that we can chat with you about our pool maintenance. Thank you so very much. Rita

Anonymous  Posted: 05/24/2014 13:27 PM 

I couldn't unloosen the cell to inspect it. I finally loosened the smaller end using channel locks, but the large end still wouldn't budge. I ended up getting a strap wrench with a rubber strap at Lowes, and it came right off.

Inyopools  Posted: 07/22/2013 16:58 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Robert - We have an older reference to code "110" as follows. "First have the salinity level checked independently from the reading on the Clormatic [now AquaPure] to verify the reading is correct. If the reading is correct add the proper amount of salt to the pool. If the reading is wrong clean the flow sensor [now Tri-Sensor] (see code 110). If the reading is still wrong have the flow sensor re-calibrated by a pool professional. If the problem persists replace the flow sensor." It seems that having to replace the Tri-Sensor is a common problem. See this link: "Jandy AquaPure 1400 Error Codes 172 and 186". Here is another helpful document:." AquaPure TroubleshootingAquaPureControl". The tri-sensor can be viewed or purchased here (key 16): "Jandy AquaPure Models 700 & 1400 Parts". And finally, we do not have a step by step guide on cleaning the salt cell, but there are some instructions for cleaning the cell starting on page 27 of the owner's manual: "Installation and Operation Manual"

Inyopools  Posted: 07/22/2013 11:43 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

calcium - Check your calcium level to make sure this is the issue. It should be under 400 ppm. If it's under 400, you have another problem besides calcium. See our "Pool Maintenance" guide for other possible issues. If your calcium level is higher than 400, like 450 -600, your only solution to reducing calcium is to drain the pool somewhat and adding fresh water. If you have a hard water supply, there's not much you can do to reduce calcium other than adding a softener to your supply line which can be expensive.

Robert Jandy Pump  Posted: 07/22/2013 11:37 AM 

I have a Jandy Pump with aqua pure panel that reads "service" and the error number is 110, however this number is not included in the owners manual what do i need to do. I am sure the chlorinator cell needs cleaning do you have a step by step for this model? I dont have the model number but it was purchased new 2008