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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Anonymous  Posted: 02/18/2018 19:18 PM  Latest

How do I replace chlorine in the winter when the electrolysis machine has been deactivated for the season?

Inyopools  Posted: 01/24/2018 14:13 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Anne - Have your pool's salt ane chlorine level checked independently by a pool store. If they are within the acceptable ranges, try cleaning your chlorinator cell. The censors in the cell may be corroded over.

Anne  Posted: 01/18/2018 7:31 AM 

We have a marbelite salt chlorinated pool (installed April 2017). Had issues with the pump in September 2017 (sorted though) and ever since then the water stays murky. Salt chlorinator indicates salt level is fine. Tested the water and now finally got the pH right but the tester keeps indicating that the chlorine is almost non-existent? do I just add more salt anyway or do a attempt Shock treatment?Please advise?

Inyopools  Posted: 01/02/2018 12:57 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Bram - Your free chlorine reading should be between 1 and 3 ppm. If it shows below that range, have your water tested independently at a pool store to verify the reading. If it still shows low, try cleaning the cell. the sensor in the cell may be clogged. If that doesn't work, and your cell is 4-5 years old, you may need a new cell.

Bram  Posted: 01/02/2018 5:24 AM 

My fibreglassed salt chlorinated pool is clear and algae free. The pH test is normal, but the free chlorine shows as low. Is this a problem?

Inyopools  Posted: 12/31/2017 13:17 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

DesertPool - I have not seen a purple ring around a pool. If you have purple algae, I would expect it would be throughout your water. Since nothing has change with chemical use, could you have something blowing into your pool, or you might check with your water company to see if they have added anything recently.

DesertPool  Posted: 12/26/2017 17:57 PM 

Our 13 year old fiberglass salt water pool has a purple ring around the waterline. No new chemicals used. What is causing this?

Inyopools  Posted: 11/12/2017 13:59 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Anonymous (reset check system) - This will vary with your SCG. For a Aqua Rite SCG, you would push and hold the Diagnostic Button for 3-5 seconds. If you have another model of SCG, bring up the page for your product and click on the link to its owner's manual for more information.

Anonymous  Posted: 10/30/2017 16:45 PM 

I have a salt water pool with an automatic monitoring system that tells we to check the chlorinate after X number of hours. How do I reset the monitor from indicating "check system" once I have cleaned the Chlorinator?

Inyopools  Posted: 10/13/2017 13:54 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Newbie - If you have a lot of leaves, I'd use a leaf net to get most of them out of your pool, then, it's all right to turn your pump on for a couple hours to vacuum the rest up out of the pool. Make sure to balance the pool chemicals before you shut the pool up for winter.

Newbie  Posted: 10/09/2017 6:25 AM 

We just bought a home with a salt water pool. The previous owner just gave us a "crash course". About 10 days ago, the weather turned cold, so I shut off the heater and the pump. Now there are a lot of leaves on the bottom and water looks a little green. We have also had several heavy rains. I know the chemicals must be way out of balance and I am reluctant to start the pump so I can vacuum before the pool company comes to close and cover it in a couple of days. Is it safe to run the pump long enough to vacuum (1-2 hours)? I don't want to damage the system.

Newbie  Posted: 10/09/2017 6:23 AM 

We just bought a home with a salt water pool. The previous owner just gave us a "crash course". About 10 days ago, the weather turned cold, so I shut off the heater and the pump. Now there are a lot of leaves on the bottom and water looks a little green. We have also had several heavy rains. I know the chemicals must be way out of balance and I am reluctant to start the pump so I can vacuum before the pool company comes to close and cover it in a couple of days. Is it safe to run the pump long enough to vacuum (1-2 hours)? I don't want to damage the system.

Inyopools  Posted: 07/30/2017 13:08 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Newtosalt - If your pool appears clean and you are maintaining the pool chemical levels, you could get by with vacuuming your pool once or twice a week.

Newtosalt  Posted: 07/27/2017 11:25 AM 

How often should I vacuum the pool if it appears clean?

Inyopools  Posted: 07/07/2017 10:50 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

jules - If your SCG is showing "no flow", you may have problems other than your SCG. See our guide on "How to Correct Low Water Pressure in Your Pool System" - in particular, Step 6, Clogged Impeller. Also, see pages 19 and 20 of Haywards' Aqua Rite Diagnostics Manual.

jules  Posted: 07/04/2017 5:21 AM 

We have an Aqua Rite Salt system-goldline controls. Pool 11 yrs old. I always rave about how my pool is so clean with the salt, no worries. We have had an issue recently and we think related to our filter cones so changed those out. We have kept the pool running as well is has Algae, cloudy but my main concern is the salt water meter is saying no flow but the pool has proper salt? Any suggestions?

Inyopools  Posted: 07/03/2017 16:48 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Not Salt Savvy - No you should not run the SCG without the pump being on. Water should be running through the cell when the unit is on. Most people run the pump on the same timer circit as the pump so when the pump is shut off, the SCG shuts off too. Also, most SCGs have a water flow switch that senses when the flow has stopped and shuts off the SCG.

Not Salt Savvy  Posted: 07/03/2017 7:09 AM 

Installed above ground saltwater pool last summer. Opened this year and everything went perfect; chemical levels all great but I'm not sure about the operation of the salt generator. Can I run my salt generator without the pool pump running or do I have to have that running too?

Inyopools  Posted: 06/27/2017 15:07 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Rich - Running your filter continuously does not turn your pool green. More than likely, it's not keeping the chlorine level up. See our recently posted Blog on "How to Clean a Green Pool".

Rich  Posted: 06/26/2017 21:43 PM 

My pool keeps turning green. I run my filter continuously will that cause it to turn green?

Inyopools  Posted: 05/26/2017 17:22 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Mike - I would do both to try to get a little ahead of the game.

Mike  Posted: 05/25/2017 12:29 PM 

If I have a bunch of people coming to use the pool, should I increase the chlorine production before the party, after or both? -thank you

Inyopools  Posted: 05/23/2017 14:14 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

BHansen - Yes, you should shock your pool when you open it. It is recommended that you have the pool water balanced before you start up the salt chlorine generator.

Inyopools  Posted: 05/22/2017 13:50 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Scott - See our guide on "How To Reduce the Salt Level In Your Pool". I would have a pool store give you an accurate read on your current salt level. Some rough numbers. If your salt level is 4000 and your SCG operates at 3500, you have to decrease your salt level by 500 ppm. To drop 500 ppm you have to drain 1/8 of your pool water (500/4000). If your pool has an average depth of 5' or 60", you will have to drain 7.5' (60/8) of your water to reduce your salt level to 3500 ppm.

BHansen  Posted: 05/22/2017 13:35 PM 

I will be opening my 16x32 in-ground pool this week and will be immediately converting it to a salt water system. My question is do I still need to shock it as in previous years when I open it?

Inyopools  Posted: 05/20/2017 11:05 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Angelsun - There's a good chance that the new rain has diluted your salt level to below its operational range. After you reduce the water level in your pool, get a salt reading from a pool store and add the appropriate level of salt. See our guide on "How to Add Salt to Your Pool".

Scott  Posted: 05/20/2017 9:25 AM 

Great information thank you! Our pool guy added salt this past fall and now the level is too high. We are draining the pool some and adding more water. Is there a calculation available to guesstimate how much salt to add to a 30,000 gal pool to get the salt to a desired level?

Angelsun  Posted: 05/18/2017 22:29 PM 

I have a salt water pool. We have just had over 100mm of rain in twenty four hours, pushing the water level over the sides. I know I need to drop the water level, however will this affect the salt level and should I dump a bag in after I drop the water to avoid having too low salt level?

Inyopools  Posted: 05/17/2017 14:24 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Reader - You do have to have the pump run 6-8 hours a day to generate chlorine and filter the water or else the water will turn green. That can be automated with a timer, but I would have someone keep an eye on the pool to make sure the water level is maintained and the pump runs daily.

Reader  Posted: 05/16/2017 19:52 PM 

I have a question. Can I go on a vacation that is 2-3 weeks long and leave my salt water pool? Do I need to clean it everyday?

Inyopools  Posted: 05/15/2017 0:40 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Thebratpackmom - Turn the Salt Chlorine Generator off and let the sun reduce the chlorine level in the pool to less than 8 ppm. This should happen in a couple of days.

Thebratpackmom  Posted: 05/11/2017 21:18 PM 

I have an above ground pool, 16x48. We converted it to saltwater this year. Finally got all levels right and woke up this morning, did the final test and both the free chlorine and total chlorine are too high. The Clorox app I use says to stay out and let the sun get rid of it. I don't get it. Any help?

Inyopools  Posted: 05/05/2017 10:05 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

div - Make sure your displayed cell type is the same as your actual installed cell type. See our guide on "How To Change the Displayed Cell Size on an Aqua Rite SCG". Also, try cleaning your cell again with acid. See our guide on "How To Clean a Hayward AquaRite Turbo Cell". If your cell is 5 years or older, you may need a new cell.

div  Posted: 05/02/2017 21:35 PM 

we added salt to our pool but the salt level is still showing like 1600 ,even after resetting it? also the inspect cell sign is still on even after we cleaned the cell and filter as showned. we never had a pool before so we are learning a lot from your website. your help is greatly appreciated.thank you

Inyopools  Posted: 04/04/2017 13:24 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Pinball - Sounds like something is partially blocking the discharge side of your filter in the filter mode. Try dumping water for a short time in the WASTE mode which bypasses the filter. If the gauge is still pegged, your pressure gauge may have been damaged during the winter. If gauge reading is normal in WASTE mode you need to check for blockage in or after the filter. Did you shut down any diverter valves after the filter? Is the water in the tank partially frozen? Here's a link to our blog on "How to Reduce High Pressure in Your Pool System".

Pinball  Posted: 04/02/2017 10:35 AM 

First time pool owner.....had it installed just before winter last year and immediately closed it up for winter. Started the process to open and enjoy yesterday. Added water to correct level. Threw a few bags of salt in for good measure. And went through the cycle of "backwash, rinse, and psi is pegging the needle.....what did I do wrong?

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