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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Matthew  Posted: 09/05/2018 13:28 PM 

Hello Linda - it is completely fine to shock your saltwater pool. You may also want to run a Super-Chlorinate cycle during your shock treatment for an extra boost. Every little bit of chlorine helps.

Linda  Posted: 09/02/2018 18:32 PM 

We converted to a salt water system over 2 months ago (and love it). It's now September in GA and even tho the water temp didn't reach 90, we're starting to see some algae. We keep the pump running most of the time. I poured in a little algaecide but it didn't seem to make any difference. Is it OK to shock it? We're still learning the differences in salt vs chlorine maintenance. Thx for any advice.

Inyopools  Posted: 06/07/2018 13:52 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Hello Renita - There isn't a preferred sun screen for salt water pools. You can add a new tennis ball to the skimmer to help absorb some of the sun screen oil.

Renita  Posted: 06/05/2018 13:55 PM 

Question I have a Heated Salt water pool I live in AZ and I want to put on sun screen what kind do you recommend that will not harm my system?

Inyopools  Posted: 05/02/2018 11:49 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Hello Lee - Since every pool system is different, there isn't a set pump speed for salt systems. It's going to take some testing on your part. Start on the lowest speed and slowly bring it up until the low flow/no flow indicator turns off on the salt system. That will let you know the minimum operating speed.

Lee  Posted: 05/01/2018 17:13 PM 

I'm upgrading my pool pump to a variable speed pump from a constant speed pump. I'm told the savings is primarily from controlling the pump to a lower speed (translating to less electricity) for the majority of operation time (when not at a higher speed to drive the pool cleaner). How low in speed roughly, or percent of full speed, can the pump operate and still generate chlorine through the salt cell? Thank you

Inyopools  Posted: 03/26/2018 17:01 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Hello KD - This is not something to be concerned about. We would recommend using something like Jack's Magic Magenta Stuff. It's great for new start-ups and will help keep that silica in suspension.

KD  Posted: 03/26/2018 13:12 PM 

Brand new pool, they put the salt in 2 weeks ago I'm starting to see what looks like a salt residual on the tile and on the removable thermometer. It feels like little bumps on the tile. The filer is on 10 hours a day, it's screened in. Should I be concerned?

Inyopools  Posted: 03/05/2018 13:24 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Anonymous ( pool maint) - If you have had no problems at running for 10 hours a day, I would try dropping it to 8 hours during the summer and see it that works. In San Diego, it's hot enough that I would not run it less that 8 hours and I would run it every day.

Anonymous  Posted: 02/28/2018 12:09 PM 

We bought our home two years ago, we are in San Diego so it rarely gets to cold. We initially had a pool guy manage our pool, but I ended up taking over after a few months. I check the water weekly, and add salt or acid when needed. I have a local shop test my water monthly just to keep me on track. Its' always crystal clear. We have always run the pool/spa daily for about 10 hours. The spa spills into the pool and recirculates. The only time I've had an algae issue was when I accidentally left the system off for a week while traveling [shut it off to clean before we left and forgot to reset it]. It took a few days of scrubbing but eventually got everything clean. My question is, is recirculating the water daily for 10 hours necessary? I got a buddy up in the northern California [non-salt water pool] who only runs his three times a week for about four hours.

Inyopools  Posted: 02/25/2018 11:26 AM  Inyo Product Specialist

Steve - I haven't heard this. It may be something like not running your SCG when adding salt until the salt is dissolved. To be on the safe side, you could turn off your SCG until the granular PH reducer is dissolved.

Steve  Posted: 02/22/2018 15:49 PM 

Hello, I recently converted my pool to salt water and I have a lot of granular PH reducer left from my chlorine pool days. Someone told me not to use the granular PH reducer but to use Mureatic acid. Is this true? Should I not use the granular reducer? Thank you for any help!

Inyopools  Posted: 02/20/2018 18:40 PM  Inyo Product Specialist

Anonymous (chlorine in winter) _ Generally, when you close down a pool in the winter, you don't add chemicals until you open it back up in the spring. Algae is not as severe a problem when the temperature is cold.

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

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?