How To Start Up a Salt Water Pool


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The start up of a saltwater pool is simple. If the salt water chlorinator is being installed on an existing pool, the water does not need to be drained. However, the water needs to be tested and properly balanced before the salt chlorinator is turned on. Note: Please refer to your owner's manual for specific ideal levels.


Step by Step


Step 1

The first step will be to test the chemical levels of the pool water. The water can be tested by a pool professional or with a home testing kit. The water will need to be tested for Free Chlorine, pH, Cyanuric Acid (Stabilizer), Alkalinity, Calcium Hardness, Metals, and Salt. Note: An existing pool may have a salt level if liquid chlorine has been used.

Click Here to View our Available Water Test Kits

Step 2

Before making any adjustments, it is necessary to calculate the gallons of the pool. Please see the chart to the left for directions on how to calculate the gallons. The total gallons will determine how much of each chemical needs to added.

Step 3

The first level that should be adjusted is the Alkalinity. The Alkalinity should be in the range of 80-120 parts per million (ppm). Low or High Alkalinity can affect the pH level. Low Alkalinity requires the addition of sodium bicarbonate. High Alkalinty requires the addition of muriatic acid.

Click Here to View our Alkalinity

Step 4

Once the Alkalinity is in the correct range, the next level that needs to adjusted is the pH. The pH level is the foundation for all other chemicals. The normal range for pH is 7.2-7.6. Low pH requires the addition of pH Increaser (soda ash) or Alkalinity (sodium bicarbonate). High pH will require the addition of pH Decreaser (sodium bisulfate) or Muriatic Acid.

Click Here to View pH Adjustment Chemicals 

Step 5

After the pH is adjusted, the chlorine will need to be at a level of 1-3 ppm. If the chlorine level is low, it can be raised by adding Zappit Pool Shock (calcium hypochlorite) or Chlor-Burst (dichlor). If the chlorine level is high, it can be lowered by Chlorine Reducer or by draining 2"-3" and adding fresh water.

Click Here to View our Chlorine Pool Shock

Step 6

Cyanuric Acid protects the chlorine from being instantly diminished by the sun. A normal level for Cyanuric Acid is 50-80 ppm. Adding Stabilizer will raise the Cyanuric Acid level. Stabilizer will need to be added directly to the skimmer. Draining 2"-3" inches of water and adding fresh water will lower the Cyanuric Acid level.

Click Here to View our Cyanuric Acid (Stabilizer)

Step 7

A low calcium level can cause pitting or etching of the surface. High calcium can cause cloudy water and scale build up on the walls. The normal range for calcium is 200-400 ppm. The calcium level can be raised by calcium hardness. The calcium level can be lowered by draining 2"-3" and adding fresh water.

Click Here to View our Calcium Hardness Increaser

Step 8

There should be no metals (0 ppm) in the water. Metals can cause staining on the surface of the pool. Metal Control can lower the metals in the water. Jack's Magic Magenta Stuff will prevent staining and scale build up on salt cells.

Click Here to View Jack's Magic Magenta Stuff 

Step 9

Finally, once all the other chemical levels have been adjusted the salt can be added to the pool. All salt chlorinators have a suggested range for salt. The average salt level will be 2700-3500 ppm. It is important to use only sodium chloride (NaCl) salt that is greater than 99% pure. This is common food quality salt or water softener salt and is usually available in 40-80 pound bags. DO NOT use rock salt, salt with yellow prussiate of soda, salt with anti-caking additives, or iodized salt.

Step 10

The salt water chlorinator can be turned on once the chemicals are balanced and the salt level is in the ideal range. Note: Please refer to your salt water chlorinator's manual for specific instructions.


(1 to 40 of 57)

 Posted: 5/23/2021 

In the instructions for checking all the chemicals before adding the salt and at the very end it states now you can turn on your system. So just to be clear, the system needs to be off when you add the salt and if so for how long after you add the salt should it be turned on?

InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 6/4/2021 

Wait to run the system until the salt has dissolved. it may take up to 24 hours for the salt to dissolve completely. You can find more information here: How to Add Salt to Your Pool

Anonymous  Posted: 6/20/2020 

When doing the initial startup on saltwater system pool, do you need to let the filter run first for 12 hours or can you start using the Chlorinator mode at the same time?

InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 9/2/2020 

I have read manuals on both sides of this argument. For me, i prefer to wait until the salt is dissolved completely before turning on the unit.  That may take a couple of hours depending on how much salt you put in. But I do suggest helping your salt system, by adding shock. This allows your system to build up a base of chlorine while the shock is handling any heavy lifting, so to speak.

 Posted: 5/16/2020 

How do I know how much salt to add on initial start up

InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 11/10/2020 

Salt systems usually have a salt chart in their manual that references the amount of salt needed according to your pool size in gallons and start salinity level. You can find a salt chart here, Swimming Pool Salt Calculator.

 Posted: 4/9/2020 

I just had a pebble sheen installed today on new pool. Can I use my regular pool sweep or should I do it by hand for now?

InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 4/10/2020 

We recommend manually vacuuming the pool if it has to be cleaned. The pool sweep may leave a trail. I would recommend waiting at least 30 days before you use the automatic pool sweep.

Anonymous  Posted: 4/10/2020 

Thanks, after the pebble sheen has been applied, how long do I have to wait to fill the pool?

InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 4/10/2020 

My pool builder started adding water to the pool as soon as they were done applying the pebble tec finish.

 Posted: 4/8/2020 

We just built a pool and are a week away from the PebbleTec being applied. Is it ok to add chemicals and salt once the pool is filled with water?

InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 4/8/2020 

You will not be able to run your salt chlorine generator or add salt for about a month after the PebbleTec is applied. The company completing the PebbleTec installation should give you thorough water maintenance guidelines for the curing/setting process.

Anonymous  Posted: 7/15/2019 

How long do you leave the pool running after adding salt?

InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 7/16/2019 

It takes about 24 hours for the salt to fully dissolve, so run the pump for a day.

 Posted: 5/22/2019 

We just installed a brand new salt system...chemicals are all long should I run the pump on filter setting for? I have not turned on chlorine generator yet.

InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 5/23/2019 

Are you asking a general pump scheduling question, or is it this specific to your startup?

 Posted: 5/3/2019 

Pool man hook up every thing but left me with dirty water. Have a shark cleaner in the water now. Is th at ok? Do I do something call a back wash after that?

InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 5/6/2019 

If the water is a little cloudy or silty, then the use of a clarifier or a flocculant should clear it up.

 Posted: 5/2/2019 

I had a pool store say a timer is NOT recommended for a saltwater pool due to the fact you want it producing salt all the time. Is this correct? I have been trying it this way and I am getting way to much salt. I now have it running at 10% all day trying to get it to level out.

InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 5/2/2019 

Hello Raymond - The pool store may have their reason for not using a timer. Most manufacturers, and Inyo, recommends putting the salt system on a timer. First, pool pumps and salt systems do not need to run 24/7. They just need to run long enough to keep the pool clear and chlorinated. Second, running the salt system less time will increase the lifespan of the system.

 Posted: 5/2/2019 

Is there a good 120v timer for the pump and salt system?

InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 5/3/2019 

We'd recommend the Intermatic T101P3 for single speed pumps or the Intermatic PE153P for dual speed pumps.

Anonymous  Posted: 4/22/2019 

Other than my salt cell being replaced every 3-6 years, what else should be replaced every year during opening?

InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 4/23/2019 

You'd want to test the water and balance it when opening the pool.

 Posted: 11/16/2018 

I'm getting ready to start adding salt to my new pool. I know the salt has to be 99% purity or higher and fine grade but I've seen pool salt for $35.00 per 40lb bag or fine pool salt from local hardware stores for $5.00 per 40lb bag. Why is there such a big difference and should I just get it from the local hardware store? Could you recommend a brand? Thanks

InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 11/21/2018 

Hello Richard - The normal price range should be $5-$10. We've had good luck with the Diamond Crystal and Morton Pool Salt.

 Posted: 8/28/2018 

Hello Marian - No, having a salt level of 500 ppm will not impact the salt chlorine generator. You won't have to add as much salt since you are starting at 500 ppm.

 Posted: 8/27/2018 

Pool was re-plastered 2 months back. Time to start the new Salt Generator. Had water tested at Leslie's he said initial salt level had to be zero before I started adding salt . My water tested 500ppm salt because liquid chlorine was used during 30 day plaster curing period. Can 500 ppm really cause an issue if I am wanting to use and start the salt water system ?

 Posted: 8/14/2018 

Hello Jenn - chlorine added during startup is not always required but it does give your salt system a helping hand when starting with new water. Freshwater can be well, untreated water or only lightly chlorinated. This means your salt system is starting from square one to getting your chlorine up to proper levels. When adding shock to aid your salt system, you're giving it momentum from where it can take over chlorine production; instead, of letting it begin from zero and pushing the big chlorine boulder up the hill.

 Posted: 8/9/2018 

Steps are very clear. Only question I have is about added chlorine. I am starting a brand new resin above ground pool, I understand the chemicals must be balanced before adding salt. But when actually starting the pool... is it true that I do need to actually add chlorine as well? I thought the salt would be doing that for me once my system runs. Please clarify and thank you for the advice and time!

InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 7/13/2017 

Chas - See our guide on "How to Add Salt to Your Pool". It should give you the information you are looking for.

 Posted: 7/13/2017 

I came looking to find out how much salt to add to the pool on startup. Didn't find the answer. It would be nice to have a chart showing how much salt to add during initial startup for the volume of water in the pool, could be a simple line graph or even plot common points on it. Could be just a set of numbers we could interpolate. Anything would help. Back to the pol store.

 Posted: 7/6/2019 

Please help with instructions on how to salt my 47,000 gallon chlorine pool. Already have hardware in. Pool is green. Do I need to shock it first and get it back clear first?

InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 7/8/2019 

In step 5, we say to shock the pool. Did you read the guide?

 Posted: 6/13/2017 

Very good.

InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 6/12/2017 

Jessica Turner - You are probably all right. Just don't believe any of the salt system readings until the pool chemicals are balanced. Then recalibrate the salt system again as required. Balance the chemicals as soon as you can so that the salt cell is not damaged.

 Posted: 6/10/2017 

we just converted our above ground pool to the Hayward aquatrol salt system. We made the mistake of adding the salt before balancing the water. What can we do now?

InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 4/10/2017 

Create & Build - We do not have acid tables. You will have to look at the instructions on the muriatic acid container to determine how much acid to add to your pool. For the salt, here is a link to our guide on "How to Add Salt to Your Pool". Most start-up pools have some salt in them, like 500 ppm. If you are going from 500 to 3500 ppm, you will need to add a little over 626 lbs of salt ( ~ 15.5 40# bags) of for a 25,000-gallon size pool. Check your pool size calculations once more, then add 15 bags of salt. let it dissolve for 25 hours then resample your salt reading. Add another bag if required. Remember, it is much easier to add salt than to remove it.

 Posted: 4/6/2017 

Just built new salt water pool, 26300 gallons. Tested the water for startup and Alkalinity is at 200, ph at 8.5.

?, how much muriatic acid do I need to add in order to balance alkalinity and ph level?

?, how many lb. of salt is needed to add for the startup of this pool?



InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 3/6/2017 

salt water AG pool - Yes you can set a salt water above ground pool. Here is a link to above water salt water generators. Be aware thought that if your AG pool structure is steel, those parts will corrode faster with a salt water pool. We do sell resin and aluminum AG pools that resist the salt water better.