Is Salt Water Bad for a Swimming Pool?
Let’s get one thing out of the way. At CMP, we are fully on board with salt water chlorination. We admit it, we love it. Our team believes it has a ton of great benefits for a pool. Salt chlorine generation is a very convenient way to sanitize a pool with chlorine, without keeping buckets of tabs and pool shock lying around.
But let’s back up first. Our team started a couple of recent discussions on social media about salt. These posts were around the topic of how salt can help with CYA (cyanuric acid) problems in the pool. This led to some passionate discussion among pool pros. It turns out most of you have thoughts on the benefits, problems and complaints with salt systems.
It was a great discussion. We absolutely love the passion and thought pool pros put into the systems they use. There are some strong opinions out there! (Very strong indeed.) Let’s dive into some of the comments that came up and see if we can clear up a few things.
#1. “HOW DOES SALT HELP WITH CYA PROBLEMS?”
Let us explain. No, there is too much—let us sum up. In the past 5-10 years, pool professionals have started to realize that CYA—a common chlorine additive—can interfere with the ability of chlorine to sanitize. Alright, so why use CYA in the first place?
Cyanuric acid protects chlorine from the sun. Sort of like sunscreen for the pool. UVA rays can break down chlorine, giving it a half-life of only 30-45 minutes. It doesn’t take a lot of math to figure out how quickly that can become a problem.
So here we are, stuck a little between a rock and a hard place. The pool needs CYA, but that creates a new set of problems. The good news is the solution is easy. You just need to keep the level of CYA from getting out of control.
The latest official recommendations are to keep CYA at levels of 30-50 parts per million. Some studies show we got 95% of the CYA value at just 20-30ppm. Keeping the level this low starts to get difficult when CYA is an ingredient in chlorine tabs or shock. Every time chlorine is added to the pool, the CYA level goes up (unless you are also regularly draining water).
One solution growing in popularity is Calcium Hypochlorite tabs. These chlorine tablets do not contain CYA! We love this as a solution and have some great partners who offer special feeders for “Cal Hypo” chlorine tabs. Another “old school” solution is liquid chlorine. This is totally CYA-free as well. However, there is another more convenient solution: salt chlorine generators!
A chlorine generator electrically creates Hypochlorous Acid (HClO), the killing form of chlorine, in the water. It does this with zero additives—no CYA, no clarifiers, no binders. This is the purest form of pool chlorine. It is being generated right in the backyard with no chemical storage. This puts you in control to add CYA as needed and maintain the perfect balance.
Did you know that liquid chlorine is made using a salt chlorine generator? It’s true!
The factory makes chlorine just like in a backyard pool, but on a larger scale.
HINT: That’s why liquid bottled chlorine has a salt content.
So . . . you can buy jugs of liquid chlorine—or you can skip a step and make it yourself.
#2. “SALT POOLS ARE CORROSIVE”
We hear this one a lot. It’s a common complaint and a bit of a loaded statement. Talking about “corrosion” actually lumps a couple of problems together into one category. Let’s talk about them one at a time.
Metal corrosion can have two common sources. (Both of these can occur in any pool, not just a salt pool.) It is possible for salt to “enhance” the issue. But in some ways, the salt is revealing a problem that already existed, as much as it may be causing one.
One type of corrosion can come from dissimilar metals in a pool. Two types of metal in contact with each other actually create a small electrical charge at a molecular level. This can start to create a rusty or damaged appearance to the metal. Not very appealing.
One way to improve this issue is of course to avoid the dissimilar metals. You can also try using a sacrificial anode in the pool. This tool does just what it says. The metal (usually zinc) is “sacrificing” itself, corroding and breaking down before the other metals in the water.
Anodes are not new tech! They are used by boats in salty water. Did you think you were the first one to have this problem? Boats have had to deal with corrosion pretty much forever in much saltier water than a pool. Sacrificial anodes can help.
You may also spot corrosion if you have an electrical water bonding issue in the water. You can read all about water bonding here. This can be a dangerous issue, so if you suspect there is a bonding problem, it is best to get an electrician out quickly to inspect the pool. CMP Pool Water Bonding products can help solve this problem.
On some stainless steel products, like our Pure Flow waterfalls or stainless steel water bowls, saltwater can create a rusted appearance. The good news is this is very easy to clean off with a light abrasive pad. The salt and build-up are not actually damaging the material. The brown spots and specks can be scrubbed off and the metal is good as new.
This can be confusing and frustrating for a homeowner though. For this reason, we do not recommend stainless steel products for a salt pool. While it may not be a long-term issue, the pool experience for the customer matters most. Salt may not be the right solution for every single pool—that just doesn’t mean it’s a bad solution for every pool.
DECK AND SURFACE CORROSION
The other common corrosion complaint has to do with decks, stone and other natural materials. It is true, salt can in fact have an eroding effect on these surfaces. The key here is to know your materials! Some types of stone, tile or rock are considered “soft.” These materials probably should not be used with salt water pools.
For any deck or material, it is important to seal the surface if at all possible. Unsealed materials will wear away with water alone. It doesn’t take salt in the water to do the job. Sealing is an important step for any deck to protect it from wear and water damage.
To sum up, prevention is a large part of the cure for this problem. Either through choosing the right materials or treating the deck correctly. And yes, some materials may not be suited for saltwater pools. That’s totally fine, every pool doesn’t need the same solution. Just don’t throw the baby out with the saltwater.
#3. “I JUST DON’T LIKE SALT SYSTEMS”
How do we “deal” with this complaint? Well . . . it depends on the source of the dislike! If your complaint is related to one of the items above, maybe reconsider salt. You could give it a try on a few pools this year and see how it goes.
But at the end of the day, our goal really is NOT to have every pool set up the exact same way. The beauty of our industry in the 2020s is we have a plethora of good options available.
Case in point: CMP is the only manufacturer to offer Ozone, UV and AOP systems. Most suppliers will try to convince you they have the “right” solution. We just want to help you find the right solution for you.
That being said, we do think there are a lot of things to like about chlorine generators. You might want to consider giving them a try. Here are a few of our favorite features:
– No more buckets, bags and jugs of chlorine around the pool! Not only are they heavy and space-consuming, but they are still chemicals at the end of the day. Some homeowners don’t love the idea of concentrated chlorine around pets or kids. Spills can be a pain to deal with and might lead to further landscape or surface damage. And of course, just dealing with it can be a pain if it comes in contact with your skin or you get a big “whiff” right in your nose.
– Salt can be easier and more automated! Chlorine generators have a very set-it-and-forget-it vibe about them. Once you zero in on the right dosage rate for the pool, the system will keep making chlorine. Only very occasional additions of salt are needed to the water. This pairs perfectly with other pool automation.
– Most customers think the salty water feels better! This is a little subjective, but many pool owners and swimmers prefer the feel of the salty water. It’s not a huge salt content, but that bit of minerals can give the water a smoother feeling. One of our team members here specifically remembers the first time they swam in a salt pool. That is what they noticed first—how the water felt!
You will find a ton of pool pros who use and recommend salt all day. So you have to admit – there has to be something “there.” Maybe it’s not what you use all the time, but you should give salt another try if you gave up on it a while back. Your customers will love it, and you might just enjoy it yourself!
Powerclean Salt systems from CMP are part of the next generation of salt systems. Our team re-thought salt and did our best to create the system pool pros would have made for themselves, if anybody had just asked them.
– Powerclean Salt is simple to clean by hand without acid or chemicals. This saves time at every cleaning and it’s just easier.
– The clear salt cell means you always know when it is time to clean so build-up never gets out of control.
– The control center is robust and especially good in hot climates (We’ve installed more in Phoenix, Arizona than any other part of the country.)
– Our system is easy to use without any complicated programming or messing about. Just set it and forget it.
Find available residential pool sanitizers at c-m-p.com.
We also sell Sanitizer Systems for commercial pools and aquatics. Visit cmpcommercial.com to learn more.
Complete the form below to get more info on Powerclean Salt.
A Complete Modern Pool® uses an advanced sanitizer with a residual sanitizer to remain clean, clear and safe.