Do Salt Water Pools Use Chlorine?

large salt water pool with brown wood deck and large white inflatable swan in background

If you have a pool, you know the drill.  You test the water and then add chlorine and maybe some acid or baking soda.  This is the life of a pool owner.  Not only do you need to clean the debris out of the skimmer and backwash or clean the filter, you must keep on top of your water chemistry.  If you ignore your water chemistry you’ll have an unsafe and unsanitary pool once the weekend comes, and you don’t want that!  There is a process you may have heard of as the solution, the salt system.  They are often billed as chlorine free.  In this article we will examine do salt water pools use chlorine?

Do Salt Water Pools Use Chlorine?

Salt water pool systems have been around for decades.  They wax and wane in popularity, but one tall tale stands above the rest: salt pools are chlorine free.  Unfortunately for you, if you’ve heard this from a salesperson or uninformed counter person at a pool supply store, you’ve been lied to. Salt systems in fact generate chlorine, and it’s not ‘natural chlorine’ or ‘healthy chlorine’.  The chlorine produced is either gas chlorine, or hypochlorous acid and sodium hypochlorite.

What Are The Real Benefits Of A Salt Water Pool?

You’ll notice the chlorine itself is no different than other forms you can purchase.  The slightly salty (soft) water can be deceptive, and make you believe the system is better for you to use.  The fact that your eyes don’t burn when underwater is directly correlated to the fact that there is dissolved salt in the water itself. Thus, it is closer to the salinity of your eye.  

The benefits of a salt water pool almost entirely relate to the swimming experience. This is due to the addition of salt in the first place, not the chlorine generation system.  Anyone can create a salt water pool for the price of a few bags of pool salt.

How Do Pool Chlorine Generators Work?

The process of electrolysis used in pool chlorine generators is the precise method used by chemical companies to produce chlorine.  One of the major issues with creating chlorine in this way however, is the way it creates a PH imbalance.

The chlorine generation process raises the PH of your pool constantly, and as it does this, it reduces the efficacy of the chlorine produced.  In other words, it’s a self defeating process.  You still must keep a cyanuric acid level up with a salt pool or else you’ll be burning through the chlorine generated much faster also.

inground salt system pool showing that yes is the answer to do salt water pools use chlorine

Our Experience With Salt Systems

As you might be picking up by the way I am writing about salt systems, I am not a big fan of them.  They have been the root of many of my client’s frustrations over time. I want to make sure and mention there are other solutions to water chemistry than salt.  

Yes, the answer to do salt water pools use chlorine is an obvious answer. However, you can create a comfortable swimming environment in other ways, using Ozone systems and UV systems.  The key is to reduce your reliance on chlorine in general.  You will always need some chlorine, but you don’t need to only use chlorine.

Do Salt Water Pools Use Chlorine Summary

The answer to do salt water pools use chlorine is a resounding yes.  Not only do they use chlorine, they generate chlorine.  The chlorine products you can purchase at the store will be far more adept at being a responsible addition to the water. Additionally, they will not require incessant PH adjustment.  

When you have a salt water pool you need to keep muriatic acid on hand in large quantities, introduce an automatic PH adjustment system in addition to the salt system. Furthermore, check the water far more frequently.  If you do not add an automatic PH adjustment system like an acid feeder or CO2 system (for larger commercial applications), you will find yourself making huge adjustments at times, which is not good for the pool or swimming experience.