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A Guide to Saltwater Pool Maintenance

saltwater pool maintenance

In the traditional pool system, chlorine is added. That chemical is used because it has good oxidation levels and offers an affordable way to sterilize the pool. 

The saltwater pool, or saltwater pool, does not forego chlorine: while chlorine is still in the pool water, you create it out of the salt using a salt cell generator, or salt chlorine generator. Essentially, it works as follows:

  1. The salt and water are introduced to an electric current. 
  2. The chemicals convert into hypochlorous acid and hydrogen gas. 
  3. The former sanitizes the pool. The hydrogen rises from the water and drifts away in the air.

The saltwater pool model is preferred by many since chlorine pools can be so harsh to the eyes and skin — and potentially even cause “swimmer’s asthma.” However, the downside is the corrosion that naturally results from salt. While we discuss the various chemical levels below, salt warrants special consideration: If your salinity gets above 6000 parts per million (ppm), it will start to eat through everything. You really do not want your salinity above 4500 ppm.

 

Saltwater Pool Maintenance 101

 

salt water pool maintenance 101

This pool maintenance schedule will help you better understand basic maintenance tasks that you (or someone you hire) might need to do short-term and long-term. 

Each day 

  • Empty the pool’s pump basket.
  • Clear out the skimmer.
  • Use the skimmer to remove any debris you see.

Each week

  • Use test strips to determine if your free chlorine or pH levels need to be modified. Here are ranges of the levels in a healthy pool:
    • Free chlorine: 1.0-3.0 ppm
    • pH: 7.2-7.6
  • On the cell or control box, you will see the output control for your chlorine generator, which is what you use to change the chlorine level. If the level is far from a proper amount, you may want to shock the pool (see below section, “Shocking the pool”) and should consider retesting daily until the issue is corrected.

Each month

  • Check the calcium hardness — Your calcium hardness should be in the 200-400 ppm range. You need to make sure this figure does not get too low or high since the former causes corrosion, and the latter causes scaling. Use a flocculant or dilute (by draining out some water and adding some freshwater) if it is too high.
  • Test the CYA — Cyanuric acid (CYA) levels in a saltwater pool should generally be from 70-80 ppm. On a single sunny day, your pool would lose as much as 90 percent of its chlorine to UV rays without this critical stabilizer. If your levels are high, dilute the pool water; if they are low, add more of your CYA product.
  • Gauge the alkalinity — These levels should be between 80 and 120 ppm. If you find it is too low, add sodium bicarbonate. If it is high, add muriatic acid or a sodium bisulfate product.
  • Measure the salt — The salinity of your saltwater pool system should be in the 2700-4500 ppm range. 3400 ppm is typical, but the ideal level differs by manufacturer. To lower salinity, dilute the pool. To raise the level, add salt.

Each quarter

  • Shut off your salt cell generator’s power, open it, and inspect the salt cell for any residue. Clean it as needed, perhaps with a garden hose hand sprayer and/or brush. For heavier buildup, use a mild hydrochloric acid solution. Rinse and reinstall it.  
 

Saltwater Pool Cleaning Tips

 

Cleaning is fundamental to saltwater pool maintenance. Here are three things to help you as you approach this activity:

  1. Look for the formation of any salt crystals and check your manufacturer’s manual for how to resolve the issue.
  2. You, of course, do not want to damage the pool when you clean. You will likely splash a bit of water outside the pool; while unavoidable, you want to clean up after yourself. Get the salt back into your pool water by spraying the area. 
  3. Also, for durability, it is best if your cleaning devices and tools are specifically intended for a saltwater pool. 
 

Shocking The Pool

Unfortunately, the salt-to-chlorine conversion process is a little slow. You may find this shocking, but right after new pool construction and periodically, your chlorine level could use an immediate boost.

Shocking, an important saltwater pool maintenance task, is a five-step process

  1. Shocking can cause damage if the levels are off. The testing you performed should have verified that your salt, calcium, stabilizer, alkalinity, and pH levels are all proper, along with that of the chlorine. Again, your pH level should be 7.2-7.6. 
  2. Figure out how much chlorine you need. As indicated above, free chlorine should test at 1.0-3.0 ppm once your work is complete.
  3. Now that you know how much chlorine you need, purchase it. Get chlorine that is safe for saltwater pools and is intended to be used for shocking. You can buy it online or at physical pool supply stores. 
  4. Confirm that your filter system works properly. Then slowly introduce the chlorine to the pool, distributing it as much as possible. Give it eight hours to dissolve.
  5. Measure your chlorine level again. Once you make certain all chemical levels are safe, you can start enjoying your pool again.
 

4 Ways To Prevent Calcium And Salt Damage

Salt water pool maintenance must be mindful of how corrosive salt is and how often calcium scale causes damage.

One core concern to address is circulation, which ensures your salt levels do not get too high in certain areas of the pool. In most pools, maintaining circulation is not too tricky. You just need to make sure all your pool’s water is turning through your filters. A good way to approach circulation is through the use of a few distributed salt concentration detectors. Modify your jet angles if the concentration is imbalanced.

Other than from poor circulation, additional ways your pool can experience salt and calcium damage are these four saltwater pool maintenance issues:

1. Problem: The soft travertine stone surface of a pool area can suffer erosion or pitting from the salty water that is left behind when swimmers leave a saltwater pool.

Solution: Safeguard your soft surfaces by sealing. During times of the year when we are not getting frequent rain, regular cleaning becomes a high priority (see the “Salt water pool cleaning tips” section above). 

 

2. Problem: O-rings and pump seals can deteriorate.

Solution: You can use pool lube to keep the O-rings in good shape. Consider buying salt-resistant pump shaft seals.   

 

3. Problem: The stainless-steel components of your pool, such as the lights and pool ladders, will undergo oxidation from ongoing contact with the salt.

Solution: To focus the saltwater’s attention on other metal, you can put zinc anodes in the skimmer or pool.  

 

4. Problem: Calcium scale accrues on the metal surfaces of the salt cell, which both damages it and lowers the amount of chlorine produced. 

Solution: Use a mild acid solution to routinely dissolve the calcium, or get a self-cleaning system.

 

Contacting Experts to Maintain Your Saltwater Pool

While Olympus Pools doesn’t provide pool maintenance services, we highly recommend working with one of your local, trusted pool experts to ensure your saltwater pool is properly maintained at all times. Doing so ensures the longevity and lifespan of your pool.

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