How to Maintain a Saltwater Pool

Salt Water Swimming Pool

By opting for a saltwater pool over a traditional chlorine pool, you’ll lessen the amount of harsh chemicals in your water and you’ll also make pool upkeep a bit easier. But how do you maintain a saltwater pool? How is that different from maintaining a chlorine pool? Keep reading for those answers and much more.

In this guide, we’ll cover:

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As a pool owner, there are five basic steps for a saltwater pool maintenance routine:

Below, we’ll cover the above steps in detail.

What is a Saltwater Pool?

Swimming in a saltwater pool isn’t the same as swimming in the ocean — saltwater pools are actually still chlorinated. The difference is, traditional chlorine pools keep the water sanitized by continuously adding more and more of the chemical chlorine, so the levels are always at the right balance to kill bacteria, algae, and other germs. 

Alternatively, saltwater pool systems stay ick-free by adding pool salt to the water, which in turn processes the salt through a salt chlorine generator, converting the salt into chlorine via electrolysis — a lesser amount of chlorine (with fewer irritating, strong-smelling byproducts called chloramines) than you’d find in a regular pool. 

Your Guide to Saltwater Pool Maintenance

Maintaining any kind of pool (be it above-ground, in-ground, freshwater, or chlorinated) can be a lot of work — you’ll always have some form of daily, weekly, and monthly tasks to complete. The good news? Saltwater pools take a little less effort and money to keep up.

Let’s take a closer look:

1. Clean your swimming pool on a regular basis

Machine cleaning swimming pool
Photo Credit: PxHere

Manual pool skimmer

Every day, use your manual pool skimmer to remove any debris you see floating on the surface of the water, such as leaves, bugs, and pollen. 

Built-in skimmers

Check the built-in skimmers, too, and, if necessary, empty the baskets of any gunk that’s accumulated. This is also when you’ll need to clean out the pool filter and pool pump.

Shock the pool

Extreme heat waves and strong storms can lead to algae development in your pool, so show it some extra-special attention after an event like that to prevent those growths from forming. First, shock your pool* with di-chlor or liquid chlorine (but only after shutting off the saltwater chlorine generator, so the system doesn’t get damaged). After shocking, wait 24 hours before treating the pool with algaecide. 

Some experts disagree about how often you should shock a saltwater pool. Some say you should shock weekly; others say you don’t have to worry about weekly shocking like you would with a regular pool, as the super chlorinate setting on the salt cell essentially does that on a constant basis (just not with the same strength as pool shock). 

A good way to know it’s time to shock your saltwater pool is after heavy usage, when you notice a spot of algae, and when the free chlorine level is lower than the total chlorine.

*Note: Cal-hypo is another option for shocking pools, but some experts warn against using it for saltwater versions. This is because it’s made with calcium, and if too much calcium is put in your pool water, it can cause damage. Your saltwater pool’s calcium hardness level should never be more than 200 ppm to 400 ppm (parts per million). Higher than that, and you’re asking for trouble — in the form of your salt cell being destroyed.

Run the pool vacuum

Keeping your pool clean also includes vacuuming it, which you can also do automatically. If you’re using your pool daily or at least multiple times a week, it’s a good idea to turn on the robotic vacuum cleaner just as often. If you use your pool a little less often, a weekly or biweekly pool vacuum session should suffice. 

Plan to let the vacuum work its magic for about two to six hours, so it has enough time to remove dirt and debris from your pool floor and walls. Of course, you can also opt for a manual pool vacuum, which will do all the same things as the automatic one but will take a whole lot more effort on your part. You can manually vacuum a pool in about 45 minutes.

2. Circulate the water

In tandem with your salt cell generator, the pool pump helps keep the swimming water clean. To do so effectively, the two apparatuses must run for eight to 12 hours a day; this should give all the water in your pool enough time to pass through the pump. Automating this run time is your best bet, so you won’t forget this step.

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3. Test your pool’s water chemistry


At least once a month (potentially more often during peak usage times), check your salt levels. Since most salt chlorine generators need a pool’s salt level to be at least 3,000 ppm to function, it’s smart to keep your level between 3,000 ppm and 4,000 ppm. If necessary, slowly add more salt until you reach the desired level. 


As long as your stabilizer ingredient (aka cyanuric acid or CYA) is working correctly, you shouldn’t have to worry about chlorine levels, as the stabilizer automatically maintains them, preventing chlorine from evaporating from the water. Still, test the stabilizer weekly to double-check that nothing is amiss.


Using a test kit or test strips, measure your pH level and free chlorine levels weekly. You’ll know your pH is excellent if you receive a reading between 7.2 and 7.4. It’s not terrible, exactly, if your pH rises to, let’s say, 7.8, but just realize the higher the pH, the less your chlorine is effectively sanitizing. 

Pro Tip: You can lower your pool’s pH level by adding muriatic acid to the water, and you can raise the pH by tossing in a bit of baking soda. As for those free chlorine levels, they should register between 1 ppm and 3 ppm.


Check your pool’s alkalinity level, too. As a general rule, a good alkalinity level falls between 80 ppm and 120 ppm. And just as with the pH levels, if you need to lower alkalinity, use muriatic acid.

4. Monitor your salt cell generator for buildup

On a quarterly basis, pool owners should evaluate the condition of their salt cell generator. Here’s how to do this: Shut off the electricity, and remove the cell. Then, inspect it for any calcium buildup or other debris. If it’s clear, you’re good to go, but if not, wash off the deposits with a power washer.

Stuck-on grime still not budging? Soak the salt cell in a mix of muriatic acid and water until the muck has loosened and lifted. Reinstall the cell and … done!

5. Winterize (as needed)

Swimming pool covered with a tarp and some ice on top of it
Photo Credit: Sikander Iqbal / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Unless you live in a climate that boasts year-round warm weather, an important part of your saltwater pool maintenance is going to include closing down operations for the season. Here’s how:

  1. Clean your pool and pool equipment.
  2. Test everything (salinity, pH, alkalinity, calcium hardness, etc.).
  3. Use a pool closing kit for a no-fuss way to add winterizing chemicals.
  4. Remove and store ladders, railings, and other pool accessories.
  5. Unplug and uninstall the saltwater cell, filtration system, built-in skimmers, and pumps.
  6. Drain your pool, so the water level is beneath the built-in skimmer.
  7. Cover your pool with a manual or automatic cover made of plastic, vinyl, polyethylene, or resin.

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Your Pool Maintenance Checklist


  • Skim the pool’s surface to remove dirt and debris
  • Clean the filters, automatic skimmers, and pump basket
  • Run the pool pump for eight to 12 hours
  • Run the pool vacuum for two to six hours (when pool is in heavy use)


  • Test your pool’s pH and free chlorine levels. Make adjustments as necessary. 
  • Ensure pump and filters are working properly
  • Run the pool vacuum for two to six hours (when your pool is not in heavy use)


  • Check salinity, alkalinity, stabilizer, and calcium hardness levels. Make adjustments as necessary
  • Make sure the stabilizer is working properly


  • Uninstall salt cell and examine it for buildup
  • Power wash salt cell to remove buildup and reinstall
  • Shock your pool as needed (or once per week, if necessary)


  • Winterize pool with pool closing kit
  • Cover pool for the season

FAQ About Saltwater Pool Maintenance

What chemicals are needed to maintain a saltwater pool?

While saltwater pools use less chemicals overall than their chlorine counterparts, these pools do require:
• pool-grade salt
• cyanuric acid (a stabilizer)
• muriatic acid (for balancing)
• algaecide

What are the benefits of a saltwater pool?

Other than requiring less maintenance than a traditional chlorine pool, a saltwater pool also:
• Creates a friendly swimming environment for your skin and eyes. Since the salt cell generator releases the chlorine only as needed, there’s much less harshness in the water, due to negligible amounts of chloramines known for burning eyes and drying out skin.
• Costs less to maintain. While upfront costs may be a bit more than a chlorine pool, regular management of a saltwater pool doesn’t rely on a bunch of concentrated chemicals you have to purchase. Plus, salt is cheaper than chlorine.
• Eliminates the need to store harmful chlorine. Since you don’t have to buy liquid chlorine or chlorine tablets, you also don’t have to store the excess in and around your home. This cuts the risk of kids and pets accidentally getting into the chemical.

What are the disadvantages of a saltwater pool?

There are cons to everything, and saltwater pools are no different. Here are some disadvantages of saltwater pools:
• They’re more expensive upfront, as installing a saltwater pool system is a bit more complicated than putting in a regular chlorination system. Plus, saltwater pools need a salt chlorine generator, and that generator will need to be replaced every few years.
• They can cause corrosion of outdoor furniture, metal pool accessories, and even pool decks. This is because salt is a compound that, when interacting with certain elements, can speed up the rusting process.
• You’ll have to hire an expert repair person to fix things if any part of the salt chlorine generator breaks down, as it’s too complicated a piece of equipment for the average DIY-er.

When to Hire a Pool Care Professional

Prefer your pool maintenance to be as chill for you as floating on an inflatable chair, umbrella drink in hand? Hire a local pool care pro to take the guesswork — and general “work” — out of your saltwater pool care routine. He or she will clean your pool, test all the chemicals, and perform any necessary repairs. 

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Main Photo Credit: Tara Angkor Hotel | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

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Andréa Butler

Andréa Butler is a writer and editor. And while she hasn't been blessed with DIY skills herself, she is adept at writing and enjoys sharing home improvement tips and pool care guides for the true DIYers out there.