Salt Water Pool vs Chlorine? You Came To The Right Place!


This website is for swimming pool owners, people who may be considering building a swimming pool and others who “need to know” the best and most cost-effective ways to maintain their swimming pools, in order to keep them clean, safe and “sparkling clear.”

All source references are noted by numbers in parentheses (#). We encourage you to review the references to obtain more information.

Swimming pools are wonderful sources of recreation, exercise, sport and relaxation. (1) To ensure that swimming pools are safe and to protect swimmers from water-borne germs and bacteria,  swimming pools must be properly chlorinated and maintained  -- specifically,  chlorine levels (to kill germs that could make swimmers sick) and  pH (a measure of acidity/alkalinity). (2) The proper chlorine and pH levels work together to maintain safe swimming pool water. (3)

To understand how important chlorine and pH levels together are, let’s look at how they work together:  Chlorine kills germs.  But, the effectiveness of chlorine changes as pH changes. 

For example, at a pH of 7 the amount of available chlorine is 70%.  But at a pH of 8 the available chlorine is only 20%! (4) Additionally, the pH of a swimmer’s body is between 7.2 and 7.8.  If the pH of the pool water is out of the pH range of the swimmer’s body, it can cause skin eye irritation and the germ-killing effectiveness of chlorine is reduced. (2)

Chlorine is very effective in killing germs and is the most widely used chemical for swimming pools. Recommended ranges for chlorine concentrations in swimming pools are between 1 part per million (ppm) and 3 parts per million. (2)  The maximum chlorine level recommended by most health departments is 5 ppm. Keeping chlorine levels at the right concentration helps to ensure a pleasant swimming experience.

To keep the swimming pool water at the right pH and chlorine concentration, swimming pool water needs to be regularly tested and monitored.  Small, easy to use testing devices can be used for residential swimming pools.  Larger, commercial-sized swimming pools may be equipped with continuous monitoring equipment.  Generally, residential pool owners should check their pH and chlorine levels weekly, and more often in the warmer months. Inexpensive, hand-held, easy-to-use test kits are readily available at all swimming pool supply stores.

In view of the importance of chlorine concentrations and pH ranges, the key question is: What is the best way to get chlorine into the swimming pool water and maintain a proper pH? 

The three most widely used chlorine products to for the treatment and maintenance of swimming pool water are:

1.    Liquid chlorine bleach.

2.    Chlorine tablets.

3.    Salt to chlorine generators.

The following sections of this website will review the pros and cons of each of these three methods of swimming pool chlorination.

IMPORTANT WARNING:  If you do not properly maintain a salt/chlorine generator or your pool chemistry when using a salt/chlorine generator, you can destroy your pool’s interior finish, decking and pool equipment!  Salt water pools need a great deal of care. (14)

Each section will also discuss other chemicals that are needed to optimize the effectiveness of chlorine, maintenance requirements and the long-term, relative costs of each method.

Is Liquid Chlorine Better than Salt Water Pools?

The most widely used, time-tested and “proven” swimming pool water treatment method is liquid chlorine bleach, commonly referred to as “liquid chlorine” or “bleach.”  The technical name for bleach is “sodium hypochlorite.” Typically, the bleach is sold at swimming pool supply stores in refillable, plastic jugs.  For most residential swimming pools, liquid chlorine bleach is the swimming pool water treatment of choice due to its proven effectiveness, safety, convenience, low cost and the fact that when used regularly, it gives the swimming pool water a beautiful, visually “sparkling” clarity that is unmatched by any other method. Read more


Are Chlorine Tablets Better than Salt Water Generators?

Chlorine tablets are solid forms of chlorine.  Chlorine tablets have different shapes.  Some are shaped like a hockey puck; others are shaped like a stick; others are granular. For this discussion we will use the term chlorine tablet to generically describe solid chlorine in its various shapes and forms. Some chlorine tablets have only an active ingredient for sanitizing the swimming pool.  These chlorine tablets are referred to as unstabilized chlorine tablets.  Chlorine tablets contain calcium hypochlorite as the active chlorine sanitizer.  Calcium hypochlorite reacts differently with swimming pool water than liquid chlorine bleach, as  Read more


Are Salt Chlorine Generators Better Than Liquid Chlorine?

Salt/chlorine generators are a method which employs both technology and traditional chemical use to sanitize swimming pools.  In the interest of providing comprehensive information regarding swimming pool treatment methods, salt/chlorine generators are included; however,  salt/chlorine generators are not recommended for residential swimming pools due to reported problems related to high operating costs, corrosion, salt damage to pool structures and equipment, lack of reliability/high failure rates, environmental and health issues. (16, 17). Swimming pools utilizing salt/chlorine generators are sometimes   Read more

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