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How to Maintain a Saltwater Pool in Florida

How to Maintain a Saltwater Pool in Florida

There are some key differences between maintaining a saltwater pool and a traditional chlorine pool. You’ll still have to maintain your pool water balance and circulation as you would with a regular pool. However, you will need to be extra careful about things like calcium buildup and high pH levels in your saltwater generator.

The 7 main components of salt water pool maintenance are:

  1. Add the right quantity of salt
  2. Maintain proper water circulation
  3. How to prevent calcium buildup and erosion
  4. Check your salt cell every 3 months
  5. Maintain the pH and chlorine levels of your water
  6. Shock, clean, scrub, and vacuum your pool every week

You can add salt to your pool and it will turn into chlorine. Instead of adding chlorine to your pool water, you can add salt that will produce chlorine.


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1. Add the Right Amount of Salt to Your Pool

You just have to add salt to your pool water once or twice a year, or when you start using your pool. That’s because the salt you put in stays there – it doesn’t go away. Saltwater systems use that salt to make chlorine, which goes back into the water. You might need to add more salt if it rains a lot or if you add fresh water because that can make the salt less concentrated.

Make sure the salt you use is at least 99% pure and check your pool’s manual before adding any. Then, turn on the pool pump to mix in the salt.

How Much Salt to Add to Your Pool

To get your salt levels right, aim for between 2,700 and 3,400 parts per million (PPM). Your pool’s manual will tell you the best range. Use a calculator to figure out how much salt you need.

For a 20,000-gallon pool, you’ll need about 568 pounds of salt when you’re first adding it. That’s around 14 bags weighing 40 pounds each.

It’s better to add too little salt at first and then test it than to add too much. So if you’re not sure, start with less and check again before adding more.

How to Add Salt to Your Pool

Start your pool’s filter system. Pour the salt into your pool’s deep end. Push the salt with a pool brush around the bottom of your pool. The salt will dissolve better in the water if you push it. Allow your pump and filters to run continuously for 24 hours to distribute the salt evenly throughout the pool.

Use a salinity tester, or test strips to measure the salinity of your water. If the salt levels are still too low, continue to add more. If the level of salt is too high (5,000 ppm) you will need to dilute the pool water to reduce salinity.

When the salt level has reached the desired level, the generator should be turned on.

2. Maintain Proper Saltwater Circulation in Your Pool

If your pool water doesn’t flow properly, it might have too much salt in some spots. Check the salt levels with a test to be sure. Test the water a few times to make sure you get the same results each time. If you find big differences in salt levels, point your return jets toward those areas to help circulate the water better. Keep your pump and filters running for at least eight hours every day to keep the water moving smoothly.

3. Prevent Erosion and Calcium Buildup

Salt can build up around your pool, especially from splashing. This can wear away at the coping, especially if it’s made of soft stone like limestone. Make sure to clean the area around your pool regularly to prevent this. If you splash out water, it can leave salty residue on the pool liner, so give that a rinse too. If your pool has an automatic cover, use a hose to clean the metal tracks and hardware every few weeks.

If you see white flakes on the pool surface, it’s usually not salt but calcium carbonate. This happens because of pH buildup and scale accumulation in your salt cell. It might show up when you start your saltwater generator at the beginning of the season, but it usually goes away after a few cycles. Saltwater generators can also collect calcium, so avoid using shocks that contain it, like calypso shock, and clean your salt cell regularly.

Keep an eye on your pool’s pH levels and balance them regularly.

4. Check Your Salt Cell Every 3 Months

Even if you don’t see any white calcium flakes, you might still have salt buildup in your pool. This buildup can happen faster if your pool’s pH levels are high or if the water is too hot.

To get rid of the buildup, check your salt cell every three months. You can clean it either with a hose or by hand. If there are deposits, you can use a solution of muriatic acid diluted with water to remove them. Follow any cleaning instructions that come with your saltwater generator.

First, make sure all pool equipment and the saltwater generator are turned off. Unplug the generator, then unscrew and remove the salt cell. Look for any flaky or white spots on the metal plates.

If you don’t see any deposits, check again in a few months. If there are visible deposits, carefully remove them by hand, avoiding any forced entry into the cell. Rinse the cell thoroughly with a hose to remove any remaining residue.

If the deposits still won’t come off, you can try a muriatic acid solution. Mix one part acid with five parts of water. Wear gloves and a mask for safety. Pour the solution into the salt cell, cap it, and let it foam for 10 minutes. When you’re done, pour the solution into a bucket, wash the cell with a hose, and then reassemble the system.

Be careful not to spill the acid solution on the ground or pipes, as it can cause damage over time.

5. Keep Your Water Balanced, Especially pH and Chlorine

These levels are important regardless of whether you have a pool with salt water or not, but there are nuances and challenges that you will face when it comes to your pH and levels of free chlorine.

There are instances when your system may not work correctly. As we have already mentioned, saltwater systems naturally produce high pH levels. It is important to test and balance your water, particularly your pH and chloride levels, regularly.

Test Free Chlorine Levels Every Week

Your saltwater pool will be properly sanitized if you maintain a free chlorine level at or below 3 PPM. While your salt water generator will tell you the amount of chlorine in the water it is worth doing a 15-second test every week to ensure it is measuring it correctly.

Use a liquid testing kit or test strips every week to measure the amount of chlorine in your water. If you discover that your water’s chlorine level is not what it should be, adjust your generator.

You can keep your chlorine level in the pool slightly higher than 3 PPM. This is because the saltwater generator will produce and distribute chlorine evenly in your pool.

Balance Your pH Levels Weekly

In a saltwater pool, the pH can be too high because the saltwater generator tends to raise it. High pH levels can lead to eye and skin creation and cause scale buildup on pool equipment. It’s important to test and balance the pH every week. If you need to lower the pH, you can use either muriatic acid or a pH decrease.

If you need more guidance on lowering the pH in your pool, take a look at our guide.

Also, make sure to double-check the run time of your generator. Running the system too long can contribute to the high pH. Keep your system running for no more than 10 hours per day

Manually Test Salinity Levels Each Month

Most saltwater generators display the saltiness of your water. However, it’s wise to manually test the salt level to make sure your system is working properly and not giving an inaccurate reading.

Test your salt level once a week during pool season. Also, check it after heavy rainfall or if you’ve drained a lot of water from the pool. While saltwater test strips are an option, we suggest using a digital salt reader for more accuracy.

Test and Balance Alkalinity, Stabilizer, and Calcium Monthly

You should also test the calcium, alkalinity, and stabilizer levels each month.

  • Total Alkalinity: Total alkalinity is a buffer that protects your pH from fluctuations. Because running the salt water generator increases pH naturally, total alkalinity will have less impact on pH. Your alkalinity should ideally be between 100-150 PPM. It’s okay if you have alkalinity levels that are slightly lower than 100 PPM, as long as your pH is high. 
  • Cyanuric acid: Also called CYA or stabilizer, your cyanuric acid levels should be between 30 to 50 PPM. Some saltwater pool owners maintain CYA levels around 80 ppm. This is especially helpful for those who have difficulty maintaining a sufficient chlorine level.
  • Calcium hardness: The calcium hardness should range between 200-400 ppm. Calcium hardness can cause scale to build up or damage your cell if you have a high level. You’ll have to drain your pool or dilute the water with fresh water if your calcium hardness level is too high.

6. Shock Your Pool Every Week

Adding a concentrated dose of chlorine to your pool water is called shocking your pool. This process helps to kill bacteria and algae while refreshing the active free chlorine.

If your saltwater generator has a boost setting, you can add more chlorine using that feature. It’s a good idea to use this setting weekly to eliminate contaminants. You can also use a non-chlorine shock to maintain active chlorine levels.

For algae problems, add more chlorine using granular Dichlor Shock.

If you use your generator frequently or experience a storm, it’s recommended to shock your pool every week. Test the water afterward and adjust any necessary chemicals.

7. Skim, Brush, and Vacuum Every Week

You’ll need to clean your pool and ensure that your water is clear. Once a week use a pool vacuum, skimmer net, and pool brush to clean the water. Here, a robotic pool cleaner is useful.


Frequently Asked Questions About Salt Water Pool Maintenance

Want more information on how to maintain your saltwater pool? Answers to some of the most common questions.

How Is a Salt Water Pool Different From a Traditional Chlorine Pool?

Both chlorinated pools and saltwater pools use chlorine to sanitize the water. In regular chlorine pools, chlorine is added directly to the water. However, in saltwater pools, salt is used to create chlorine through a process in a device called a salt chlorinator. This device converts salt into chlorine using electricity and pool-grade sea salt.

Saltwater pools offer additional benefits such as a smoother feel to the water and reduced irritation.

What Happens if You Add Too Much Salt to a Salt Water Pool?

You may have to replace your salt generator if your salinity level reaches 5,000 ppm. You can reduce the salt level in your pool by adding more fresh water and partially draining it.

Is It Easier to Maintain a Salt Water Pool?

A saltwater pool is generally easier to maintain. A saltwater generator eliminates the need to store and add chlorine. Your generator will do the rest once you have added the correct amount of salt to your swimming pool. If you don’t drain the pool, then you only need to add salt annually. You will need to monitor the condition of both your salt water generator and salt cell.

How Often Should a Salt Water Pool Be Serviced?

Every three months, you should clean the salt cell and inspect it. If your saltwater generator requires maintenance, it is best to leave this work to a professional.

Are Salt Water Pools High Maintenance?

Saltwater pools require less to maintain than a chlorine pool. You will still have to balance and test pool chemicals. You will still have to balance pH, CYA, and other chemicals.

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