Chlorine vs. Saltwater: Understanding Your Choices as a Pool Owner

The greatest hassle of pool ownership is keeping the water clean. The last thing any pool owner wants is for their pool to be filled with bacteria that could make their family sick or other organisms that could turn their pool into a disgusting green swamp. 

The two most common methods for treating water are chlorine and saltwater pools. Each has advantages and disadvantages, and knowing which one is the right solution for you is all about understanding the differences between the two.


Chlorine is the classic solution for keeping pool water clean. Pool owners choosing chlorine as their cleaning agent have to purchase chlorine tablets to add either to the pool’s pump unit or floating disbursement tools that release the chlorine from the tablet into the water.

Pool owners who choose chlorine have to test the water’s pH level to ensure it hasn’t become harmful, and the structure and systems of the pool itself require more maintenance to guard against the damaging effects of chlorine. Chlorine users should budget anywhere from $50-$60 a month for chlorine tablets and other tools.

Saltwater Pools

Instead of chlorine tablets, saltwater pools use dissolved salt to keep pool water clean. These pools use a chlorinator that breaks down the salt to separate the sodium and chlorine atoms, then distributes the chlorine into the pool. Even though chlorine is ultimately what cleanses the water, there are fewer chloramine compounds that create the chlorine smell and cause irritation in saltwater pools. 

Balancing pH levels and other maintenance associated with chlorine tablets is not needed with saltwater pools, and the water in the pool with not leave skin feeling dry and irritated as chlorine can. In fact, the water in a saltwater pool often feels silkier than chlorinated pool water.

The salinity of a saltwater pool is nothing near the salinity of ocean water, and the amount of salt needed to keep the system working will depend on how large the pool is and how much water is lost from draining and splashing or gained through the rain. Typically, saltwater pool owners spend about $20-$30 on their saltwater cleansing system each season.

Chlorine and saltwater are both effective ways to keep water clean, but depending on your lifestyle and how much work you want to put in to pool maintenance during the season, one or the other might be a better fit for you.