The lure of a sparkling swimming pool is hard to ignore, especially when summer temperatures reach their highest. But “sparkling” is the key to wanting to take a dip in that refreshing oasis—a cloudy, discolored, or downright dirty pool isn’t something anyone wants to float around in.

If you’re considering adding a pool to your property, or if you have an existing pool that needs to be remodeled, give some thought to the sanitation system you choose. Chlorine is traditional and effective, but saltwater systems are quickly growing in popularity because of their ease of use.

Not sure which system is right for you? We’ve outlined the pros and cons of chlorine pools and saltwater pools, so keep reading to learn more! Scroll to the bottom to find out why you should leave your pool maintenance to the pros.

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How Do Saltwater Pools Work?

saltwater pool with rock surround and patio furniture

Saltwater pools, despite their name, are actually chlorinated, but the way saltwater pools generate chlorine is different from a traditional sanitizing system. In a chlorine sanitizing system, the pool relies on regular chlorine treatments to stay sparkling clean.

In a saltwater pool system, the chlorine generator uses salt and electricity to make its own chlorine on an ongoing basis. This type of sanitizing system requires very little upkeep, though the upfront cost is higher than that of a chlorine system.

However, since saltwater pools use lower levels of chlorine on a continual basis instead of the high amounts of chlorine used in regular chlorine treatments and periodic shock treatments, most people find that the water in saltwater pools feels softer and less harsh.

Saltwater pools are becoming more popular in the US because of their easy upkeep and eco-friendly system design, but before you jump in, you might want to keep your options in mind. Below are some positive and negative factors of saltwater pools:

The positive

  • You’ll save on the cost of chlorine treatments.
  • Chlorine levels in saltwater pools are lower, and saltwater pools are therefore much easier on skin, eyes, hair, and swimwear.
  • Because saltwater pools barely emit chlorine gases, saltwater systems are an eco-friendly alternative to chlorine-based ones.
  • A saltwater pool only needs to be cleaned thoroughly about once a year, when it’s necessary to scrub the surfaces of the pool and inspect the saltwater chlorine generator.

The negative

  • The saltwater chlorine generator will likely cause your electric bills to climb.
  • Saltwater pool systems are more expensive to install than chlorine pools, though the average cost of operation and maintenance is lower over time.
  • Salt can be corrosive, so be sure that your pool and anything in or around it is corrosion resistant.

Saltwater pools can be great alternatives to chlorine pools. They might be a little more costly up front, but they’re comfortable, relatively low-maintenance, and eco-friendly.

How Do Chlorine Pools Work?

chlorine pool with slide

The main difference between chlorine and saltwater pools is that rather than producing their own chlorine through electrolysis, chlorine pools require regular chlorine treatments to ensure that they stay clean and safe.

Chlorine dissipates very quickly in the sun, so many pool treatments make use of slow-acting chlorine tablets or sticks that release a small but steady supply of chlorine into the pool through a feeder. It’s also possible to treat a pool with liquid chlorine by pouring the chlorine directly into the deepest part of the pool and allowing it to disperse.

The key to maintaining a chlorine pool is to keep your chemical levels balanced so that everything is safe and working properly. 

For example, a pool treatment chemical called cyanuric acid is used to prevent the chlorine in tablets and liquid treatments from dissipating so quickly—but be careful! Too much cyanuric acid can stop the chlorine from sanitizing your pool. 

Always remember to follow the label instructions on your chlorine treatments to make sure that the pH balance of your pool stays at ideal levels and that the amount of chlorine in the pool doesn’t grow too high.

With regular maintenance and care, chlorine pools will stay sparkling clean and blue all summer long.

The positive

  • Chlorine systems are less expensive to install than saltwater systems.
  • Chlorine pools have been around for so long that you won’t have any trouble finding a maintenance expert or replacement components.
  • A chlorine pool will not corrode furniture or other structures in the pool area the way that the airborne salt from a saltwater system will, so there’s no need to modify your existing pool system or install special noncorrosive materials.

The negative

  • Chlorine pools use higher levels of chlorine than saltwater pools, and the water can dry out hair and irritate eyes and skin even when the pool is properly maintained.
  • Chlorine pools require much more meticulous maintenance and regular water testing than saltwater pools do.
  • The gases from a chlorine pool system and the necessity of storing pool treatment chemicals don’t make for the most eco-friendly pool.

Chlorine pools are less expensive up front and less likely to corrode pool structures that aren’t specially made, while saltwater pools are more eco-friendly and more cost-effective in the long run. With careful planning, though, either pool system can make an excellent addition to the right home.

Why You Should Leave Pool Maintenance to the Pros

close-up image of a pool net catching a yellow leaf

With all the expense involved in owning a pool, cutting extra costs may seem like a good idea. But the reality is that a pool is a lot like your house: you have to take care of it to protect your investment. Regular and preventative maintenance is part of that.

If you think you’re up for handling your own pool maintenance, here’s what you can expect to do on a weekly basis (if not more often):

  • Remove leaves and any other debris floating in the pool, and empty the skimmer basket.
  • Vacuum the floor of the pool and use a stiff brush to remove dirt and algae from the walls of the pool.
  • Test the water and adjust chemicals as necessary (this should be done two to three times per week during the summer).
  • Service the filter and pump system.

If you live in a part of the country where swimming outdoors is not a year-round activity, you’ll also need to winterize and close the pool at the end of the summer and open it again in the spring. These tasks are typically more labor intensive.

This may not seem overwhelming on paper, but schedules get busy, and finding an hour or two to devote to your pool several times each week can be easier said than done. That’s why hiring a pro is your best bet.

Pool professionals have seen it all, and they’re experts when it comes to balancing chemicals, catching problems with pump and filter systems before they become expensive disasters, and finding ways to make your pool more efficient. On top of all that, the pros can usually knock out standard maintenance tasks in a fraction of the time they would normally take you.

The Bottom Line

Whether you decide on a saltwater or chlorine system for your pool, the important thing is that the pool stays clean. And in that respect, you can’t go wrong with whatever you decide. Saltwater and chlorine systems are both effective, so you’ll need to think primarily about the initial investment you’re comfortable making.

Work with a professional pool company for all jobs pertaining to your pool, including weekly maintenance tasks. And to make sure you’re hiring the best of the best, work with a Best Pick pool company.

Our Best Picks are fully vetted on an annual basis for quality service and superior customer satisfaction. We verify that each Best Pick company carries all state-required licenses and insurance every year, and companies must maintain their superior ratings with us to stay in the Best Pick program.

Owning a pool should be more fun than work, and when you hire a Best Pick, you can relax knowing that the hard work will be done right—we guarantee it.