Saltwater vs Chlorine Pools: Which One Is Right for You?

Saltwater and chlorine systems are two of the most common pool sanitization systems. Learn about the pros and cons of each system and find some new alternatives to each.

By: Mina Hochberg and Peter Walsh

Pools are made up of many parts but it's the sanitization systems that keep the water clean and healthy. Saltwater and chlorine systems are two of the most common pool systems, but how do you determine which one is right for you? Take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of each, plus explore some new technology in pool systems.

contemporary backyard with pool

Sleek, Streamlined Swimming Pool

Thanks to its sleek design, this stunning swimming pool blends seamlessly with the horizon. In turn? This feature complements, rather than competes with, it's environment.

Photo by: Design Imaging Studios

Design Imaging Studios

Saltwater Pools

Contrary to what some might think, saltwater systems are not chlorine-free. When you opt for a saltwater or saline pool, your pool’s filtering system comes with a chlorine generator. You add pool-grade salt to the water and the generator converts the salt into chlorine, which is then sent back out to the pool to sanitize the water. In the end, even with a saltwater pool you are swimming in chlorinated water — but it’s a lot less chlorine than you would have with a traditional chlorine system. The water will have a softer quality than water in chlorine pools.


There are several pros to a saltwater swimming pool system, mainly due to the decreased amount of chemicals needed.

Contemporary Swimming Pool and Outdoor Kitchen

Grass-Edge Swimming Pool

The sleek, contemporary pool has a zero edge and flows seamlessly with the lawn. The outdoor kitchen features a bar, comfortable sitting area and flatscreen TVs, while a hot tub is the perfect spot to relax in this chic backyard.

Photo by: Lifestyle Production Group

Lifestyle Production Group

Fewer Harsh Chemicals

One of the major benefits of saltwater systems is that they have significantly lower levels of chlorine than traditional chlorine systems and don’t require harsh chemicals. As a result, the water is gentler on your skin, eyes and hair, and it does not fade swimwear or towels the way that chlorine pools do. This might appeal to avid swimmers or parents who wish to avoid exposing children to chlorine. Saltwater pools also do not have the chlorine scent that some people dislike.

Lower Maintenance

In addition to health factors, saltwater pools are much lower maintenance than chlorine systems and thus more user-friendly. You don't need algaecides because the system naturally helps prevent algae from growing on the walls or in the water. The chlorine generator does the work for you. “Saltwater pools require less maintenance since the chlorine generator will provide a slow introduction of chlorine versus using traditional chlorine methods that can cause a drastic increase of chlorine at one time,” says Stewart Vernon, COO and founder of America’s Swimming Pool Company. “You will still need to use balancing chemicals, but this will be less compared to using traditional chlorine.”

Cheaper to Maintain

Pool-grade salt also costs a lot less than chlorine and other chemicals that are needed for chlorine pools. So when it comes to day-to-day maintenance, saltwater systems are both easier and cheaper to maintain.

Swimming Pool and Patio

Swimming Pool and Stone Patio

The mild climate of Sardinia can be fully enjoyed at this villa with its multiple outdoor areas including shady verandas, sunny patios and a heated swimming pool

Photo by: Immobilsarda, a member of Luxury Portfolio International

Immobilsarda, a member of Luxury Portfolio International


Saltwater pools offer a better swimming environment, and while it might feel better on the skin and does not cause eye irritation, it's not without problems.

Saltwater is Corrosive

Saltwater is corrosive to metal and tends to corrode any metal objects near the pool such as outdoor furniture and even nearby grills. The salt also corrodes natural stone, so any paving made of natural materials near the pool that gets splashed will eventually break down unless it's properly sealed to keep out the water. Discuss the pros and cons with your pool professional but know that not every pool company recommends using a salt system. If you do decide to invest in a saltwater pool, remember that some pool parts and components might be made of materials that are susceptible to corrosion from salt, such as pool heaters, ladders, diving boards and handrails. Vinyl pools are often designed with metal walls that may experience saltwater corrosion, and plaster finishes on concrete pools may also be susceptible to saltwater. Fiberglass pools are the most resistant to wear and tear from saltwater exposure.

Backyard Infinity Pool

Italian Villa With Infinity Pool

This Italian villa's backyard garden area has an infinity pool that offers amazing views of Lake Maggiore.

High Upfront Costs

While there are many cost benefits to maintaining a saltwater pool, the upfront costs are significant compared to chlorine pools. Purchasing and installing a chlorine generator can cost anywhere from $500 to $2,000 and up, and the equipment will likely need to be replaced in three to seven years. Repairing a chlorine generator can also get pricey, as you will need a licensed professional to handle repairs rather than taking a DIY approach.

Increased Energy Bills

Another long-term cost to keep in mind is that you will have to run your pool filter 24/7 to generate enough chlorine to clean the pool water. This will increase your energy bills.

Chlorine Pools

Outdoor Sectional Beside Pool

Mediterranean Backyard Pool

An outdoor sectional underneath a yellow umbrella provides plenty of comfy seating in the shade. Round wooden tables in various sizes work as stools or surfaces for drinks.

Photo by: Warwick P Hunt

Warwick P Hunt

Chlorine systems rely on larger amounts of chlorine to sanitize your pool water. Unlike saltwater systems, which convert salt into chlorine, chlorine systems require that you manually add store-bought chlorine to the water. Chlorine systems must be tested once or twice a week to maintain the proper chemical balance in your water. These tests measure pH levels, alkalinity and levels of sanitizers like chlorine and bromine. You will need to regularly add chlorine and other chemicals depending on the chemical balance.


With lower upfront costs and non-corrosive elements, chlorine systems are appealing to many.

Fewer Upfront Costs

Chlorine systems have very few upfront costs compared to saltwater systems. There is no need to purchase expensive equipment such as a chlorine generator, and you can perform all water tests and chemical balancing on your own without the need for a professional. “For a chlorine pool, it is inexpensive to install an inline or offline chlorinator that houses the chlorine tablets, or simply put them inside a floating chlorinator,” says Brian Farrell, franchise owner from Pinch a Penny in Mansfield, Texas. Chlorine systems are also fairly straightforward compared to saltwater systems, which rely on a complex chlorine generator, so it’s easier to perform DIY maintenance.

Not Corrosive

Unlike saltwater systems, which cause corrosion to metal over time, chlorine does not cause any major damage to pool parts. This means you won’t need to worry about replacing components due to corrosion down the line.

Round pool in lawn surrounded by bushes and trees.

Round Swimming Pool With Lawn and Pool House

Spectacular flowering plants provide a sense of privacy and retreat in this outdoor idyll, where flagstones surround a pond-like pool attended by a half-timbered pool house in the shade.


While there are benefits to a chlorine system, there are also things to be aware of regarding the chemicals needed to keep a clean and sanitary swimming pool.

Irritating Chemicals

Chlorine pools rely on chemicals to keep the water sanitized and some of these chemicals come with certain health risks. Chlorine is known to irritate your skin, eyes and throat, and it can dry out skin and bleach swimwear. Some people simply dislike the smell of chlorine.

Buying and Checking Chemicals

While there are no major upfront costs to a chlorine system, chlorine pools require buying a steady supply of chlorine and other chemicals to balance your pool chemistry. This can add up over time, more so than the cost of salt for saltwater pools. You will also need to handle the chemicals when adding them to the pool, which may be unappealing to people who prefer avoiding exposure to harsh chemicals. Owners may also find maintaining a chlorine pool to be more cumbersome since you must perform weekly tasks such as checking the chemical balance, adding chlorine tablets and “shocking” the pool.

Chemical Storage

Another factor to keep in mind is that chlorine must be stored in a safe location, which may be especially tricky for people with young children or limited space.

Other Pool Systems

Flagstone patio surrounding pool with townhouse in background.

New Orleans Pool and Patio With Palm Trees and French Quarter Style

This historic townhouse's spectacular outdoor space features wraparound balconies over looking a Barcelona-style pool and pool house with romantic topiary and flagstone. White chaises and umbrellas complete the scene.

UV System

If you’re looking for options beyond saltwater and chlorine systems, you may want to consider a UV system to sanitize your pool. This system relies on UV bulbs to kill bacteria, algae and viruses in your water. It still requires some chlorine to help with sanitization, but it’s a lot less than a traditional chlorine pool. The UV light is housed in a chamber to eliminate direct exposure, so you don’t need to worry about harmful UV effects. The reduced presence of chemicals makes this a better choice when it comes to health risks, but you will need to pay upfront costs to install the UV system.

Ozone System

Another option is an ozone system, which uses ozone gas to destroy bacteria, viruses and other contaminants. The system is typically used in tandem with chlorine or saltwater systems, but it requires fewer chemicals and less overall maintenance. However, you will need to invest in some equipment upfront and you also need to ensure the ozone gas is properly contained to avoid direct exposure.

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