Can You Convert a Chlorine Pool to Saltwater?

Can you convert a chlorine pool to salt? Though the simple answer to this question is “yes” there are numerous caveats that must be taken into account to convert a chlorine pool to saltwater. First, a quick chemistry lesson for pool owners and operators. Salt is made up of the chemical elements sodium and chloride, which are in turn formed from chlorine. Pools with saltwater generators essentially convert dissolved salt within the water into chlorine, which then acts to sanitize the pool’s water. However, some factors should be considered before choosing to convert a chlorine pool to saltwater.

How to Convert a Chlorine Pool to Saltwater

Many pool owners are choosing to convert chlorine pools to salt-based ones. This is partly due to the cost of maintaining a traditionally chlorinated pool. The process involved in conversion from chlorine to saltwater pools is fairly straightforward.

There are five basic steps to convert a chlorine pool to saltwater: 

  1. Installing salt chlorinator: This device can convert chlorine in a pool to salt to keep it clear and sanitary; as there are numerous types, a pool operator must consider the best model for their pool.
  2. Adding salt: After installing the chlorinator, purified salt needs to be added that converts into chlorine; pool salt specifically should be added according to instructions, including the size of the pool.
  3. Adjusting chlorinator: Once the chlorinator is connected, its control board should be adjusted according to the manufacturer’s instructions to convert salt in the pool to chlorine in the right amounts.
  4. Running pump: With the salt chlorinator attached, it’s best to run it for long enough with the pump to ensure enough salt turns into chlorine. For most pools, 48 hours will be sufficient, though smaller pools should take less time while larger ones may take more.
  5. Monitoring chlorinator: Converting a chlorine pool to salt doesn’t mean the chemistry can now be ignored; the chlorinator requires regular attention to ensure chlorine levels and the pool’s other chemistry is stable.

For pool owners looking to convert a chlorine pool to saltwater, it’s important not only to choose the right chlorinator but also to look at what preparations are needed to convert a chlorine pool to salt.

Preparing for Saltwater Conversion

Before installing a chlorinator to convert a chlorine pool to saltwater, it’s important to prepare the pool itself. Additionally, understanding how this salt is introduced into the pool’s water needs to be considered. Things to consider include first draining the chlorine pool, testing the water and taking precautions regarding the pool’s liner.


When looking to convert a chlorine pool to saltwater, it’s not necessary to drain it. Yet if an antibacterial agent is currently being used in the pool, it’s probably best to drain it. This again involves chemistry. Commonly, polyhexamethylene biguanide (PHMB) is used in swimming pool sanitizers due to its antibacterial and antiviral properties. While PHMB is used for wound care, post-operative cleansing and cleaning solutions for contacts, it’s incompatible with chlorine.

When pool operators convert a chlorine pool to saltwater, this agent will keep the pool’s chemical from being properly balanced. This is due to the saltwater, which will have chlorine in it, making it less effective when converting the chlorine pool. To salt the pool properly, the water must either be drained and refilled with freshwater, or else it must be burned out with chlorine. Removing the PHMB with chlorine will inevitably turn the pool water white, after which it must sit for several days before it dissipates.  


Again, it involves chemistry to convert a chlorine pool to saltwater, so it’s important first to test the pool’s water. Testing must be done to establish a baseline for alkalinity, calcium hardness, free chlorine, heavy metals, pH, salt and stabilizer (cyanuric acid). If anything needs to be added, it must be done in a certain order.

Pool chemistry should be adjusted in this sequence: 

  • chlorine
  • alkalinity
  • pH
  • stabilizer
  • calcium hardness
  • metals

This series of changes to convert a chlorine pool to salt is significant, as each chemical transformation y will likely influence other measurements. As with any usual adjustment to balance pool chemistry, these adjustments should be done over a certain period, so timing must be taken into account.

Liner Precautions

For pools with vinyl liners, it’s not necessary to take any precautions to convert a chlorine pool to salt. using salt chlorinator system for a pool will result in lower chlorine levels that will likely prolong the liner’s life. Yet as many inground pools feature galvanized walls, should the liner leak it will allow saltwater to seep into the opening, causing corrosion. When wanting to convert a chlorine pool to saltwater for one that’s above ground, there may also be a problem. If it has metal parts, the saltwater will rust it over time, though if parts are made of composite material, there shouldn’t be a problem.

Why Convert a Chlorine Pool to Saltwater? 

One reason many homeowners convert chlorine pools to saltwater is due to chemicals called chloramines. These chemicals form in swimming pools when disinfectant containing ammonia is put into the water. They result from a reaction between biological material like insects in the pool, along with urine, saliva, perspiration and mucus from swimmers. Chloramines won’t disinfect water like chlorine, so their presence in pool water is undesirable.

These chloramines cause irritation to swimmers’ eyes, respiratory systems and skin. Additionally, they build up in the air around the pool, which can cause coughing or even asthma attacks. This is especially true for indoor pools that lack sufficient ventilation. Those frequently exposed to chlorine can also develop a greater sensitivity to the chemical, which can lead to dry or itchy skin, hives and rashes.

Some people even develop allergic reactions to chlorine after being exposed to too much of the chemical. Those with chronic respiratory issues like allergic rhinitis or asthma often find these symptoms worsen when swimming in chlorinated water. It makes sense for those who suffer negatively to convert a chlorine pool to saltwater, if just to alleviate the discomfort.

Reasons to convert a chlorine pool to a saltwater pool include:

  • Cost: Because chlorine levels are set by the chlorinator, pool operators will require fewer costly chemicals.
  • Harshness: Tends to be less harsh on eyes and skin, causing less irritation.
  • Maintenance: Requires less maintenance as the chlorinator generates chlorine from the water, negating the need to purchase and add it, though the water still needs to be checked regularly.
  • Safer: Tends to be safer for anyone with respiratory issues as saltwater pools don’t emit harsh chemicals into the surrounding air.
  • Smell: Doesn’t have the strong chemical odor of chlorinated pools.

In addition to these factors, converting a chlorine pool to saltwater also makes the water gentler while significantly lowering maintenance costs.

Gentler Water

The salt within the water reduces irritation to skin and eyes from chlorine in the pool. Although salt chlorinators produce the same type of chlorine as traditionally chlorinated swimming pools, they don’t cause such negative reactions. Instead of having to add chlorine periodically, the chlorinator helps keep the water balanced and chlorine levels stable. This inhibits chloramines from forming.

When converting a chlorine pool to saltwater, its salinity is close to that of human tears. This is why saltwater pools won’t hurt swimmers’ eyes, while also reducing dryness of hair and skin after swimming. But it’s not like swimming in the ocean either, which has over ten times the amount of salt. Ideally, a saltwater pool will have a salt content from about 2700 to 3400 parts per million (ppm), compared to 35,000 ppm of salt in the ocean.

Less Maintenance & Lower Costs 

Though mentioned briefly, a major factor many pool owners cite when they want to convert a chlorine pool to saltwater is the lower maintenance costs. These expenses are often a lot less. However, it’s not as simple as throwing in some salt every now and again, though the work involved in maintaining a saltwater swimming pool is also considerably less.  

One of the main benefits when converting a chlorine pool to saltwater is that there’s a lesser need for chemicals. While the upfront cost of the salt chlorinator presents a fairly substantial initial expense, the savings in chemicals needed for a chlorine pool is significant. Yet it’s still important to keep the water balanced, so water testing kits or strips are still necessary. Generally, however, the costs involved in a saltwater pool conversion will be lower overall compared to a chlorine pool.

Ask for Advice from Halogen Supply

Halogen Supply Company is a distributor of swimming pool supplies and equipment, with over eighty years of experience in the industry. For a pool owner looking to convert a chlorine pool to a saltwater pool, understanding what’s involved will help make the decision easier. If you’re considering making this conversion to a saltwater pool, the swimming pool experts at Halogen Supply can help educate on the best solutions. Contact us for more information about this and any other swimming pool queries.