Get exclusive deals, discounts up to 40%, and hot tub & pool care advice.

Home Pools Pool Chemicals The Ultimate Guide to Using a Salt Water Pool Chlorinator

The Ultimate Guide to Using a Salt Water Pool Chlorinator

Discover the benefits of saltwater pools over chlorine. Learn about chlorinators for efficient maintenance and quick pool setup. Dive in now!

If you have a saltwater pool, then you must learn how to use your chlorinator

Saltwater pools are different from traditional chlorine pools because they do not have the same level of chemicals as a standard pool and require more care to keep them clean and healthy for swimming.

In this article, we will discuss what a chlorinator does, how it works, and some tips on caring for yours so that you can enjoy your new saltwater pool for years to come.

What is a salt water pool chlorinator?

A salt water chlorinator is a device that automatically dispenses chlorine into your pool.

The most popular type of saltwater pool disinfection system, called an SWG (or “salt generator”), works by converting ordinary table salt in the surrounding air to pure chlorine using electrolysis technology. It is a popular choice because it can be used for both swimming pools and spas without the need to modify components like you would with other types of salt systems.

How to use a Salt Water Pool Chlorinator

Anatomy of a salt water generator

The saltwater pool chlorinator consists of three basic parts: the cell, the cation conductivity controller, and a chlorine contact chamber.

The Cell

A cell is the part of a salt water pool chlorinator that generates chlorine using electrolysis technology. It does this by passing an electrical current through table salt in the surrounding air, creating pure chlorine gas and caustic soda (sodium hydroxide). 

The cation conductivity controller

The cation conductivity controller measures how much sodium chloride there is in the saltwater pool chlorinator’s cell. It then sends a signal to the electrolysis cell, telling it when and how much chlorine to generate for your pool or spa. 

Chlorine contact chamber

The chlorine contact chamber is an air-tight container with a vent that emits pure chlorine gas. This container also contains negative oxygen ions, which are unstable molecules of oxygen. When these molecules come into contact with positively charged chloride ion (Cl), they join together to form hypochlorous acid — which then becomes the germ-killing disinfectant in your pool. 

How to use a Salt Water Pool Chlorinator

How do salt water chlorinators work?

A saltwater chlorinator works very similarly to other types of pool chlorinators. 

They are automated devices that add chlorine into your swimming pool on a schedule based on how much you use it and what kind of water your pool is. This makes it so you don’t have to add chlorine yourself every day or even multiple times a day when hosting many swimmers in the water. 

The salt water chlorinator can also be programmed with a timer to allow you to maintain your pool’s chlorine levels based on how much use it gets.

Maintenance tips for salt water chlorinators

Why salt concentration is important

The salt concentration in your pool is important because it can affect how often you need to replace the chlorine and other chemicals that keep your water sanitized. The more concentrated the salt, the longer before you will need to change out those chemicals since they are absorbed into them instead of sitting at the top of the swimming pool as traditional chlorine does. On the flip side, if the salt concentration is too low it can cause problems because there isn’t enough chemical being absorbed to keep your pool sanitized.

Routine maintenance and cleaning

Saltwater chlorinators are more sensitive to causing issues with the salt levels in your pool, so routine cleaning is important. 

You will need to replace or clean out any filters inside of them regularly as well as ensure they have enough water flow through them and that there isn’t debris blocking anything up. To avoid damage you should also always make sure the pool is covered when not in use and that the pump itself isn’t causing any issues. If you take care of your pool’s saltwater chlorinator, it will go a long way to keeping your swimming pool safe for swimmers while also saving time on maintenance and chemical changes.

How to use a Salt Water Pool Chlorinator

Why calcium levels are important to a saltwater pool

Calcium levels in your pool are important to a saltwater chlorinator because they affect the efficiency of its use. 

Saltwater pools have higher calcium concentrations than other swimming pools do, which means that you should be more aware of this when dealing with any problems related to your system. If it is too low or even worse if there isn’t enough water flow for it to work, you could be facing many issues with your saltwater pool (e.g. corrosion, poor sanitization).

Pool filtration systems and electrical storms

It’s also important to note that saltwater chlorinators are more sensitive than traditional chlorine systems, so pool filtration systems and electrical storms can cause issues for them. If you have an issue with your filter system or if there is a sudden change in the weather that affects electricity near your swimming pool it could cause problems with your water chemistry which could lead to many other issues (e.g., discoloration, corrosion, etc.).

Salt chlorine generators and polarity

Saltwater chlorinators are also sensitive to the polarity of your pool’s plumbing. You should ensure that they all have the same positive or negative charge for them to work properly with each other, otherwise, you could end up facing many problems with your water chemistry.

How to use a Salt Water Pool Chlorinator

Salt water generator: benefits & drawbacks

Benefits of saltwater generators

  1. Saltwater generators can decrease the amount of chlorine needed for a pool by up to 50%. 

This reduces the impact on your skin and hair, as well as protects it from damage. It also means you use less harsh chemicals that may irritate sensitive eyes or cause allergic reactions. Chlorine is often what causes red eyes when swimming in a pool, and can also cause dry skin.

  1. Saltwater generators can also help to decrease the amount of time needed for pool maintenance. 

Less chlorine is being used, so you don’t have to add as much each week to keep your waters clean and fresh.

  1. Saltwater pools are less likely to irritate or damage swimsuits when compared with traditional chlorine pools.
  2. Saltwater pools are also less likely to cause problems with your pool equipment, such as damage to the surface.
  3. The filtered salt in a saltwater generator is much easier on filters and pumps than chlorine-based treated waters can be. 

This means that you don’t have to replace them at frequent intervals, which saves money over time.

  1. Saltwater pools are much less likely to cause problems with your pool’s pH balance, making it easier for you to keep the levels balanced properly at all times.
How to use a Salt Water Pool Chlorinator

Drawbacks of saltwater generators

  1. Saltwater pools are more expensive to set up

While you reduce chlorine usage, this means purchasing a saltwater chlorinator or generator instead of buying regular chlorine for the pool. This can be pricey in itself and also requires ongoing costs like replacement parts if something goes wrong with it.

  1. The use of salt (sodium chloride) instead of chlorine means that the water will also be much saltier

This can affect your eyes and skin, as well as cause problems for swimmers with high blood pressure or other conditions where they need to limit their sodium intake — such as those on a low-salt diet.

  1. Saltwater pools increase the amount of salt in your pool, which can be problematic if you live anywhere that is prone to flooding

Excess salt also means more work for you when it comes to cleaning up after a flood or storm, as it will be harder to remove all of the salt build-ups.

How to use a Salt Water Pool Chlorinator

Common problems with salt water chlorinators


The chlorine generator is made of metal, including the electrodes. The material corrodes over time when exposed to saltwater. The rate at which it corrodes varies depending on several factors: quality and age of pool; ionizer model; the amount of sunlight exposure; levels of calcium in the pool water. Over time, corrosion can result in many problems, such as:

  • Needing to replace the electrodes more often than expected. 

The type and age of your pool may determine how often you need to replace them; usually after about three years.

  • The metal rod’s coating is wearing off and exposing the underlying material (usually magnesium or aluminum). 

This can be dangerous for swimmers, as the exposed metal can cause skin irritation.

  • The chlorine generator is not working correctly or has stopped producing chlorine altogether. 
📌 Note
This usually results in high levels of chloramines and cyanuric acid which are dangerous to your health. As soon as you notice this problem, check if the electrodes need replacing; otherwise it is best to replace the whole unit.
  • The electrodes are corroding from inside out, which means there is a buildup of corrosion products within the metal rods coating itself. 

This can result in reduced chlorine production or completely stopping it altogether.

How does one prevent this? There are several things you can do:

  • You should make sure the electrodes are well-sealed and installed correctly.
  • You should also ensure that your pool is not exposed to excessive levels of sunlight as this will accelerate corrosion rates significantly. 
  • Also, avoid using harsh pool chemicals such as chlorine tablets and pool shock treatments.
How to use a Salt Water Pool Chlorinator

High chlorine levels

Sometimes saltwater chlorinators can produce high levels of chlorine in the pool. This is not because there are any problems with the device, but rather it can be due to many factors including:

  • The salt level in the water could potentially cause this problem if it’s too low or high

If you suspect that may be an issue then just raise or lower your salt level to the recommended amount.

  • The pool water temperature could also increase or decrease chlorine production, so make sure it’s at a safe and normal temp for your device — between 66-104 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Check that the salt cell is not damaged in any way because if it is then you will have to replace it. 
  • If the flow of water into your pool is too low then that may affect chlorine production levels, so check that first before making any changes to anything else. 
How to use a Salt Water Pool Chlorinator

Hard on vinyl liners

Saltwater pool chlorinators can be a problem for vinyl liner pools. Because the salt in the system is corrosive, over time it will eat away at any metal surface coating on your pool’s floor and walls. This includes paint finishes, coping around steps or diving boards, ladders, and tile lines. Vinyl liners are very sensitive to the saltwater pool chlorinator’s high chlorine levels. Over time, this will lead to discoloration and eventual damage to your liner through pitting.

However, there are ways that you can combat these problems using a few techniques or devices specifically for vinyl liners. You should always use an automatic pool cleaner in conjunction with your saltwater pool chlorinator. This will help circulate the water and sweep away any excess dirt or debris that could otherwise cause damage to your liner as it build-up on surfaces along the bottom of your pool.


Chlorinators help to keep your pool clean and sanitized and usually come with a lot of great additional features like saltwater purification. If you want to make sure that your swimming pool is as clean and safe as possible, then using a chlorinator should be one of the first steps in making this happen.

However, if you have vinyl liner pools or other metal surfaces around your pool, then you should proceed with caution. 


💧 What is a salt water pool chlorinator?

A saltwater pool chlorinator (SWG) works by converting the dissolved salt in your swimming pool into chlorine.

✔ What are the benefits of using a salt water pool chlorinator?

The biggest benefit is that it does not produce any odor or taste, which can be great for people with sensitivities. Also, because all the chlorine produced by your system comes from dissolved salt in your swimming pool (instead of harsh chemicals), this means less chlorine will be needed to keep your pool clean and safe. However, you will need to balance your water more often because of this as well.

📍 How often should I change my filters?

Most experts recommend changing your filter once a week for optimal performance of your SWG system.

🤔 What kinds of problems can I expect with a salt water chlorinator?

There are some drawbacks to using any kind of chlorine system on your pool, whether it be liquid or gas. You will need to do more maintenance than just relying on traditional shock treatments that use harsh chemicals like calcium hypochlorite. You will need to regularly test your water and balance it as necessary, maybe even daily. Your SWG could also malfunction or corrode over time if you do not maintain it properly (especially if you have vinyl liner pools).

Did you like the article? Was it helpful?

1 comment

  1. Thank you for sharing such valuable info! I’d like to add a few words about salt cells. They also need to be cleaned. On average, once every 6 months. But you need to do it more often if there are many impurities like phosphates, nitrates, ammonia, and metals in your water. The cleaning process is pretty simple and involves taking 5-10 minutes to soak the cell in a weak acid or vinegar solution that will dissolve the build-up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts