Salt Water Chlorinator or Chlorine Tablets?

chlorine-vs-salt-2People debate about everything from their favorite soft drink to what condiments are OK to put on a “Chicago style” hot dog.

So many things, so many choices, flavors, methods to choose from and stick to your guns about.

The same goes for pool chlorination preferences. With today’s technology the list of choices is growing rapidly. For now though, the main battles is between Salt Systems vs. Chlorine. one_on_one_competition_400_wht_5925 - image from Presenter MediaBoth are strong, worthy opponents with many different advantages. Who will win this Tug-o-War? 


boxer_throwing_punches_anim_6563-6 - image from Presenter MediaPlease welcome our first challenger ~ Chlorine! This heavyweight contender has been a favorite of pool operators and residential pool owners for 50 years.

Whether it’s in granular, liquid, or tablet form you can’t deny its sanitizing power. Liquid chlorine can be used to shock a pool and rapidly reduce the bacteria. This cannot be done with a saline pool unless of course you happen to have liquid chlorine on hand.

Chlorine tablets are stabilized protecting the chlorine from the sun. You would need to add cyanuric acid to get this result in a saline pool. Adding chlorine to your pool is as easy as using a floating dispenser or pump.

Chlorine users need to stay on top of their water testing as the pH can vary quite a bit. Heavy bather loads and weather can wreak havoc on a pool. Chlorine shock can provide a much faster solution to your problem. Let’s recap with some pros and cons of our first contender:

Tablets+Granular – Pro

  • Cheaper start-up
  • Easy to operate and troubleshoot
  • Minimal, inexpensive repairs
  • Fast acting granular is better for shocking
  • Tablets are stabilized protecting your chlorine from the sun
  • Sanitizes your pool even if your pump and filter aren’t running
  • Works in any temperature

Tablets+Granular – Con

  • Heavy chemical odor
  • Harsh on rails and equipment like pool heaters
  • Dangerous to handle and store
  • Calcium shock can cause calcium build up
  • Stabilized chlorine can cause cyanuric acid build up


boxer_throwing_punches_anim_6563-3 - image from Presenter Media And now let’s hear it for Saline! Salt pools have been a hot item these days. Salt pools are sanitized by sodium hypochlorite (liquid Chlorine) created when the saline pool water passes through the chlorine generator. Science!

The initial set up is much more costly than a chlorine pool but the system does have quite a few advantages. The “chlorine smell” which is actually chloramines is almost nonexistent. With a salt pool you also get a silky feeling on the skin and the water is really easy on the eyes. The maintenance cost of a salt pool overall is lower than chlorine too.

The salt system does not take care of everything. That is a common misconception people switching to salt have. You still need to test your water and salt levels and make water balance adjustments based on your readings.

There is a little maintenance on the equipment too, your salt cell may need occasional cleaning, and having to replace a cell (every 3-5 yrs) is not cheap. But you know what is cheap? Salt!

Here are some of the ups and downs you might find with a Salt system:

Salt Systems – Pro

  • Non hazardous materials (Put away your hazmat suit…its just salt)
  • A lot of the new models have a self-cleaning feature
  • Silky feeling of the water is both easy on the skin and the eyes
  • Salt can buffer pH and alkalinity
  • No need to touch chlorine, just touch a button!

Salt Systems – Con

  • Expensive start-up costs
  • 500+ lbs of salt is required. (Eat your Wheaties)
  • Cold water halts chlorine production, below 60°
  • Shocking with granular or liquid is faster and more satisfying!
  • Repair and replacement parts can be costly
  • Pump needs to run continuously for chlorination to occur
  • You may still need liquid or granular to “super shock” the pool


competitors_get_ready_300_wht_11159 - image from Presenter MediaLooks like both Chlorine and Salt went 12 rounds and the winner by decision is……Chlorine! However, both methods of chlorination have very convincing pros and cons.

As for me, I choose a chlorine pool. I feel more comfortable knowing that chlorine can handle my bather load and I can make an instant adjustment by shocking my pool. Chlorine pools are time tested and have yet to let me down.

I like the silky feeling I get when I come out of a salt pool but knowing that chlorine has killed off all of the sketchy germs that linger in the pool gives me greater peace of mind.

You can’t argue the disinfecting power of good old chlorine tablets and shock. For now, I’ll keep salt for my french fries, and use chlorine tablets and granular shock for my pool.

Whichever you choose, Salt or Chlorine, remember that no system is completely self-maintained. Having a pool means work. But it also means a whole lot of fun!

Roberto Gonzalez
InTheSwim Staff Blogger



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