Comparing Pool Water Treatment Methods: Chlorine & Salt

This two-part series compares different pool treatment methods, starting with two of the most common: chlorine, the most common, and salt, often mistaken for being chlorine-free.

Chlorine pool treatment

Chlorine treats pool water by interacting with contaminants — dirt, sweat, lotion, urine — through a chemical reaction. During this reaction, the chlorine breaks into hypochlorous acid and hypochlorite ions that oxidize bacteria.

Pros of Chlorine Pools

As the most commonly used pool sanitizer, chlorine comes in several forms, such as tablets, liquid, gas and granular. Chlorine acts as a residual sanitizer; it can remain in the pool at effective levels long after it is introduced. In addition, chlorine can be stored for a long time.

Cons of Chlorine Pools

Chlorine sanitation creates disinfection byproducts. DBPs, including chloramines, cause red eyes, dry skin and lung irritation, as well as more serious health issues. DBPs also cause the noxious odor you smell in so many indoor pools. In addition, at normal levels chlorine doesn’t destroy some common contaminants that cause illness, such as Cryptosporidium parvum.

Saltwater Pool Treatment

A salt water pool system adds chlorine to your pool in a different way. Instead of pouring chlorine into your pool, a salt water sanitation system (also called a chlorine generator) produces chlorine through an electrolysis process. This process occurs when the salt, or sodium chloride (NaCl), dissolves in the water and separates into sodium ions and chloride ions. By passing a low voltage electrical current through the water, the sodium is removed and the chloride turns into chlorine in the form of hypochlorous acid (HClO) and sodium hypochlorite (NaClO).

Pros of salt water pools

Swimmers in salt pools may find the effects of disinfection byproducts less noticeable and the water to have a softer feel. In addition, the pool smell may be less pronounced. In addition, with salt systems you store salt rather than chlorine, which can be corrosive and needs to be stored in the proper environment.

Cons of salt water pools

The main disadvantage of salt water pools is that they are not chlorine free, despite common misconception. They still create chlorine and disinfection byproducts. In addition, salt water pools can be more corrosive to equipment in the pool and certain types of stones.

Next week, I’ll cover UV, ozone and ionizers. In the meantime, if you want to learn about Clear Comfort’s advanced oxidation pool system, visit our technology page.

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Lauren McNitt

Marketing Director at Clear Comfort
Lauren loves swimming during the summer and relaxing in a hot tub after skiing, but the harsh chemicals limit the time she can spend in a pool. She's excited to bring Clear Comfort to others who share her enjoyment of swimming. Lauren is the Director of Marketing for Clear Comfort.