How To Tell If A Pool Is Saltwater Or Chlorine?

Saltwater generator and chlorine are the leading means of pool sanitization and cleaning. Both come with a bunch of pros and cons, and the choice regarding which of these is better is ultimately a personal one. Regardless, both of these systems are being used equally widely. Here, we have listed a few easy tricks that can help you in determining whether a pool is saltwater or chlorine.


This is the most basic discriminating factor to tell a chlorine pool from a saltwater pool. Although both of these have some level of chlorine in the water, it is much higher and concentrated in chlorine pools.

Therefore, chlorine pool water has a strong, pungent smell of chlorine. The smell of chlorine is similar to that of regular bleach and is nearly absent in saltwater pools.

Interestingly, this is the most practical way of differentiating them too. Just take a handful of water and if the smell is stronger and more pungent each time you do that, it’s a chlorine pool.

Presence of Salt Chlorinator

This is a relatively obvious one. If you are able to locate a salt chlorinator box over the plumbing near the pump and filter, it is probably a saltwater cell.

However, you still need to confirm this by looking for wires that connect it to the plumbing. Usually, the saltwater cell is the last piece of equipment in the returning side of the plumbing.

Hence, if there is a saltwater cell in the system, it is definitely a saltwater pool.

Bleaching of Swimsuit and Gear

Another way of telling whether a pool is saltwater or chlorine is to notice its effects on swimwear and gear. As we have mentioned above, chlorine is much stronger and concentrated in chlorine pools. Thus, chlorine pools tend to bleach out swimsuits and gear.

Skin and Lungs Reaction

Concentrated chlorine is an intense chemical that reacts with and affects the human systems that come in contact with it, especially in individuals that are prone to respiratory issues or have sensitive skin.

It is a no-brainer that these effects are more profound in a chlorine pool, due to higher amount and concentration. If you are facing an allergic reaction, dry skin, rashes or respiratory issues such as cough, during or after swimming, the pool is most likely a chlorine pool. 

Effects on Pool

While chlorine pools have a greater overall adverse effect on swimmers’ health and accessories, saltwater pools cause more damage to the pool itself and its equipment.

Saltwater can cause erosion of the walls and surfaces of the pool, as well as damage to the equipment such as lighting, heaters and fixtures.

Electricity Expenditure 

Saltwater pools use a salt chlorine generator to produce chlorine from salt in the pool, which runs on electricity. In addition, it requires electrical energy for the functioning of the pump as well.

On the other hand, chlorine pools require energy only for pumping of water. An average pool pump is about 1.5 to 2 HP, and adds approximately 26 to 53 cents to your bill per hour. If a salt chlorinator is installed, it adds an additional 3.6 to 8 cents per hour to the bill. Thus, saltwater pools consume more energy than chlorine pools and result in a higher electricity bill.

Chloramine Levels

Chloramines are by-products of chlorine that are formed when free chlorine reacts with the skin or sweat of the swimmer. These are strong chemical compounds that have no role in sanitisation, but instead just give the water a strong pungent smell.

The levels of chloramines are much higher in chlorine pools than in saltwater pools. This is because of the high chlorine concentration, as well as the inability of chlorine pools to remove chloramines as fast as saltwater pools.Ideally, the combined chlorine level in a pool should not be above 0.3 ppm. The combined chlorine levels in the pool can be tested with a test kit, like the K-2006 by Taylor, or an automatic pool water testing monitor like MySutro by Sutro.

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