Saltwater or Chlorine: Which is Best for Your Above-Ground Pool?

Having enjoyed saltwater and chlorine pools, it’s clear that they are both efficient and effective ways to sanitize the water. If you are just about to install an above-ground pool, you still have the choice – which one will work best for your situation?

Saltwater pools are more environmentally friendly, use less chlorine, provide a gentler swimming environment, and need less maintenance. Chlorine-sanitized pools are initially much cheaper and require no expensive equipment, so they are more cost-effective in the short to medium term.

These are the main benefits of each, but the two sanitizing systems are more complex regarding their differences and their pros and cons. Interestingly, both systems use chlorine to sanitize the pool water but obtain it differently. So, in this article, I’ll closely examine both, the way they work, and their respective advantages and disadvantages. You may then makebe able to decide which one works best for your above-ground pool.

Saltwater Vs. Chlorine Systems In Above-Ground Pools

The chlorine system has been the traditional way to keep pool water clean and bacteria-free, but the saltwater chlorinator, first introduced in 1972, has become a common alternative as pool owners become more aware of environmental issues.

Looking to keep your above ground pool clean? Whether it's saltwater or chlorine, find out if a robotic cleaner can help.

Saltwater Vs. Chlorine – How Each System Works

Saltwater pools use a chlorine generator, also known as a salt cell, which converts salt into chlorine through electrolysis, eliminating the need for manual addition of chlorine. Adding salt (sodium chloride) to your pool water enables the cell to convert the chloride into chlorine. Because this conversion is constant, so is the chlorine level, and it’s effective at a lower level than in a chlorine system.

Chlorine pools utilize chlorine that is added directly to the water. It is widely available in different forms, including liquid, granules, and tablets. After adding it to the pool water, it undergoes a chemical reaction to form hypochlorous acid and then sanitizes the water in the same way as in a saltwater pool. The regular addition of chlorine is essential to maintain chlorine levels in the pool.

Saltwater Vs. Chlorine – Cost Effectiveness

Cost-effectiveness is not easy to measure, and there are a few factors to consider. If you’re installing a new pool, the chlorine system requires no costly additional equipment and just needs the initial chlorine dosage and additional regular doses to ensure that the water remains bacteria-free.

However, after the initial set-up, the saltwater system generates its own chlorine, which saves a considerable amount in the costs of chemicals. Bear in mind that the chlorinator will probably have to be renewed every three to seven years. You must also compare the cost of chemicals required with the chlorine system against the monthly electricity costs incurred with the saltwater system.

There’s an additional cost linked to saltwater systems – the corrosion resulting from the action of salt on metal parts means increased maintenance and replacement costs.

In the final analysis, the chlorine system is less costly, both upfront and in the long run.

Saltwater Vs. Chlorine – Chlorine Levels and Water Quality

The salt level of the water in pools fitted with a chlorinator is almost identical to that of your tears, so the salt won’t irritate eyes or skin. Saltwater pools also have lower chlorine concentrations compared to traditional chlorine pools. This can result in a more pleasant swimming experience as many swimmers appreciate salt water’s smoother, silkier feel.

Chlorine levels in pools with the traditional chlorine system also vary as it breaks down and gets replaced. High chlorine levels may result in the formation of chloramines when it combines with debris, skin cells, and human waste such as perspiration (and, yes, urine). Chloramines give chlorine pools that characteristic fishy smell – something you never get in a saltwater pool.

The high chlorine content may also cause skin irritation, sore eyes, and bleach swimming gear, as well as the lining of the pool.

Saltwater Vs. Chlorine In Above-Ground Pools – Maintenance

Both saltwater and chlorine systems require regular maintenance to ensure optimal pool conditions. However, there are some specific considerations for each system:

Saltwater System Maintenance:

• Monitoring and maintenance of the salt cell to ensure proper functioning. If something malfunctions, repairs may require professional assistance.

• Periodic monitoring of salt levels and adjustment as needed.

• Regular cleaning and inspection of the salt cell to prevent scale build-up.

  • Corrosion of the pool liner or metal parts is possible because of the salt content of the water and may necessitate the replacement of the affected parts.

Chlorine System Maintenance:

  • Regular testing and adjustment of chlorine levels using test kits or strips.
  • Periodic shock treatments to eliminate chloramines and maintain proper chlorine levels.
  • Storage and handling of chlorine products safely.
  • Any problems that do arise usually have to do with the chemical balance of the pool water and can be solved by the pool owner without calling in professional help.
Worried about potential issues with your chosen pool type? Explore what could happen if an above-ground pool is left without water.

Saltwater Vs. Chlorine In Above-Ground Pools – Environmental Impact

While the chlorine content in a traditional chlorine-sanitized pool may affect the skin and eyes if it is too highly concentrated, it doesn’t harm the immediate environment. Saltwater, conversely, is likely to damage the lawn, shrubs, and plants surrounding the pool if it comes into contact with them.

Choosing between saltwater and chlorine is a big step. Know what follows next: preparing for the installation of your above-ground pool.

Saltwater Vs. Chlorine– A Pros and Cons Summary

I’ve detailed the advantages and disadvantages of both saltwater and chlorine systems, so let’s summarize:

Saltwater Above-ground Pools


  • Lower concentration of chlorine
  • Softer on swimmers’ skin
  • Doesn’t fade swimsuits.
  • Costs less in chemicals
  • Requires less frequent maintenance.


  • More expensive to install.
  • Uses more electricity.
  • Repairs may require a professional.
  • Salt water can damage pool features, plants, and soil.

Chlorine Above-Ground Pools


  • Less costly initial investment
  • Uses less electricity.
  • Problems are usually solved by the pool owner.
  • Does not cause damage to plants and pool features.


  • A higher concentration of chlorine may cause a fishy smell.
  • Chlorine levels must be tested and added regularly.
  • It can cause skin and eye irritation.
  • Chlorine must be stored and used carefully.
  • More expensive and frequent maintenance.


The choice between chlorine and saltwater systems for your above-ground pool depends on your preferences, budget, and maintenance capabilities. If you prefer a more cost-effective option with greater control over chlorine levels, chlorine systems may be the right choice. A saltwater system is the better option if you want a gentler swimming experience and are willing to invest more upfront.

Looking for more above-ground pool options after choosing between saltwater and chlorine? Discover the possibility of partially burying your pool.