Salt Water vs. Chlorine Pool: What You Need to Know

Kaitlyn Pacheco
Written by Kaitlyn Pacheco
Updated June 24, 2022
A couple and their baby play in an in-ground pool
Photo: Halfpoint / Adobe Stock


  • Salt water pools are gentler on eyes and skin, and on swimsuits

  • Chlorine is less corrosive to your pool and nearby fixtures

  • Salt water pools require less weekly monitoring and pool maintenance

  • Traditional chlorine pools have higher seasonal maintenance costs

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Staying cool on a hot summer day is a challenge under any circumstances. If you want the convenience of taking a dip in your own backyard, ‌consider installing an in-ground pool. If you’ve already got an in-ground pool, maybe you’re debating keeping your pool as-is, or switching over to a salt water system for a more skin-friendly feel. 

No matter how you choose to stay cool this summer, we’ve got the details on the differences between salt water pools vs. chlorine pools. We’ll give you the rundown—some of the costs, concerns, and benefits might surprise you!   

Salt Water Pools Pros and Cons

Salt water pools are softer on your skin and eyes, and can be better for those with allergies or asthma. That said, salt water pools still contain chlorine, which is produced by converting pool-grade salt (aka sodium chloride) to chlorine through a process called “electrolysis.” So, though they have less chlorine, being “chlorine-free” is a common misconception about salt water pools. 

Installing a salt water system will include a salt-chlorine generator—also known as a salt chlorinator—which converts salt to chlorine. This process also gives the pool its salt water feel, so you might also hear it called a salt water generator. Overall chlorine levels in a salt water system are still about 1/3 lower than traditional chlorine pools. You will need to add salt for the pool to run, but you’ll add fewer chemicals on a regular basis.

Installing a salt water pool has a slightly higher initial investment. Still, you might make up for it in long-term pool maintenance costs like purchasing chlorine tablets or liquid. The average upfront cost of installing a 12-by-24-foot inground salt water pool is about $25,000. And of course, costs can vary in your area, as well as by pool size, material, and the pool type you decide to install.  

If salt water’s benefits sound like an attractive option to you, you aren’t the only one. The popularity of salt water has been on the rise for the last 30 years. Here are the pros and cons of owning and maintaining a salt water pool.   


  • Less day-to-day maintenance 

  • Seasonal additive costs are less expensive 

  • Less likely to cause irritation for people with sensitive skin, allergies, or asthma

  • Gentler on swimwear 

  • The salt chlorinator runs off electricity, generating cleaning agents without having to add chlorine manually

  • There are fewer chloramines—the molecule that causes the chlorine smell and feel—than in chlorine pools 


  • Higher upfront cost

  • Salt water can damage pool equipment or even the pool itself if not explicitly designed to resist salt water corrosion

  • Fixture damage can include anything in the splash zone for the pool including patios, grills, and paving stones if not properly sealed

  • Salt water pools require a pro to do maintenance such as pH management and repairs

  • Your chlorine generator won’t function properly when the temperature dips below 60°F

Chlorine Pools Pros and Cons

A modern backyard pool with lawn furniture and sun umbrellas
Photo: sergojpg / Adobe Stock

Traditional chlorine pools are comparatively cheaper than salt water systems, but they require more regular pool maintenance by homeowners. So while your initial investment is cheaper, you’ll need to add chlorine at least twice per week for proper sanitizing and pool maintenance. 

That said, there are a lot of reasons that this type of pool has stayed so popular, even with the increasing popularity of salt water pools. Compared to a salt water pool the average cost of installing a 12 x 24 inground chlorine pool is around $23,000. 

The cost of chlorine might influence your choice as well. The cost can be between $600 to $900 for the seasons. With that in mind, there are more DIY options for troubleshooting pool pH, which can mean less money you pay to pool technicians if you run into a problem. 


  • Lower upfront cost for installation

  • More DIY options for common problems

  • None of the extra costs associated with a salt-chlorine generator 

  • Easier to find a knowledgeable pro in case of a problem  

  • Less corrosive to pool elements and fixtures nearby


  • Higher amount of chlorine 

  • Seasonal costs of chlorine can be high

  • More day-to-day maintenance of pool water

  • Harsher on the skin and eyes, and can aggravate allergies or asthma

  • Harsher on swimsuits

Should I Switch From a Chlorine Pool to Salt Water?

A picture of a house with a swimming pool and deck chairs
Photo: Stock PK / Adobe Stock

If you’re thinking about making the switch from a chlorine pool to a salt water pool, you can expect to pay anywhere from $500 to $5,000 including individual parts and installation. The choice comes down to personal preference and individual needs.

If chlorine smells like summer to you and your DIY experience means the day-to-day upkeep is no problem, chlorine might be the better choice. If you or someone in your household gets itchy skin and eyes from chlorine—or worse—a switch to salt water might be worth it. No matter what you decide, keep the pros and cons in mind when it comes to maintenance and costs.

Salt Water Pools vs. Chlorine Pools

So how do these two types of pools measure up against each other? In this case, you might have a preference for one over the other regardless of how they stack up, but here is the rundown. 


When it comes to durability, salt water is harsher on the surfaces and fixtures of your pool— especially without a proper seal or if they have a leak. This is why many experts advise installing a fiberglass liner if you decide to go for salt water. 

For a salt water pool, your salt water generator will also need to be replaced every 5 to 7 years. Chlorine—though harsher on your body and your clothes—doesn’t have the same kind of corrosive effect. 

Most Durable: Chlorine


Price comes down to the time period you're looking at. For installation, chlorine pools take the lead on pricing with a lower initial cost. Season by season, salt water is a bit less expensive. In the long run, issues with pools can be unpredictable—and you never know when you might need to call in a pro. That’s why we’re calling this one a tie.

Most cost-efficient: Tie


Most troubleshooting for a chlorine pool can be done by a motivated DIYer. Meanwhile, for salt water systems, ‌call in a pool technician for pH or maintenance problems. Likewise, fixtures or other pool repairs for chlorine pools can sometimes be tackled by homeowners. But, the corrosive nature of salt water means you’ll definitely want to call in a pro to ensure longevity on repairs.

DIY-ability: Chlorine


Other than clarity and skin-friendliness, maintenance is one of the main reasons people pick salt water pools. Pool owners still need to watch for chlorine build-up and call in a pool technician for issues, but weekly maintenance is minimal. Chlorine pools require a minimum of bi-weekly monitoring of pool water and the addition of chlorine tablets or liquid. For that reason, this one goes to salt water systems. 

Maintenance: Salt water 

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