Your Complete Guide to Pool Salt

Though you don’t have the great lake like that in Hogwarts to ward off your summer woes, but isn’t having a swimming pool at this time of the year a blessing in disguise? Who wouldn’t love to swim away from your worries and come out feeling rejuvenated and refreshed? 

pool salt guide

A swimming pool is a real lifesaver to beat the heat! But maintaining and cleaning the pool water is a fundamental task at hand. You have to ensure that the water is sparkling clean, free of pathogenic and disease-causing microorganisms, and no algal bloom incidence.

This difficult feat can be achieved by disinfection. Disinfection is a process that kills almost all pathogenic microorganisms except spores. Disinfection of pools is generally carried out by chlorination. In this process, either free chlorine or its combined forms are fed into the pool directly. Another method is to use pool salt.

The two most essential components of pool salt are sodium and chlorine; when pool salt is mixed or added to the pool, it dissolves in the water and breaks down into two ions named sodium ions and chlorine ions. 

Another critical component of pool salt is cyanuric salt. It prevents the degradation of chlorine ions and the hypochlorous acid and makes stable chlorine, and these chlorine tablets help as a cleansing agent to purify the pool water.

Similarity Between Pool Salt and Table Salt

pool salt vs table salt

As the name suggests, pool salt is a disinfectant added to swimming pools, just as chlorine makes the water free of algae, bacteria, and other harmful pathogens. Pool salt is our standard Sodium Chloride (NaCl).

It is the same as table salt, the only difference being that it has many coarse particles and is pure and unrefined. The composition of pool salt is about 95% pure sodium chloride, the rest 5% accounting for trace elements and impurities.

How Does Pool Salt Aid the Disinfection Process?

Pool salt kills the pathogens by a process called ionization and electrolysis. When water containing NaCl is subjected to an electric current, it dissociates to form separate Sodium (Na+) and Chloride ions (Cl-). This process is called ionization. Since it takes place due to electric current, it is called electrolysis.

Mechanism of Action:

The chloride ion generated then reacts with water to form hypochlorous acid. Hypochlorous acid is volatile and gives rise to nascent or reactive oxygen. This reactive oxygen species then damages the cell wall of bacteria and oxidizes essential molecules like DNA and proteins rendering the pathogen inactive.

For the process mentioned above to take place, you need a saltwater chlorinator (SWC), also known as a chlorine generator or a salt cell. The amount of salt that should be added is 1-36 grams per liter.

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Types of Pool Salts

Mined Salt

As the name suggests, these salts are directly mined from the Earth. These salts contain significantly fewer impurities.

In the United States of America, these mined salts are commonly used for decoration of the dining tables; even icy roads are made through this mined salt, it is also used in swimming pools. This salt is considered the purest type of salt, which has a range of about 95% of sodium chloride.

Solar Salt

These salts use solar energy for their generation. Solar energy evaporates water from the salty sea water leaving behind salt. This method is very cheap as it uses a renewable source of energy.

Solar salt has a high level of bacteria and brine shrimp. These bacteria survive and thrive in this kind of environment as the water is very salty. Even the evaporation adds more salt to the water, making these bacteria thrive in such salty conditions.

As the saltwater becomes more concentrated, these organisms die. Their organic matter contributes to impurities, which further hinder the working of the saltwater chlorinator.

Solar salt is considered to be cheaper in price because it is directly available from nature, and it often relied on nature to do its task. Solar salt is not considered the best option because it has many impurities compared to mechanically evaporated salt and mined salt.

Mechanically Evaporated Salt

In this method, similar to the solar salt technique, heat is not generated directly from the sun, but artificial mechanical techniques are used to generate saltThis type of salt is generated using a mechanical heat generator.

The heat evaporates the water leaving behind the salt crystals. This method is costly since it involves energy generation. This method can be coupled with other processes to reduce the overall cost.

In this method, we can control the level of heat, which will help us kill the bacteria faster than solar salt, so in short, when we want to kill the bacteria and impurities, we can make the temperate high. These salts have inorganic contaminants like iron, copper, nitrates, silicates, and other minerals. These minerals may be removed by sequestering agents meant for salt pools.

Even if we control the heat by increasing or decreasing its level, some impurities remain; these impurities are minerals like nitrates, silicates, iron, copper, magnesium, copper, and phosphates. Minerals like calcium can have a harmful effect on the chlorinator, the pool, and other equipment; therefore, the filter will take more time to clean all these impurities. This needs to be done very often to keep the pool clean.

So, we can give a verdict saying mechanically evaporated pool salt is OK, but it will consume more time to clean and clear the impurities.

Mined salt is the best type of salt to use, with a purity percentage of up to 99% salt-containing other impurities may decrease the shelf life of your salt cell.

How Do You Set Up Your Saltwater Pool? 

Step 1: Calculate the Amount of Salt You Need to Add to Your Pool 

Pool Salt

Check the user manual of the saltwater chlorinator to check the required amount of salt. A salt cell generally needs 3000-4000 parts per million (ppm) of salt.

When we are adding salt, it is always necessary to check the range of the generator so that even if its concentration goes up and down, it will continue to work correctly.

Step 2: Determine the Concentration of Salt in Your Pool

You can use salt test strips to do this, or you can get your pool water tested from the local pool store. The salt content of a brand-new pool is usually 0 ppm (parts per million). In any traditional chlorine pool, the salt range is approximately 500 ppm (parts per million).

Step 3: Adding the Salt to The Pool

After determining the salt concentration of the pool and considering the volume of water and threshold of the salt cell, add the required amount of salt to the pool.

The amount of salt required always depends on the size of the pool; the larger the size, the larger the quantity of salt. The exact quantity of salt needed will always depend on how pure the salt is. 

We can use a pool volume calculator to determine the gallon of water present in the pool, and the pool salt calculator helps determine the right level of salt required in our pool.

Keep the saltwater chlorinator switched off while adding the salt. Let the salt dissolve properly, which takes around 24 hours. Check the salt concentration of your pool one final time and adjust it accordingly. And voila!! You have successfully set up your saltwater pool!

Advantages

  • Saltwater pools do not cause irritability of eyes or skin due to the lower chlorine levels in them.
  • Pool salts are safer than using chlorine as a disinfection method. Continuous handling of and exposure to chlorine has long-term health risks associated with it.
  • This method does not form the harmful chloramines, which give the typical foul-smelling amine odor. Chloramines are a product of chlorine reacting with human saliva, urine, and sweat excreted in a swimming pool. 
  • The salt’s cost is relatively low compared to the chlorine used in the traditional chlorination process.
  • Saltwater pools require less maintenance than traditionally chlorinated pools due to the consistent and required amount of chlorine produced by the salt cell.

Disadvantages

  • Saltwater chlorination requires a chlorine generator for its action. Hence this method requires an initial investment for the system.
  • The Saltwater chlorinator cell requires timely cleaning and maintenance to avoid chemicals depositing on the cell plates.

Conclusion

A saltwater pool is more beneficial than a chlorinated one if an initial extra cost is not a problem.

The salt cell lasts anywhere between 2-3 years depending on other factors like the nature of water, whether hard or soft, maintenance frequency, and salt concentration.

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