What's better: salt water or chlorine pool?

Mar 14, 2017
San Francisco/CA
I'm just beginning the consultation process--getting quotes from various pool companies, deciding design details, etc. I want a rectangular pool without too many bells and whistles, so the biggest decision that I have to make is whether to get a chlorine pool or a salt water pool.

I have already done a significant amount of research on the internet about the pros and cons of each system. I'm aware that a salt water pool is still technically a chlorinated pool, just with a different way of producing the chlorine.

What I'm really asking for are personal experiences from current and former pool owners. Did you own a salt water or a chlorine pool? What was easy or convenient about it? What was expensive or difficult to maintain? Is it possible to have a chlorine pool without too strong of a smell, or one that isn't harsh on your skin, hair, and eyes? Any personal input would be appreciated.


TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
Jun 7, 2011
Midland TX
Welcome to TFP!

There will be a lot of members with Salt Pools wanting to answer, so I'll take the last one briefly and tell you absolutely, positively... you can. You can do it with ease, and we can show you how, with either type of pool.

Enjoy your time on the forum. :wave:


Mod Squad
LifeTime Supporter
Jan 17, 2012
Evans, Georgia
First off, let me say- A Salt Water Pool *is* a chlorine pool. The Salt Water Chlorine Generator (SWG) device takes salt from the pool water and runs it through the device cell where it is split up to make chlorine. Then the chlorine and the residual water again mix back up in the pool to be used again and again. Its a cool device, been around for about 30-40 years now.

Using a SWG to make the chlorine costs about the same over the lifespan of the device as if you had bought all the chlorine and lugged it home one jug at a time. So it might just be a factor of can you swing paying it all upfront or do you want to pay for/lug your chlorine home for the next few years slowly?

A SWG pool as well as a properly chlorinated non-SWG pool should NOT smell overwhelmingly like chlorine. That is actually a sign of a dirty pool. One that is overwhelmed with chloramines (the byproduct of chlorine breaking down urine, sweat and other cooties).

My pool water is soft, silky and you'd be hard pressed to smell chlorine. Yet thru diligent pool water testing I keep a tight eye on it and know its safe and healthy water.
It is easy to manage because the SWG does its thing without a lot of input from me. I adjust it when I want more or less chlorine in the pool (such as before a kids party) but that's about 2 minutes effort to adjust.

I probably spend between $50-$100/year max on pool testing supplies and chemicals. So its a cheap system for me, as I paid upfront for that chlorine device (aprox $1500 installed when the pool was put in)

Yippee :flower:


Well-known member
May 2, 2011
lebanon tn
I have a chlorine pool using bleach. I do add salt and borates to soften the water. Never smells and crystal clear. Five minutes a day testing and an hour weekends vac once opened each season


Mod Squad
TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
Jul 7, 2014
Bedford, TX

Welcome to TFP... A Great resource for all your pool building questions.. :wave:

The real question is how do you plan to chlorinate your pool? I ask this because it is what will decide the amount of daily pool maintenance you will need to be doing...

You have four basic choices:

1. Use a 3" chlorine puck dispenser.. We do not recommend this system at all. It is one of the main reasons for the strong smell of chlorine, harsh feeling water, and burning eyes.

2. Manually adding Liquid Chlorine every day or so. This works great but does require almost daily attention. You still have to test and ensure the proper chemical levels are maintained.

3. Automated injection of Liquid Chlorine (Stenner pump system). This drastically reduces the need for daily attention. You still have to test and ensure the proper chemical levels are maintained. You have to routinely buy chlorine and refill the tank.

4. Saltwater Chlorine Generator (SWCG). This system is much like the Stenner, but since the chlorine is being made by the saltwater, you don't need to buy chlorine. Another advantage is that the salt gives the water a more silky feel. You still have to test and ensure the proper chemical levels are maintained.

In my opinion, a saltwater pool is the easiest maintain and has the best "feeling" water.


Jim R.


Bronze Supporter
TFP Guide
Jul 24, 2015
Central Valley CA
I have chlorine and use automated injection pumps commonly referred to as Stenner systems on the forum, (Stenner is the manufacture of a popular pump used for chemical injection). I have never had a chlorine smell as Yippee said the smell many associate with pools is an indication of a chemicals getting out of hand. You truly can't go wrong with either way of sanitizing your pool.

I was going to go with a SWG (aka salt water) but the up front cost of the pump system was a bit better, somewhere in the middle of manually adding or investing in an SWG. Two other reasons I went with the Stenner pump was I figured if I ever had an algae bloom the pump which is on an internet connected switch could be used to keep chlorine levels high enough to help with the process called SLAM and with injection you don't have to worry about manually adding chlorine during the winter months when a SWG stops producing chlorine. Admittedly both are very small considerations, I have not yet had algae and in California the amount of chlorine you would have to manually add over the course of a winter is likely 4 to 8 gallons depending on the size of the pool.

I did manually add chlorine for a number of months before I got around to installing the pumps and it was a good learning experience. I was testing every day and adding chlorine, not difficult at all, after all the pool was a new toy so I enjoyed it. Now that we have the Stenner I would not want to go back to manually adding. My testing is down to once a week in the winter and 2 to 3 times in the summer and I have yet to be surprised at test results, they are always right where they should be. Over the next few months I will have to gradually add to the pump run time to compensate for the longer warmer days the same would be true for an SWG system.

When we were building, the majority of builders were against salt water and none had experience with with liquid injection. After extensive research we surmised that most builder opinions are based on unfounded myths at best, and profit margins in the worse cases. Many builders have miracle devices to sanitize you pool that you will not have to ever adjust or worry about, as with most thing in life it's just not true everything has a cost in both time and money.