Salt Water Pool Health Risks | Salt Water Pool Report (2022)

Urine, feces, sweat, dirt and other debris. You’ll find all of this floating around your swimming pool water at any given time. Fortunately we have a sanitizing system in place to clean and purify the water so that it is suitable for swimming in. Salt water pools use a salt water chlorinator to electrically convert salt (NaCl) to chlorine to kill all of these nasties and more.

Swimming pools that are not kept clean and sterile can lead to a number of illnesses among swimmers most notably diarrhea as well as other gastrointestinal sickness and infections. The prevalence of contaminants in pool water uses up chlorine and requires your salt water pool to continually produce more chlorine to maintain water cleanliness. The more swimmers you have using the pool, the more hot sunny days you experience that kills chlorine and the more rain water that enters your pool, the more stress your salt water pool system is placed under as it attempts to keep water sanitized. Pool water chemistry is further negatively impacted when backwashing a pool filter which removes chlorinated water from the pool and replaces it with fresh water.

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Salt Water Pool vs Chlorine Health Comparison

Salt water and chlorine pools both sanitize swimming pool water with chlorine. It’s a misnomer to suggest that salt water pools don’t use chlorine because they do. They just use a different form of chlorine called sodium chloride. The chemical name of salt is NaCl where Na stands for sodium and Cl stands for chlorine. A salt water chlorinator system converts NaCl to sodium chloride which doesn’t produce the same strong smell associated with chemical chlorine used in an older style chlorine pool but it is still chlorine.

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So while you won’t notice the smell of chlorine on your skin or clothes and your eyes will tend not to get reddened and irritated like with chemical chlorine pools, the chlorine in a salt water pool still keeps the water sanitized the same when the chlorine level is properly maintained.

Salt Water Pool Health Risks | Salt Water Pool Report (1)

Salt Water Pool vs Chlorine Pool Process

While salt water and chlorine pools both utilize chlorine to keep pool water sanitized, the actual process is slightly different as is the work involved to maintain water chemistry.

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Salt Water PoolChlorinated Pool
SanitizerConverts salt to chlorine through use of a salt water chlorinator and salt cell.Uses chemical chlorine that is manually added in liquid, puck or crystal form.
MaintenanceRelatively low maintenance when using an automated chlorinator system.Chemical chlorine gets added manually to the pool typically on a weekly basis.
Water chemistryGenerally easier to maintain and some high end salt chlorinators automatically adjust chemistry as required.Water chemistry may be more difficult to maintain and changing one aspect of chemistry often throws another out of line.
FiltrationYou can use sand, cartridge and D.E. filters as required. No restriction.You can use sand, cartridge and D.E. filters as required. No restriction but backwashing a sand or D.E. filter removes water from the pool which when replaced with fresh water, often changes water chemistry.

Children In Pools

Please don’t pee in our pool. We don’t swim in your toilet.

I recall seeing this sign on the wall outside a childhood friend’s pool when I was about 10 years old. Although it might be funny to think about, the truth is that urine introduced to a pool is an unnecessary and avoidable contaminant that increases the likelihood of dirty and unsafe pool water when you add it to the unavoidable contaminants introduced to pool water like human sweat and other bodily fluids.

If you have a child(ren) using the pool, ensure they go to the bathroom before and during swimming but outside the pool obviously, in the toilet. Children who aren’t yet toilet trained should have swimming diapers on. It should be noted however that they don’t necessarily offer 100% protection and there’s a reason many public pools don’t allow children to wear them while swimming.

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Animal Waste In Pool Water

What about bird droppings from birds flying overhead? I didn’t even think about birds when I first owned a pool until I was sitting outside in the backyard one day and suddenly heard something hitting the pool water in a scattered way. I looked up and it was a flock of birds flying overhead who had obviously used our pool as a remote toilet. Occasionally you might come outside and see a bird(s) using your pool as a bird bath which introduces other contaminants into the water.

And if you have a dog that uses your pool to swim in? Well, you get the picture. Animals add contaminants to your pool when they use it either with or without your knowledge.

Other Considerations

  • It goes without saying but ensure children aren’t drinking pool water or otherwise gargling it or spitting in each other’s faces for fun.
  • People with diarrhea or other gastrointestinal problems should remain out of the pool until they are 100% better.
  • Showering before entering the water is a good practice to clean off bodily oils and sweat which will otherwise end up in pool water and in the filter.
  • While it’s a good idea of course to wear sunblock when outside in the hot sun, understand that sunblock gets washed off your skin and remains in pool water.
  • Always maintain proper water chemistry and check your filter to ensure it is functioning correctly and rinsed/backwashed as necessary. It’s an important part of maintaining water cleanliness.

Key Water Chemistry Levels To Remember

A salt water pool requires several important ranges to be maintained to ensure water cleanliness:

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Salt: 2,700 – 3,400 parts per million (ppm) salt level is required to allow the salt water chlorinator to properly produce chlorine. A lower salt level means the chlorinator has to work harder and when the salt level is too high, it can damage pool equipment.

Chlorine: Chlorine levels should be 1 – 3 ppm at all times. When chlorine is too low, pool water can become unsterile and algae may form. When chlorine levels are too high it can irritate eyes and skin and damage pool equipment. Plus, you are overworking the salt cell and decreasing its lifespan for no reason.

pH: pH should be in the range of 7.2 – 7.8 to maintain the water’s ability to kill contaminants. A low pH can sting your eyes and dry your skin and hair. It can also damage pool equipment due to its corrosiveness. A high pH impairs the ability of chlorine to disinfect a pool and can also irritate your eyes and skin.

(Video) Saltwater Swimming Pool Myth

Conclusion

  • A salt water pool offers the same level of water cleanliness as a chemically chlorinated pool.
  • Salt water pools also use chlorine so it’s somewhat of a misnomer to distinguish between salt water and chlorine pools since both actually utilize it, albeit in slightly different forms.
  • Salt water pools generally require less maintenance than chlorine pools and it’s usually easier to maintain water chemistry with a salt water pool.
  • One consideration with water chemistry has nothing to do with whether you own a salt water or chlorine pool but rather the type of pool filtration system you use. A filter that needs to be backwashed (sand and D.E. filters) removes a large amount of water from the pool which disrupts water chemistry and may lower chlorine and other levels significantly.

FAQs

Are salt water pools unhealthy? ›

Saltwater will sanitize your pool, but it does so through electrolysis, which produces bacteria-killing chlorine. In other words, saltwater pools are no healthier or safer than chlorinated ones.

Does your body absorb salt from a salt water pool? ›

Human skin absorbs sodium, salt, and chlorine from a saltwater pool. Providers have linked numerous health concerns to sodium being absorbed through the skin. Providers have also linked higher heart mortality risks to sodium absorption through the skin, particularly among people with: High blood pressure.

Do salt water pools affect blood pressure? ›

This increases the salt content in the body, raising the blood pressure of patients with salt-related blood pressure and may cause heart attacks, ”said Meriç, adding that although swimming regularly has health benefits in all aspects, this is not true for some people.

Do salt water pools still need chemicals? ›

As previously mentioned, saltwater pools are not chlorine-free, nor are they chemical-free. A salt water pool is a chlorinated pool, with an alternative delivery system. As such, you will still need other pool chemicals when using a salt chlorine generator.

What are the disadvantages of salt water pools? ›

Disadvantages of Saltwater Pools

More complex than traditional pools, they often require experienced technicians even for minor problems. Salt can cause damage to some materials, so you may have to avoid using specific types of heaters, fixtures, underwater lighting, liners, and even some types of masonry work.

Are saltwater pools safer than chlorine? ›

Salt water is less damaging to your hair, skin, and eyes than chlorine. It will not damage or fade swimsuits quite so quickly and pool toys will last longer. It has a softer feeling that many prefer. Saltwater systems may be safer than chlorine ones that require owners to handle harsh chemicals.

Does swimming in salt water make you sick? ›

People who swim in seawater have almost double the odds of experiencing illness than people who avoid it. The specific illnesses linked to seawater exposure are ear and gastrointestinal illnesses, but the exact or absolute rates of infection are not available.

Does swimming in a saltwater pool dehydrate you? ›

Whenever you go for a swim in the ocean inevitably some bitter-tasting salt water will get into your mouth, and you'll understand the aesthetic difference between refreshing, pure drinking water and salt water, which carries a strong briny taste. For scientists, the reason for this is simple: salt water dehydrates you.

Do saltwater pools dry out your skin? ›

Saltwater itself is not bad for your skin, but constant exposure to a combination of salt, sun and sand can irritate and dry out skin, especially for those with a history of dry skin or other issues like eczema.

Should you shower after swimming in a saltwater pool? ›

Elevated levels of ABRs on the skin lasted for six hours post-swim, according to the study To reduce the risk of skin infections, it's best to shower shortly after you've been in the ocean. Much like with showering post-workout, a shower after the ocean washes away bacterium.

Is a saltwater pool good for your skin? ›

Great for the Skin

It can leave your skin feeling smoother and softer, and studies have been done that prove how salt water can help with skin disorders like eczema, acne and psoriasis. Salt water also acts as a natural moisturizer and exfoliator, increasing our skin's ability to retain moisture.

What happens to sodium in a saltwater pool? ›

Electrolysis happens by sending electricity through saltwater (sodium chloride, or NaCl), which interacts with the chloride ion in the salt. This creates chlorine in the water, and a very high-pH byproduct called sodium Hydroxide. The now-chlorinated water flows into the pool, and voila!

Are saltwater pools better for your hair? ›

Saltwater is damaging because it dries out your hair and scalp, it strips it of all its water, leaving it rough and dehydrated. This lack of moisture for your hair leads to split ends breakage and dandruff on your scalp.

How often should a salt water pool be serviced? ›

Every 3 months, make sure you open and inspect your salt water cell. You'll want to check for scale build up, as well as deposits. If it's clear of any debris, you can reinstall it, but if there are deposits, you can use a high-pressure hose to flush them off.

Do salt water pools get algae? ›

While green algae are endemic in salt water pools, they are the easiest to kill. Green algae tend to grow during summers when the temperatures can get high. They float freely in the pool, making the water green. You might even see them growing on the bottom of the pool, on the walls, or in the crevices.

What is the healthiest pool system? ›

Mineral Swim is the only system of it's kind combining Australian made ozone water purification technology with 100% natural Dead Sea minerals to make it the safest, healthiest swimming pool about.

Which pool is better salt or chlorine? ›

One of the major benefits of saltwater systems is that they have significantly lower levels of chlorine than traditional chlorine systems and don't require harsh chemicals. As a result, the water is gentler on your skin, eyes and hair, and it does not fade swimwear or towels the way that chlorine pools do.

What happens if you pee in a saltwater pool? ›

All forms of aquatic life pee in the ocean with no adverse effects to the marine environment. Urea in the ocean actually helps feed plant life, so there is a “system balance” present that is not found in swimming pools.

Can you open your eyes underwater in a saltwater pool? ›

Gentle on Eyes – Saltwater pools have much less salt than the ocean. When you open your eyes under water or get splashed in the face, it doesn't sting. The salt concentration is very similar to that of human tears. Most people have experienced the fumes associated with an indoor hotel pool.

What type of pool water is best? ›

Water Options for Your In-Ground Pool
  • Chlorine. Chlorine is one of the oldest and best sanitising options for pools – for the one simple reason in that it kills bacteria. ...
  • Saltwater. Saltwater pools are less common but are definitely worth considering. ...
  • Mineral.
Mar 30, 2021

How are saltwater pools sanitized? ›

A saltwater pool gets cleaned using a filtering system called a salt chlorine generator. The system uses electricity to turn salt into chlorine, which cleans the pool. In a chlorinated pool, chlorine tablets or granules are physically added on a regular basis for the same purpose.

Is a saltwater pool good for your skin? ›

Great for the Skin

It can leave your skin feeling smoother and softer, and studies have been done that prove how salt water can help with skin disorders like eczema, acne and psoriasis. Salt water also acts as a natural moisturizer and exfoliator, increasing our skin's ability to retain moisture.

How long will a salt water pool last? ›

You should use salt that's 99% pure or higher. Salt chlorine generators typically cost $1,700–$2,500 upfront and last about 3–7 years. They're easy to maintain, keep the water clear, and annually cost less than traditional chlorine.

Does salt water pool damage hair? ›

Saltwater is damaging because it dries out your hair and scalp, it strips it of all its water, leaving it rough and dehydrated. This lack of moisture for your hair leads to split ends breakage and dandruff on your scalp.

Can a saltwater pool make you sick? ›

As with all kinds of treated pools, it is possible to get infections from salt pools. Bad bacteria in the pool can infect you. This usually happens when using an improperly treated pool with incorrect pH, stabiliser, and chlorine levels. Diarrhea and swimmer's ear are the most common infections, according to the CDC.

Should you shower after being in a salt water pool? ›

Elevated levels of ABRs on the skin lasted for six hours post-swim, according to the study To reduce the risk of skin infections, it's best to shower shortly after you've been in the ocean. Much like with showering post-workout, a shower after the ocean washes away bacterium.

Is salt water good for hair? ›

The short answer: it can be. Salt water is naturally loaded with vitamins, minerals and amino acids; especially potassium, sulfur, and magnesium, which can have a therapeutic effect on the hair and skin. Sea salt is also naturally exfoliating, which can help promote clarity in the scalp.

What is the healthiest pool system? ›

Mineral Swim is the only system of it's kind combining Australian made ozone water purification technology with 100% natural Dead Sea minerals to make it the safest, healthiest swimming pool about.

What happens if you pee in a saltwater pool? ›

All forms of aquatic life pee in the ocean with no adverse effects to the marine environment. Urea in the ocean actually helps feed plant life, so there is a “system balance” present that is not found in swimming pools.

Which is better saltwater or freshwater pool? ›

The basic takeaway is this: Saltwater pools are gentler and lower maintenance than freshwater pools, but they do leave less up to the pool owner. If you're the kind of pool whiz who likes to be able to control every single aspect of the swimming experience, then you'd probably prefer a freshwater pool.

Can you put chlorine tablets in a saltwater pool? ›

A saltwater pool is an alternative to a traditional chlorine pool. Although you don't add chlorine tablets to a saltwater pool, it does still contain chlorine. It just has a smaller amount that's generated through the filter system. A saltwater pool contains 10 times less salt than the ocean.

How often do you replace salt cell in pool? ›

The safe answer is that they usually last for about five to seven years. Salt Cells cost between $200 and $900 to replace, depending on your chlorinator model.

Can I put chlorine in my salt water pool? ›

Yes, a salt water pool is easier to maintain! There's no need to purchase, store and add chlorine to your pool. Simply add salt and your pool's salt chlorinator will do all the work of making chlorine.

Does salt cause GREY hair? ›

According to experts, salt should be consumed moderately. Taking more than 2300 mg of sodium a day is unhealthy. Sodium is important to ensure you have the right balance of fluids in the body. Over consumption of salt can cause grey hair, high blood pressure and chronic kidney disease.

How do I protect my hair from salt water pool? ›

How to Protect Your Hair from Chlorine & Saltwater - YouTube

Does salt water cause hair thinning? ›

In its most extreme form, besides dandruff, salt water damage also causes hair to split at the ends and leads to breakage. These effects are even worse on dyed or processed hair.

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