It was supposed to be a community swimming pool, but many people stayed away because they couldn’t tolerate the biting, nose-curdling odor of chlorine. Others experienced breathing and skin problems.

So a senior center in Michigan converted its 65,000-gallon chlorine pool into a salt water pool this summer. People who had stayed away are now coming back, getting exercise and therapy, while socializing with others.

The senior center is hardly alone. Across the country, traditional chlorine pools are being converted into salt water pools, sometimes called saline pools.


Homeowners and pool managers have many motivations for converting pools from chlorine to salt, including: • Simplified, more convenient maintenance. Salt water pool owners don’t have to buy, transport, store and handle hazardous chlorine chemicals. This saves time and money. • Water that’s gentle on skin, eyes, nose and hair. Salt water pools have approximately one-tenth the salinity of ocean water and about one-third the salinity of human tears, with no unpleasant chlorine smell.

How do salt water pools work? The short answer is they use a generator and special pool salt to convert the salt into mild chlorine that keeps the pool free of harmful bacteria.

Both salt water pools and traditional chlorine pools use chlorine to sanitize the water. The difference is that salt water pools use a generator to turn salt into chlorine, releasing it slowly. The chlorine then sanitizes the pool and converts back to salt. The process continues, over and over again, conserving the salt and keeping sanitizer levels balanced.

Traditional pools, on the other hand, require the pool owner to add a large dose of chlorine and other chemicals on a regular basis, which can result in an irritating odor. Instead of being regenerated, the chlorine is “consumed” as it sanitizes the water.