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How to Start Up a Saltwater Swimming Pool

By Team Royal - Updated On: 08/29/23

So you're feeling salty, huh? It's actually a good thing! Salt pools offer a ton of benefits including less time spent on maintenance and more time enjoying your pool. Unlike traditional chlorine, salt pools are gentle on eyes, skin, and clothes. They can be harsh on some equipment though so make sure you follow these steps when starting up or converting to a salt pool!

*As with any product, always refer to your salt chlorinator's owner manual for detailed instructions specific to your model and brand. 

PRO TIP: Regardless of the type of pool you own the water does not need to be drained, even when converting a chlorine pool to salt pool. This is especially true if you have a vinyl liner pool. We cover the only time you should drain your vinyl pool here

Step 1. Find your Pool's Gallon Capacity

Find your swimming pool's gallon capacity

The first step regardless of your startup situation is knowing the gallon capacity of your swimming pool. Use our handy dandy calculator to find out how many gallons of water your pool holds. This will help you determine how much salt you're going to need. 

Use Our Pool Gallon Calculator

Step 2. Test & Balance Your Pool's Chemical Levels

Once you know how many gallons of your pool holds it's time to test your water. The amount of water in your pool will help determine how much of each chemical you'll need to add after you've tested the water for it to be properly balanced.  

how to test your salt water

Here's what you'll need to test for and their ideal range: 

  • Alkalinity (80-120ppm) 
  • pH (7.2-7.6)
  • Chlorine (1-3 ppm)
  • Cyanuric Acid (50-80 ppm)
  • Calcium Hardness (200-400 ppm)
  • Metals (0)
  • Salt (per chlorinator's manual, typically around 3200 ppm) 

Your water needs to be completely balanced with all the ideal levels before turning the salt chlorinator on. Read more on testing your water here. An existing pool converting to chlorine will have a salt presence already. you'll want to know your starting salt level after all the rest of your chemicals are balanced so you know how much salt to add in the next step. 

Purchase a Water Test Kit Here


If pool maintenance seems confusing or just isn't your thing, now is also a good time to add E-Z Pool to your backyard living style. The combination of these two products takes out the need for adding a bunch of different chemicals to your pool to balance out your levels. 

EZ POOL for saltwater swimming pools

Make it E-Z Here!


Step 3. Add Salt to Your Pool

Every salt chlorinator has a suggested range for salt so check your manual to make sure you the best dose for your pool. We'll be using the average salt level required which of 3200 ppm. 

aqua salt for saltwater swimming pool maintenance

Make sure you are using the proper kind of salt for your pool, i.e. Sodium Chloride Salt that is at the very least 99% pure. We strongly recommend using AquaSalt which is 99.9% pure; especially if you need to add a lot salt like for a new pool or converting to salt. While that 0.1% may not seem like much of a difference, when you have to add several bags of it to the pool it adds up. 

Use the below chart to see how many lbs of salt needs to be added to your pool based on the current salt ppm and the gallons of water in your pool. Salt is typically available in 40lbs bags

To add the salt, pour a few bags directly into your pool at a time. Then use your pool brush to move the water around and help kick up any salt sitting on the bottom to help disolve the mixture. Once you start getting close to the final number of bags recommended, go ahead and test your water's salt levels. You can always add more but the only to remove salt is to add more water. If your salt levels are too hight this could result in needing to drain your pool several inches before filling it up again with fresh water. Start low and build your salt level. 

How much salt o I need to add to my pool

Once your salt level is in the ideal range for your chlorinator and the rest of your chemicals are balanced, you can then turn your salt chlorinator on! Start at roughly half or 50% the highest chlorine products and wait 24 hours. After 24 hours, test you pool and check you Chlorine levels. If too high, lower your salt generator chlorine output by 10%. If too low increase the putput by 10%. Test again after another 24 hours

Once you're up and running you probably shouldn't expect to need to raise your pH since the continuous production of chlorine typically raises the pH as a side effect. But if the pH ever gets too high use muriatic acid.

Because salt is a corrosive substance (i.e. it will rust the metal components of your pool if you're not careful) you will absolutely want a sacrificial anode (also called a defender anode). These little heroes sacrifice themselves to the corrosive powers of salt instead of allowing the salt to attack other pool components (like expensive equipment). 

Step 4. Add Pepper

Okay, that sounds funny but we're not talking about table pepper any more than we're talking about table salt.

While this is an optional step, regular use of pool Pepper will increase the life and performance of your Salt Chlorinator, improve sanitizer effectiveness, greatly enhance water clarity, limit troublesome pH fluctuations caused from generating chlorine, inhibit calcium scale formation inside the salt chlorinator (on the pool equipment and surfaces, and helps maintain low phosphate levels).How to start up a saltwater pool

For starting up a pool, once your chemicals are balanced and salt is added, with the pump running you can add Pepper directly in front of a return jet or sprinkle it over the pool surface (not on windy days); dosage rate 1 per 10,000 gallons.

Have Salt? Get Pepper!

Another benefits of using Pepper? Test chlorine levels after seven days and adjust your salt chlorinator as necessary, since most chlorine generators can now be operated at a lower setting.

Although Pepper was designed to be as trouble-free and easy as possible, some pool owners can forget to dose regularly when the schedule is set for every two weeks. If a once a week dosage is more your style follow these protocols:


  1. Check and adjust the water balance and clean/backwash filter, if necessary.
  2. Add Pepper directly in front of a return jet or over the pool surface with the pump running; dosage rate 1/2 per 20,000 gallons.
  3. Enjoy your pool!

Use Pepper in conjunction with E-Z Pool and you can all but forget about those other pool chemicals needed in ordinary swimming pools giving you  more time to enjoy your pool!

EZ POOL for saltwater swimming pools


Make sure to clean your salt cell at least once per season to remove any calcium buildup. To d, carefully this soak and rinse your cell in dilutded muriatic acid. Make sure to use gloves. 

We hope you've found this guide helpful! If you still have questions or want to learn more check out our other salt blogs below or give us a call at 866-532-8194. Stay salty!