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Opening Saltwater Pools

Four steps to opening your saltwater pools

By Dennis Gray

Young family, parents with children, in pool

When spring finally arrives, pool openings can’t be far behind. Giving saltwater pools the best possible start at the beginning of the season sets the stage for the entire summer. With their unique properties, they also demand a slightly different opening process than traditional pools. These four steps will help you get off on the right foot.

Step 1: Set up equipment

After the cover is removed, the pool is cleaned and the water level is adjusted, all equipment should be checked, set up and turned on. If the electrolytic chlorine generator (ECG) was removed during closing, put it back in place—but don’t turn it on until after salt levels have been checked. Run the pump for at least 24 hours to thoroughly circulate the water. This will filter out any remaining debris and help clear hazy water.

Next, check the water’s salinity levels with test strips or a titration method. (The conductivity method can be compromised by cold water.) If you need to add more salt, be sure to brush it thoroughly until it dissolves. Allowing salt to sit on the bottom of your pool can cause staining or discoloration and weaken the finish of your pool. When salt levels are in the appropriate range, turn on the ECG. (Most ECGs are programmed to either turn off or run at a limited output in colder water. Consult your owner’s operation guide for details.)

Step 2: Shock the pool with chlorine

During the season, the ECG produces a constant amount of chlorine, so shocking a pool with chlorine isn’t typically necessary. However, since the ECG has a fixed output, it may not produce enough chlorine right out of the gate, leaving your pool susceptible to organic contaminants. A chlorine shock will solve this problem. Sodium dichloro is an excellent alternative shock for saltwater pools, but any chlorine-based shock will do the trick.

Step 3: Treat the pool with the right products

After shocking, your saltwater pool should be given a dose of treatment products to protect it against scaling, staining and corrosion. Be sure to only use products that have been specifically designed for saltwater pools. Not only should they be able to hold up against the extreme conditions within the ECG, they should also contain no phosphates, which feed algae and contribute to scale formation.

Some pool salts contain additional ingredients that help protect against staining and scale. Certain pool salt manufacturers also sell treatment products as part of a complete pool care system. Check with your local supplier for availability.

Step 4: Test and balance the water

Take a water sample from an elbow-deep spot in the pool, away from the return lines, and bring it to your local pool retailer for testing. Your pool professional can help you adjust key water balance factors such as total alkalinity (TA), calcium hardness, cyanuric acid, pH and salt levels.  Remember, maintaining appropriate salt levels is critical for proper ECG function. They should fall within the ECG manufacturer’s recommended range (typically between 2,600 and 4,000 parts per million [ppm]).

Dennis Gray leads Backyard Brands Inc., as founder and chief trouble maker. He has more than 35 years’ experience in developing and marketing water care technologies for swimming pool and hot tubs. A frequent international conference presenter and family-business trainer, Gray has delivered more than 300 presentations for various industry and professional associations worldwide. He is an honours business graduate from Toronto’s Ryerson University and a graduate of the Ivey School of Business Executive program in London, Ont. Besides his passion for advancing the joys of backyard living, Gray works together with his team and dealers to ‘Share the Gift of Water’ in Africa with those less fortunate. He can be reached via e-mail at

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