Adding Salt to your Swimming Pool

The process of setting up your saltwater chlorine generator is already very easy, and once you’ve done that, you’re already completed the “hardest” part! The simplest step of setting up your new salt water system comes next- adding the salt. 

Whether you’re in the process of installing or converting your pool, or you haven’t yet purchased a saltwater chlorine generator,  or maybe you’re just looking into what supplies you'll need to buy, you probably already know that you need to buy the actual salt to put in the pool. But how much? And what kind?

We’ve put together an easy guide to tell you what you need to know about how much you’ll need, how to put it in your pool correctly and exactly what kind you’ll need for your pool, as well as some tips and tricks to help you along the way.

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Determine your Optimum Salinity Level

Depending on the manufacturer, salt pool systems can work in salt levels from 3000 to 5000 parts per million (ppm).  

The first step you’ll want to take is checking your salt chlorinator’s owners manual. There are a bunch of popular brands on the market, and many of them vary in the optimal salinity range that is recommended. 

If you haven’t yet bought yours, check it out before you buy so you can get a head-start in knowing how much you’ll need to purchase and to determine which system is best for your pool’s size.

Salt pool systems all work on different salt levels from 3000 to 5000 ppm, or parts per million, depending on the manufacturer. Since the majority of chlorinators operate between 3000 and 4000 ppm, in this example we’ll use the target level of 3500 ppm which will apply to most people.

Check for Any Existing Salt Levels

The next step is to figure out how much salt might already be in the pool. If you have a new pool, you likely don’t have a significant salt level present, but sometimes it can be possible that the pool naturally acquires around 500 ppm over time.

If the pool has been around awhile, it's certainly possible salt has been added to the water in the past, so either way it’s always a good idea to check just in case so that you don’t accidentally end up making your salinity level too high.

You’ll want to purchase some salt water test strips so you can test the current salinity of your pool’s water. Also, most pool stores offer free water testing services, so if you want to save money and also get a more accurate result, you can always choose this option as well. You can also get fast & accurate digital testers for your pool as well.


Determine Pool Size & Quantity of Salt Needed

The next step is figuring out how many gallons of water are in your pool. If you’re not sure, you can use the following formulas to calculate an estimate, depending on the shape of your pool. (length, width, and depth are measured in feet)

For this example, our goal salinity is 3500 ppm and the pool has zero existing salinity. In that case, You’ll need to add 30 lb of salt for every 1000 gallons of water. 


Therefore, if you have a 20,000 gallon pool and want to determine how much salt you’ll need to buy, you would use the formula “30/1,000 x 20,000”, which equals 600. Meaning, the pool would require approximately 600 lb of salt. 

bags of salt to convert swimming pool to a saltwater chlorine generator

So, you’ve installed your saltwater system or you’re in the process of buying all your materials for your installation, and now it’s time to buy the most important aspect- the salt itself!

You can find pool salt and water softener salt at any big-box, home improvement or pool store , but if you’re looking to save even more money, plain regular water softener salt is less expensive. 


It’s virtually the exact same thing, and ranges from around $5-$7 for a 40 lb bag- which is the typical size you’ll find at most stores! Using our previous example, we would need to buy about 15 bags of salt for the 20,000 gallon pool.

A few extra tips:


  • Always use non-iodized salt that is at least 99.8% pure sodium chloride (NaCl)

  • Avoid any salt with anti-caking agents

  • Do not get anything that has any “special formula” additives (ex: “anti-rust”), as they can cause staining in your pool.

Adding the Salt

If you’ve already installed your Salt Water Chlorine Generator, make sure you have your controls set to “OFF” until all of the salt has dissolved. Only pour salt into the body of the pool- never pour the salt into the skimmer.  Also, if you spread the salt out as you go across the shallow end, it will help make it easier to dissolve

This is because it can be hard to calculate the exact size of your pool when there are slopes to the bottom and sides or other unique shapes and features. If too much salt is added and the levels get too high, you’ll have to drain some of the water and dilute the pool with fresh water in order to balance out the levels. 


So instead, add most of what you calculated for  salt instead, just in case there was a margin of error in your pool size measurements. Let the salt dissolve and then retest your salt level before adding the last of your salt.

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Alice a Smith

Date 8/5/2018

i have a 5000 gal above ground pool. how much salt and how often should I add salt. I apperciate your reply.


Date 6/30/2020

You don't say what the metric is for length etc. Metres/feet/yards/cm/mm/inches comes up with a very different calculation. Pretty important.

DSP Staff

Date 6/30/2020

Yes, all listed measurements are in feet, gallons, etc... You can find metric conversion calculators online.

Adam Rosica

Date 7/26/2020

If my salt content is up to 6500 will that harm my cell. and what do i need to do to bring it down to 3500 or 4000

DSP Staff

Date 7/27/2020

Yes, for almost all models the maximum recommended salinity is 4000-4500 ppm, often with 3000-3500ppm being ideal. To lower the salinity, the proportionate amount of water needs to be removed from the pool

Gerald Lance Johannsen

Date 5/4/2021

What rate of salt consumption, in lbs per month per 1000 gallons of pool capacity, would be expected in the 3 So California climates: Coastal inland and desert climates, during the hottest months. That is assuming the baseline of 3200 to 3400 ppm is already achieved.

DSP Staff

Date 5/15/2021

Gerald, salt is not consumed and it doesn't evaporate. You'll only need to add salt to compensate for times that you physically drain the pool, or get rain that dilutes it. The equipment checks for that and lets you know.


Date 7/31/2021

My chlorine is low in my salt water pool Should I add more salt

DSP Staff

Date 8/2/2021

Only add salt if you have independently tested your pool water to have a lower salinity than your system requires. You will typically have a warning light on the system at this point. If this is the case, the system may have stopped generating chlorine. Once your system is running without a warning light, be sure to turn up its output to generate more chlorine as needed.


Date 2/7/2022

Good article thanks


Date 4/25/2024

How do you calculate, by hand, how much salt to add? Not to a new pool, but and existing pool?


Date 4/26/2024

There are two approaches. The first is to refer to your owner's manual where you are bound to find a salinity table that lets you match your pool size with your current salinity to see how many pounds of salt are necessary. The other option is that pool store water tests usually report not simply the measure of salinity, but also how much salt to add.

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