How to Clear Up a Cloudy Salt Water Pool

Written by Michael Dean
October 6, 2023

cloudy saltwater pool

Imagine waking up to a cloudy saltwater pool on a summer morning. But despite all your cleaning efforts, your pool can always become cloudy. The good news? As big of a problem as it may seem, clearing up a cloudy saltwater pool isn’t rocket science.

In this article, I will tell you how to clear up a cloudy saltwater pool, why your saltwater pool turns cloudy in the first place, and how you can prevent this from happening in the future. Let’s dive in.

Main Takeaways

  • Clear a cloudy saltwater pool by balancing the pH, adding salt, adjusting the SWG, shocking the pool, and using a clarifier or flocculant.
  • Your saltwater pool may be cloudy due to algae, unbalanced pH, poor filtration, low salt levels, low chlorine, a faulty salt cell, or unbalanced calcium hardness levels.
  • To prevent your saltwater pool from getting cloudy, you must maintain proper water chemistry, run the filter for at least 8 hours a day, backwash/clean the filter, and regularly clean the pool.

How to Clear Up a Cloudy Saltwater Pool

The last thing you want is to wake up to a cloudy saltwater pool. But luckily, it’s pretty easy to fix. Here are the basic steps to follow on what to do when you find yourself in this situation so you can get back to enjoying your crystal-clear saltwater pool in no time.

Step One: Balance pH

Your saltwater pool should have a pH between 7.2 and 7.6. If the pH is too high, use soda ash or sodium bicarbonate to raise it. If the pH is too low, use sodium bisulfate or muriatic acid to lower it. A balanced pH goes a long way in ensuring the chlorine in your saltwater pool works properly to keep your water crystal clear.

Step Two: Add Salt

As you may expect, a lack of salt in your salt water pool can cause a whole host of issues! To start your saltwater system, you need to reach the salt level as per the manufacturer’s recommendation, which is usually 2400 to 3400 ppm. The amount of salt is vital as the saltwater generator converts the salt into chlorine, effectively sanitizing the water and keeping it clean. While you generally don’t have to top up your salt once you first set up your saltwater pool, your pool may become diluted over time.

So, check your salt levels to ensure it’s within the ideal range. If it’s too low, top it up. If it’s too high, dilute it, as too high levels of salt can corrode your pool equipment.

Step Three: Adjust the SWG

Your salt water chlorine generator is the system that turns salt into chlorine. So, when your saltwater swimming pool is cloudy, you should also check and adjust your salt chlorine generator. First, check the chlorine levels in your pool. The ideal chlorine level should be between 1 and 3 ppm. If chlorine levels are low and the salt levels are correct, adjust your salt generator.

Step Four: Shock the Pool

You read that right! Even though you have a saltwater pool, you’ll still need to shock it! Cloudy pool water may indicate contaminants and bacterial or algae growth. Shocking the pool helps clear the chloramines and free up chlorine for use. Note that the water may still be cloudy after shocking, but it will clear up soon. Make sure to use only liquid chlorine or non-chlorine shock for a saltwater pool.

Step Five: Use Clarifier or Flocculant

The final method and step to clearing up a cloudy saltwater pool is to use a clarifier or flocculant. Both chemicals coagulate the unwanted contaminants in the water and clump them together.

While these two chemicals are often lumped together, they work differently. Clarifier turns contaminants into clumps easily filtered out through your filtration system, while flocculant turns them into heavy masses that sink to the bottom, which you can easily vacuum out. Both clarifier and flocculant are effective chemicals to clear up cloudy water.

Why Is My Saltwater Pool Cloudy? 

So, why is your saltwater pool cloudy in the first place? While the above steps are certainly useful in clearing a cloudy saltwater pool as they address pretty much every issue outlined, it helps to know the specific cause so that you can target it properly. Here are the main reasons why your saltwater pool is cloudy and how to fix each issue. 


Algae can form in your pool due to contamination and lower chlorine levels. Unfortunately, besides causing your water and pool surfaces to turn green, an algae infestation can also cause a pool to become cloudy.

To eliminate this issue, you’ll need some good old-fashioned elbow grease. Brush the surfaces of your pool to loosen the algae from the walls and floor. Then, shock the pool and run your pump to filter the algae.

Unbalanced pH

As mentioned above, your pool water may turn cloudy due to an unbalanced pH level. Your pool should have a pH of 7.2 to 7.6, with 7.4 being ideal. If the pH in your saltwater pool becomes too high, it can lead to reduced chlorine effectiveness and scale formation, both of which can lead to poor water clarity and cloudy water. Low pH can also cause cloudiness, as acidic water is corrosive to pool equipment, which may introduce particles and metals into the water.

To fix too-high pH levels, use sodium bisulfate or muriatic acid; if the pH is too low, use soda ash or sodium bicarbonate.

Poor Filtration

Poor filtration in a saltwater pool can also lead to cloudiness. If you do not properly filter the pool, this means your filtration system is failing to remove debris, microorganisms, and other fine particles from the water. Poor filtration can lead to these unwanted particles accumulating, making the water cloudy.

To prevent this, run the filter for at least 8 hours a day, maintain the filter, ensure the filter and pump are correctly sized for the pool, monitor water quality, and consider a replacement if your filter is not working properly.

Low Salt Levels

While not a direct culprit, low salt levels can also lead to cloudy pools. Namely, low salt levels can lead to cloudy pool water in two ways.

  1. Inadequate chlorine: Saltwater pools rely on a saltwater generator to produce chlorine from the salt in the water. When the salt level in the pool is too low, the SWG may struggle to generate enough chlorine to keep your pool clean and sparkling and may allow algae and bacteria to grow, leading to the cloudy pool water.
  2. Overworked salt cell: Low salt levels can put added stress on the salt cell or generator as a whole, leading to reduced efficiency or even damage down the line! And since a malfunctioning salt cell may not generate chlorine effectively, it can contribute to water quality problems, including cloudiness.

To combat this problem, check your current salt levels with a tester. If the salt level is below the recommended range of 2700 to 3400 ppm, add some more. You can use my salt calculator to help determine exactly how much you need to add.

Low Chlorine

Lower chlorine levels can lead to cloudy water as it is responsible for unwanted particles and sanitizing the water. Low chlorine may be due to low salt concentration in water (as mentioned above) or due to the SWG not producing enough chlorine.

To prevent and fix cloudiness due to low chlorine levels, regularly test and adjust chlorine levels (ideal levels are between 1 and 3 ppm), shock the pool if needed, maintain proper salt levels, and properly maintain your saltwater pool. This issue may also be fixed by adjusting the SWG levels.

Faulty/Broken Salt Cell

A faulty or broken salt cell in a saltwater pool is another culprit of a cloudy saltwater pool. The salt cell is responsible for converting salt into chlorine. So, if the salt cell is malfunctioning, it can lead to inadequate chlorine production, allowing algae and bacteria to thrive, leading to cloudy water.

Regularly inspect and clean the salt cell to prevent cloudiness caused by a faulty salt cell. You should inspect it for buildup every week and clean it at least once every 500 hours or once every three months.

Unbalanced Calcium Hardness Levels

Calcium hardness levels are one of the main issues you’ll deal with as a saltwater pool owner. High calcium hardness levels cause scale formation on your pool surfaces and your salt cell and pool heater, leading to your water becoming cloudy. Conversely, when the calcium hardness level is too low, the water may become corrosive, which may erode your pool surfaces and equipment, which can also lead to cloudiness.

To prevent this, regularly test and adjust calcium hardness levels to keep them within the recommended range (200 to 400 ppm). If the calcium hardness level is too high, you’ll have to partly drain and refill the water or use a flocculant. If the level is too low, use a calcium hardness increaser.

How to Prevent a Saltwater Pool From Turning Cloudy

A crystal clear saltwater pool epitomizes backyard luxury, but maintaining that pristine water quality requires proactive care. Cloudy water can quickly turn your oasis into a less inviting space. Here are my top tips to ensure your saltwater pool stays inviting and refreshing.

Maintain Proper Water Chemistry

Maintaining proper water chemistry is key, as with anything else in pool maintenance. Your saltwater pool’s chemicals should be within these ranges:

  • pH: 7.2 to 7.6
  • Alkalinity: 100 to 150 ppm
  • Chlorine: 1 to 3 ppm
  • Calcium hardness: 200 to 400 ppm
  • Stabilizer: 60 to 80 ppm

Regular Filtration and Circulation

Proper filtration and circulation are the heart and lungs of your pool system and help keep your pool clean and clear. Make sure you run your filter for at least 8 hours a day, and during high pool usage, consider running for at least 12 hours.

Backwash or Clean the Filter

Depending on your filter type (sand, cartridge, or DE), follow the manufacturer’s instructions to backwash or clean it regularly. A clean filter is more efficient at removing unwanted particles and algae from the water, thereby keeping your pool super clear.

Regular Cleaning

To keep your pool crystal clear, it might not surprise you to learn that it’s important to regularly clean your pool to prevent debris and algae from clouding up the water. Skim the surface to remove debris, brush the pool surfaces, and vacuum the pool floor and walls.

Get My Free Pool Care Checklist

Download my free, printable pool maintenance checklist to help you accomplish regular pool care tasks for any type of swimming pool.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can you swim in a cloudy saltwater pool?

Do not jump into a cloudy saltwater pool. Who would want to anyway? It’s not exactly inviting! A cloudy pool may be home to various contaminants. Plus, the lack of visibility is a safety risk. To ensure your and your family’s safety, if your saltwater pool is cloudy, address the issue so that you can go back to enjoying your backyard oasis in no time.

Can you put a clarifier in a saltwater pool?

Yes, absolutely! You can use a clarifier in a saltwater swimming pool. Clarifiers clump together all the tiny particles in your pool that may be causing your pool to become cloudy, making it easier for you to remove those impurities via the pool’s filtration system.

Enjoy Your Crystal Clear Saltwater Pool

Maintaining a crystal clear saltwater pool is essential for an enjoyable and safe swimming experience. Regular testing, proper pH balance, adequate chlorine levels, and filtration system maintenance are all key to preventing cloudiness in your saltwater pool. With these tips, you can look forward to a refreshing and pristine swimming pool all season long!

Do you have any more questions about saltwater pool maintenance? Let me know. I am always happy to help!

If you’re friends with traditional chlorine pools are dealing with the same cloudiness issues, refer them to my main research on clearing a cloudy pool.

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