How to Open a Salt Water Pool

Written by Michael Dean
March 15, 2023

supplies to open a salt water pool

As the weather begins to warm up, it’s time to start thinking about opening your pool for the season. If you have a salt water pool, opening it up may differ from what you’re used to with a traditional chlorine pool. However, opening a saltwater pool can be a breeze with the right supplies and knowledge.

In this article, I’ll take you through the steps you need to take to open your saltwater pool. So grab a cold drink, and let’s get started!

Main Takeaways

  • Some of the equipment you need for opening saltwater pools should already be in your shed, i.e., pool vacuum, garden hose, telescopic pole, and brush.
  • Make sure your testing kits and pool chemicals haven’t expired during the winter months—replace anything that is.
  • You can’t use table salt or any salt other than pool salt, which is 99-100% pure sodium chloride.

Supplies Needed to Open a Salt Water Pool

Opening a saltwater pool requires several supplies to ensure that the pool is clean and safe to swim in. Here’s a checklist:

  • Sump pump: To remove any water that’s accumulated on the cover.
  •  Saltwater chemical test kit (strips or liquid): To test pH, chlorine, salt, calcium, alkalinity, and cyanuric acid levels—make sure the kit isn’t expired!
  •  Chemicals: To sanitize the water and re-balance it so it can be used safely—you might need to stock up on algaecides, clarifiers, pool conditioners, muriatic acid, phosphate remover, pool lubricant, etc.
  •  Salt: To revive the salt levels in your pool, you’ll need several bags of 99% pure sodium chloride from a pool store.
  •  Shock: To treat the pool to kill any bacteria or algae that may have festered in the pool while it was closed.
  •  Brush: To dislodge any mulch or algae from the pool’s surfaces.
  •  Skimmer net: To remove leaves, twigs, insects, and other debris which might have found a way past the winter cover.
  •  Pool vacuum: To remove any debris that may have settled on the bottom of the pool.
  •  Water hose: To refill the pool to the appropriate level, if needed.

Step-by-Step Guide: How to Open a Salt Water Pool

Here’s my handy step-by-step guide to help you open your saltwater pool at the start of the season.

Step One: Remove and Store the Pool Cover

First, siphon off any water that might have accumulated on the cover using a sump pump. Then clear the cover and its surroundings of any debris. Once you remove the cover, make sure to clean the winter cover itself and dry it properly for storage in your pool shed.

Step Two: Survey and Reattach Pool Equipment and the Salt Chlorine Generator

Check on and reattach (if applicable) the heater, the pump, the filter, and the salt chlorine generator. Ensure the lines are clear and turn on your water sources so the water can run through the filter system. Your salt cell should have been stored away for the winter, so pop it back in the controller after tightening the salt cell unions fully and lubing the union o-rings.

Step Three: Remove Pool Plugs and Refill the Pool

Once your pool equipment has been checked and serviced, remove the pool plugs on your skimmers, wall returns, and other openings. Then, if your pool water is not high enough, use a garden hose to refill the water to around the halfway point of the skimmer.

Step Four: Prime the Pump

The next step is priming the pump, which involves blowing out air pockets and replacing them with water, so the pump doesn’t run dry. To do this:

  1. Switch the multiport valve to “Recirculate.”
  2.  Open up the air relief valve.
  3.  Clean out the pump basket.
  4.  Fill the pump basket with a garden hose.
  5.  Then turn on the pump to check the water flow.
  6.  If there is no consistent flow, check everything once again.
  7.  When everything is flowing correctly, close the air pressure release valve.

Step Five: Balance the Pool Chemistry

After ensuring the pump is running smoothly, your next step is to test, adjust, and balance the water chemistry. Remember, the recommended chemistry levels for saltwater pools are:

  • pH: 7.4 – 7.6
  •  Total alkalinity: 80 – 120 ppm
  •  Calcium hardness: 200 – 250 ppm
  •  Cyanuric acid: 60 – 80 ppm

Use a fresh and reliable test strip or liquid test kit to gauge current levels and add chemicals as necessary. Ensure you get to the correct chemical levels for a saltwater pool, not a chlorine pool. In particular, cyanuric acid levels should be notably higher in a saltwater pool since the salt chlorine generator does not produce enough chlorine to keep up with the increased demand in the pool under the sun’s UV rays.

Step Six: Shock the Pool

Shocking the pool is vital after the winter, even for a saltwater pool. By shocking the pool, you destroy the build-up of algae spores, bacteria, and other undesirable contaminants in the pool, making the pool safe for human use. Remember: shock the pool only after the water is perfectly balanced for the best results!

If your pool looks clear and clean, a regular pool shock dose of 1 pound of shock per 10,000 gallons of pool water may suffice. Check out my pool shock calculator for more precise results. However, in some cases, you may need to double, triple, or even quadruple shock your pool, depending on how contaminated your pool is. 

After shocking the pool, wait 12 hours and test the water again. If your free chlorine levels read between 1 to 3 ppm, you’re all set to jump into your pool. Remember to shock your pool when the sun is going down, and run the pump for at least 12 hours to ensure the shock mixes and disperses properly throughout the pool.

Step Seven: Check Salt Levels

Measure the salinity levels of your saltwater pool using a test strip or liquid test kit. Most saltwater pools need extra salt added in spring, especially if you lowered the water level for winter. Your salt levels should be between 2,700 and 3,400 ppm. 

If your salt levels are too low, add some pure pool salt, which is 99 – 100% pure sodium chloride (never use any other salt as it might contain additives you won’t want to add to your pool). Pour the salt into the pool around the edge of the perimeter and use a brush to help disperse it. Use my pool salt calculator to figure out how much salt you need to add to your pool.

Step Eight: Switch On the Salt Chlorine Generator

The last step to opening your saltwater pool is simply turning your salt system on!

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.

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

Difference Between Opening a Saltwater Pool and a Traditional Chlorine Pool

Opening a saltwater pool is similar to opening a traditional chlorine pool, but there are some key differences.

  1. Chlorine for traditional pools would need to be added manually to the water by a pool owner, which isn’t the case with a saltwater pool since it has a generator that creates chlorine from the salt via electrolysis.
  2.  Both pools also have different chemical levels during start-up, such as lower cyanuric acid levels for a chlorine pool.
  3.  And, of course, the main difference between the two is that when you open a saltwater pool, you need to reinstall your saltwater generator.

There are also some slight differences for opening an above ground pool – check out my article linked here for step-by-step instructions.

Let me know if you have any questions; happy to help. You can head to my main article on saltwater pools for more research on this pool type.

Scroll to Top