How to Get Rid of White Flakes in Your Saltwater Pool

Written by Michael Dean
October 6, 2023

white flakes in swimming pool

Have you recently noticed white flakes in your saltwater pool? This is actually a relatively common occurrence, so if you are wondering what the white flakes are and how to get rid of them, you’ve come to the right place! There are several reasons this happens, and, luckily, there are many solutions to the issue. So, let’s dive straight into getting rid of the white flakes in your saltwater pool.

Main Takeaways

  • The white flakes in your saltwater pool are calcium carbonate.
  • Causes of those white flakes in a saltwater pool include calcium scaling, hard water, pool equipment issues, and improper water chemistry.
  • To get rid of white flakes in your swimming pool, you have to balance your chemistry, clean the salt cell, and clean the pool.
  • To prevent white flakes from appearing, make sure to maintain proper water chemistry, regularly clean and maintain your pool, circulate the pool, and check and clean your salt cell periodically.

What Are the White Flakes in Your Saltwater Pool?

The white flakes you’ll commonly find in your saltwater pool are almost always calcium carbonate—a naturally occurring mineral. When your saltwater chlorine generator (SWG) generates chlorine, a high-pH substance called sodium hydroxide is also formed as a byproduct. Since sodium hydroxide has a high pH, it can lead to calcium scale forming in the salt cell.

Most SWGs reverse the current or polarity every now and then, and when this happens, a layer of calcium may loosen and come off. Then, the flakes are carried into the pool by the circulating water. And there you have it: white calcium flakes in your saltwater pool.

Causes of White Flakes in a Saltwater Pool

So, what causes those pesky white flakes to appear in your saltwater pool in the first place?

Calcium Scaling

Calcium scaling is one of the most common reasons for white flakes in a saltwater pool. When the calcium levels in your pool water become too high, calcium carbonate can form solid deposits on various pool surfaces. These deposits can appear as white flakes on the pool’s walls and floor. Notably, these scale deposits can also be found in the salt cell of your SWG. Calcium scaling is often the result of high pH and alkalinity levels.

Hard Water

If your tap water is naturally hard (as in, it has a high level of calcium and magnesium), it can lead to the gradual formation of white calcium flakes in the pool’s water. This is especially common if you fill your pool with well water. Regularly testing your water and maintenance can help keep calcium levels in check.

Pool Equipment Issues

The white flakes in your pool can also be traced back to malfunctioning pool equipment, such as an SWG not producing enough chlorine or a faulty/dirty pool filtration system. These problems may disrupt water circulation and chemistry, leading to excessive calcium buildup and, eventually, white flakes.

Improper Water Chemistry

If you have read any of my blogs, you should know by now how important it is to maintain your pool. You should frequently test and adjust your saltwater pool chemical levels, including pH, alkalinity, and calcium hardness. Unfortunately, calcium scaling can occur when these parameters are not within the recommended range, and white flakes can form.

How to Get Rid of White Flakes in Your Saltwater Pool

So, now that you know what the white flakes in your saltwater pool are and what causes them, the next step is to get rid of them.

Step One: Check and Adjust pH, Alkalinity, and Calcium Hardness

First things first, test your water chemistry levels. If your pH and alkalinity are not within the recommended range of 7.2-7.6 and 80-120 ppm, adjust them using the appropriate pool chemicals. This will help prevent further calcium scaling.

Then, of course, you should also check that your pool’s calcium hardness is within the recommended range as well, generally between 200 to 400 ppm. Adjust if necessary.

Step Two: Inspect and Clean the Salt Cell

Examine your salt cell and SWG for any signs of malfunction. Ensure that it’s clean and operating correctly. Calcium can easily build up in the salt cell, and one of the major causes of white flakes in a pool is calcium carbonate on the salt cell plates. So, be sure to thoroughly clean the salt cell and get rid of all mineral deposits. A malfunctioning salt cell can lead to water chemistry imbalances.

Step Three: Brush and Skim the Pool

Grab a pool brush and thoroughly clean your pool’s walls. Remove any flakes that have formed on the pool’s surfaces. You should also skim the surface of your pool. Don’t forget to vacuum your pool as well once you have dislodged all that white scale on your pool’s surfaces.

Step Four: Use a Scale Remover

If the problem persists after you’ve cleaned the salt cell and the pool, use a pool scale remover or calcium descaler specifically designed for saltwater pools. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully when applying the scale remover to dissolve existing scale deposits.

Step Five: Maintain Proper Water Circulation

You should also make sure your pool’s filtration and circulation systems are working optimally. Good water circulation helps distribute pool chemicals evenly and prevents localized issues that can lead to white flakes. Empty your skimmer basket, backwash, and clean the filter.

How to Prevent White Flakes in a Saltwater Pool

The best way to get rid of white flakes is to prevent them from appearing in the first place! So, after you have used some elbow grease to get rid of the white flakes in your saltwater pool, you’ll need to put measures in place to avoid them from forming again. Here are my top tips to keep in mind:

  • Maintain proper water chemistry: Regularly test and balance the pH, alkalinity, calcium hardness, and salt levels in your pool water. A well-balanced pool is less likely to experience calcium scaling.
  • Regularly clean your pool: Consistently clean your pool by vacuuming the bottom, brushing the walls, and skimming the surface to remove debris and other matter.
  • Circulate the pool: Proper water circulation helps distribute pool chemicals evenly and prevents issues that can lead to white flakes.
  • Check and clean your salt cell: Regular inspection and maintenance of your salt cell are crucial to prevent white flakes in your saltwater pool.
  • Use a pool cover: Protect your pool from dust, debris, algae spores, rainwater, or any other potential chemical disruptors that might cause your chemical levels to go out of whack, causing flakes to appear.

How Often to Clean Your Salt Cell

I recommend cleaning your salt cell every 500 hours, roughly every three months. This means most pool owners will clean their salt cell only twice every pool season – once in the middle of the season and once at the end. However, you may need to clean your salt cell more frequently during peak swimming season when the pool sees heavier use. Some signs to watch out for that indicate it’s time to clean your salt cell include:

  • Poor chlorine production
  • Higher than usual voltage
  • Cell warning light is on
  • Visible scale buildup

Ideally, you should inspect your salt cell once a week to ensure no scale buildup on the cell plates.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to swim in a pool with calcium flakes?

Yes, it is technically safe to swim in a pool with calcium flakes. However, the presence of calcium flakes may point to imbalanced water chemistry or scaling issues, in which case, it’d be better not to jump into the water. Make sure to tackle the underlying causes of those white flakes before you swim in the pool.

How does a pool get too much calcium?

A pool can get too much calcium in a few ways. This can happen due to hard tap water, high levels of evaporation concentrating minerals, calcium-based pool chemicals (such as cal hypo), and chemical imbalance. Proper water chemistry maintenance is crucial to prevent excessive calcium in your pool water.

Keep Your Saltwater Pool Clean

And there you have it! Getting rid of those white flakes in your saltwater pool is not as difficult as it seems. More often than not, it is simply a balancing act of getting your pool chemistry in order and maintaining your all-important salt cell.

Do you have any more questions about saltwater pool maintenance? Just shoot me a message, and I’ll be more than happy to help you out.

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