How to Winterize a Saltwater Pool

Written by Michael Dean
February 20, 2024

winterizing a saltwater pool

Closing down a pool for the winter is a sad time for any pool owner. As the days get shorter and temperatures drop, you’ll need to start preparing to winterize your pool. If you are a saltwater pool owner, winterizing your pool will look slightly different from a traditional chlorine pool. Winterizing your saltwater pool is necessary to protect your pool equipment from stains, damage, and algae growth from the harsh winter.

Here is my helpful step-by-step guide for how to winterize a saltwater pool. I will also go over some essential FAQs for winterizing. Let’s dive in!

If you have a standard chlorine pool, check out my guide on how to winterize a pool.

Main Takeaways

  • In a nutshell, to winterize your saltwater pool, you have to clean the pool, test and balance the water, add winterizing chemicals, lower the pool water, winterize all equipment, add antifreeze, and then cover the pool.
  • You should winterize your saltwater pool when the temperature reaches below 65 degrees Fahrenheit on average.
  • Winterizing your saltwater pool will cost anywhere between $10 to around $600, if you need to purchase all equipment. If you hire a professional, expect to pay an additional $200-$300.

Supplies Checklist

Before you begin, ensure you have all the supplies needed to winterize your pool. You can purchase most of the pool winterizing equipment you don’t already have online or from your local pool store.

Step-by-Step: Winterizing a Saltwater Pool

For most Americans, winterizing your saltwater pool is an essential part of pool maintenance every winter. As the temperature gets colder, freezing water can damage the pool’s surfaces. To avoid that, here is my step-by-step walkthrough for properly winterizing your saltwater pool.

Step 1: Clean the Pool

Before you begin the winterizing process, it is crucial that you thoroughly clean the pool. Make sure to brush and vacuum the entire swimming pool and clear it of all debris. The cleaner the pool when you close it, the easier it will be to open it again as the weather warms up in the spring.

Step 2: Test Salt Levels

Saltwater chlorinators are notorious for their sensitivity to cold weather. They can become unreliable in the winter and will produce less chlorine, meaning your water will not be as protected from contaminants. As the weather cools, your salt readings will show as lower. For an accurate salt level reading, use a salt testing strip. DON’T add more salt; once the salt levels start to display lower levels, it is a good time to start closing down the pool.

AquaChek Salt Test Strip Titrators for Pools

These salt test strips from AquaChek should do the trick. Simple to use and accurate.

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Step 3: Test and Balance Other Chemicals In The Water

You should also test the other aspects of your water chemistry, including pH, total alkalinity, and calcium hardness. Once tested, make sure to balance the water chemistry correctly. The ideal pH levels lie between 7.2 – 7.8. And total alkalinity should be between 80 to 120 ppm. Finally, the calcium hardness of the water should be between 200 and 400 ppm.

Step 4: Shock the Pool

Yes, you should still shock a saltwater pool. In fact, I highly recommend doing so before closing down your pool. Shock the pool a few days before closing the pool to ensure it is as clean and sanitized as possible before going into hibernation.

Step 5: Add Winterizing Pool Chemicals

Your local pool store should stock a winterizing kit for your pool. These kits include algaecide to prevent algae growth. Follow the manufacturer’s directions when adding these chemicals to your saltwater pool.

In The Swim Pool Closing Kit

In The Swim makes a great winterization kit that includes all the chemicals you need to close your above ground or inground pool.

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Step 6: Let Your Pool Filter Run

Let the pool filter these chemicals and circulate the water for at least 8 hours before you fully close your pool. Once the filter has run for 8 hours, shut off all your pool equipment, including the filter, pump, and the heater.

Step 7: Lower the Water Level

Lower the water level to just below the skimmer line. This is due to rain, melted snow, and anything else that may cause water levels to rise during the off-season. Additionally, this keeps water from entering your skimmer lines and plumbing and freezing.

Step 8: Winterize the Saltwater Chlorinator

Empty and clean your saltwater chlorinator (SWC). Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to winterize your SWC properly. For most, simply removing and storing it in a dry location is enough.

Step 9: Drain and Clean All Equipment

You should also remove and drain all other equipment in your pool. This includes your pool heater, pool filter, and any other equipment you may have that needs to be protected during the winter. Read my guides on winterizing a heater and winterizing a filter for more on this.

Step 10: Winterize the Skimmer

Use an air compressor to first force all the water out of the pool lines and plumbing. Once all the water has been cleared, plug your skimmer with a skimmer plug or a Gizmo. Doing this will prevent damage to your pool plumbing. If you plug your skimmer correctly, no water should enter the pool plumbing over the winter. Remember, water expands when it freezes, so if water is still in your plumbing lines, it can freeze and destroy your pipes!

Step 11: Add Some Antifreeze (Optional)

This is definitely not a requirement. But some pool owners in especially cold regions opt to add pool-safe antifreeze to the pool. This is only necessary if you live in very cold areas where the water is at risk of freezing. This is excellent insurance in case the skimmer plug is damaged or if you’re unsure if all the water has been pushed out of the plumbing. NEVER add automotive antifreeze, as it is toxic and harmful.

Champion Swimming Pool Antifreeze for Winterizing

I use this option from Champion anytime I need to add antifreeze when winterizing a pool.

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Step 12: Cover the Pool

Once your pool chemicals are balanced and you have cleaned the heck out of your pool, it is time to seal up the pool for the winter. Do one final skim of the pool to remove as much debris as possible. Once done, you can then cover the pool with a pool cover. As an optional step, you can add a couple of air pillows onto the water before covering the pool to prevent the cover from sinking. Remember, do not pull the cover too tight. It should either be sitting against the water level or on top of air pillows. This way, if rain or snow builds up on the cover, it does not tear or break.

Step 13: Check the Pool Throughout the Winter

Throughout the winter, you should continue to care for your pool by clearing debris and snow off the pool cover, checking the water chemistry and water levels, adding pool chemicals as necessary, and ensuring algae or contaminants are not setting up their home in your water.

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I close my saltwater pool for the winter?

When you should close your saltwater pool for the winter highly depends on your local climate. Most saltwater systems will start to fail once the temperature drops below a certain level. So this can range from anything between October to never. I recommend winterizing your pool when the temperature reaches 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

If the average temperature in your area is below 65 degrees, it is time to close your pool before the temperature turns to freezing. For most regions in the north, this means winterizing the pool in late October and early November.

As an additional tip, make sure the water is cold enough to winterize before starting to close it. Warm water will make it easier for algae to grow, and the chemicals in the water will not last as long.

How much does it cost to winterize a saltwater pool?

There are a few one-time costs when winterizing your saltwater pool. If you’re a new pool owner, you will need to purchase an air compressor, a skimmer plug, air pillows, and, of course, a pool cover. The costs for this equipment vary:

  • Air compressor – $50 to $300
  • Skimmer plug – around $20
  • Air pillow – $10 to $20 per pillow
  • Pool cover – $50 to $200

You must also purchase chemicals such as a winterizing chemical kit and antifreeze. Expect to pay around $30 to $50 for the winterizing kit and $10 to $20 for antifreeze.

In addition to the above, you can also hire a professional to winterize your saltwater pool. For this service, expect to pay around $200 to $300. This is a great option for those who do not have time to close the pool properly. It is also a good option for new pool owners to learn how to winterize the pool by observing a professional.

What is the difference between winterizing an inground and an above ground saltwater pool?

Winterizing an above ground pool is generally a bit more straightforward than winterizing an inground saltwater pool. Most of the steps stay the same, but the process of clearing the plumbing and cleaning the pool will likely be easier because above ground pools are smaller and less complex.

Do NOT drain the water in an above ground saltwater pool. In fact, draining the water can actually damage the structure of the pool.

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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Your Saltwater Pool Is Prepared for the Winter!

Winterizing your saltwater pool is important, especially if you live in colder climates. It is necessary because saltwater equipment cannot handle the cold, and winterizing prevents expensive damage to your pool. To ensure that you have a clean and safe pool ready for use by the time the warmer months roll around, you should properly winterize your pool and pool equipment.

Winterizing your pool may seem daunting, especially if you’re a first-time saltwater pool owner. But you now know it’s similar to closing a traditional chlorine pool. Alternatively, there is always the option of hiring a professional to winterize your pool if needed.

If you have more questions about cleaning and winterizing a saltwater pool, feel free to reach out! I am always happy to help a fellow pool owner.

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