If spa days are one of your most favorite pastimes, consider a salt water hot tub at home. Say goodbye to the smelly chlorine that leaves you feeling irritated (yet clean), and hello to the relaxing bubbles of a hot tub made of salt water.
There are many hot tub benefits and when you make the water salt water, you have even more to gain.
You can recreate the feelings you have at the best spa, in the comfort of your own home.
What Is a Salt Water Hot Tub?
As you probably guessed a salt water hot tub is a hot tub with salt, but there’s more to it than that. The salt water eliminates the need for chlorine, making it a safer and more eco-friendly option for your hot tub water.
A salt water chlorinator manually converts the salt to chlorine. It’s not the same as soaking in seawater, but it’s a different feeling than soaking in chlorinated water. The idea is the same – you relax in hot water, but without the harsh chemicals, you may feel and look better.
How Does a Salt Water Hot Tub Work?
It seems strange, right? Releasing salt in your hot tub rather than chemicals. But, if you think about it salt is a molecule of chlorine, as its scientific name is sodium chloride. But you don’t release salt directly into your hot tub water and automatically have salt water.
You need a chlorinator. This mechanism releases a little bit of electricity, which then releases the chloride molecules from the salt, creating chlorine the natural way. No more measuring chemicals and plugging your nose or burning your eyes as you pour the chlorine in the hot tub water.
You get the chlorine or sanitizing effect while being chemical free. The chlorinator is non-negotiable if you want a salt water hot tub. But again, don’t go thinking you’ll get a mouthful of water and come up feeling all salty like you do at the beach.
The ocean has 35,000 ppm of salt. The best hot tub levels are usually between 2,000 – 3,000 ppm of salt to be considered salt water.
Despite its much lower salt levels, salt water hot tubs have many benefits.
What Are the Benefits of a Salt Water Hot Tub?
Owning a swim spa can bring a lot of enjoyment to your backyard. Whether you’re just relaxing or seeking benefits from hydrotherapy, check out the other salt water hot tub benefits below.
- Use Less Chemicals – Chemicals and cleaners (like chlorine) keep your hot tub clean, but may make your skin feel rough or even make it itchy. Salt turned to chlorine lasts longer, which means fewer chemicals and happier skin.
- No Chlorine Smell or Odor – Remember the days of going to the indoor pool and getting knocked out from the chlorine smell? No one likes it. But, salt is all natural, which means you don’t get that ‘chlorine smell’ that some people love, but turn many people off.
- Spend Less Time Maintaining – All it takes is a little salt added to the hot tub water, and you have chlorine that lasts a lot longer than the chemical itself. There’s no more guesswork, measuring, and dealing with chemicals – it’s done for you, so you spend less time maintaining the hot tub.
- Eco-Friendly – Not only do you not use chemicals, but salt water doesn’t need frequent draining. This makes it lighter on your pocketbook and the environment as you don’t have to refill the hot tub too often.
- Helps Soften Skin – Salt water is a natural way to soften and soothe irritated skin. Many say this rejuvenating experience allows you to soak and unwind more easily.
- Great for Sore Muscles – Salt water has more buoyancy than regular water, which allows your body to float more. Less gravity on the muscles helps alleviate soreness and makes for a better more soothing experience overall.
- Disposable Cartridges – You don’t have to buy tubs of chemicals or fancy equipment. All it takes is a salt water cartridge, which you can buy in packages of 3 to 4 which last you an entire year, saving you money and time.
What Are the Drawbacks of a Salt Water Hot Tub?
- Hefty Upfront Investment – Salt water hot tubs cost more than regular hot tubs, but since they’re easier (and less expensive) to maintain, eventually it may be a wash.
- You Still Need to Maintain the Hot Tub – Many people think salt water hot tubs are maintenance-free, but you still have to measure the chlorine levels, balance the water, and clean the filter. Even though you spend less time, there’s still maintenance.
- Salt Water May Corrode the Hot Tub Parts – All parts wear down with use and salt water may cause corroding which may require more frequent replacement of parts such as your heater and hot tub filters/filtration system
- You Must Replace Cartridges – Salt water hot tubs have cartridges (that’s how you get the salt) that you must replace every few months, adding to the hot tub’s cost
- You Can Void the Warranty – Read your manufacturer’s warranty to make sure you aren’t voiding it by using salt rather than traditional chlorine. Some warranties don’t allow it.
- The Water Must Remain Above 60 Degrees Fahrenheit – Salt water hot tubs shut down if they are colder than 60 degrees Fahrenheit because the chlorinator can’t turn salt into chlorine in the colder temperatures, rendering the hottub unsafe.
How to Convert to a Salt Water Hot Tub
Step 1: Empty Your Hot Tub.
You must start from scratch. Use a garden hose or pull the plug, empty the water, scrub and algae, clean and rinse the tub, flush the lines, and replace the filter cartridge.
Now is also a really good time to do some outdoor spa maintenance. Make sure you thoroughly clean the hot tub pump, spa jets, any vinyl liner either inside of your jacuzzi spa or outside for your hot tub cover.
Step 2: Add Clean Water.
After you’ve done the fun sanitation and routine hot tub maintenance, fill the tub back up with fresh water. Don’t forget to put any plugs back in.
Step 3: Test the Water.
Tap water has some saltiness to it. Test it so you know how much salt to put in when you convert it. Follow the manufacturer’s directions and properly use the correct water test strips to test your water-system.
Step 4: Test the Water Again.
This time run a salt water test for all levels including pH levels, alkalinity, and calcium in addition to salt. Make sure all levels are within the right parameters.
Step 5: Install the Chlorinator.
Make sure the wires have plenty of room to reach the GFCI groundfault circuit and that the chlorinator cell reaches the water. Connect the cables, but don’t plug the power cord in just yet.
Step 6: Put the Chlorinator in the Water.
Follow the manufacturer’s directions and place the chlorinator as far down in the hot tub as you can. The deeper you put the chlorinator, the more effective it will be.
Step 7: Plug the Chlorinator into the Outlet.
Once you have the chlorinator situated, plug it into the outlet. Read your manufacturer’s instructions for starting the unit to make sure you do it right. Make sure your saltwater system is set up correctly and safely.
Step 8: Run the Chlorinator for 24 Hours and Test Again.
Test the hot tub water after 24 hours to see if the levels are right. If you aren’t sure, bring a sample of the water to your local pool store. It’s important that the water is safe to swim in, which means properly chlorinated as well as pH balanced.
Should You Buy a Salt Water Hot Tub?
Is a saltwater hot tub better than a regular hot tub? It depends on your preferences. If you love the buoyancy of salt water combined with the fewer chemicals and eco-friendliness, then yes, it’s better. Both chlorine and salt water hot tubs have their pros and cons. Work with what’s best for your budget, health, and overall preferences.
Whichever path you decide, cheers to making your jacuzzi hot tub your own deluxe oasis!
For over 15 years, Sean Moore has been sharing his love and enthusiasm for swimming pools and hot tubs with everyone he knows. His goal is to help everyday people DIY their maintenance to save money by teaching how to properly take care of your equipment, safely and correctly balance chemicals, and extend the life of your water oasis.
Pricing on this page was last updated on 2022-05-26