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Saltwater Hot Tub vs. Chlorine: What to Choose in 2022?

Chlorine or saltwater hot tub, that’s the question. Both these water systems use chlorine, but they have more differences than you could guess. And we’ve revealed them all in our article.
Hot Tub

So, you bought your first hot tub and now it remains you to decide what kind of water treatment system to use. Or are you still undecided about the purchase, but want to know all the nuances beforehand? Either way, you’ve come to the right place. No matter how well you know hot tubs, we will try to help you and explain everything about saltwater hot tubs in comparison with chlorine ones in simple words.

A salt hot tub and a chlorine hot tub seem completely different to us, but are they? They certainly have something in common, if you want to know. However, in the middle of our research, we realized that these types of hot tubs are suitable for different people, and if you are interested in these conclusions, just keep reading.

Difference between saltwater & chlorine hot tub

chlorine hot tub

First of all, we will begin by debunking a popular myth. It is that people think that the saltwater and chlorine systems are radically different. But here’s the kicker: The saltwater hot tub… is also chlorine-based. A chlorine generator for saltwater simply produces chlorine from the salt in the water. The chlorine produced is the same. So it is the same chemical hot tub as a chlorine tub.

What’s the difference, you may ask? Well, firstly, it is the very process of how that happens. In a traditional hot tub, you constantly have to add chlorine yourself to keep it clean. With a saltwater tub, everything happens naturally with a salt cell chlorinator — the thing that you won’t find in a traditional spa. There is much less chlorine in the saltwater spa after all. 

Nevertheless, this chlorine in saltwater hot tubs is usually enough to maintain a proper level of cleanliness and hygiene.

Saltwater hot tub pros and cons

Saltwater

Saltwater hot tubs are quite controversial: many owners are crazy about them, while others do not understand the charms of this system. We looked into the advantages and disadvantages to see why opinions are so divided.

List of benefits:

✅ Many users consider salt water softer and more pleasant due to fewer chemicals, and it is more relaxing as well. The point is, these systems (unlike chlorine ones) don’t require harsh chemicals, that’s why water feels more tender on the skin.

✅ No chlorine odor and (for people with sensitive skin) irritation.

✅ You only have to drain the saltwater hot tub once a year (when in a regular spa every three months). 

✅ It is, in some ways, safer than chlorine. Because the salt generator produces chlorine naturally, you may not need chlorine or bromine pills. And these chemicals are quite toxic and dangerous to children, so you don’t have to worry about kids accidentally getting access to them. 

✅ Quality saltwater systems use a little salt and you won’t even taste it (~1700 ppm — the ocean is like 30,000).

✅ A saltwater system can be beneficial to you in the long run. It usually requires fewer chemicals when you’re maintaining your hot tub, so it will save you some money.

Most hot tubs can be converted to saltwater. If you are interested in this process, we have a simple guide to converting your spa to a saltwater hot tub.

List of downsides:

❌ Not all hot tubs are suitable for saltwater use. If you already have a hot tub and want to convert it to saltwater, read the user manual to make sure it is possible.

❌ Approximately every four years you will have to replace the salt element in the chlorinator because it loses its power. The cost of this process will depend on the brand of your hot tub and saltwater system.

❌ You will have to monitor the temperature of the water in your hot tub or set a special timer. The water should always be at least 65 degrees, otherwise, you may have problems with chlorine production due to the low temperature.

❌ Initially, a hot tub with saltwater costs more, and given that the temperature has to be constantly maintained, it’s not certain you can save money with less chemicals.

❌ Saltwater can corrode metals and damage hot tub components over time.

If you’re still looking for the right hot tub for you, here’s a list of worthy saltwater hot tub models to choose from.

As you can see, everything is quite ambiguous. There are many undeniable advantages of a salt hot tub, but also some disadvantages. To have a complete picture, we’ll also look at what the situation is with chlorine spas.

Chlorine hot tub pros and cons

Chlorine hot tub pros and cons

Chlorine has become known as the traditional remedy for hot tubs for a reason. It has many advantages:

✅ A chlorine hot tub is more affordable than saltwater.

✅ Chlorine provides a higher level of water purification and oxidation than any other method because it is highly toxic. Thus, it kills pathogenic bacteria and germs and you will have virtually no chance of getting infected when soaking.

✅ Less hassle with maintenance (except for adding chemicals), and you don’t have to replace anything after four years as with the saltwater.

✅ Chlorinated water is safer for hot tub parts and accessories than salt water because it does not promote corrosion.

Nothing in the world is perfect, and chlorine has its fair share of drawbacks:

❌ Chlorine has a characteristic odor that many people do not tolerate.

❌ If you have sensitive skin, chlorine can irritate it or your eyes. It’s not the chlorine itself, but when it mixes with your cosmetics, sweat, and any other secretions, chloramines are produced. It is these that then cause discomfort, sometimes skin rashes and dryness.

❌ Chlorine chemicals are not safe for children and animals, you will have to figure out how to store them in a safe place.

So, chlorine isn’t perfect either, it has some tempting perks, but the other side of the coin seems serious. One way or another, you’re going to need chemicals with a chlorine hot tub. And if you don’t know much about them, we suggest you trying hot tub starter kits first, where you’ll find all the chemicals you’ll need. Now on to the final decision: how to choose?

Our verdict

We believe that both saltwater and chlorine systems have a right to life. They will work for you in different cases. 

If you are looking to save money, you do not have very sensitive skin and flair, and you do not want to go too much trouble with the care of your hot tub, it is better to choose a chlorine hot tub.

If you’re willing to pay a little more for softer, nicer, odorless water and carefully monitor water balances to keep metals from corroding, look into a saltwater jacuzzi.

Difference in maintaining

Difference in maintaining

If you use chlorine, you will need to add it to your hot tub frequently. Depending on your brand and how often you soak, it could be every day or once a week, but no less frequently. Also, with chlorine, you will need to drain the water and fill it with new water about every three months.

If you choose salt, you’ll have to change the cartridge less frequently, about once every four months, and drain the water once a year. 

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Check out our guide on how to drain your hot tub properly to get it right.

Chlorine hot tub care is not particularly difficult, but it still adds to the hassle compared to the salt hot tub. 

What system will cost you less?

The cost of care depends on various factors. But based on the experience of the many users we interviewed, we can say that a chlorine hot tub will cost you less in the long run. Most likely.

With a chlorine hot tub, you’re going to be spending on chemicals, but it’s not that big of a deal once you get the hang of balancing the chemicals.

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You can read more about the chemicals you’ll need to keep your hot tub clean and chemical balance in a separate article on our website.

With a salt spa, you can save a little money on chemicals, but you’ll spend a lot more on other things. As we mentioned, salt can cause corrosion, so elements of your hot tub will have to be replaced more often. The salt chlorinator itself will also have to be replaced every few years. 

All in all, it depends on luck and how closely you monitor your hot tub, but most users encounter these inconveniences. If the balance of chemicals is maintained, though, corrosion won’t be your problem.

Why did Canada ban saltwater hot tubs?

Canada

Even if you don’t live in Canada, the banning of saltwater hot tubs raises questions. After all, if something is banned at the governmental level, is it really dangerous?

So, for many years, sodium bromide was considered a safe pesticide. But the government regularly reassesses pesticides in Canada and deemed the harm from improper use of sodium bromide to be too great in 2020. 

Since then, all bromine pools, spa electrolysis units, or sodium bromide products intended for use in swimming pools and spa electrolysis units have been canceled. 

Note: If you use sodium bromide in a spa without using electrolysis (salt water generator), ozonation, UV, or MPS, Health Canada has recognized the use of sodium bromide as not only legal but safe. 

Summary

A hot tub can be an investment that will greatly improve your life and be both useful and enjoyable. However, care must be taken in all aspects of spa ownership to keep potential hassle to a minimum. 

Choose your water system wisely so you can enjoy your hot tub to the fullest. Both chlorine and saltwater hot tubs have their advantages and disadvantages, it’s just a matter of which is critical to you. For the more frugal and less attentive owners, we would recommend the chlorine system, while for the sensitive and perfectionist who is willing to always keep an eye on the balance of chemicals, the saltwater option is fine.

FAQ

🌊What are the pros and cons of a saltwater hot tub?

The pros of a saltwater hot tub include softer and more pleasant water; no odor and irritation; draining once a year; fewer chemicals to maintain the spa. And the cons of this option: not all hot tubs can be converted into saltwater; every four years you will have to replace the salt element in the chlorinator; risk of corrosion; higher cost; need to monitor temperature and chemical balance constantly.

🔝Is a saltwater hot tub better?

A salt hot tub is better if you have a sufficient budget for it and are willing to carefully monitor the temperature levels and chemical balance of the spa.

🚫Why did Canada ban salt water hot tubs?

For many years, sodium bromide was considered a safe pesticide. But the government regularly reassesses pesticides in Canada and deemed the harm from improper use of sodium bromide to be too great in 2020. Since then, all bromine pools, spa electrolysis units, or sodium bromide products intended for use in swimming pools and spa electrolysis units have been canceled.

🤢Why does my saltwater hot tub smell like chlorine?

Perhaps the chlorine level in your hot tub is too high, or the pH level is too low. Test the water to see what the problem is.

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