Pool Time: Getting Salty on the South Strand

Mother Nature has been somewhat fickle so far this Spring keeping your favorite swimming holes on the cool side, but many vacationers are gearing up for pool time as Summer officially draws near, investing in fashion-forward swimwear, the latest aquatic toys and games for kids, and cutting-edge water-proof accessories.

There is no doubt that the beach is the main attraction along the South Strand, but many visitors also enjoy frolicking, lounging in or next to their accommodations’ swimming pools, cooling down from the Carolina heat – a time-honored tradition.

Experts are predicting a chlorine shortage this summer, so it may be a silver lining that saltwater pools are becoming more common at hotels, resorts, on cruise ships – and at a growing number of Garden City Realty vacation rentals.

Consider Drift Away, a Surfside Beach four-bedroom, four-bath third row beach house that is in GCR’s vacation rental program, for example. Among its amenities, it lists “a private 14-by-20-foot heated saltwater pool, an ideal way to enjoy a little me-time relaxing on a pool float.” 

An estimated 70 percent of new pools built in the U.S. are categorized as saltwater. While pool-goers appreciate the benefits of saltwater pools – smoother feeling skin, no more red, itchy eyes or the threat of having your hair turn green from too much chlorine – they can also be a boon for property owners, and existing pools can easily be converted with the installation of salt chlorinator systems.

But before we go any further, let us clear up some of some misconceptions about saltwater pools. 

First off, despite widespread misinformation, saltwater pools are not chlorine-free. In fact, saltwater pools produce lower levels of chlorines (than a traditional chlorinated pool) via chemical reaction, utilizing a salt chlorine generator.

According to AQUA Magazine, a leading pool and spa industry resource, “Electrolytic chlorine generators (ECGs), or saltwater chlorinators, use electricity and dissolved salt to produce chlorine for the pool.” The chlorine works the same as traditionally applied pool chlorine to sanitize the pool, while the salt can leave your skin feeling smoother and softer.

Also, taking a dip in a saltwater pool is not like swimming in a miniature version of the Atlantic Ocean. Saltwater pools, despite the name, are not overly salty. They generally contain less salt than, say, your teardrops.

Some folks also believe that saltwater, by itself is sanitary – but it is not. The molecule, Sodium-chloride (NaCl) aka salt, has no sanitary properties. It is chlorine, by itself, that dissolves bacterial cell walls, and destroys the harmful organisms.

Therefore, all pools need some sort of sanitizing agent added to them, and the most popular is chlorine – which most of us are familiar with from its strong, distinctive smell alone, while some pool owners use bromine instead.

Saltwater pools are promoted as being more eco-friendly, but research is inconclusive.

Here is a snapshot of the main advantages and disadvantages of saltwater pools:


  • The user experience is better, with less irritation for simmers’ eyes, skin, and hair.
  • Lessened chlorine odor.
  • Pool owners do not have to purchase and store chlorine and other dangerous chemicals on-site.
  • Less maintenance because the saltwater systems produce chlorine only as needed.
  • More cost-effective in the long run.


  • More upfront investment is required when outfitting a pool with a saltwater system.
  • Because the systems are more complex, minor problems are harder to troubleshoot, often requiring the attention of expert technicians.
  • Salt can damage certain materials and cause corrosion.
  • Salt chlorine generators are not particularly sturdy, typically lasting between three and five years.

By Kent Kimes for Garden City Realty

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