Salt Water vs Chlorine Hot Tubs

By Calvin | Last Updated: June 13, 2021 | Guides / Comparison

We all knew this fight was sure to come sooner or later. So let’s get ready for this bout.

In the red corner straight out of the manufacturer’s company, we have the good old chlorine hot tub and in the blue corner, coming out of the improved valley, we have the modernized salt water hot tub. If you put them head to head here’s the result:

Chlorine hot tubs need chlorine and bromine to keep the water clean, and you have to change the water every 3 months. While salt water hot tubs need only salt and you can change the water every 6 months. But, that’s not all…

Which of these hot tubs is better? And which one do you need? Let’s find out. But first, let’s check out what the chlorine hot tub is all about.

Most people use chlorine hot tubs, but lately salt water hot tubs are becoming very popular. So, what's the difference between salt water vs chlorine hot tubs, and which one do you need?

What Is a Chlorine Hot Tub?

A chlorine hot tub is probably what you have at home. All hot tubs are chlorine hot tubs or at least used to be chlorine hot tubs. Chlorine hot tubs are hot tubs or spas that require the user to add an amount of chlorine or bromine to the water to keep the water clean and safe.

We all know hot tubs need sanitizers to keep the water healthy but if you are new to this, here is a quick recap for you. The water in your hot tub isn’t changed like that in your bathtub. The water in the hot tub can remain there for weeks and even up to 3 months before it is changed.

Chlorine is the hot tub you probably have in your house. To keep it clean you need to use chlorine or bromine. You have to change the water every 3 months, sometimes before that.

This is because hot tubs are very large and it takes hours to fill a hot tub not to talk about the power it will take to heat one to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit. So it’s right to leave the water in the hot tub there and only change it if necessary, but there is a problem.

If you will be bathing in the same water for 3 months, wouldn’t that water get dirty and unhealthy? Sure it will and that is where the sanitizers come in. Sanitizers are added to the water to keep it clean and safe so you can use it for months without changing it.

So chlorine hot tubs are hot tubs that require the user to add a regular dose or amount of chlorine sanitizer to the water in the hot tub at regular intervals so the water is kept clean and safe. Now, let’s check out salt water hot tubs.

Related Read >>> Inflatable Hot Tub vs Regular Hot Tub?

What Are Salt Water Hot Tubs?

Salt water hot tubs are not hot tubs filled with seawater if that’s what you are wondering. Salt water hot tubs are hot tubs that have a device called a salt cell chlorinator.

The salt water hot tub is a normal hot tub. It just uses a chlorinator to convert the salt into chlorine to keep the water clean. The salt costs less, and you don't have to manually add it every few days, and that's why people go for a salt hot tub.

The chlorinator performs the same function as the user of a chlorine hot tub. The chlorinator adds the needed amount of chlorine to the hot tub when needed. But how?

The salt cell chlorinator uses hot tub salt to make chlorine through a process called electrolysis. When the salt is added into the system of the chlorinator, it uses electrolysis to convert the hot tub salt to chlorine.

It then adds this chlorine to the hot tub to keep the water healthy for soaking in. Isn’t that amazing? Sure it is. But how good is the salt water hot tub when compared to the chlorine hot tub? Let’s find out.

Related Read >>> How To Convert To a Salt Water Hot Tub?

Chlorine Hot Tub Vs Salt Water Hot Tub: Head to Head

Both hot tubs are good individually and to be honest, they both keep the water clean and healthy but the difference comes in terms of how they clean the water. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s get ready to rumble.

Odor

Round one, let’s start with the odor. When you think of chlorine hot tubs, one of the first things that comes to your mind is the strong odor that it produces when the chlorine is added to the water.

Chlorine is a strong chemical and adding it to water to sanitize the water releases chloramines. This produces a strong and offensive odor in the air. The odor is even more toxic and strong when you shock the hot tub. Shocking the hot tub means adding a high dose or quantity of chlorine sanitizer to the water to kill bacteria and germs.

On the other hand, salt water hot tubs do not have any odor. In fact, you wouldn’t be able to tell if chlorine has been added to the water except you test the water.

The reason is because salt water hot tubs use salt and salt doesn’t have any smell or odor so you don’t have to worry about offensive odors when sanitizing your hot tub. This round goes to the salt water hot tub.

Winner: Salt Water Hot Tub

Potency

It’s not all about adding sanitizers to the water in the hot tub. It’s about how effective or potent the sanitizers added are. When it comes to potency, chlorine hot tubs are very effective sanitizers.

When the chlorine or bromine is added to the water in the hot tub, the grime, scum, bacteria, algae, and all sorts of germs in the water do not stand a chance.

The chlorine added to chlorine hot tubs combines with hydrogen and oxygen in the water to form hypochlorous acid that kills bacteria and germs in the water.

Salt water hot tubs are not as potent as chlorine hot tubs. While the chlorinator of a salt water hot tub will also add chlorine to the water, the potency of the chlorine cannot be compared to that of the good old chlorine sanitizer.

You will still need to shock most salt water hot tub once in a while to ensure the water remains as clean as possible. This makes chlorine hot tubs more effective at getting rid of germs and scum than salt water hot tubs.

Winner: Chlorine Hot Tubs

Related Read >>> Jacuzzi vs Hot Tub?

Maintenance

If you own a hot tub, then you already know hot tubs are difficult to maintain. There is usually so much to worry about from the water levels to the water temperature and more.

Salt after hot tubs offers a means of escape from this heavy maintenance routine. With a salt water hot tub, you get to spend less time worrying about how much sanitizer is in the water and more time enjoying the hot tub.

Chlorine hot tubs on the other hand are not maintenance-free. You need to add the chlorine sanitizer yourself and this is not the easiest of tasks. You need to worry about the sanitizer level, test and retest the water to be sure the water chemistry is balanced, and so on.

Sure salt water hot tubs will still need a bit of maintenance to be sure everything is working fine. But you can’t compare that maintenance level to that of the chlorine hot tubs. Chlorine hot tubs require heavy maintenance while salt water hot tubs give you the luxury of enjoying your hot tub more.

Winner: Salt Water Hot Tubs

Related Read >>> How To Maintain a Salt Water Hot Tub?

Cost

When talking about the water care system of your hot tub, cost matters a lot. For the chlorine hot tubs, you need to spend cash regularly on sanitizers which for the record aren’t cheap. A bucket of chlorine sanitizer can cost well over $50 depending on the brand you buy.

Salt water hot tubs on the other hand don’t require you to spend on sanitizers. You basically just have to buy hot tub salt which is very cheap. The hot tub salt also comes in larger quantities than the chlorine or bromine you will buy for a chlorine hot tub so it’s a pocket-friendly option.

Sure you will also need to spend cash on installing a chlorinator in your hot tub but that spending is a one-time thing. You just pay for the installation and all you have to worry about from that point on is hot tub salt. At least for a few years before you will need to change the chlorinator.

This makes salt water hot tubs cheaper to run than a chlorine hot tub that will require chlorine almost every week.

Winner: Salt Water Hot Tub

Safety

Many hot tub users have complained about having skin irritation, swelling, dry skin, hair loss, and eye irritation after adding chlorine to their hot tub water. This is possible with a chlorine hot tub.

The chlorine added to a chlorine hot tub releases chloramines into the water. The chloramines released can cause skin irritation, swelling, and all sorts of temporary health issues especially if the chlorine is added in a high quantity.

This doesn’t happen with a salt water hot tub. There is no release of chloramines or any other harmful substances in the water. You can even take a soak in your hot tub while the chlorinator sanitizes the water. This makes the salt water hot tub safer than the chlorine hot tub.

Winner: Salt Water Hot Tub

Related Read >>> How To Keep Frogs Out of a Hot Tub?

Drainage

There is no sugarcoating it. Draining a hot tub is work especially if it’s a large hot tub. Large hot tubs like the 6 or 7 person hot tub can contain over 600 gallons of water.

To empty all that water will take work and time. Not to talk of the time and effort it will take to refill the hot tub. So it’s only normal to look for a routine that doesn’t require you to drain the hot tub every time.

Chlorine hot tubs however wouldn’t give you that. With a chlorine hot tub, you will need to drain the hot tub at least once in 3 months. Sure, it’s a while but no one looks forward to draining their hot tub.

Salt water hot tubs give you an extended time to enjoy the hot tub. With a salt water system, you can leave the hot tub water for up to 6 months before you need to drain it. So, in terms of drainage, salt water hot tubs give you more time than chlorine hot tubs.

Winner: Salt Water Hot Tub

Soft or Hard Water?

Salt water hot tubs have softer water. This is because salt is naturally used to soften hard water and since salt is what you use to clean your hot tub, it’s only normal to have softer water in the hot tub.

This enhances your hot tub experience because the water has a gentler feel on your eyes, skin, and hair.

Chlorine hot tubs on the other hand do not exactly have soft water. The nature of the water usually remains unchanged.

Winner: Salt Water Hot Tub

Related Read >>> Is Soft Water Bad For Hot Tubs?

Corrosion

When it comes to adding sanitizers to the water, one factor to always keep in mind is the risk of corrosion. Both the salt water hot tub and the chlorine hot tub have a risk of corrosion but the salt water hot tub has a higher risk of corroding the parts of your hot tub.

This is because salt water hot tubs usually have soft water since the salt automatically reduces the calcium hardness of the water. The soft water of the salt water hot tub can cause corrosion and discoloration on the shell, jets, and filter of the hot tub.

This is because soft water is under-saturated and in a bid to get the calcium the water needs, it will eat away at the metal parts of the hot tub.

Chlorine hot tubs on the other hand don’t have that high risk of corrosion. You can only experience corrosion in a chlorine hot tub if you add too much chlorine to the water and that will be your fault at not the fault of the purification system.

Winner: Chlorine Hot Tubs

Final Words

Overall, both the salt water hot tub and the chlorine hot tub have good water purification systems and as long as you follow the instructions, you are sure to have clean water in your hot tub. As to which of these hot tubs won the fight, we’ll leave that to you the judges to decide.

So there you have it. If you liked this post, be sure to check out others on this website for more hot tub tips. Have a nice day.

Hi, I'm Calvin Hall, the owner of Hot Tub Wiki. I worked at a local Spa Service for a few years before creating this website. I have owned several hot tubs and fixed a thousand of them. So, I know a thing or two about hot tubs.