FOLLOW US

Saltwater hot tub pros and cons

They’re gentler and easier to maintain, but come at a higher cost

by Kate Williams, Ph.D. ConsumerAffairs Research Team
hot tub on porch

What is a saltwater hot tub?

Any hot tub can be a saltwater hot tub with the addition of a salt chlorine generator. Instead of adding chemicals directly to your hot tub, you add salt (about two pounds per 100 gallons of water), which dissolves to produce natural chlorine that's needed to keep your hot tub clean.

Because you’ll need to purchase the salt chlorine generator, saltwater hot tub prices may be higher initially, but the maintenance of saltwater tubs is generally cheaper than the maintenance of traditional hot tubs.

Hot tub prices range from $2,000 to $32,000, and saltwater systems typically cost between $500 and $5,000. So, you can expect to find a saltwater hot tub around $2,500, with higher-end saltwater tubs between $30,500 and $37,000.

Saltwater hot tub benefits

Many people are looking for healthier ways to use their hot tub. Modern saltwater hot tubs are designed to generate their own soothing and healing properties with clean water without the potential effects of chlorine. Here are common benefits of saltwater hot tubs that ensure a relaxing and healthy soak:

  1. Increased water softness and buoyancy: The moderate amount of chlorine produced by the salt system keeps your water quality consistently soft for longer periods before draining and refilling your hot tub water. The steady flow of naturally produced chlorine reduces the risk of dry and cracked skin that harsh chemicals cause. Salt also raises the buoyancy of water, providing a more soothing experience while soaking.
  2. Gentle on sensitive eyes and skin: Sensitive eyes and skin are prone to irritation when soaking in chlorinated water. Since chlorine is naturally generated in saltwater hot tubs, chloramines are less likely to build up, keeping your eyes and skin safe from irritation.
  3. No unpleasant odor: Chlorine solutions have an unpleasant smell that sticks to your skin and hair after a soak. Salt systems prevent the mutation of chlorine into chloramines that produce the foul smell because when natural chlorine molecules are used up, they revert to odorless sodium chloride or salt.
  4. Increased buffering capacity of the water: Adding the right amount of salt to your hot tub water makes it more resistant to water chemistry fluctuations. The minerals in the salt help withstand changes in alkalinity, pH and calcium hardness.
  5. Cheaper maintenance: After setting up your saltwater hot tub, the salt system starts to do its function of continuously sanitizing water. More advanced saltwater hot tub models are able to boost chlorine during times of heavier use. All you have to do is test the water at least once a week. You also don’t need to purchase or handle hot tub chemicals like chlorine tablets or bromine that may be dangerous to children and pets if not properly stored.

Saltwater hot tub disadvantages

Saltwater hot tubs are a good alternative to traditional hot tubs but they, too, are not perfect. Things can go wrong with your saltwater system if you’re not able to monitor its performance and properly maintain it. Here is the downside of saltwater hot tubs:

  1. Initial cost is higher: Saltwater hot tubs are more expensive than traditional hot tubs. A saltwater system as an addition to your existing hot tub requires a substantial investment that may range from $500 to $5,000.
  2. Cell replacement adds to your costs: A hot tub salt cell usually lasts 2-5 years depending on the quality of the cell, frequency of use and the level of care you give it. Salt cells are made of parallel titanium plates that may eventually chip off due to low salt levels, wear and tear or inadequate maintenance.
  3. Risk of corrosion: Salt is corrosive to metal. There have been claims of saltwater systems damaging heaters, liners and underwater lighting due to excessive salt levels.
  4. Water needs to remain above 60℉: Critics of saltwater systems dispute that saltwater chlorination may not be as effective as traditional methods of water chlorination. When water temperature falls below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, your salt system can have difficulty producing chlorine even if the cell is running. Most salt systems automatically shut down when low water temperature is sensed, potentially reducing the chlorine level and creating a breeding ground for microorganisms.

Who should buy a saltwater hot tub?

Saltwater hot tubs are ideal for homeowners who want to enjoy a gentle hot tub experience. The added cost of a salt cell can be offset by easier maintenance and more enjoyable use.

When it comes to deciding which hot tub to buy, choose the one that has the features you want and will be easiest for you to maintain.

Pros

  • Soft, buoyant water
  • Good for sensitive skin
  • Odorless
  • Increased resistance to chemical fluctuations
  • Cheaper to maintain

Cons

  • More expensive initially
  • Salt cell replacement every 2–5 years
  • Small risk of corrosion
  • Water must remain above 60℉
  • Added maintenance time

Bottom line: When it comes to deciding if you should buy a saltwater vs chlorine hot tub, consider the pros and cons and decide which is easiest for you to maintain.

Did you find this article helpful? |
Ready to buy a hot tub?
by Kate Williams, Ph.D. ConsumerAffairs Research Team

As a member of the ConsumerAffairs Research Team, Kate Williams, Ph.D. believes everyone deserves easy access to accurate and comprehensive information on products and businesses before they make a purchase. She spends countless hours researching companies and industries before writing buyers guides to make sure consumers have all the information they need to make smart, informed buying decisions.