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Thread: Can I Use Salt As Sanitizer Instead of Chlorine?

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    Cool Can I Use Salt As Sanitizer Instead of Chlorine?

    I'm having a hard time finding information on using high saline as a permanent, maintenance-free solution. To avoid corrosion issues, I envision on making it aesthetically closer to an artificial pond, with a dark bottom and natural looking borders that make small amounts of detritus acceptable. Filtration would thus be unnecessary. As with the beach, there'd be a shower nearby to rinse off the salt residue. (As a Floridian, heating would be a unnecessary luxury.)

    To me this seems like an all around winner for someone that wants something aesthetically pleasing and completely sanitary with no maintenance whatsoever other than some skimming. But with the rise of salt-assisted chlorine generation, it is darn near impossible to find any information on this... costs, unexpected side effects, salt-tolerant organisms...
    Last edited by Orca; 08-19-2013 at 05:08 PM. Reason: clarify title

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    Default Re: Salt-only solutions? (not for chlorine generation)

    well, my point is it's pretty safe to swim in the ocean, no? High salinity kills almost all pathogens you have to worry about. There's red tide I guess, but I don't think that's very likely to show up in one's back yard (then again, maybe I'm wrong?) What harmful or unsightly organisms do you think I'd have to worry about with ocean level salinity?

    My research has revealed that there is a "swimming pond" industry, but this appears geared towards fresh water solutions, with plants used to create a balanced ecosystem. Some people might consider this "safe enough", but at least down here in sunny FL we have a nasty little amoeba called Naegleria Folweri that, while it infects swimmers only very rarely, has a mortality rate of over 98%.

    Salt kills that critter and just about any other free roaming water critter that can harm you. You don't even have to limit yourself to ocean salinity... you could go all the way to dead sea salinity (~30% salt) if desired... which will kill all microscopic life, period. My research has revealed that pretty much every nasty thing that will *spontaneously* grow in the water does not do well at all if you dump salt in it. There might be a couple halophilic algaes, but I've yet to find out if they are likely to spontaneously arise and if they are, whether I can kill it by simply increasing salinity by another couple percentage points.

    >Using a quality test kit and swcg, how is that not practically maintenance free?

    Because the swcg can break and I'll probably be lazy about testing. Also, I believe salt is probably safer and healthier than chlorine of any form. The human body was designed to handle salt... aggressive oxidizers, not so much. I plan on spending a lot of time in my pool and I have some respiratory issues, so I'm just hedging my bets.

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    Default Re: Salt-only solutions? (not for chlorine generation)

    Quote Originally Posted by catfish View Post
    I'm having a hard time finding information on using high saline as a permanent, maintenance-free solution.
    Unfortunately, "permanent, maintenance-free solutions" to pool chemistry are right up their with perpetual motion machines, auto engines that get 200 MPG, 'green energy' solutions to US power needs that don't kill birds, don't consume real estate, don't cost much, and do run 24/7 even when the sun doesn't shine and the wind doesn't blow.

    Consequently, the only "information" you could possibly find would be what's generated by dishonest sales and marketing types looking for a 'mark' to sucker.

    Quote Originally Posted by catfish View Post
    well, my point is it's pretty safe to swim in the ocean, no? High salinity kills almost all pathogens you have to worry about. There's red tide I guess, but I don't think that's very likely to show up in one's back yard (then again, maybe I'm wrong?) What harmful or unsightly organisms do you think I'd have to worry about with ocean level salinity?
    You're not wrong about the red tide, but you're pretty much wrong about everything else.

    There've been quite a few articles in the news lately about sewage contaminated beaches, and the fact that the EPA apparently considers a beach acceptably safe if only 1 in 20 swimmers gets sick! So if that's your standard of safety, well, everything is OK, right?

    Wrong.

    What most people don't get, is that the stuff in pools that makes swimmers sick almost always CAME FROM OTHER SWIMMERS. Snot, pee, sweat, poop -- about 1 gram or a pencil eraser's worth from EACH swimmer -- tears, toe jam, etc. are ALL just packed full of bacterial goodness, or sometimes, viral fun and games. NONE of these little beasties are killed by salt water, and people DO get sick every day because they are swimming in somebody else's poop. They don't BREED in salt water, but then they don't breed in fresh water, either: they breed in people!

    Fish poop is not too likely to make you sick, but people poop will do it quite handlily, and dog and cat poop can give you fun that will last for weeks, months or even years.

    You may be thinking, "But, it's only MY family's poop, and THEY are clean!" Maybe. People can be carriers of all sorts of things without having symptoms. But even apart from that, you don't want your trusted family member's poop in your eye . . . and if you swim in a pool without chlorine, that's just what you'll get.


    Salt kills that critter and just about any other free roaming water critter that can harm you. You don't even have to limit yourself to ocean salinity... you could go all the way to dead sea salinity (~30% salt) if desired... which will kill all microscopic life, period.
    No, you're on to something. It's not a solution for everyone, but I think this is EXACTLY what you should do: add 10,000 pounds of salt to a 10,000 gallon pool. (Just not in California, where you'll need a hazardous discharge permit, to drain your pool!)

    Because the swcg can break and I'll probably be lazy about testing. Also, I believe salt is probably safer and healthier than chlorine of any form. The human body was designed to handle salt... aggressive oxidizers, not so much. I plan on spending a lot of time in my pool and I have some respiratory issues, so I'm just hedging my bets.
    + has respiratory issues
    + is careless about testing
    + makes pool treatment decisions based on some severely sketchy research . . .

    Hm-mh. My older son had severe chronic asthma, and my mom died of IPF, so I've some knowledge of 'respiratory health issues'. I think I'll say, "Good bye", while I still can.

    I don't think we can really help you with your pool, so the best I can do for you is offer you my best wishes for your good luck!
    Last edited by PoolDoc; 07-07-2012 at 05:22 PM. Reason: de-sig

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    Default Re: Salt-only solutions? (not for chlorine generation)

    Not quite sure where this hostility is coming from, nor why the post was moved to a section I have clearly indicated does not apply. The very small amounts of salt necessary to generate chlorine has nothing to do with what I am attempting to research. I'm not trying to convert anyone else to the idea; I'm merely interesting in finding out more. If it's true that poor hygene prevents this from working on a larger scale, that's fine. Personally I don't have a problem with wiping my butt before I go for a swim.

    So you are saying virus can survive for non-trivial lengths of time in water that is, say, double ocean salinity? Do you have any sources you could refer me to? For bacteria, my question is what will they consume to survive? Bacteria have to eat to stay alive just like anything else.

    Do you think I'm trying to sell something? Think about it. I would think that pure salt solutions would be the *least* commercial thing one could possibly imagine. Salt doesn't have to be expensive if you put in some time and find an industrial/wholesale source of unrefined stuff. If it were really that expensive, "salt poachers" would be making millions off of the shores of utah's salt lake and the dead sea. Or hell, a tanker tractor-trailer costs what, maybe $150k? and how much seawater could one of those things haul? Now, how much to rent one for a day? That's the expensive, cumbersome route and it's still likely feasible for someone reasonably well off. And frankly I could not care less about whatever wacky laws calfornia has come up with.

    Millions of people swim in Florida freshwater ponds every year, unaffected. If you feel like arguing volume effects, I have enough land and will soon have enough money to construct a pond of similar size to many of the local places. But I am trying to be considerably safer than them, *safer*, so what are you all in a huff over? Is this forum a front for a pool supply company or something? Look if you want chlorine that's fine, I've grown up with the stuff and I'm just sick of faded shirts and allergies and the everpresent chemistry set. But I'm sure chlroine easier and I'm sure the upfront costs are tremendously cheaper. And you'll probably kill more bugs with a high chlorine setup vs. an ocean level salinity setup. That's fine. Everything has tradeoffs. I'm willing to compromise, but I don't want to risk brain eating amoebas and other crap that fresh water brings. I enjoy exploring the road less traveled; I don't advocate everyone come and join me.

    I'd say "this post doesn't belong here" but a comment like that is just inviting a delete I suppose. Oh well, if that happens I'll be quick with the whois lookups to find out what commerical enterprise is behind this forum, because nothing else would explain such an overreaction to what is a simple request for ideas, firsthand experiences and scientific sources.

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    Default Re: Salt-only solutions? (not for chlorine generation)

    To clarify, my research wouldn't be so sketchy if it weren't utterly impossible to google. You just can't look for info on salt water pools without running into a tidal wave of debate on chlorine generation, a murkiness you've helpfully increased by moving my post here. I'm sorry I didn't add a disclaimer before every one of my sentences that I do not know many solid facts at this point, except that I'm pretty darn sure the issue is not as cut and dry (no pun intended) as you make it.

    And I don't doubt that sewage contamination of seawater does occur; I just am curious about: saline levels required for pathogens to survive, ratio of initial level contimination (much lower for not wiping one's butt vs. mass discharge) to volume (a pool or pond is obviously much smaller than the ocean, but how far does sewage contamination spread before the pathogens die off? Certainly it does not spread throughout the entire ocean, so the volume of waste/volume of water situation is not clear cut.)

    If you feel so very passionately about people swimming in untreated water, I suggest you get down here right away with your sandwichboard and bullhorn, because there are literally millions of people taking a much bigger risk things than what I am contemplating. And that's all it is right now; contemplating.

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    Default Re: Salt-only solutions? (not for chlorine generation)

    Thread locked by moderator until Ben decides if and when he chooses to reply.
    Last edited by PoolDoc; 07-07-2012 at 05:22 PM. Reason: de-sig

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    Default Re: Salt-only solutions? (not for chlorine generation)

    Mods, I'm re-opening it and moving it to the China Shop, just for fun. Usually, when people say dumb stuff, they are still asking for help, so I have to bite my tongue, and not say what I'm really thinking. It's nice to be able to speak more openly.

    Plus, this thread will get Googled, and will serve as a nice repository for comments on the more extreme misconceptions about salt in pool water.

    I'm going to let Chem_Geek respond, if he wants to, before I do so again. He'll be much nicer, if perhaps recondite.
    Last edited by PoolDoc; 07-07-2012 at 05:22 PM. Reason: de-sig

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    Default Re: Salt-only solutions? (not for chlorine generation)

    There are over 35,000 scientific peer-reviewed papers in respected journals regarding bacteria in the (salty) ocean. There's no way I'm going to list all of those here. In this paper, they isolated 519 different strains of bacteria looking for those that might be antibacterial (which sounds crazy, given they are bacteria, but they mean where one strain of bacteria produces substances that inhibit/kill many other strains) and there is also this paper regarding fecal bacteria in coastal wetlands. As for viruses, salts kills some, such as H1N1 as described in this paper, but not others as described in this paper, this paper, this paper, this book and many others. Perhaps you should buy the book Oceans and Health:: Pathogens in the Marine Environment.

    Look at the CDC Surveillance Summaries for Waterborne Disease and Outbreaks which show outbreaks in recreational water including marine water and in fact in all untreated water where the outbreaks have varied sources whereas treated sources (i.e. chlorinated water) had mostly the protozoan oocyst Cryptosporidium parvum which is why the CDC Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) is looking at requiring UV or ozone in new/modified commercial/public pools.

    A critical point that is being missed, however, is the volume of water. Oceans have a very large volume so when you swim in them the fecal bacteria that you shed get diluted greatly. The same is true in large lakes and in flowing rivers. Even so, people still get sick in such water venues. However, swimming pools are very different in that they are much lower volume and are mostly static. The fecal bacteria you shed, as well as the viruses and protozoan oocysts (if you are sick) all go into a much smaller volume of water where the bacteria can reproduce at will and the other pathogens survive until they find another host (i.e. swimmer). Salty water is not sufficient to kill or inactivate such pathogens and certainly not to do so quickly enough to prevent person-to-person transmission of disease. Remember that human body fluids already are at around 9000 ppm salt and that many of early microorganisms came from the sea so have mechanisms for dealing with salt.

    And then there's the impracticality of having very high salt levels in swimming pools with the attendant metal corrosion issues, stinging eyes (do you open your eyes underwater in the ocean?) and killing of plant life and contamination of waste water treatment plants for inland locations whenever you backwash or otherwise replace the water.

    I believe your idea needs a little more thought.

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    Default Re: Salt-only solutions? (not for chlorine generation)

    Catfish, I understand your request for information, however, I want you to take a step back and consider the following.

    I honestly believe Ben, the Administrator, is trying to help you with your research by sharing information regarding the safety and sanitation of your pool project. If you really want to look at the big picture, it is not only about “wiping my butt before I go for a swim” or making sure everyone visits the bathroom before diving in. It is about pool sanitation with regards to not only human wastes, but animal wastes (dogs, cats, birds flying overhead etc.) and insects too. I clean flies, bees, grasshoppers, etc. out of my skimmer constantly, and who knows what they bring to the pool. I believe Chem-Geeek has provided enough information to prove that Salt alone, in most cases, is not a sanitizer in swimming pools.

    This Forum is comprised of a lot of good people that get nothing more than the satisfaction of helping people across the US and Canada with their swimming pool problems. We get a full array of people seeking help and information, everything from rich people with huge swimming pools to single Moms with small above ground pools. Our charter is to provide sound advice, to the best of our ability, for the safety and affordability to all. We would be remiss if we didn’t advise you (or anyone else) of what we have learned or what has been proven.

    Unfortunately, a website like this also attracts a boat load of spammers as well as “Know-it-alls” that are mostly mouth and very little ear. If you choose to continue to visit this Forum, you will learn that there is no corporate sponsor or commercial enterprise subsidizing this Forum. In reality, we primarily promote the BBB method which fundamentally promotes pool care with grocery store items that basically undermines the profits of all of the Big Pool Chemical Companies as well as a slew of Pool Supply Stores. Pool cleanliness and sanitation is paramount with the BBB method, simply put, if it didn’t work, what good is it? The BBB method has withstood the test of time because it works.

    We have seen the gamut of “Trouble Free” and “All Natural” claims, and virtually all fall short. There is no Known “Free Lunch” when it comes to swimming pools and their care, including performing simple tests. If there was a secret or magic pill with regards to swimming pool setups, I’m sure the people on this Forum would know about it, and in all probability you’d read about it first, right here.

    In the end, it is your project and idea. Your safety and health, and that of your family, friends, and guests, that would potentially swim in your pool is in your hands.
    Last edited by BigTallGuy; 07-10-2012 at 01:30 PM.
    If you can afford a swimming pool and computer, you can probably afford to help keep the PoolForum alive. Please be a responsible member and subscribe today. You'll probably save more than the membership fee on your first trip to the pool store. BTG

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