Saltwater chlorinators are the easiest ways to keep your pool water sanitized. In a nutshell, the saltwater cell uses a small current of electricity to turn salt in the water into hypochlorous acid, which in turn sanitizes your pool water. In many cases, saltwater cells need to be cleaned at least twice a year, but that may vary depending on pool size, usage, and other environmental factors.
How to remove a chlorinator cell
To clean a salt cell or chlorinator cell, you have to remove it from the system. To remove it, make sure to turn off the system first. DO NOT REMOVE the chlorinator cell without shutting off the power to the system first. You’re dealing with a device that uses electricity to turn salt into hypochlorous acid and you wouldn’t want to be in for a shocking surprise.
- If your chlorinator has a control panel, look for the on/off switch or button and turn off the unit.
- In addition, turn off the breaker and unplug the salt cell unit as well.
Once you’ve powered down the system, you can now safely remove the chlorinator cell. The cell should have large unions on both ends connecting it to your pool’s piping system. Carefully unscrew the unions (be careful, that thing still has water!) and let the water drain out before fully removing the cell.
I removed the cell, now what?
A good point to remember is that salt cells only need cleaning if there are mineral deposits (mostly calcium) on its elements. To check, simply tip the salt cell up and look inside. Mineral deposits look like bathroom scales that are flaky and white. If there’s a buildup then it’s time to clean the chlorinator cell, if there’s no buildup then there’s no need to clean the cell.
If there’s only a little buildup, try cleaning the cell with water first, use a garden hose and try to flush it out, if that doesn’t work then it’s time to use some chemicals.
How to clean your saltwater chlorinator cell, step-by-step
Some people will say that it’s safe to scrape off the calcium deposits, but we disagree. Scraping off the deposits with a stick can remove the deposits without the use of abrasive chemicals but can damage the elements as well if we get too heavy-handed with the scraping. Using a cleaning solution is perfectly safe for you as long as you take the proper precautions.
Protect Yourself! Before tinkering with your saltwater chlorinator cell and any chemicals, make sure to wear the proper protective equipment. Wear safety goggles, latex gloves, and a mask to protect yourself from fumes. Some coveralls wouldn’t hurt as well to protect you from accidental splashes.
Mix your cleaning solution. Take 10 parts of water and one part hydrochloric acid (muriatic acid). Fill a bucket first with water then add the acid to it. ALWAYS add the acid TO the water and not the other way around.
Your saltwater chlorinator cell should come with a cleaning stand (basically a stand that allows the cell to stand vertically). Attach the cell to the stand, cord side down, and place it upright. Place a dish or a small tub under the cell to catch any solution that may spill while pouring. Fill the chlorinator cell with the solution and let stand for 10 minutes. This should start foaming up, don’t be alarmed as this is normal. Foaming means that the acid is eating away at the calcium deposits.
After letting it stand for 10 minutes, drain the solution by pouring it onto a bucket (be careful!). Rinse out the inside of the chlorinator cell thoroughly as chlorine and acid should never mix. The elements inside should be free of any residue. If there is still some calcium residue visible, repeat the process.
After giving it a good and thorough rinse, attach the chlorinator cell back into the system and turn it on, and you’re done!
Before reattaching your chlorinator cell. Give everything a once-over and make sure that all fittings are intact and damage-free. If any accessories are showing signs of excessive wear and tear, replace them immediately to prevent larger damage down the line.
Dispose of the solution in accordance with local regulations. Don’t just pour it down the drain as the acid may damage your pipes.
Things to Remember When Cleaning Your Chlorinator Cell
Aside from the cleaning steps outlined above, here are some things to remember when cleaning your chlorinator cell.
- The acid solution is corrosive and it can damage your saltwater chlorinator cell. Only use it when it absolutely needs to be cleaned. Excessive cleaning can damage your chlorinator cell.
- If deposits are still present after two soaks in a single sitting, contact your pool specialist as it may need some special attention.
If after a thorough clean, your saltwater chlorinator isn’t working properly, then it might be time to replace the cell. Here are some signs to look out for when it’s time to replace your chlorinator cell.
- Missing Plates / Elements
- A cloudy pool even if your chlorinator is turned up to 100%
- Your chlorinator is displaying a “low salt” indicator even if your salt levels are on point
Don't Have A Saltwater Chlorinator?
If you're still manually chlorinating your pool and you're having trouble maintaining proper chlorine levels for sanitizing, maybe it's time to invest in a saltwater chlorination system. We recommend the Water TechniX Atomic WTA35 Salt Water Chlorinator - 35gram Output. It's our best seller and it can handle almost any size pool. It requires salt levels as low as 2500-3500ppm and has a high chlorine output. And since it's from Mr Pool Man, you won't have to ever worry about running out of spare parts down the line!
At the very least, your saltwater chlorinator should be cleaned twice a year, but you should inspect it every two months just to be sure. If it needs to be cleaned, clean it. If it doesn’t, then just give it a good rinse with a garden hose. Keeping your chlorinator cell clean is one of the best ways to keep your pool sanitized and increasing the efficiency of your system, but the cleaning process can also damage your salt cell as you are using acid to clean it. One thing that contributes to your chlorinator cell gunking up with deposits is the calcium levels of your pool, keep your calcium hardness levels in check and your chlorinator shouldn’t need more than two cleanings every year.
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Happy swimming :)