How to Clean a Salt Cell

Maintaining a saltwater pool involves several essential tasks, and one of the most critical is cleaning the salt cell. Proper maintenance of the salt cell ensures the efficiency of the chlorine generator, providing a safe and healthy swimming environment. Below, we detail a comprehensive, step-by-step guide on how to clean a salt cell, ensuring you achieve optimal performance and longevity from your pool’s chlorination system.

How to Clean a Salt Cell

Understanding the Importance of Cleaning the Salt Cell

A salt cell, also known as a chlorine generator cell, is crucial for producing chlorine in a saltwater pool. Over time, calcium and other mineral deposits accumulate on the cell plates, reducing their efficiency. Regular cleaning prevents buildup, ensuring your pool maintains the correct chlorine levels and remains free of harmful bacteria and algae.

Essential Tools and Materials

Before starting the cleaning process, gather the necessary tools and materials:

  • Protective gloves and eyewear
  • A plastic container or bucket
  • A garden hose
  • Salt cell cleaning solution or a mixture of muriatic acid and water
  • Soft brush or cleaning wand

Step-by-Step Guide to Cleaning a Salt Cell

1. Turn Off the Pool System

Ensure the pool pump and chlorinator are turned off. It’s crucial to cut the power to avoid any electrical hazards. For additional safety, disconnect the salt cell from the control panel.

2. Remove the Salt Cell

Locate the salt cell within the plumbing of your pool’s filtration system. Depending on your pool’s design, you may need to unscrew or unclip the cell from its housing. Handle the cell carefully to avoid damaging the plates.

3. Inspect the Cell for Deposits

Once removed, visually inspect the cell plates for white, chalky calcium deposits. This buildup is a clear indicator that cleaning is necessary.

4. Rinse the Salt Cell

Using a garden hose, rinse off any loose debris from the salt cell. Avoid using high-pressure settings that might damage the cell plates. A gentle, consistent flow of water will suffice to remove surface dirt.

5. Prepare the Cleaning Solution

If you’re using a commercial salt cell cleaning solution, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for dilution and use. Alternatively, you can prepare a cleaning solution by mixing one part muriatic acid with ten parts water in a plastic container. Always add acid to water, not the other way around, to prevent dangerous chemical reactions.

6. Soak the Salt Cell

Place the salt cell in the prepared solution, ensuring the plates are fully submerged. Allow it to soak for 15-30 minutes, depending on the severity of the buildup. The solution will dissolve calcium deposits and other mineral accumulations.

7. Rinse and Repeat if Necessary

After soaking, remove the salt cell and rinse it thoroughly with a garden hose. Inspect the cell again; if deposits remain, repeat the soaking process. Stubborn buildup may require multiple cleanings.

8. Clean the Cell Housing

While the cell soaks, take the opportunity to clean the cell housing. Use a soft brush or cleaning wand to remove any deposits or debris that may interfere with the cell’s function.

9. Reinstall the Salt Cell

Once the cell is clean and free of deposits, reinstall it into the plumbing system. Ensure all connections are secure and the cell is correctly positioned. Reconnect the cell to the control panel.

10. Restart the Pool System

Turn the pool pump and chlorinator back on. Check for any leaks around the cell housing and ensure the system is operating correctly. Monitor the chlorine levels over the next few days to confirm the cell is functioning efficiently.

Maintenance Tips for Longevity

Regular Inspection and Cleaning

Inspect your salt cell every three months and clean it as necessary. Regular maintenance prevents heavy buildup and prolongs the life of the cell.

Monitor Calcium Levels

High calcium levels in pool water contribute to faster buildup on the cell plates. Regularly test and adjust calcium hardness to maintain levels within the recommended range (200-400 ppm).

Use a Water Softener

Consider using a water softener for your pool fill water if your local water supply is hard. This reduces the rate of calcium buildup on the salt cell.

Check Salt Levels

Maintain the correct salt levels in your pool (typically 2700-3400 ppm). Low salt levels can cause the cell to work harder, increasing wear and the likelihood of deposits forming.

Balance Pool Chemistry

Keep your pool water chemistry balanced, including pH, alkalinity, and chlorine levels. Balanced water reduces the formation of scale and other deposits on the salt cell.

Avoid Overuse of Acid

While acid is effective for cleaning, overuse can damage the cell plates. Stick to recommended dilution ratios and avoid soaking for extended periods.

Professional Inspection

Have your pool’s salt system professionally inspected annually. A professional can identify and address issues before they become significant problems.


Properly maintaining and cleaning your salt cell is vital for the efficiency and longevity of your saltwater pool system. By following this comprehensive guide, you ensure that your pool remains clean, safe, and inviting. Regular maintenance not only saves you money on potential repairs and replacements but also enhances your overall swimming experience. For the best results, incorporate these steps into your regular pool care routine, and enjoy the benefits of a well-maintained saltwater pool.