By now, you’ve probably heard people talking about salt systems – they’re a huge trend in the pool world, and they’re popular for a number of reasons. These pools use salt instead of chemicals to keep the water clean, but you might be wondering how exactly that works. Can salt really chlorinate a pool? Here’s what you need to know.

As Salt Institute points out, a salt system relies on chlorine just like regular pools, but the difference is that salt systems use natural chlorine that comes from the salt itself. Using electrolysis, the salt is separated into its two basic parts: chloride and sodium. The chlorine then cleans and oxidizes the water inside the generator, then turns back into salt before the water goes back into the pool. This process repeats itself again and again, using the same salt and keeping the chlorine levels balanced.

But if there’s all this salt in the pool, you might be thinking, wouldn’t it be like swimming in the ocean? Not even close. Ocean water has a salinity of 35,000 parts per million, while that of a saltwater pool is 3,000 ppm. Plus, our salt taste threshold is about 3,500 ppm, so we can barely sense the amount that goes into a saltwater pool.