Calcium Flakes in Swimming Pool? Causes, Clearing, and Prevention

Last Updated: | By Barack James

Causes of white flakes in saltwater pool

Developing white flakes or calcium buildup in a non-saltwater pool is uncommon unless you use a pool heater.

Or you have not been monitoring and balancing Calcium Hardness (CH), pH, TA, and other mineral levels, which have become incredibly high, forming calcium scales in your pool.

By nature, Calcium white flakes are common in saltwater swimming pools. This is because of the high temperature and pH in electrolytic chlorine generators and the use of calcium in the production of chlorine introduced in the pool.

White flakes or calcium buildups do not just come in saltwater pools overnight but due to the gradual accumulation of calcium scales in the chlorine generator's salt cell plates. 

When you start seeing white flakes entering your pool through the inlet, it's too late because calcium buildups have already invaded your salt cell plates. 

As the chlorine is produced in the electrolytic salt cell of a chlorine generator, a byproduct known as sodium hydroxide (NaOH) is formed, which by nature drives pH high in the salt cell and its environs.

Calcium scales or white flakes always form as a result of three things, and they include:-

1) Heat,

2) High pH and

3) High mineral levels

All these three factors are abundant in the salt cell and its environment.

When more of the scales accumulate on the plates in the salt cell, forming calcium buildups, calcium flakes will be swept through the piping, and soon you will start seeing white flakes coming out through the return jets or water inlets and settle at the bottom of your pool near the inlet or float on top of the water.

Calcium and other minerals, including Phosphates, Silicates, and Sulfates, are among the causes of scales and cloudy pool water, and you need to monitor and control mineral levels in your pool regularly. 

Due to the steady production of sodium hydroxide byproduct and the resulting high pH in the chlorine generator, the pH level in your pool water will drift up more often, which may worsen your pool situation by encouraging more calcium scales that appear as white flakes. 

That's why when using a Saltwater Chlorine Generator and a pool water heater, you must stay on top of your water chemistry by measuring and adjusting pH and TA, Calcium Hardness, and mineral levels to keep Calcium scaling at bay.

Calcium scales reduce the lifespan of the entire chlorine generator, reduce chlorine production level, and interfere with your water chemistry, especially the pH and TA, chlorine, and Calcium Hardness.

Since white flakes start forming in your chlorine generator, prevention of white calcium flakes in a saltwater pool starts by physically inspecting and cleaning your chlorine generator's salt cell plates regularly using muriatic acid

This post covers when to clean your salt cell, how to clean your salt cell, and how to clear white flakes in your pool, whether salt or nonsalt pool. 

When to Clean Your Chlorine Generator's Salt Cell

Top brand Chlorine Generators like Hayward Aquarite Saltwater Chlorine Generator come with a reminder to inspect and clean your salt cell (Turbo Cell) every 500 hours. 

If yours doesn't have a reminder, you don't need to wait until you start seeing white calcium flakes in your pool; there are early signs that you can check on frequently, and clean your salt cells early enough to avoid seeing white flakes in your pool again:-

1). You know it's time to clean your salt cell when pH and Calcium levels in your saltwater pool are scaling high without raising them. Since you test your pool chemicals frequently, if not daily, you will know when pH, TA, or CH levels drift and take necessary measures to clean your salt cells and balance the chemicals appropriately. 

2). Another good indicator to clean your salt cells is when your chlorine production level is low and will not easily raise your free chlorine to the required levels. Calcium buildups reduce the efficiency of chlorine generators, and as a result, less chlorine will be produced. 

3). Also, it's a good maintenance practice to inspect and clean your Saltwater Chlorine Generator every three months or 500 hours of use because either way, your salt cells will accumulate calcium buildup on the plates after some time of use, a fact that most manufacturers of chlorine generators will not constantly remind you.  

Mild Acid Wash: Cleaning the Electrolytic Chlorine Generator in 5 Steps

To clean your salt cell, you will need a garden hose, Muriatic acid, and water. Before handling muriatic acid, wear gloves and goggles to avoid injuries.

1). Turn off your pool circulation pump, turn off the power to the saltwater chlorine generator control box if you have Hayward Aquarite, and disconnect the ionizer salt cell or Turbo Cell from the plumbing.  

2). Inspect for any visible Calcium scales on the plates and wash them off using a garden hose. Don't worry if the garden hose doesn't remove all the calcium build-ups or any visible rust, as Muriatic acid wash will remove them all.

3). Add 1 gallon of water in a bucket and add 1 quarter of muriatic acid inside the bucket (4:1 water to acid) to form a mild muriatic acid.

4). If you have Hayward Turbo Cell, don't dip it in the acid solution but place the T-Cell in the cleaning stand so that it is in a vertical position, then pour muriatic acid solution slowly through the Cells to fill it with acid solution and leave for 15 minutes or until the bubbles settle. This will remove tough calcium buildups and any rust visible on the salt cell. Then, pour the acid back into the bucket. If you use an ionizer salt cell, dip the salt cell in the mild muriatic acid for 15 minutes or until the bubbles settle and remove the salt cell. Repeat the process of the mild acid wash until you can see no more buildup or stains. 

5). Rinse the salt cell again with a hose pipe to clean off loose buildups and rust after the mild muriatic acid wash, and then reinstall the salt cell into the plumbing and put the pump back on.

How to Get Rid of White Calcium Flakes in Saltwater and Non-Saltwater Pools  

To clear white flakes from your pool, ensure you have cleaned your salt cell and follow these next steps.

1). Since white flakes are simply calcium buildups, your calcium hardness (CH) level is much higher than the recommended 250 ppm to 350 ppm if you have white flakes in your pool. To lower your CH level, you will have to drain and refill a portion of your pool water with fresh water, which is the only practical way you can lower your calcium levels. 

2). Lower and balance your pH and TA levels between 7.2-7.4 and 80-120ppm respectively, using muriatic acid. Since chlorine generator will raise your pool pH, an ingredient in developing calcium buildups, lowering the pH in your pool will reduce the calcium buildups in your water. 

3). If lowering calcium and pH levels does not yield the expected results, use a calcium scale remover and inhibitor like Orenda SC-1000. You may need regular doses of scale control chemicals, but that is not a scapegoat for cleaning your salt cell regularly. 

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