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Archive for the ‘spa chemicals’ Category

Hard Water Issues in Spas and Hot Tubs

September 30th, 2013 by


Are you located in the “Red Zone”? If so, you may have hard water in your home that you use to fill the spa. Having hard water means that you have a lot of calcium in your water, and soft water means that you have less, as it comes out of the tap. Hard water is less sudsy in the shower, and it can leave scale deposits in your sinks, shower and also in hot tubs.

In most cases, the scale is no problem. Go about your business. In some cases, calcium hardness levels can reach levels of 400 ppm or more, which can lead to problems.

They reach a point where it begins to come out of solution, giving your frequently cloudy water and scale deposits on your spa. Scale can deposit in out of the way places, like your heater element or less frequently used jets, or can build up along the water line of your spa or hot tub.

How Hard is Too Hard?

The chart we’ve used here shows the generally accepted maxim that anything over 180 ppm is classified as “Extremely Hard” water. If you have a test kit or test strips that measures for calcium hardness levels in your spa, you can easily check your spa water to see where you lie on the continuum. Most spas and hot tubs will be fine with calcium hardness levels of up to 400 ppm. After that, and you may begin to see signs of scaling and cloudy water conditions.

So What, Who Cares?

so-what-who-caresOK, fair question, and a great SNL skit phrase. How about this? You don’t care if you don’t have a problem. If your hot tub water is some of the hardest, you’ve seen scale deposits before, and know that these salts leave ugly water spots, can be corrosive and when high enough, can interfere with sanitation and filtration.

Treatments for Hard Water

They used to say there was nothing you could do, but nowadays there are several ways to manage hard water levels in a spa, so it doesn’t become a problem.

Pre-Filter1. Filter the Calcium. Maybe you have an expensive home water softening system, and can fill the spa after it’s been treated. If not, you can use our Pre-Filter, to take out minerals, metals, chloramines as well as other particulate matter. Just screw it onto your hose and turn on the hose! Good for 2-3 fills.

2. Combine the Calcium. Using a product called CalTreat, by United Chemical, which bonds to calcium carbonate, until a large enough particle is created to be removed by your filter system. Follow the instructions carefully, and you can see your calcium level drop considerably.calcium-and-scale-control

3. Control the Calcium. Calcium and Scale Control is a product that keeps calcium and other minerals tied up in solution, making it unlikely that they will come out of solution. After the initial dose, just add a maintenance dosage whenever you add water to the spa, to keep minerals in a “sequestered” state. It will also loosen and dissolve some scale deposits.

- Jack



Guide to Hot Tub and Spa Chemicals

September 16th, 2013 by

bogus book, photoshop invention, not for sale, lol


Hot tubs and spas would be so much more fun if they didn’t need any guides! One of those important care areas is managing the spa water chemistry.

Spa chemicals are used for water balance (pH, alkalinity and hardness), and then there are the sanitizer chemicals, and oxidizers for shocking the spa. And there’s minerals, and ozone, enzymes and clarifiers. And half a dozen other spa chemicals.


It’s enough to make you dizzy. To make it easier, we group our spa chemicals into five groups:



Spa Sanitizers

Bromine is the usual method, although you can sanitize with chlorine. Sanitizing a hot tub usually means adding sodium bromide, to establish a bromine bank, and then using enough bromine tablets to reach 2-3 ppm. Shocking the spa with an oxidizer is used to help reactivate the bromide ions. This is known as the 3-part system.

Free is a non-chlorine sanitizer by Leisure time that is completely chlorine or bromine free. If you want to operate a spa without either of these halogens, you can use this biguanide based system to sanitize the spa water.

Minerals can help reduce the necessary bromine level to 1.0 ppm in most cases, and provide extra power to fight and kill bacteria, viruses and pathogens in the spa water. Silver and copper ions will seek out and attack these contaminants, and they work continuously, just replace the cartridge every 4 months. We have 3 major brands, shown below, plus Mineral cartridges for Hot Spring and Sundance Spas. spa-mineral-sticks


MPS / Shock

MPS, or MonoPerSulfate, is a non-chlorine type of spa oxidizer, an option to using chlorine granules in the spa to remove contaminants and to boost up the bromide bank on a brominated spa.

Most people I know – will shock the spa after a group of people use the spa, but maybe not if it’s just a quick single person dip. Shocking a spa is not like shocking a pool, in such a small vessel, only tablespoons of spa shock is used to quickly do the job.

We carry many types of spa shock, all are either MPS or chlorine granules. A few of my favorite spa shocks are shown below. spa-shocks



Clarifiers are helpful for small, marginal spa filters. If your water ever gets hazy or cloudy, or if you can see particles floating around in the water, above the spa light, you may want to use a clarifier to coagulate and improve filtration.

Algaecides work by invading the algae cells directly and disrupting their processes. An algaecide can be a good back-up to your spa sanitation, helping to reduce effects of low bromine levels or inconsistent chemical maintenance.

Foam Out is used when your spa becomes foamy, although it can also be an indication that it’s time to drain the spa! If you have already drained it, and still get sudsy, adding a small amount will remove surface spa foam.

Enzymes are a great way to eliminate spa foaming. They also digest oils and suds, making your sanitizer more effective with less oily organics and detergents to deal with.

Metal Out is a chemical used to lock up minerals in the spa water, to keep them from staining or attacking shiny spa surfaces. Hard water areas, or spas filled from an untreated well should use a metal sequestering agent.



Balancers will help you control the water balance of your spa. Test your spa water at least weekly and make any needed adjustments to keep your spa water in balance. This is important for important for sanitizer effectiveness, protecting your spa components and for bather comfort.




The cleaners category has everything you need to clean your spa, top to bottom. Cleaners for spa covers, cleaners for the inside of your spa shell, spa pipe cleaners, spa filter cleaners.

Don’t use household cleaners on your spa, you don’t want any residue from kitchen, bathroom or automotive cleansers to mix with your spa water. Use only products designed for use with


And that’s all there is to it! 5 categories of spa chemicals. You’ll need to use at least some of these spa chemicals from each category at certain points during your spa maintenance.

I hope that this guide to spa chemicals was useful, and has made the plethora of spa and hot tub chemicals more manageable to think about and work with.


Happy Hot Tubbin’Daniel Lara


5 ways to Improve your Spa Filtration

August 29th, 2013 by



Is your spa filter too small? Having the best spa filtration you can get will not only make your water cleaner and clearer, but will make it safer and easier to manage, with fewer chemicals.

Without further ado, let’s get on with it – here are 5 ways you can improve your spa or hot tub filtration. If you have tips of your own to add, leave a comment at the bottom of the post.



Spa Filters with more Square Footage

Some of the more popular spa filters we sell are available in two different square footage. For instance, the HTF-2370 has the same dimensions as the HTF-2390, but the former is 25 square foot of filter surface area and the latter is 50 square feet. This is accomplished by adding more pleats to the cartridge – double the pleats and you double the square footage! Spa filters with more square footage are more expensive, but doubling the surface area will give you longer filter cycles and better overall filtration.

Clean Spa cartridge with Filter Cleaner

Cleaning your pool filter cartridge is an important task that shouldn’t be rushed. Cleaning between each pleats with a garden hose to flush out the dirt and work loose debris in the fabric. To loosen the dirt trapped in the spun polyester fabric, use a filter cleaner before hosing the cartridge clean. Just add the recommended amount to a bucket of water, and soak your cartridge for the time specified. Then hose it clean. Spa filter cleaners loosen mineral deposits, dirt and oils, to allow your cleaning to be much more effective.

Replace your Spa Cartridge on Schedule

I usually recommend that people replace their cartridge on schedule, every 12 – 24 months. The wide range depends on how often you use your spa, and how often the filter needs cleaning. Spa cartridge filters are not meant to last forever. The fibers loosen, and allow particles to begin to bypass over time. It’s a generally accepted notion that you should replace your cartridge after 12-15 cleanings. I have a reminder set on my Outlook calendar that helps me remember when to replaced my spa filter, which helps me keep on schedule.

Drain your Spa on Schedule

I usually recommend that people drain their spa on schedule, every 3-6 months. Here too, the range depends on how often you use the spa, how large the spa is compared to usage, and how well the overall water quality and water balance has been. Over time, total dissolved solids can build up which interferes with water balance. Draining the spa also gives you a chance to use a biofilm remover, like Jet Clean to clean the pipes and hoses of bacteria and polish up the spa with a cleaner like Citrabright.

Use Enzymes or Clarifiers

Spa enzymes are a natural product that digests body oils, make-up, soaps and other sticky substances. Added to your spa, it will reduce sanitizer demand and increase your filter cycles while making your filter more effective. These are the same type of enzymes used in cleaning up oil spills in the ocean, so it can handle your little spa or hot tub oil problem. Using a spa clarifier is another way to increase your spa cartridge filtration, by coagulating small particles into larger, more easily filtered clumps.

Some spas and hot tubs have woefully undersized cartridge filters. If you can’t upsize the filter, you can use these tactics above to improve your filtration, or to compensate for poor filtration, without resorting to heavy doses of sanitizer.

- Jack


Spa & Hot Tub Chemical Safety Lessons

August 26th, 2013 by


Spa Chemicals can be hazardous. Here’s some stories of  “When Spa Chemicals Attack” – or more correctly, when humans misuse or mishandle spa chemicals, and the injuries and fatalities that can result.

Earlier this month, a small explosion occurred in the New Jersey home of Russell Rocca. He was mixing chemicals used in his hot tub, and doing something wrong. He may have added water to chlorine, instead of the other way around – or, the chlorine may have been contaminated with other chemicals or any organic contaminant.

Lesson #1 – Always add chemicals to water (not water to chemicals), and always keep your chemicals clean – never let dirt, leaves or any contaminant mix with an oxidizer like chlorine or bromine.

And just 5 days ago, a hotel employee in Victoria, Canada mixed together two spa chemicals, and the reaction released a toxic gas, resulting in a hotel evacuation and haz mat response. Fortunately no one was injured, although the employee was taken to the hospital with breathing difficulties.

Lesson #2 – Never mix pool or spa chemicals. Adding an acid and a chlorine together can produce a mustard gas that will dissolve your lungs. Keep chlorine and bromine tablets and shock in a sealed container, stored separately from your acids like pH down or stain removers.

One of our spa techs here has an interesting story. It didn’t make the news, because police and fire were not notified, but it goes like this. He was servicing a spa on a weekly route that he maintained, and needed to shock the spa. Not having a scoop, he cut an ‘empty’ soda bottle in half and used it to scoop out the spa shock from a larger bucket. In a few short minutes, he looked back to see the back of the pickup truck on fire.

Lesson #3 – Never allow any liquids to contact your spa chemicals. Soda pop is very acidic, and alcoholic drinks even more. Use only clean and dry scoops to measure and add your spa chemicals.

According to the CDC, most injuries associated with pool and spa chemicals fall into these groups:

  • Mixing incompatible chemicals
  • Spills and splashes onto skin or into eyes
  • Dust inhaled when opening container

Storage for your Spa Chemicalsfile-box for spa chemicals

Spa and hot tub chemicals need a clean, cool and dry area, out of the reach of children. Some spa steps have storage areas beneath a flip up lid, but these may be unsafe for chemical storage. I use a small plastic file box for mine. Not a large one, but a smaller version that’s just perfect for the upright and narrow bottles used for spa chemicals.

Separate your pH down and other acids from chlorine or bromine tablets, or spa shocks and oxidizers. Sealed plastic chemical containers are safer for storage than bags or boxes. For child safety, make sure that all of your chemicals have child proof lids, and that you store them out of their reach.


Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works




The Chlorine Free Spa – Is it Possible?

July 22nd, 2013 by


It’s a common question that we get in our call center – can I run my spa (or hot tub) without chlorine? My quick and smart answer is usually “sure, you can use bromine!” Then they say “isn’t that the same thing?” It’s not really, as bromine has less of a smell, is not quite as harsh on skin and hair, and has other advantages over chlorine.

But seriously – the real answer is Yes!, you can run your spa without chlorine, or bromine, and still have a safe and sanitary spa. It requires using some modified methods, to make sure that pathogens don’t thrive – but it can be successfully done. Here’s how.


Replace your Filter Cartridge More Frequently

For most spas under halogen treatment (chlorine or bromine), I recommend that the spa filter cartridge be replaced every 12-24 months, depending on it’s size, and on how much the spa is used. For those who wish to go chlorine free in the spa or hot tub, I’d recommend that you double the frequency, and replace your spa filter every 6-12 months.

Some spa filters are available with more square footage. When you search for a replacement spa filter, by dimensions, model number or cartridge number, you may see two spa filters listed that have the same dimensions, but one costs more. The more expensive spa cart will have more pleats and thus more surface area, which will do a better job of filtering.

Drain your Spa or Hot Tub More Frequently

Draining the water out of your spa should be done every 4-6 months, depending on your rate of usage, or if the water goes bad. For those using a non-chlorine method in the spa, increase the frequency to every 2- 3 months, or at least every 4 months.

When draining a non-chlorine spa, be sure to use a Spa Purge product to remove any build up inside the pipes, hoses and jets of your spa. Without a halogen residual, biofilms can form faster and create a bio-hazard in your spa water. I use Jet Clean every other time that I drain my spa, to keep organics and oils from building up in hidden crevices.

Ozone + Minerals

DEL Ozone MCD-50, it's what I use on my spa

For a spa that doesn’t use chlorine or bromine, you need something to kill bather waste and bacteria. My recommendation is to use a spa ozonator and a mineral sanitizer, like Nature2 or Spa Frog. The combination of these two – an ozone sanitizer and a mineral purifier, takes care of most disease causing bacteria.

Check on your ozonator regularly to be sure that it’s on and operational, and replace the mineral cartridge as directed, to keep a proper amount of silver and copper ions working. These two treatments working together will do most of the job in keeping your spa water healthy.

Non-Chlorine Shock


Ozone + Minerals do most of the job, but to be sure, you need to oxidize the water, or shock the spa. Non-chlorine shock has no odor, and does not affect water chemistry. You can use the spa immediately after treating the water.

My recommendation is to use a few tablespoons of non-chlorine shock after every spa use, or at least weekly to control and destroy any pathogenic microbes that are able to get around the ozone and mineral treatment.  Also known as MPS, Zodiac Cense is a great product that will oxidize quickly and also adds a nice scent to the water.

Keep your Spa Water Balanced

This is important no matter what your spa sanitation method is, but especially when you are operating a chlorine free spa or hot tub. Maintain your pH level at 7.2-7.5, your Alkalinity at 80-120 and your Hardness at 180-220. Use fresh test strips or fresh reagents and test your spa water at least twice per week, adding water balance chemicals as needed.

Shower before using the Spa

please-showerI know some people (ok, I’ve done it too) who treat their hot tub like a big bathtub. After working in the yard all day, or dancing all night – they jump in the spa to “clean off”. Well, when you bring perspiration, body oils, make up, or if you’ve gone to the bathroom (#2), without washing yourself, this creates a large sanitizer demand in the water.

I’m not saying you must always shower before using the spa, but if you don’t – be sure to give it a good shocking afterwards with MPS.

It can be awkward to ask your friends to shower before coming over, so using an Enzyme product can help break down oils and organics and retain healthy spa water that all can enjoy.

And that’s it! You can successfully operate a healthy spa or hot tub without using chlorine and bromine, if you follow these steps above.


- Jack



5 Important Spa or Hot Tub Care Tasks

July 15th, 2013 by


Owning a spa or hot tub is not so complicated. Compared to a swimming pool, there’s a lot less work involved. But there is some work required, and maybe your spa has been a bit neglected lately, as sometimes happens during summertime.

Depending on your level of spa use, the frequency of these tasks will vary. Following each task below, follow a task frequency, mirroring your hot tub usage.


  • High – Daily use by several people; or commercial spas and hot tubs
  • Medium – A few times per week, by a few people.
  • Low – A few times per month, by a few people.

1. Spa Water Care

spa-water-testsTesting the Spa water, balancing the chemistry and visually checking the water clarity. Pretty basic stuff? Yeah, easy to do – and easy to forget to do. Most spas and hot tubs have something of a “chemical personality”, and are usually fairly consistent in what needs to be chemically managed – as long as you are consistent with your water tests and adjustments.

Not even a “spa guru” like myself can avoid the sometimes mundane task of testing the spa water quality and making micro-adjustments to the water balance. pH, Alkalinity, Hardness all need to be checked every time the spa is used. Neglect this task, and your spa water clarity and health can quickly spiral downward.

Draining the spa should be performed on a regular basis, every 1-4 months, depending on your usage, or even weekly, for high use commercial spas. You’ll find the water much more manageable if you set a schedule to drain it regularly.

2. Spa Filter Care

spa-filter-cartsNext up on our list of Hot Tub maintenance items – cleaning your spa filter cartridge. This task is simple enough for my 8 year old to do, once I showed her how to remove the spa filter and spray deeply into the pleats from top to bottom. It’s one of her weekend chores, and only takes a few minutes with the garden hose.

To help us remember, I created an email reminder to myself to make sure it’s done weekly, and another every 4 months, to soak the filter in our Filter Fresh spa cartridge cleaner for a deep cleaning.

Spa filter cleaners remove oils and mineral deposits that clog up the cartridge, reducing water flow and dirt holding capacity. Just soak the cartridge in a solution of filter cartridge cleaner, or use the spray on type of cleaner. Then, hose it off very thoroughly to flush out the deposits and the cleaning chemical.

Over time, even this loses it’s effectiveness, and it’s time to replace the cartridge. If everything is going well with the spa water, I buy a spa filter replacement every 18 months. High use hot tubs may need to replace the cartridge every 3 months, depending on the size of the filter cartridge.

3. Spa Pipe Care

spa-biofilmI’m not talking about leaks, although you should inspect for leaks in your spa, and promptly repair any that occur. I’m talking about bacteria deposits, sometimes called Bio-Film, that can develop and grow inside the pipes, hoses and jets of your spa.

Using a product like Tub Rinse, add it to the spa before you plan to drain the spa. High use spas should use this every time the hot tub is drained. This will reduce the amount of organics in the spa, which allows the sanitizer to work more effectively, and keep your spa water looking clear, even after heavy use. For my medium-use spa, I use it every other time I drain the hot tub.

Just pour it in and allow it to circulate for an hour – before you drain the spa. The first time you use it, you’ll be shocked at all of the nasty brown gunk that it removes and foams to the surface. It would be similar to a person who finally brushes their teeth after months of only using mouthwash. Yuck!

4. Spa Equipment Care

spa-equipmentYour spa pack is the main control center for your spa or hot tub, and includes your spa heater. To care for your equipment, remove the access panel at least monthly to inspect for leaks, the presence of rodents, rust or corrosion. Use bug spray or mice baits if you notice evidence of either. Check your time clock and reset it if there has been a power outage.

Electric terminals can be coated with a dielectric grease (shut off power first) to keep oxidation from forming. If there is nothing out of the ordinary spotted, this job will go quickly.

If something looks amiss with your spa equipment, and you’re not quite sure which steps to take, give us a call for some spa troubleshooting help.

5. Spa Cover Care

spa-cover-care-tipsSpa covers need to “breathe”, and should be removed from the spa several times per week, to allow the spa to gas off – any accumulated odors and gases. It also gives the spa cover a break from the hot water and chemicals. Remove the spa cover completely, and store it folded and upright, to allow any water to drain out.

Inspect the underside of your spa cover for any rips in the plastic, cracks in the insulative foam, warping or water retention. If any of these has occurred, you should plan on replacing with a new spa cover soon.

Cleaning and conditioning the vinyl of your spa cover will keep it looking new and it can often double the lifespan of your spa cover. My spa cover gets a quarterly “spa treatment” – I use the 303 spa cover cleaner and conditioner wipes. It only takes me about 10 minutes to clean and protect the spa cover. This shines it up real nicely, blocks UV rays and helps keep it clean, but the best advantage is that it keeps the vinyl supple and soft.

Ignore this spa task, and your spa cover material will start to shrink, shrivel and eventually it will crack and become threadbare.


Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works


Using Bromine in a Spa or Hot Tub

July 4th, 2013 by


For spa sanitation, you can use chlorine, but why – when bromine is superior? Bromine has several advantages in a hot tub:

  • More stable than chlorine at high temperatures
  • More stable than chlorine in wider pH ranges
  • Bromine has much less odor than chlorine
  • Unlike chlorine, combined bromine is still effective

In using bromine, there is one small but important, and often misunderstood difference from chlorine.


To be effective, a residual of Bromides must be present, also known as a Bromide Bank, or Reserve. Notice that I said Bromide, not Bromine. Bromides are converted to Bromine in the presence of an oxidizer, such as spa shock, liquid chlorine, or ozone.

Bromine tablets are actually a mixture of chlorine and bromides. It can take several weeks for enough bromine tablets to dissolve, to build an effective level of bromides in the spa – so that bromine can be created. Each time you drain the spa, the bromide level drops to zero.

The best way to build a bromine bank is to add Sodium Bromide to your spa, each time you drain and refill. After building your Bromide Bank, shock the spa with your preferred oxidizer to activate the bromide ions, and convert them to hypobromous acid, the killing form of bromine.

2-Part and 3-Part Bromine Systems 3-PART-BROMINE-SYSTEM

A 2-Part Bromine system is basically adding Sodium Bromide (Step 1) and Shocking regularly (Step 2) to re-activate the Bromide ions into Bromine. A 3-Part system is also adding Bromine Tablets (Step 3) as a way to prevent gaps in sanitizing.

If you just add bromine tablets, without first adding Sodium Bromide, you will have trouble getting a good reading for Bromine levels in the spa, and the water could be unhealthy. Build a bromide bank first, of 10-15 ppm of Sodium Bromide, shock the spa, and then add a few tablets to a bromine floater to maintain a bromine residual of 3-5ppm (or 1-3ppm for Spas using mineral purifiers or ozonators).


In Summary, using Bromine in your spa or hot tub is best, but to be effective, there needs to be a good level of bromide ions in the water. Regular oxidation, or shocking is also important to convert the bromide into bromine. Use bromine tablets to more easily maintain a consistent bromine level.

  1. Add sodium bromide to your spa, following the label instructions, each time you drain and refill.
  2. Use spa shock after building your bromide bank, and weekly thereafter, to activate bromine.
  3. Use bromine tablets in a small floater, to help maintain bromide and bromine levels.


Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works



Foamy & Cloudy Spa Water

June 13th, 2013 by


The water in a spa may appear cloudy, when the jets are on high. Small whitecaps of larger bubbles on the surface is normal, as shown in the picture on the left. But, if you have larger volumes of foam, especially in an off-color, or the spa water is cloudy or hazy when the jet pumps are off – there is a deficiency (of sanitation or filtration) or a contamination.

No one likes foamy or cloudy spa water – this post will give you the action steps to take to restore water clarity in a spa or hot tub.

Check the Filter

Your spa cartridge filter could be due for a cleaning, so at first sign of hazy spa water, pull out the filter and give it a good cleaning with the garden hose. If you haven’t done so in 6 months or so, use a spa filter cleaner to remove oils and minerals that can clog the pores of your cartridge filter. For best results, allow the cartridge to dry fully before using, or keep a spare on hand for a quick spa filter change. When you reinsert the spa filter, make sure that it is fully seated into the cartridge housing. Water can bypass a spa filter cartridge that is not inserted fully, or sealed up on both ends. Finally, if your cartridge is over a year old, it may be time to buy a new spa filter.

Check the Water Balance

Having the pH and Alkalinity in the correct range is important – it allows your sanitizer (bromine or chlorine) to be most effective at breaking down organics and inorganics in the water. As you test your water balance, also check your level of sanitizer in the water. You need a constant level of sanitizer in the water, to keep it from becoming hazy. After your chemical checks and balances are made, you may decide to shock the spa. In many cases, a clean filter and a good shocking of the spa will clear up cloudy or foamy water issues.

Check the Pump

Your filter pump, is it circulating water, or could it have an air leak or an air lock? An air leak into the pump will reduce the volume of water being filtered and circulated and an air lock will prevent any water flow at all. Air locks are common after draining the spa, and can be released by loosening the union nut on top of the pump, just until water begins to leak out, then tighten again quickly. If the pump is not operating at all – check the circuit breaker and any GFI outlets that may be tripped. Also check that the time clock is set-up properly to run the pump long enough each day for all of the water to be filtered once or twice.

Clean the Pipes

Spas and hot tubs can develop a slimy bio-film inside of the pipes, manifolds and hoses – behind the spa shell. This can build-up to levels where it breaks off from it’s colony and becomes free floating. In cases where draining the spa does not solve a problem with cloudy or foamy spa water, with the other checks above completed, you likely could benefit from using a spa pipe cleaning product like Spa Rinse. Just add it to the spa a few hours before draining – you’ll be amazed at the gunk this stuff removes. You can see it, as it is removed and floats to the surface. Yuck!

Drain the Spa

If you’ve not drained your spa in several months, the cloudy and foaming spa water could be sending you a message. Solids build-up fast in a spa, especially for one that sees frequent use. Depending on how much your spa is used, and by how many people will regulate how often it needs to be drained. For many hotel/motel spas, a weekly draining may be appropriate, and for home  hot tubs, every 3 months is usually adequate. Here’s a handy formula to use to compute how often to drain the hot tub.


(Those are division signs, not plus signs!) For my hot tub, it works out to about every 111 days, or about every 3 months. Replacing the water regularly will help to prevent cloudy and foamy water, bio-film build-up, and reduce the workload for your spa filter and spa chemicals.


If it’s been awhile since you drained the spa, you may save some steps and just drain and refill. You may still need to check the pump and filter, water balance and sanitizer level, but sometimes, draining the spa is the best cure for cloudy and foamy spa water.


Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works


Draining your Spa or Hot Tub Correctly

May 16th, 2013 by

drain-the-spa-hot-tubDraining, or emptying your spa or hot tub, is necessary every 2-4 months, to reduce the amount of dissolved solids in the spa, and any germs or “baddies” that may have built up some resistance to the spa chemicals.

Draining is also sometimes preferable to intensive shock treatment, which can be harmful over time to spa seals and finishes. I prefer to drain more often, and use fewer harsh chemicals, when possible.

There are some considerations for draining a hot tub, including: local water restrictions, spa water chemistry and in some areas – water discharge regulations. If you plan to leave the spa drained for an extended period of time, I have some tips below for that too.

When to Drain A Spa or Hot Tub

Spas with very high use, commercial or public spas, may need to drain every few days to keep maintain water health. For private spas or hot tubs, with say, 9 spa sessions per week (3 users, 3x weekly), your spa water will last longer, up to 4 months between changes.

Some spa owners will drain for persistent cloudy water, or after a heavy use weekend by many people, or if they’ve managed to let the spa “go” – for some time without sanitation or filtration. I’ve drained my spa for all of these reasons at one time or another – otherwise, it’s every 3 or 4 months.

thinking-guy-left“When in doubt, drain it”, is my usual advice, or when the spa chemistry is really bad – “water is cheaper than chemicals!”, is something I might say.

How to Drain A Spa or Hot Tub

Before draining the spa, or at least twice per year, use a Spa Purge type chemical to remove biofilm and hidden “funk and gunk”. If you’ve never use one of these spa pipe cleaners, you’ll be amazed at the amount of gross, brown bio-gunk that it foams to the surface. Spa Purge is a name of one spa biofilm remover, I get great results using Jet Clean, which is a lot cheaper.

After circulating Jet Clean for around an hour, I am ready to drain the spa. Some spas have a handy external spigot to connect the hose, but mine is inside, and not in the most convenient location. After hooking up a permanent hose of the perfect length, I now just reach inside the cabinet and pull out the hose.

Shut off the Power. At the main switch, so your equipment timer won’t turn the pumps on during the drain and refill.

Gravity Draining with a hose takes some time, my spa takes about 3 hours to drain. I come out every hour and move the hose to a new location in my backyard. You can also use a small submersible pump, like a pool cover pump, to drain the spa in 15-30 minutes. When it’s about halfway down, I spray down the exposed walls with my garden hose, and again when empty.

Spa Siphon – If you have no spa drain spigot, and no utility pump, you could drain by siphon, if you have an area nearby that is lower than the hot tub. Duct tape a Crescent wrench to the end of a hose and place it in the bottom of the spa. Starting at the point where the hose comes out of the water, push the hose straight into the water, and coiling it underwater. Fill the entire hose up in this manner, and then cap the end of the hose with your thumb and quickly pull the hose to an elevation lower than the spa floor. Release your thumb and water should begin to flow.

Spa Water Use and Hot Tub Discharge Restrictions

Drought is a real reality in areas across the country. If your city is experiencing severe drought, it may put in place mandatory water restrictions, that may restrict draining and refilling your spa or hot tub.

In addition to this, most cities and towns have some regulations regarding how to discharge or drain a spa, hot tub or pool. Here are some general guidelines, your city may be different.

  • Water should have a balanced pH level
  • Sanitizer level should be very low
  • Don’t pump to the Sewer, but “Infiltrate” around the yard
  • Don’t pump near any streams or tributaries

Leaving your Spa Drained for an Extended Period

Wooden hot tubs will dry out without water in them, so it is not recommended to leave them dry for longer than a few days, just long enough for repairs or relocation.

If you know you will be unable to maintain a non-wood spa for months at a time, it will be best to drain it, to prevent biofilm and bacteria build-up.

wetdryvacAs the spa is nearly drained, turn on the blower, to clear out the lines (you may want to put the spa cover on first!). Use a powerful wet/dry vac to blow air through the pipes – from the skimmer and spa jets. A small air compressor can also be used, (with low pressure), connected into the pump drain plug. This is important, to prevent standing water from developing into a bacterial mess, inside of the hoses or equipments. The same process is used to winterize a spa or hot tub.

Remove the drain plugs from the equipment, and leave all drains open. Remove the spa filter and store indoors. Wipe down the inside of the spa, with a  sponge or towel to remove any remaining water. Put on your spa cover on to keep it clean.


Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works




Prevent Waterborne Illness in your Spa or Hot Tub

May 6th, 2013 by

rwi-in-hot-tubs“Recreational Water Illness” is a term used to describe the effects of different pathogens that can survive and thrive in pools and spas.

According to the CDC, “Recreational water illnesses (RWI’s) are caused by germs spread by swallowing, breathing in mists or aerosols of, or having contact with contaminated water in swimming pools, hot tubs, water parks, water play areas, interactive fountains, lakes, rivers, or oceans”.

Of course, in this discussion, I’ll focus on preventing RWI’s in hot tubs and spas.



The two largest Recreational Water Illnesses that we see in poorly maintained spas and hot tubs are Pseudomonas and Cryptosporidium. The first is a form of dermatitis, or skin inflammation (a rash), and the second is a germ that causes diarrhea.

Pseudomonas Aeruginosa

Pseudomonas is sometimes referred to as “Hot Tub Rash”, although I don’t particularly like that term! It is a form of bacterium that is present everywhere in nature. It is naturally occurring in soil, air and in all bodies of water. It produces a red rash, with small dots to the size of a pea, which resemble chicken pox. Hot tub folliculitis can be painful and is quite itchy, similar to poison ivy. The rash usually lasts about 7 to 10 days, but can leave marks on the skin for several months. Antibiotics and ointments may be prescribed in some cases. The extent of the rash depends on the length of exposure; those who soak longer in an infected tub may display more acute symptoms.


Crypto, as it’s known for short, is one of the most common Recreational Water Illnesses, and is spread through Fecal matter. It has a hard outer shell that makes it incredibly resistant to environmental factors, including chlorination. It can survive days in chlorinated water, until a sufficient oxidation potential is reached with bromine and/or ozone treatment. Crypto can remain in the lower intestine for up to five weeks, and can be transmitted from the feces of an infected person to a new host.


For most of you reading this, you’ll never have to worry yourself about these germs and bacteria in your home hot tub. Public pool and spas, with large bather loads are the more likely place you can pick up one of these water illnesses.

With spas and hot tubs, we filter, circulate and treat with sanitizer, to prevent bacterial colonies from forming. Let me say that again – In hot tubs, we control Pseudomonas and other germs – with proper Filtration, Circulation and Sanitation. RWI’s only survive and thrive in poorly maintained spas and hot tubs.

I should also say that Crypto, in particular, is primarily released in the spa from users that don’t shower thoroughly before using the spa. We all know, toilet paper doesn’t get everything – and if you go into the spa with a dirty behind, and you are infected, you will release the germs into the hot tub. The germs can be absorbed by others by water that gets into their mouth, nose or eyes, or even through small cuts on the skin.

Adding an additional form of spa sanitation, such as ozone or mineral sanitizers, can aid your primary sanitizer (Bromine or Chlorine, or Biguanides) in fending off the onslaught of bacteria that escalates quickly when several adults get into the tub, and the sanitizer level takes a nose dive.

Protect Your Spa

  1. Keep a constant residual of sanitizer in the tub, at a high enough level to control Pseudomonas. Chlorine – 2-4 ppm, Bromine – 4-6 ppm.
  2. Limit guests to 30 minutes per soak, and no more than the recommended user load. Shock the spa after use, or at least twice per month.
  3. Drain and Refill your hot tub every 3 months, or 30 uses, whichever comes first.
  4. Filter your Spa continuously and effectively. It should never stagnate longer than a few hours.
  5. Clean your spa filter regularly, and replace the cartridge every 12-24 months.

Protect Yourself & Others

  1. Take hot showers before using the spa, being sure to wash “thoroughly”.
  2. Don’t drink the water! Remember “Montezuma’s Revenge?” Same thing.
  3. Shower after using a public pool or spa, and remove wet swim clothes.
  4. Don’t use a pool or spa if the water quality looks questionable, or there are too many users.
  5. Don’t use a pool or spa if you have had diarrhea in the last two weeks.

You can prevent Recreational Water Illnesses by following the tips above, in your own spa, and in your water activities outside of the home. Have questions? Leave a comment below.

Happy Hot Tubbin’

Daniel Lara
Hot Tub Works