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Archive for the ‘Care & Maintenance’ Category

Spa and Hot Tub Water Color Problems

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hot tub water color problemsWe’ve all been there before, when you lift the spa cover to discover a color other than clear blue. Hot tub water can be all colors of the rainbow when conditions aren’t right. Yellow, brown, green, white and every shade in between.

Today, we’ll discuss how to identify and troubleshoot colored spa water so you can restore your clear, sparkling blue spa water. It doesn’t matter what type or size of hot tub you have, even if your tub is as big as a pool. You can still use these tips to fix colored hot tub water.

After you’ve spent several months (or years!) taking care of your spa, your trained eye can tell right away when something’s not right. It’s a bit less sparkly and translucent, and a bit more dull and dirty looking. Or perhaps the water has turned one of these strange spa water colors.

HOT TUB WATER IS GREEN

green-hot-tub-waterWhen your spa has a shade of green, you may immediately think of algae. If your sanitizer has been low or your filter cartridge is dirty, it very well could be algae. Touch the sides of the spa, and if it feels slimy, you can bet you have a small algae bloom on your hands. Algae can grow even under a spa cover, in the dark, hot water. To treat a hot tub for algae, check and balance the pH and alkalinity, and add a shock treatment. After filtering out dead algae, it’s always recommended to replace the spa cartridge with a new one.

Green hot tub water can also be caused by a mineral we know as copper. It can enter the water from copper pipes carrying fill water, or it can come from natural well water. It can also come from copper heat exchangers used in gas-fired spa heaters, or it can come from using copper pool algaecide in a spa (not recommended). This is the same copper that can turn a swimmer’s hair green. The water can be clear and bright green, without slime on the surfaces. Control  copper in your hot tub water with a product like Metal Gon or CuLator packets.

HOT TUB WATER IS YELLOW

yellow-hot-tub-waterYellow algae is a particularly resistant type of algae that can exist in a dark heated hot tub, even in the presence of normal bromine or chlorine levels. It seeks out small, out-of-the-way crevices, and when in full bloom, it will deposit itself in sheets across spa surfaces. Treatment for yellow algae is to use a very high level of chlorine spa shock. Balance the water first, and turn off the heater before shocking the spa. Allow the water to circulate for several hours, with the cover removed. If the level drops to zero within 24 hours, shock the spa again, until it holds the chlorine level. After this shock treatment, drain and scrub the spa, bleach wash the spa cover and replace the spa filter with a new cartridge.

Yellow hot tub water can also come from an excess of pollen in the springtime, especially if you have left the spa cover for some time. Iron oxides in well water can also impart a yellowish color to the water, especially if the spa turned yellow after shocking. If you are on a well water system, use a pre-filter to remove all minerals from your fill water. Finally, if your bromine level is extremely high, the water can take on a yellow-red color, especially in the presence of low pH. Don’t enter a spa if the bromine residual is over 5 ppm.

HOT TUB WATER IS BROWN

brown-hot-tub-waterBrown water is not the most appetizing hot tub water color. If your spa has suddenly turned brown, much like the color of tea, again you can usually find the problem to be high levels of minerals, namely iron oxide. This may occur within hours after shocking the spa or making big pH adjustments. The filter cartridge should remove some of it, but to clear it up faster, you can force it back into solution with a sequestering agent like Metal Gon.

Brown spa water also occurs from contaminated fill water. During dry, hot periods, some municipal water supplies begin scraping the bottom of the barrel, which adds a lot of particulate matter to the water supply. You can combat this by using a pre-filter on your hose when you fill the spa. This simple tool will remove even microscopic particles from your fill water.

HOT TUB WATER IS WHITE

white-hot-tub-waterMilky hot tub water, which is so cloudy that the water appears white, can come from many causes. High calcium or alkalinity, ineffective filtering or pumping, or air in the system causing micro-bubbles – all of these can make hot tub water appear white-ish. Contaminants from body lotions, cosmetics and hair products can also change the water color from clear blue to white. If your spa has cloudy water, here’s a troubleshooting blog post with 10 reasons why.

White hot tub water can also be infected with white mold, a type of bacteria that grows in small clumps and clusters. In spas that have not been maintained properly, this type of slime can be difficult to remove, but can be treated effectively with raising chlorine level to 30 ppm, running the spa for several hours and then draining. Replace the spa filter, and rinse all removable items like spa pillows, nets, baskets and thermometer in a strong bleach solution. Use a biofilm remover like Jet Clean to clean out the pipes.

HOT TUB WATER IS PINK

pink-hot-tub-waterPink algae is a close cousin of white water mold discussed above. Not actually an algae, it’s a form of bacteria, although it displays characteristics of an algae.  Pink spa water is not a very common color for spa water, and pink algae won’t actually color the spa water pink, except in very mature colonies. Treatment for pink algae is similar to white mold above. It’s not easy to eradicate, as it is able to tuck away cells that are difficult to reach – but it can be eradicated, by hitting it hard with shock (over 30 ppm), and using a purge product to clean the lines and crevices. Be sure to replace your spa filter, and soak all spa items in a strong bleach solution before refilling the spa.

Don’t let colored hot tub water get you down! There’s always a solution…

Cloudy Hot Tub After Shocking

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cloudy hot tub water

 

Getting cloudy water immediately after shocking your spa or hot tub is pretty common, and usually considered normal. After all, there are a lot of chemical reactions going on when you shock a spa! Clear water should return to a spa within just a few hours.

That said, when adding just ounces of a spa shock makes the water cloudy, there are probably other things going on. Here are just a few reasons you might be getting cloudy hot tub water after adding spa shock.

 

Swimming Pool Shock

Using pool shock will almost always make your spa or hot tub cloudy. It’s not as refined and the particles are much larger, meaning they won’t dissolve right away. Pool shock is also loaded with calcium, which can be a problem if you’re in a hard water part of the country. If you want to use chlorine shock, use Spa 56 chlorinating compound, which is specially formulated for hot tubs. The best advice for shocking a spa or hot tub is this: DON’T use pool shock. Only use spa shock for spas and hot tubs.

High pH & Alkalinity

Before you shock a spa, it’s always best to check the water’s pH and alkalinity. This is especially true if you add shock right after using the spa – few sweaty bodies into your hot tub can spike the pH and alkalinity levels up too high. When the pH and alkalinity are out of balance, strong shock treatments can knock carbonates and bicarbonates out of solution and make your spa water cloudy. Keep some spa pH decreaser on hand so you can use it to lower both pH and alkalinity.

Hard Water Hot Tub

My water comes out of the tap with a calcium hardness of about 450 ppm. This is high, but not as high as some in nearby desert areas or those drawing from a well. When your spa water is hard, that means it has a lot of dissolved calcium in it. Spas and hot tubs operate best around 200 ppm, and when there is more than that, it can come out of solution as visible scale on spa surfaces. If your spa pH is high and you also have high calcium hardness, shocking can make the spa water cloudy. To avoid this problem in hard water areas, fill your spa with water that has gone thru water softening tanks, or use a pre-filter on your garden hose to keep calcium levels low.

Lotions & Potions

If you host a get-together and there are a lot of people using your hot tub, the water may get a little funky by the end. It’s a common reaction to add spa shock once the party’s over, but then the water turns cloudy. Why? It’s because of all of the body oils, sweat, dirt, makeup, lotion, deodorant and who knows what else that has washed into your hot tub. Spa shock doesn’t do very well with oily gunk. The shock has trouble breaking it down, which can turn your hot tub cloudy after shocking. To prevent this problem, keep your spa as clean as possible and encourage everyone using the hot tub to take a quick shower – or at least be reasonably clean – before stepping in. Using a spa enzyme once a week can also help to break down the oils and organic materials at the root of this problem.

For best results, keep the spa as clean as possible, make sure calcium hardness stays around 150-200 ppm, and maintain proper pH and alkalinity levels to lower the risk of cloudy water when shocking your spa. If cloudy water continues to linger after a few hours, keep reading. We have another blog that can help you isolate and fix the cloudy water culprits hiding in your hot tub: 10 Reasons Why Your Spa Water is Cloudy.

Help! My Hot Tub Pillows Stink!

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how to clean hot tub pillowsIt’s a common scenario. You open the hot tub cover and settle in for a warm, relaxing soak. Next thing you know, your senses are bombarded by the overwhelming aroma of smelly hot tub pillows…YUCK! Not relaxing at all! Lucky for you, it’s not too hard to eliminate that stealthy stench.

Why Do My Spa Pillows Stink?

Bacteria, mold and mildew thrive in warm, moist environments, making your hot tub a hot spot for the growth of these smell-inducing microorganisms. Left unchecked, they can accumulate and make your entire hot tub – not just the pillows – smell bad.

It’s easier for microorganisms to grow if the water’s pH is unbalanced and sanitizer levels aren’t high enough. Bacteria can also build up over time if the spa doesn’t get drained and cleaned properly. Failure to remove the spa cover and allow it to breathe or “gas off” regularly can also exacerbate smelly spa issues.

How Do I Clean My Spa Pillows?

Regular cleaning will not only keep your hot tub pillows smelling great, it will also keep them looking great and slow down the rate of deterioration. Here are some quick tips to clean your hot tub pillows and get rid of that stinky smell:

  1. Remove the pillows from your hot tub. Some pillows are connected by suction cups, some by screws, and some by a specialized plug or clip. Use caution and follow the manufacturer’s instructions so you don’t damage the pillow or attachment pieces.
  2. Prepare the cleaning solution. If it’s part of your regular maintenance, use a gentle hot tub cleansing product. For mild mildew, vinegar and baking soda should do the trick. For more stubborn smells or severe mold and mildew, try bleach and a mild detergent. The use of gloves and safety goggles is recommended when handling strong chemicals.
  3. Use a sponge and cleaning solution to clean the pillow. Gently scrub to make sure every bit of mold and mildew is removed. If your pillow has a cover or can be disassembled, all pieces should be thoroughly cleaned. For hard-to-reach areas, seams, indents or deep textures, use a toothbrush. Don’t scrub too hard, or you’ll damage the pillow.
  4. Rinse pillows thoroughly to remove all cleaning solution.
  5. Allow the pillows to dry completely. This will kill off any remaining bacteria, mildew or mold spores. Warm, sunny days are perfect for this! Any strong scents left over from the cleaning solution (such as vinegar or bleach) should dissipate as the pillows dry.
  6. Clean hot tub surfaces in the areas behind the pillows. Don’t forget this step! Mold and mildew love to hide and accumulate here, so it could be where the smell was originating.
  7. Reassemble the fully dried pillows. When you’re ready to use them again, put them back in the hot tub, and enjoy that freshly-cleaned spa pillow scent!

Other Maintenance Tips

Keeping a close eye on water balance, sanitizer levels and overall cleanliness will help your entire hot tub stay looking and smelling good for many years to come. If you start to notice a smell coming from the spa, don’t just mask it with aromatherapy products – those can come after the bad smell is GONE. Find the root of the problem first, and eliminate the cause. Common sources of strong odors include the pillows, biofilm buildup in the plumbing, a dirty filter, an aging spa cover or even the water itself.

For regular pillow maintenance, gently wipe or rinse away chemical residue at least once a week. This is an easy way to prolong the lifespan of the pillows. If you won’t be using the hot tub for a while and are concerned about mildew issues, simply remove the pillows, clean them thoroughly (using the steps above), and store them in a dry place until they’re needed again.

If you notice that your hot tub pillows have started deteriorating and are smelling bad more frequently, it may be time to find replacement pillows. Hot Tub Works has many different types of spa pillow replacements to fit many models of hot tubs. We might just have what you’re looking for!

Eliminating Hot Tub Scale

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eliminate hot tub scaleDiscovering scale in your hot tub for the first time can be an alarming and unpleasant experience. Scale has a sandpaper texture that grows on the surface of your spa, and it can also hide in less visible places like your water heating elements and plumbing system. It is formed when there is a buildup of minerals.

You’ll want to remove the scale as soon as possible to avoid damage from happening to your hot tub. In this blog, we’ll explain how to eliminate hot tub scale from the surface of the tub and prevent it from coming back.

 

CLEAN YOUR FILTER

clean spa filter

The filtration system plays an important part of keeping your spa water clean and free of dirt, oils, and other contaminants. Clean your filter on a regular basis to maintain healthy water quality and overall water flow. Depending upon usage, plan on cleaning your spa filter every two weeks, or as often as weekly.

 

TEST THE WATER

spa water test kit

There are three main contributors that promote scale growth in your spa: high pH levels, high alkalinity and high calcium hardness. Without testing your spa water, you won’t be able to accurately fix the root of the problem. So, grab your test kit or test strips and let’s get started!

Referencing your water test results, use spa balancing chemicals to correctly balance your water. Always read all labels and instructions, and check with your hot tub manufacturer before applying chemicals.

pH: 7.2-7.6 ppm. Use pH increaser or decreaser.

Total alkalinity: 80-120 ppm. Use alkalinity increaser or decreaser. Some pH adjusters will also alter the alkalinity reading.

Calcium hardness: 200-400 ppm. Most spas are fine with calcium hardness levels up to 400pm. If it’s low, add a calcium booster. If it’s too high, and you’ll be refilling from a hard water source (such as a well), drain the spa and refill with the help of a pre-filter to remove excess calcium.

Sanitation: Keep sanitizer levels between 1.5-3 ppm for chlorine and 3-5 ppm for bromine.

BRUSH SPA SURFACES

Incorporate brushing to loosen up and remove some of the scale on the surface of the hot tub. If you have an acrylic hot tub, you’ll need to be more cautious and scrub gently to avoid damaging the finish. Look for brushes that are safe for spas and hot tubs. When in doubt, test a small, inconspicuous area first.

DRAIN THE HOT TUB

If the scaling is severe, you will need to drain your hot tub. If you haven’t emptied your hot tub in 2-4 months, take the time to do so now. Draining your hot tub correctly will remove all the existing bacteria and dissolved solids built up over time. If you’ve never drained your hot tub before, don’t worry – we’ve got an article for that!

SCALE PREVENTION

Leisure Time Defender Spa Scale Preventer

Fill your hot tub and add a scale prevention product. The Leisure Time Defender Spa Scale Preventer is great for removing stains caused by calcium and utilizes a second-generation blend of organic polymers to actively prevent future scale and stains. If you have hard water, you can also try to soften it by using a water softener.

By regularly maintaining your hot tub and keeping the water properly balanced, you will be able say “GOODBYE” to hot tub scale! For best results, remember to test your water 2-3 times a week and clean the spa filter on a regular basis.

How to Drain a Hot Tub…Quickly!

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Knowing how to drain a hot tub is one thing. Knowing how to drain a hot tub quickly is another. It can save so much time in hot tub maintenance! The average hot tub should be drained every 3-4 months, depending on frequency of use, water quality and other factors. Using the drain plug alone or siphoning water through a garden hose can take hours and hours to complete. In this blog, we’ll introduce you to some quicker methods for draining a spa or hot tub in minutes.

 

First Things First

Before getting started, check local ordinances to make sure you are able to legally drain the spa. Can you drain it into the yard? Can the water drain into the street? Is there a sewer hookup nearby? Perhaps there’s a draught in the area, and water conservation measures are in effect. Knowing this info before getting started will save you from headaches later on.

jet clean hot tub cleanerchange or clean the hot tub filterA couple times a year (or more), it’s a good idea to purge the plumbing in your hot tub. Bacteria, body oils and other organic matter form layers of nasty biofilm, which can lurk in the pipes and cause skin irritation or illness. Using a cleansing product like Jet Clean breaks down the biofilm so it can be removed while draining. Just add the chemical, turn on the jets, and let it circulate for 20-60 minutes, following label instructions on time and dosing. Don’t fret if brownish, foamy goop comes to the surface – this means the cleaner is working!

After the lines have been purged, turn off all hot tub functions and flip the circuit breaker; you don’t want the pump or heater to come on while the water level is low. Remove the filter for cleaning, and assemble your supplies…it’s time to drain the hot tub!

Draining the Hot Tub

There are couple of easy ways to quickly drain a hot tub. Either method can be used in addition to the drain plug or combined with other draining methods for maximum efficiency.

use a submersible pump to drain a hot tub

Submersible Pump

The fastest way to drain a hot tub is to use a submersible pump. Personally, I like using the AquaPro APC3000 submersible pump. This 1/3 HP pump can be used with a ¾” garden hose or a 1¾“ sump pump discharge hose to remove up to 30 gallons per minute (1,800 gallons per hour). The math is pretty simple – a 450 gallon spa can be emptied in as little as 15 minutes flat. Yes, you read that correctly!

The AquaPro is nice, because it includes a sensor to automatically turn off once the spa has been emptied. Since you won’t have to babysit the pump, use this time to clean the spa filter or get started on the spa cover. There should only be a little bit of water left in the bottom, which can be removed manually or with a wet/dry vac.

Shop Vac Siphon

wet/dry shop vacuumAnother fast method for draining a hot tub is using a wet/dry vacuum to get a siphon started. Drop one end of a long vacuum hose into the spa, and connect the other end to the wet/dry vacuum. Turn it on for a few seconds – just long enough to let the hose prime and get the flow moving. Turn off the vacuum, and quickly disconnect the hose so the water can flow out onto the ground.

Though not quite as fast as using a submersible pump, this method can still empty out an average-sized hot tub in a matter of minutes. The large hose diameter makes it much more efficient than a garden hose siphon. The nice thing about using the vacuum hose is that while water is being siphoned out of the spa, you can use the “wand” end to remove dirt and debris from the floor and seats. Once the water level is low enough that the siphon isn’t pulling water anymore, hook the hose back up to the wet/dry vacuum to remove the last puddles of water from the tub.

Final Tips

hot to drain a hot tubIf you’re going to be leaving the spa empty for a while, don’t forget to remove water from the lines, too. A new layer of biofilm can build up quickly if the water is allowed to stay in the pipes, and you’ll be right back at square one when you refill! This can be done with a wet/dry vacuum to blow and/or suck the water out. Or, if your spa has one, briefly turn on the air blower, making sure all jets are open first. Remember to turn the power back off once you’re done with the air blower.

Thoroughly dry the tub with a soft towel. Next, use a spa cleaning chemical to remove tough scum and protect the tub surface. Finish cleaning (or replace) the filter cartridge, clean and condition the cover, and hose off the spa cabinet if it’s looking dirty. If you’re not refilling the hot tub right away, allow the filter to dry completely, and store it indoors.

 

Of course, you can always just use the bottom drain on the hot tub and wait for several hours. Then again, the faster the hot tub is drained and cleaned, the sooner you can get back to using it! Hot Tub Works has everything needed to clean and maintain your freshly drained spa, from cleaning chemicals and replacement filters, to water balancing chemicals and test strips. Have questions? Give us a call!

How to Keep a Hot Tub Clean While on Vacation

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how to maintain a hot tub while on vacation

If you’ve owned a hot tub for any length of time, you know that it requires daily maintenance to keep the water clean and sanitary. But what do you do when you aren’t home to clean the spa for a few days or weeks? How do you keep the hot tub clean while you’re on vacation? Not to worry – we’ve got all your answers right here!

 

First Things First…

No matter how long you’ll be away from home, what the outdoor weather is like, or what time of sanitizer you use for your hot tub, some procedures will stay the same across the board for vacation-proofing your hot tub:

  • Test and balance the water.
    • Test the alkalinity and calcium hardness of your spa water, and balance it accordingly.
  • Clean or replace the filter cartridge.
    • change or clean the hot tub filterThis is one of the most important things to do before you go on vacation. Clean or replace the filter cartridge before you leave.
    • If you leave for a week or two with a dirty filter, you’re going to have dirty water to contend with when you get home.
  • Sanitize the water.
    • Make sure there’s enough sanitizer to get your spa through vacation, and lower the output levels as needed.
    • Since there will be no people in the hot tub while you’re gone, the sanitizer won’t be used up as quickly.
    • Before you leave, treat the water with spa shock, and run the pump for about 30 minutes to ensure the water has been well circulated.
  • Secure the spa.
    • No matter how long you’ll be away, make sure to keep your hot tub cover or entrance(s) locked down.
    • If an uninvited guest goes for a dip in your spa and something bad happens, you may be held liable. Keeping the cover firmly closed will also keep dirt out and heat in.

Now that the basics are out of the way, let’s look out how this maintenance plan will change depending on a number of different factors.

 

Planning According to Duration

Short Vacation

If you’re only leaving town for a couple of days, there’s no need to do much else besides the basic instructions listed above. Enjoy your trip, knowing that when you return home the hot tub will be in the same pristine condition you left it in!

hot tub vacation

Long Vacation

Here, it mostly depends on how long you will be gone. A week? Two weeks? A month or more? For 1-2 week vacations, preparation work is extremely important. If you have a friend or neighbor who can drop in a couple times to monitor water quality and add more sanitizer, this will make it easier to keep the water clean and clear while you’re gone. As incentive for adding sanitizer for you, allow them to use the hot tub while you’re gone! To save on heating expenses, you can also decrease the temperature by 10 degrees.

On the other hand, if you’re going to be gone for quite a while, or if it’s been a few months since the spa was last drained and refilled, you may be ahead to just clean and drain your spa before you leave. Be sure to use a product like Jet Clean, which will clear the lines of biofilm and other hidden gunk. Drain the tub, and turn on a blower or low pressure air compressor to completely clear the water out of the lines. This will prevent freezing damage or yucky bio-growth taking over the plumbing. Once the tub is fully drained, thoroughly clean and dry the tub with a soft towel or sponge. Leave all drain plugs off to release any remaining water in the system, and put the spa cover back on to keep the tub clean and out of direct sunlight. It will be ready for a fresh refill when you return!

*Please note that wooden hot tubs cannot be drained for extended periods.

 

Planning According to Weather

Warm Weather

warm weatherIf weather conditions are pretty warm in your area, the main thing you’ll need to worry about while you’re gone is algae growth. Keeping sanitizer levels up is your best defense against an algae outbreak, and shocking the spa before you go will certainly help. If needed, use a spa algaecide to treat and prevent algae. It’s OK to turn off the pump and heater while you’re out of town if there’s no risk of the water freezing.

Cold Weather

cold weatherIf temperatures are consistently below freezing, you’ll need to ensure the hot tub and plumbing will stay thawed while you’re away. As long as the spa is properly heated, it’s alright to drop the water temperature by 10 degrees to save on heating costs. Leave the pump and heater on to keep the water warm and circulating. If you have freeze protection for your hot tub, it will automatically turn on the circulation pump when temperatures approach freezing.

 

Planning According to Sanitizer Type

Bromine or Chlorine Sanitizer

Bromine is the most popular sanitization chemical for hot tubs and spas, and it’s actually pretty easy to manage while you’re out of town. Just load up a bromine floater with 1” bromine tablets, and turn the output setting down to the lowest setting to keep the chemical flow to a minimum.spa bromine and chlorine

For chlorine, just remember to NEVER put 1” tri-chlor (stabilized pool chlorine) tabs into a spa floater. Tri-chlor tablets are intended for use in pools only, but di-chlor granular chlorine can be safely added to spas. If you rely solely on chlorine granules for sanitizing the water, you may need to have a friend or neighbor help out until you get back home. On the other hand, if you have a chlorine hot tub, it’s likely that you also supplement the chlorine with a mineral sanitizer or an ozone system. If that’s the case, keep reading to learn more!

salt chlorine generator for spas and hot tubs

Salt Chlorine Generator

If you have a salt water hot tub, you won’t have to worry too much while on vacation! Just make sure salt levels are sufficient for chlorine generation, and shock the water before you go. The chlorine will not be used up as quickly while the spa is closed, so the generator will not be working as hard to maintain free chlorine levels.

Mineral Sanitizer

mineral floaterMineral sanitizers are valuable in that they can supplement most other sanitizer systems – bromine, chlorine and ozone, included. Some mineral sanitizers are packaged as floaters and paired with bromine or chlorine, while others can be dropped directly into your spa filter. Aside from the standard pre-vacation spa maintenance, you’ll just need to make sure that your mineral cartridges are good to go. Most mineral cartridges last about 4 months, so if needed, just replace them before you leave.

Ozonator

spa ozone generator

Just like a salt chlorinator, an ozone generator won’t require much extra effort before you close up the hot tub. Just ensure everything is working properly and the water is properly balanced and sanitized before you go. You won’t have to worry about overdosing the tub on ozone, so you don’t even need to adjust the timer if you don’t want to.

 

With a little extra planning and preparation, your hot tub will be ready to use in no time once you return. Don’t let routine hot tub maintenance keep you from enjoying the vacation you deserve!

 

Hot Tub Water: Test Like a Boss!

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Manage hot tub water balance with a proper test kit.

Testing hot tub water regularly is important to avoid peaks and valleys of sanitation and water balance. Testing every day is not necessary unless your spa is used on a daily basis. Instead, test the water 2-3 times per week – more often if the spa is used frequently.

When you are only working with 300-500 gallons of water, it’s crucial to be accurate. Otherwise, it’s easy to underdose or overdose your hot tub when adding chemicals. Here, we’ll show you the good, the better, and the best of the business when it comes to testing your spa water.

 

spa test strips

GOOD Hot Tub Water Test

Spa test strips are made to work with hot water, and are “calibrated” especially for use with spas. They are inexpensive, easy to use, and several options are available depending on your needs. You can use test strips that for a single aspect like bromine levels, or you can use a multi-test strip that looks at six (or more) components of your spa water.

Test strips are both useful and economical, and many people use them to keep their hot tub water balanced. However, the wide range of results and hard-to-determine color matching scale can make them less accurate and less reliable when compared to other types of hot tub water tests.

 

BETTER Hot Tub Water Test

AquaChek TruTest Digital Pool Tester

A better way to test spa water is to not abandon test strips, but to simply remove human error from the equation. The AquaChek TruTest Spa digital test strip reader analyzes the test strip from 16 million colors, which improves accuracy of test strip use immensely.

Replacement TruTest strips cost as much (or less) than other multi-test strips, so it doesn’t take much to keep a constant supply handy. The AquaChek digital reader measures free and total chlorine or bromine, pH and total alkalinity with excellent precision in just seconds.

 

BEST Hot Tub Water Test

Taylor Test Kit

The best way to test hot tub or spa water is to use a “liquid drop style” titration test kit. Titration test kits are different, and here’s why. First, you take a water sample in a test vial and add the reagent. Next, you’ll add an indicator solution drop by drop, counting the drops until you achieve a solid color change (from red to blue for example). Multiply the number of drops x 10, and you have your calcium and alkalinity reading, accurate to within 5 ppm. When testing for sanitizer levels, accuracy falls within 0.5 ppm.

titration-test-for-hot-tubs

Yes it takes longer to do a titration test, but not much longer. You can do a full battery of tests (bromine, pH, alkalinity and hardness) in less than 5 minutes. If your balance is off, the charts in the booklet will tell you exactly how much adjustment chemical to add. There are more options available for the type of test you’d like to perform on your hot tub, but the more inclusive tests usually come with a higher price tag.

 


When choosing a hot tub water test, it really comes down to what is most important to you. If you’re looking for unparalleled accuracy, a titration kit or digital strip reader are the both a good way to go. If you check the water often and don’t want to spend a lot of money on testing supplies, regular test strips are a solid option. The digital test strip readers have become quite popular in recent years because they offer a good balance between test strips and titration kits when it comes to cost, accuracy and ease of use.

 

10 Reasons Why Your Spa Water is Cloudy

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Cloudy Hot Tub WaterWhy is my spa water cloudy? If we’ve heard that question once, we’ve heard it a thousand times. It may be the number one spa water problem plaguing spa owners.

There is a lot of misinformation out there about cloudy spa water – such as, “Bromine will make your spa cloudy”, or “Metals in the water cause cloudy hot tub water”, or the constant sales pitch – that if you just had this super-special-magical spa water treatment, your spa water problems will disappear.

If your spa or hot tub water is cloudy, hazy, milky – turbid, as we sometimes call it, your problem will be one of these situations below, or a combination of more than one.

1. High Calcium Hardness or Total Alkalinity

Your spa water chemical balance may be to blame. Take an accurate reading of your calcium hardness, alkalinity and pH levels. In areas where hard water is common, calcium can easily come out of solution and cloud the spa water. If your calcium hardness levels are greater than 300 ppm, use a chemical balancer to lower your pH, calcium and alkalinity levels in your spa.  This will help to keep your spa water clear and help to prevent the scaling that causes cloudy hot tub water.

If your test for Total Alkalinity shows high levels, in excess of 150 ppm, excess carbonates can come out of solution, and make the spa cloudy. High TA levels will also make it hard to control your pH, or keep it in range. Use pH decreaser to lower TA to around 100 ppm. If your spa pH level is outside of the range of 7.2-7.6, adjust accordingly for easier control of cloudy water.

TDS, or total dissolved solids, is not usually a concern in spas and hot tubs – but, if you have not drained your spa in years, for whatever reason – you may have a very high level of dissolved solids in the water. When water reaches it’s saturation point, where it can absorb no more solids, frequent bouts of cloudy water are the result. Time to drain and refill the spa.

2. Low Spa Sanitizer Levels

Some people are sensitive to bromine or chlorine, and try to operate the spa with as little as possible. That may be OK, if you have other sanitizers working, such as an ozonator, or a mineral cartridge, and your water chemistry is balanced, especially your pH level.

Otherwise, spas should always have a level of 2-3 ppm of bromine, or slightly less if using chlorine. When sanitizer level drops below 1.0ppm, particles and contaminants in the water begin to run rampant or grow at a rate faster than they are being destroyed.

A proper sanitizer level should destroy the particles that induce cloudy water. To help it out, shock the spa water regularly, especially after a several people have used the spa, or if sanitizer levels have mistakenly dropped to very low levels. If a chlorinated spa shock is clouding your water, try using MPS shock instead.

3. Cloudy Fill Water

Maybe the problem is not with your spa, but in your fill water. Nonetheless, balanced and sanitized spa water with proper filtration should be able to self-correct, and clear the water within a day or so. A spa clarifier can help coagulate suspended particles for easier filtration. In most cases, it may be better to use a spa pre-filter, to remove particulates that cloud your spa water. Just attach it to your garden hose when adding water or refilling your spa or hot tub.

4. Air in the System

Small particles of air, tiny bubbles – can make the spa water appear cloudy. If your spa has bubbles coming into the returns, but your air blower and spa ozonator are turned off – you may have an air leak, on the suction side of the pump. The suction side is anything before the spa circulation pump. A loose union fitting before the pump, or a loose pump drain plug can pull air into the system.

Low water level in the spa can also bring air into the spa, and give the water the appearance of being cloudy or hazy. Inspection of the pipes and equipment before the spa pump can reveal the source of the air leak, which can then be sealed up with sealants or lubricants.

5. Spa Filter Problems

This is a common cause of cloudy spa water. A spa filter cartridge may be positioned incorrectly, allowing for water to bypass the filter cartridge. Make sure the cartridge is fully seated on both ends to force the water to go through the pleated spa filter material.

A spa filter cartridge won’t last forever, and each cleaning reduces it’s efficacy a little bit more. After about 15 cleanings, replace the spa filter and you’ll notice an immediate improvement in water clarity. Depending on how much the spa is used, and how much is asked of the filter, you should replace the spa filter every 12-24 months.

Spa filter cartridges can also become gummed up with oils or minerals, drastically reducing their filtration ability. These substances can be very difficult to remove with a garden hose alone. Spraying a cartridge in spa filter cleaner before cleaning will break down greasy or crystallized deposits, and restore full flow to your filter.

DE filters are more commonly used on inground spas, and if a DE filter grid develops a hole, it will allow DE filter powder to come into the spa. This will cloud the water, and leave deposits of a light brown powder on the seats and floors of the spa.

6. Spa Pump Problems

There are a number of pump problems that can lead to cloudy spa water, the first being the amount of time the spa filter is running each day. You may need to increase the amount of time that the spa pump operates, to increase your daily filtering time. Running a pump only on low speed can also contribute to ineffective filtration. Run it on high for at least 2 hours every day.

Another issue could be with the spa impeller. It could be clogged – full of pebbles, leaves, hair or any number of things. The vanes on a pump impeller are very small and can clog easily, which will reduce the flow volume considerably. Another possibility is that the impeller is broken – the pump turns on, but the impeller is not moving, which will reduce flow rates to zero.

If you have no flow from your pool pump, there could be an air lock, especially if you have just drained and refilled the spa. To fix an air lock, shut off the pump and loosen a union on the pump and allow air to escape, tightening it when water begins to leak. If the pump doesn’t turn on at all – well, there’s your cloudy spa water problem. There could be a tripped GFI button, loose wires, bad contactor or relay, or another control problem.

Air leaks before the pump, as discussed above, also makes the pump less efficient by reducing the overall water volume. Water leaks after the pump is also a problem, in that your water level will soon drop below the skimmer intake, begin to take on air, lose prime and stop pumping your water through the filter.

7. Biofilm Problems

Biofilm is a slimy bacteria that coats the inside of pipes and fittings. In extreme cases, it will cloud the water, and you may notice slimy flakes floating on the water, or have severe issues with spa foaming. Biofilm forms quickly in a spa that has sat empty and idle for some time. If you suspect a biofilm contamination, lower the pH to 7.2 and use spa shock to raise the chlorine level above 10 ppm. Follow this up with a treatment of Jet Clean, to remove biofilm deposits.

8. Salt System Problems

Salt systems are becoming more popular with spa owners, although they are much more prevalent on swimming pools. The issue with salt systems is that it is possible to place too much reliance on them, and never check your chlorine level. Spa salt cells also need occasional cleaning to maintain chlorine output.

Adding salt to your spa when needed may cloud your spa temporarily, until the salt becomes fully dissolved. When adding salt, be careful not to overdose, and run the jets on high for greater agitation of the water.

9. Biguanide Problems

If you use a non-chlorine, biguanide sanitizer in your spa, and have difficulty with cloudy spa water, you are not alone. This is the main complaint of using a PHMB sanitizer. You may find relief by draining and refilling the spa, and changing the spa filter, which is probably gummed up with residue. Using spa chemicals with any amount of chlorine, or using algaecides or any non-approved chemical will not only cloud the water in a biguanide treated spa, but can also create some wild colors, too!

10. Soaps, Lotions, Cosmetics and Hair Products

This problem is common to just about every spa, unless you shower well before using your spa. Everything we put on our body and in our hair can end up in the spa, and can bring oils, phosphates and detergents into the water, and a hundred other undesirable chemicals. These can consume sanitizer, clog spa filters and make the spa water cloudy and foamy. If your spa has a high bather load, or is used as a giant bath tub, you can expect issues with water clarity. Adding spa enzymes can help control greasy gunk, and reduce sanitizer demand and clogging of your spa filter.cloudy-spa-water

Cloudy spa water is not so difficult to find and fix – but remember that you may have more than one of these issues working against you. Consider each cause of cloudy spa water carefully – it’s likely one or more of these situations above. Draining the spa regularly is one more piece of advice to prevent cloudy water – depending on how much the spa is used, draining it every few months is a good preventative way to keep your spa water from becoming cloudy in the first place!

 

Hot Tub Preppers: Be Ready for Holiday Visitors

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December is upon us, and cars and planes will soon be packed with people, visiting relatives for the holidays. Around my house, a popular ‘amenity’ for our guests has always been our 8-person spa, especially for those that don’t have their own hot tub at home.

Now is the time to step up spa maintenance, kick it up a notch to have over-filtered and over-sanitized water, and hot water for your guests. Now is also the time to review some spa safety standards, and be sure that your hot tub will be safe for all family visitors – adults, kids and pets.

 

1. Balance the Waterphoto of nature2 test strips

Unless your water needs changing that is; if your water has 2 or 3 months of age to it already, go ahead and do a complete drain, refill and re-balancing of the water. Otherwise, balance the pH and Alkalinity to 7.2-7.6 and 80-100 ppm, respectively. The next step may be to add calcium increaser, if your fill water is below 150 ppm. In my area it comes out very soft, around 80 ppm, so I add a few lbs of calcium when refilling. Soft water can cause staining, foaming and other problems.

2. Shock the Spa

For shocking the spa, you can use either chlorine spa shock like Spa 56, or you can use non-chlorine MPS shock, but in either case don’t be shy about it – hit it hard, which is usually about 1 – 1.5 oz., see label for correct dosage. Run the pump on high when shocking a spa, and leave the cover open for 30 minutes or so after shocking with chlorine. Shock the spa after each heavy usage while visitors are staying at your place.

photo of cartoon spa filter - copyright Hottubworks.com3. Change the Filter

A new filter cartridge and a new mineral stick from Frog or Nature2 will boost the water clarity and purity, to a point where it can take a sudden increase in users, without turning cloudy or dull, or foamy and greasy. I usually replace my filter cartridge every December anyway, and use a new Nature2 stick every 4 months, so it works with my schedule.

4. Increase Filter Run time

If you do expect to have more spa users than normal this month, it may be a good idea to adjust the timer settings or the programs to filter the spa an extra 20% – 50% longer each day, to compensate for the additional bather load. A little extra insurance to be sure that the filter system can handle the increased users.

5. Add Clarifierhottubworks spa clarifier shown

This one is my little secret weapon, what clarifier does is – it acts like a magnet to tiny particles, making invisible stuff clump together until it is large enough that the filter will trap it, which makes your water look great, even with the lights shining through the water. TIP: Do Not over-dose with clarifier, follow label instructions, and treat only once weekly, or it can have the opposite effect, and make your spa water cloudy!

6. Carpet Runner

My spa sits about 8 ft from the back sliding glass door, across a fairly clean, but gritty, concrete paver patio. I buy these runner carpets at my local ‘home’ store, for about $40, and they last nearly a year. I’m due for a new one, they’re about 2’x8′ and in dark colors that look good for quite awhile. You can put one inside the house too, for ‘drippers’ dashing into the house.

7. Towels and robes

I have an antique console leaning up against the back of the house and I stock the cubbies with lots of colorful towels, and hang a few robes and lots of hats (don’t forget the hats). I also have a small hand drawn (cute) sign that says “Please bathe before Use”, as a reminder to not use the spa as a bath tub. And plants, lots of plants (if you live in the south). Even plastic plants are very nice to have, surrounding the spa.

8. Spa Supervision

Don’t forget to set some ground rules, spa safety must come first. Many tragic accidents around spas and hot tubs actually happen at the homes of relatives, by people unfamiliar with the basic ground rules.

  • No single spa users, 2 or more people at all times
  • No unsupervised children under age 14
  • No pregnant women or persons with high blood pressure
  • 20 minutes maximum soaking time
  • 104° F maximum temperature

 

Finally, make sure the heater is running well, see Danny’s post last month about the most common spa heater problems and how to troubleshoot them. And be sure to close-up the spa yourself after use, unless you can train an ‘able-body’ to remove and replace the spa cover, safely and properly, so you don’t have to. 🙂

 

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

 

10 Ways to Destroy your Hot Tub

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Taking care of a hot tub nowadays is not too difficult, but if you’re not careful, small slips can cause big problems. Most of these won’t DESTROY your hot tub, that’s just my attention grabbing headline, but any of these will cause minor to major problems, which are best avoided.

We take phone calls (and emails) all day from customers who have found themselves in a bit of hot water (or cold water), due to some small oversight on their part. Learn from their mistakes, and from mine too!

drain the spa and leave it empty

If you want to destroy the hot tub, this can be the number one way. One or two days won’t cause much problem, but beyond that, the water and moisture remaining in the pipes and equipment will begin to ‘funkify’, and grow into a bacteria biofilm, which can be hard to eradicate completely, once large colonies are established. Secondly, without water in the tub, seals and gaskets can more easily become dry and begin to leak, and dried out cartridges require new spa filters.

use your hot tub as a bath tub

This won’t destroy your hot tub, but jumping in the hot tub after a workout, or a day of digging in the garden causes poor water conditions, overwhelmed filter cartridges, and could be unhealthy, as it pummels the pH and sanitizer. Not like you have to shower every time before using the spa, but if you are in a practice of bathing in your spa, or inviting the team over for a soak after your winning game, your spa water and spa filters can be compromised.

add bubble bath

Well, this is an obvious one, and really just to put a funny image in your mind. Imagine adding just a few ounces of soap to your spa and turning on the jets. It would be like that Brady Bunch episode when Bobby added a whole box of detergent to the washing machine. In fact, wearing bathing suits that have been washed with soap, is a no-no in your spa. Even with a dual rinse cycle, enough soap remains to give you a hot tub foam problem.

use pool chemicals

spa chemicalsSpa chemicals are specially formulated to work in hot water, and with hot tub surfaces. More importantly, spa chemicals are labeled for use in a spa or hot tub, with dosage and application information for very small bodies of water. For spa shock treatments, do not use pool shock, as the granules do not dissolve quickly enough, and more importantly, a 1 lb. bag of shock cannot be resealed safely, being designed for one-time use.

use a pressure washer

Even a small pressure washer is too much pressure for cleaning cartridges, forcing dirt, oil and scale deeper into the fabric, and will separate the fibers at the same time, bunching up fibers and essentially ruining or severely damaging your spa filter. What about cleaning your spa filter in the dishwasher? Also not a good idea, which could ruin not only the cartridge, but the dishwasher too! Use a regular garden hose with spray nozzle, and be sure to use a spa filter cleaner 1-2x per year, to gently loosen dirt, oil and scale.

shut off power to the spa

Keep the spa running, and check on it often, to be sure it is still running. If you leave town for a few weeks, or otherwise unable to use the spa for extended periods, you must keep it running, with at least a few hours of high speed circulation daily, and low-speed circulation for most other times. Spa pumps don’t need to run 24/7 to keep a covered spa clean, but you do need Daily circulation, filtering and sanitation, or larger spa water problems are sure to arise.

overfill your hot tub

Orbit Hose Spigot Timer at DripDepot.comIt’s happened to most spa owners, you’re adding water to fill the spa or top off the hot tub, when the phone or doorbell rings. Overflowing spas usually don’t cause problems, but depending on your spa make and model, some components can become water damaged if a spa overflows. After overflowing my own spa twice, I bought a plastic timer that screws onto my hose spigot. It can be set for up to 2 hours, before it shuts off the water flow. Also, don’t under-fill the spa, or air can be sucked into the pump – keep it full.

overtreat with chemicals

Spas and hot tubs are small bodies of water, and most chemical adjustments require just a few ounces of liquid or powder. Overdosing your spa with hot tub shock, or over-adjusting the pH or Alkalinity can create a see-saw effect that costs money and time. Make small adjustments, read the label and add doses appropriate for your spa size, in gallons. You can also use Spacalculator.com to compute exact amounts of spa chemicals to add, for a desired result.

run the spa without the filter

There are situations when you want to briefly test the system without the spa filter cartridge in place, to see if the heater will come on with the filter removed, for example. But running the pump for long periods of time without the filter could lead to clogged pump impellers, and rapid water quality problems. However, if your spa filter is cracked or broken, or if your dog carried off and buried your filter – it’s better to leave the pump running on low speed, than to shut down the spa completely.

leave your spa uncovered

Besides getting dirty, wasting water and chemicals, and causing your spa heater to work overtime, leaving a spa uncovered and unattended is unsafe for children, animals and some adults. On the other hand, covering it too tightly, with plastic wrap or tarps tightly sealed can also cause a problem for electronics and cabinet trim, when moisture is under pressure. Be sure to keep your spa cover on the spa when un-used, clipped snugly in place.

 

– Jack