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FAQ Chemistry

  1. How often should I drain and refill a spa?
  2. I accidentally let the bromine go out. After I used the hot tub, I have gotten a rash.
  3. What are the basics to Pool and Spa Chemistry?
  4. I really want to get rid of the chlorine smell as much as possible
  5. Chlorine or Bromine?
  6. Can ozone generators deteriorate a spa cover?
  7. What is the best way to install ozone?
  8. I saw a product called SpaMagic...
  9. I've been told by a plumber that I can use bleach.
  10. After a while the water starts to fizz when air is injected into the water stream
  11. Our well water which we use for filling our tub is very alkaline (400-500 ppm)
  12. What to use in a fountain to get rid of algae, chlorine stinks.
  13. How often should a spa be drained
  14. Our source water is hard from calcium.
  15. Alternatives to chlorine
  16. Test stripes not very
  17. how to lower pH, without lowering alkalinity.
  18. Is a high pH Ok with ozone and bromine.
  19. I have high TDS's
  20. Can I use Epsom Salts in the spa
  21. My doctor said I have Folliculitis.
  22. Can I get AIDs or Herpes from a spa
  23. I can't get the pH to go down
  24. I use my swim spa so infrequently do I still need to shock the water?
  25. I am getting a lot of foam after 2-3 months of use of the water.
  26. Little flake coming out of the jets
  27. I get sick from the ozone.
  28. What is the brown film around the surface of my tub?
  29. A form of easier chemical maintenance or less chemicals.

Q. How often should I drain and refill a spa? Its about 500 gals and is used about 4 times per week by a family of three?

A. About every 2 months, I believe I have a formula in my web pages somewhere (FAQ spas) I believe.


Q. I have a hot tub, and I accidentally let the bromine go out. After I used the hot tub, I have gotten a rash. Especially under the arms.

A. This rash is common, I forget the medical name for it, but it is from a bacteria that gets into the hair follicles and reproduces there. You should consult your physician about it. As for preventing it in the future, Keep your chlorine or bromine up obviously and also use non-chlorine shock once a week to help the bromine do its job better and keep everything OK.


Q. What are the Basics to Pool or Spa Chemicals?

A. There are three basic principals to Pool and Spa water chemistry. Sanitize/Disinfect (kill germs etc.), Oxidize (break down organic compounds like oils and sweat), and maintain slightly basic or alkaline water (pH of 7.4-7.6) this controls the corrosiveness of the water. Most other chemicals are to make life easier when it comes to your pool or spa, like pH buffers (alkalinity control), sequestriants, flocculants, Algaecides, clarifiers, stabilizers (protect chlorine from UV light), etc...


Q. I really want to get rid of the chlorine smell as much as possible.

A. Non-chlorine shock helps a lot...

Q. What do you recommend we should use to sanitize our spa, chlorine or bromine?

A. (This is sort of a summarization of chlorine and bromine from Chemistry/Chemical Menu.)
Bromine is by far the most popular product in the industry for sanitizing spas. However chlorine is the most popular for the pool market. I personally prefer chlorine but let me give you some facts so you can make your own decision.

Before we can effectively discuss chlorine and bromine, we need to define a few terms.

Disinfect or Sanitize- means rendering sanitary or killing all living things like bacteria and viruses.

Oxidize or Oxidation- means to eliminate pool or spa water of ammonia and nitrogen compounds. Simply put, think of oxidation as a powerful chemical reaction that "burns up" organic matter, usually swimmer waste (body oils, sweat, etc...) in the water. Oxidization breaks down compounds, into their basic elements (nitrogen, oxygen, water and simple salts).

Super chlorination & Shock use to mean the same thing. However because of some new chemical compounds the two terms have different meanings.
The term Super chlorination means the addition of enough chlorine in the water to kill all living things (sanitize) and destroy any organic wastes present in the water (oxidize).
The term Shock Treatment or Shock has come to mean adding anything to the water that will destroy ammonia and nitrogen compounds (oxidize only). Chlorine is but one of the chemicals that can be used for this purpose. Non-chlorine shock, also known-as permonosulfate compounds, also can be used to oxidize organic wastes.

Some chemicals can perform all the things we have described. For example chlorine in the right concentration can disinfect, sanitize and oxidize. It is also an algaecide and algistat. It is used as a super chlorinator and as a shock treatment.

Bromine is not a very good oxidizer. It has a hard time breaking down organic contaminants like ammonia and nitrogen compounds. Bromine requires the addition of an oxidizer like chlorine or a permonosulfate compound to destroy these ammonia and nitrogen compounds.

Bromine is 2.25 times heavier than chlorine, therefore if you need 1 oz. of available chlorine to sanitize a spa then you would need about 2 oz. of active strength bromine to do the same job. On a chlorinator/brominator dispenser you will find that your dispenser settings, when using chlorine tablets, will be half of what the setting would be if you are using bromine tablets.

In the chemical process of disinfection and oxidation of organics, chlorine goes through four chemical steps to achieve complete break down of a single ammonia or nitrogen compound. However, if there is a lack of available chlorine in the water and the chemical process of oxidation is halted, you will be left with foul smelling water (smells like strong chlorine odor). This is called combined chlorine or chloramines.

Chloramines are an extreme irritant to the skin, eyes and mucous membranes (like your nose), and are not good sanitizers. In fact, they are 30-40 times less effective at disinfecting than their free counter parts (free chlorine). The most common problem with chlorine users, is the lack of understanding on how chlorine works. If you were to test the water with a standard 0T0 test kit, it would tell you, that you have lots of chlorine in the water. What it wouldn't tell you is how much of it is free chlorine (available chlorine for disinfecting and oxidizing). An OTO test kit gives a total chlorine reading of free chlorine and combined chlorine, Ideally to measure properly the difference between "free" and "combined chlorine" you should use a DPD type test kit.

Chloramines can be the cause of rashes and apparent allergic reactions. They can be easily destroyed by adding enough chlorine to the water to achieve a breakpoint (super chlorination). If you don't reach a break point then you will only make the situation worse by adding to the combined chlorine count rather than reducing it.

Non-chlorine shock is recommended as it does not matter how much you put in the water. Even a little will help reduce the combined chlorine without creating a high chlorine level. A high chlorine level causes down time in your hot tub or pool, as you wait for the chlorine to come down from super chlorinating it. Non- chlorine shock breaks apart the chloramines and oxidize the contaminants leaving the chlorine free to disinfect the water.

You don't need to use the non-chlorine shock each day as you do with the two part bromine system. Once a week or so, or as needed if the chlorine odor starts getting strong. Non-chlorine shock oxidizes the combined chlorine apart reducing the smell very much like an ozone generator would . Please note, non-chlorine shock does not kill bacteria and viruses, As mentioned earlier, non-chlorine shock goes after other contaminants like ammonia and nitrates freeing up the chlorine to go after the bacteria and viruses.

Bromine does not form an strong irritating odor when the bromine levels are low and contaminant levels are high like chlorine does. When bromine combines with these simple compounds, it does produce bromamines, but it is still an effective sanitizer.

The down side to the lack of odor from bromine, is it can make it harder to tell if there is a problem with your water.
As mentioned earlier you need to add an oxidizer to the water regularly to break apart the bromamines and oxidize the ammonia and nitrogen compounds as well as reactivate the bromine salts. Depending on the bromine system you use this could be required as frequently as every day to once per week. When you oxidize bromine salts however, it forms hypobromous acid (the killing part of bromine). After it has completed its job the hypobromous acids turn back into salts ready to be reactivated. This continues over and over again, from the same bromine salts.

Bromine can not be protected from ultra violet light (sunlight) like chlorine can with the use of cyanuric acid (stabilizer). This is part of the reason you need to replenish the bromine bank or reserve” in a spa. This is also the reason bromine is not practical in out door pools, due to the sunlight problem.

Bromine is more expensive than chlorine and you can’t just buy it from your local corner store like you can with bleach, which by the way, is liquid chlorine at about 5% available chlorine. Liquid chlorine sold for pools is about 10-13% available chlorine on average

. Chlorine as already stated, is much cheaper than bromine. It can be as much as 1/4 the price, depending on the type of chlorine you use. You may have no more odor than bromine especially if you use it in conjunction with a non-chlorine shock treatment (potassium monopersulphate, also known as the same stuff used with two part bromine systems, the powder not the liquid), or an ozone generator, both help keep chloramines in check.

It should be noted that the bromine tablets that you purchase are about 2/3 bromine and 1/3 chlorine. The chlorine is used to oxidize and activate the bromine salts.
Bromine evaporates at a higher temperature than chlorine, which helps keep the odor down and helps it to last a little longer in the water.
Bromine also works well in a wider range of pH than chlorine but this is not a huge factor because your pH should be, for the most part, ideal anyway (7.4-7.6).

Some people say that chlorine irritates their skin and bromine doesn’t or visa-versa. The allergic reaction most often comes from the chloramines not the chlorine, as many people think. Chloramines are an irritant to the eyes, nose and skin. The trick is to keep the chloramines to a minimum.

If it is bromine that is bothering you, it may be due to the fact that bromine continues disinfecting on your skin after you get out of the spa twice as long as chlorine does, killing your natural bacteria that protects you from infections. If you are in fact allergic to chlorine then you will almost certainly be allergic to bromine, as they are from the same family of chemicals (halogens).

Bromine is more expensive than chlorine, but it has some nice advantages over chlorine to the average spa user. With experience, practice and an understanding of the chemistry I find I can obtain just as good a water quality, if not better for a lot less money using chlorine. You should now have the information necessary to make your own choice as to what is better for you. Bromine or chlorine?.


Q. Can ozone generators deteriorate a spa cover. True or false? Thanks for your help.

A. True, they do deteriorate spa cover quicker than not having an ozonator although the benefits must be weighed in. A floating cover helps reduce these effects. Also how it is installed make a big difference. If installed correctly a Uv ozone gen. should be more than sufficient for most spas. Be careful with CD ozone it may produce more ozone than you need or want causing excessive cover deterioration and "gas off". You will use much less bromine or chlorine to maintain your hot tub and maintenance will be significantly improved, as I said earlier, the way ozone should be installed means everything. Ask around as to the best way to install on your spa. Mazzi Injection is best, but difficult to setup on a two speed pump and reduces jet performance. Isolated jet in the foot well 2nd best and the most common method used. Mounted in air control system least desirable as the ozone has the least amount of time to mix with the spa water before it reaches the surface.


Q. What is the best way to install ozone?

A. In regard to the ozone the best way is a mazzi injector manifold on the return line of the filter pump with a mixing tank to allow time for the ozone to mix with the water before reaching the pool. However if the pump is two speed then this will be a challenge as the ozone injection setup varies depending on GPM of water and is difficult to make work at two different GPM ratings for high and low speed. If you are working with a two speed pump the next best method is a special isolated jet in the foot well of the hot tub as low as possible so that the ozone is less likely to reach the surface of the water as quickly. Read about ozone under the "Alternative Sanitizer" menu


Q. I saw a product called SpaMagic (an Enzymatic product meant to do away with all chemical usage) from Summit Systems in Mt. Shasta Ca.. Do you know about this product? Any other alternatives?

A. I am sorry at this point I don't have an answer for you I have requested Technical Specs on their product to no avail. As far as I know there is no way an enzyme alone can sanitize a spa, maintain pH, as well as oxidize ammonia and nitrate compounds by itself. But new things are always being introduced... Also I would look at the whole chemical program put forward for any product that claims to replace multiple other produces. Enzymes are very helpful in improving water quality as for this particular product I have no experience. All I can suggest if you try it is buyer beware and if it does work...Let Me Know Please (for others).


Q. I've been told by a plumber in my area that all I need in the way of chemicals for my hot tub is 1 cup of liquid bleach every week.

A. Yes this is OK but you should read under the menu "Chemicals" - "Chlorines" - "Liquid chlorine (Sodium Hypochlorite (bleach))" to understand the effects of bleach...Liquid Chlorine for pools is typically 10-12% chlorine, household bleach is only 5% chlorine but it is cheap, I would also recommend a non-chlorine shock to compliment the chlorine of your choice. Also 1 cup may not be enough you should add chlorine to the water as the test kit indicates a demand for it.


Q. After about 1-2 months since changing the water it seems that my water goes out of condition. We maintain the quality according to our test strip kit, but after a while the water starts to fizz when air is injected into the water stream. It does not turn foams but acts effervescence! It will take about 1 minute for the water to totally clear after we turn the tub pumps off. Would this have something to do with total dissolved solids? Our retailer told us we should only have to change the water 2-3 times per year but due to this situation we have to do it more frequently. Our local water quality is very good and is not overly hard. Could you shed some light on this problem?

A. The effects you are experiencing is from using a product that says on the label somewhere "prevents stain and scale formation" This is a water softener and lowers the surface tension of the spa water which when used regularly eventually allows the air bubbles coming from the jets to be smaller and smaller until it reaches a point that they are so small that it takes a long time for the small air bubbles to reach the surface causing the effect you experience. If you are not adding calcium hardness to the water or don't have hard water problems then there is little need to use a softener. Also you should be trying to drain and refill every 2-3 months. Ozone could add a couple more months but will not stop this effect.


Q. I operate a guest lodge with a 500 gallon hot tub and I was thrilled to discover your information site. It is very comprehensive. I have a few questions that remain unanswered, however. Our well water which we use for filling our tub is very alkaline (400-500 ppm), so we have a difficult time adjusting the alkalinity when we refill the pool. We also have a fairly high concentration of metal ions. You mention in your alkalinity section of water chemistry that in order to minimize the affects on pH that acid should be slugged (as well as the fact that the required amounts should be added incrementally). We have already tried both of those techniques. My question then, is why is it that a fairly simple buffering action of bicarbonates and carbonates takes so long (in our case up to one week), and is there any way to pre-treat the water as we are filling the tub that would reduce that length of time? Are there any "industrial" techniques that might be applied?

The acid slugging technique had been suggested to us previously, with our own personal experience indicating that regardless of how the acid is added, it really hasn't made a noticeable difference in either the amount of acid required to lower the alkalinity or the time period required to lower the alkalinity to an acceptable level. The downside to slugging the acid, however, was that fairly strong concentration of acid was introduced into our filtration and heating system, with the result being the disintegration of a pump filter basket. Your assistance in providing this information would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your site.

A. If you can't truck the water in you may want to try this.
Based on the alkalinity and gallons you gave me as the water fills the spa add 5 cups muriatic acid at 30% all at once. Allow to stand and hand mix with pumps and equipment off for about 2-4 hours. After that, add soda ash to raise pH (do not use sodium bicarbonate) to desired level, hand mixing as much as possible before turning pumps on. Allow pumps to run 1/2 hour and re test alkalinity and pH. Fine tune (adjust) as needed.
This process may speed up the process without causing to excess damage to equipment as a low pH will not affect acrylic. However if this is a concrete or tiled spa you may want to reconsider before attempting this as you will cause some minor etching to take place during acid treatment of the water.
Slugging in a spa is futile as the water tends to mix so quickly that it doesn't make much difference unless you turn the pumps off for a couple of hours. The idea is to get as low of a pH level in the water as possible to use up the carbonates to lower the alkalinity. The only way to do that in a spa is with calm water in a pool or turn the pumps of in a spa so the low pH doesn't affect the equipment.

As for the metal ions use a good quality sequestriant to help filter them out and if you use an ozone generator, avoid turning the unit on for about a week after filling spa to avoid staining while sequestriant does its job.


Q. My next door neighbor has a waterfall in his home and it smells from chlorine and the chlorine has bleached the marble behind the waterfall white. My neighbor has asked me to get your advice because he isn't yet on the net. Can he use bromine or is there another chemical he should use in his home. I guess the only reason he needs a chemical is for algae? Could you please advise what to use in the water?

A. If it is just algae you are trying to get rid of try using an algaecide instead of a sanitizer like bleach. He may want to use a lost lasting copper based algaecide or try PristineBlue.


Q. Any recommendations on how often to drain a spa that is used about 15-20 minutes a day?

A. About every 2 months but that really depends on how well you maintain your chemistry and the volume of water. The formula for this.-

# of days = 1/3 volume in U.S. gallons / max # of daily bathers.


Q. I live in the country (outside of St. Louis, MO) and have only well water. My water is very hard (lots of iron) and the pH and total alkalinity are high. The water that comes from my water softener has a much higher pH and higher alkalinity. Some dealers here have told me to use only the well water (not the soft water), some have told me to use about 2/3 soft, 1/3 hard. I have had the tub set-up for about eight weeks now with the 2/3, 1/3 mix and everything seems OK. Do you have experience with such a situation our have a recommendation of where I might go to learn more about this subject?

A. Can you truck water in? In regards to alkalinity and hardness can you give me some measures like 400ppm etc. So I can asses your situation better and give you my best evaluation. Also does the hardness contain other minerals like calcium? Do you have a local dealer that is set up to test for different minerals? Can you get me a TDS reading before and after your water softener unit as some water softeners increase the TDS levels which may not be good for your spa. In answer to your question I would recommend the soft water over the hard water, then reduce the pH.


Q. I'm trying to find out about chlorine Vs non-chlorine for pool maintenance.

A. Did you get a chance to read under "Chemicals"-"Alternative Sanitizers"? There is very little or nothing that replaces Chlorine completely but you can get very close. And most cases the quality if water and the maintenance required is improved substantially. Well worth looking into!!!


Q. Even with the test strips (for the spa) and the test kit for the pool. I lack confidence in my readings of pH, Alkalinity, bromine, chlorine, hardness, etc. I have found that when I am not sure, I run the samples down to the pool store. Unfortunately, I can not do this on a regular basis. Typically, my readings and theirs don't agree. I think a lot of my problem stems from looking at the strips and coming up with a number based on the shade of orange or pink for the pH. I also have difficulty (maybe because of lack of dexterity) adding chemicals a drop at a time and swirling! As much trouble as I am having, my wife has it even worse! Bottom line: I was wondering if their was a reasonably priced device that would measure at least pH and Alkalinity in the spa and pool? Chlorine, bromine and hardness would be a nice addition, but I can work around these.

A. Test strips are not as accurate as they should be. They are an inexpensive way to guide you to proper or adequate chemical balance. I would use the test stripes for a rough gauge to Chlorine Alkalinity and Calcium but use the liquid test kit for pH or "invest" in a digital pH tester. Calcium and alkalinity are not super essential for water chemistry but help balance the pH. As long as they are in the general neighborhood of correctness. As for the dexterity...Practice Practice Practice. I used to have problems with that also. Bottom line, the more you spend on a good test kit the more accurate it will be.


Q. How do I lower the pH of the spa without pulling down the Alkalinity?

A. Dry acid powder, sprinkled over the surface of the water slowly over a period of a few days is best if you don't want to affect alkalinity to much. However if your pH keeps rising up you may want to reduce your calcium levels and keep them closer to 100-150 ppm or allow your alkalinity to drop slightly to prevent either of those to cause pH to creep back up. Having both of those chemicals on the higher end of OK can tend to cause pH to creep up. My personal Ideal ranges are 80 ppm Alkalinity, 0-200 ppm calcium and a pH of 7.4-7.6. Calcium is required where the water is in constant contact with concrete type surfaces or etching will occur.


Q. Someone told me I could run the pH in the spa as high as 7.6-8.0 because I have an ozonator in addition to the bromine. I had complained about battling the pH trying to get it down to 7.4-7.6. What do you think?

A. Based on the theories of Langlier Saturation Index of water balance 'Not recommended'. However based on Hamiltons Index it is ideal. You decide. If you have calcium above 150-200 ppm, I would recommend against it, as you may get scaling on your heater core running the risk of burning it out. Otherwise yes, you can with bromine but it is not ideal for chlorine. Next time you drain and refill balance calcium to 100 ppm max (if you want calcium at all) and alkalinity to 100-110 ppm and you should find that much easier.


Q. Total dissolved solids have been recently tested at 2200 ppm. I think this is due to the chloride salts and due to a very high evaporation rate in the hot pool.

A. Yes you are correct the TDS's are getting up there and you should consider partial dilution of pool water. At about 3000ppm you will probably start to taste the salts.


Q. My wife is a massage therapist and she is wondering, if Epsom salt will hurt a hot tub? Epsom salt is used to help relax your muscles.

A. Lucky bugger....You can, but I don't recommend it as this will increase the TDS level of the water which is the same thing that is used to judge if the water should be changed. Max TDS's in a spa is 2000-3000 ppm, above that you can start to taste the salts. As this continues to increase the salts can cause a corrosive condition to occur even when the pH is kept in the ideal range. I would be reluctant but you are the final judge of that. For the most part (short term) it shouldn't cause any major negative effects on water condition or damage to equipment if used in small amounts (other than raise the pH slightly with it's addition).


Q. We have had a Jacuzzi for about two months, using it daily and following instructions on chemicals. We also have an ozonator. Recently a guest visited us for a couple of days and used the hot tub. When she returned home, she had a rash on her abdomen, which her doctor told her was "Folliculitis", otherwise known as "hot tub disease." Needless to say we were very embarrassed. What is this stuff? What have we done wrong? What can we do to correct the situation and prevent another incident?

A. I am not a doctor, but this rash you are talking about sounds like a common bacteria that gets into hair follicles and reproduces there until the natural immune system destroys it. It is very common and relatively harmless. You need to keep the sanitizer level up, the pH balanced and shock the water with a non-chlorine shock on a regular basis (once per week, min.) to make sure the sanitizer is available to do it job correctly and not be tied up trying to oxidize oils instead of disinfect. This should prevent any further problems with that and other bacteria that may be present. A medical note I found: Hot tubs that have not been adequately chlorinated can give you Folliculitis, a condition that causes severe itching and red bumps on the skin. It should be cured with antibiotics, but often goes away by itself without treatment. If you use public hot tubs, pools or whirlpools, sit on a towel on the side of the tub or pool and shower immediately after you leave the water. If you start to itch, check with your doctor.


Q. Can I get AIDS or Herpes from a Hot tub?

A. It is extremely unlikely that you will get herpes or AIDS in a hot tub or swimming pool, but you can get herpes from sitting on the side of a pool or Folliculitis, a bacterial infection of your skin, from a hot tub. The herpes and AIDS viruses are killed almost immediately in chlorinated water. As far as we know, the AIDS virus can be acquired only from infected blood, semen and other body tissues, but the herpes virus can survive for up to 4.5 hours on plastic coated benches or seats. Even if you sat on the same spot that a person with active herpetic blisters has just left, you probably wouldn't be infected. To acquire herpes, you need to allow the virus to pass through broken skin. Herpes often occurs on the genitals because love making can break the skin to let the virus in. Sitting on a seat that has herpes virus on it with broken skin on your legs or buttocks can cause a recurrent herpes infection.


Q. I can't get the PH level down in my 2,000 gallon indoor swim spa. I have done everything "right" several times according to my local spa dealer's suggestions and computerized printouts. But no matter how much acid I add (over 2 cups by now) my PH rises to 8.2. They suggest I just keep adding acid. But my Alkalinity continues to drop as I add acid, and my PH keeps rebounding. When I have the water tested, it always indicated the need for .25 cups of dry acid.

A. Well this is a common problem Dealers that try to keep everything at the recommended levels e.g.. Alkalinity between 80-120 ppm and Calcium at 200-400 ppm and expect the pH to be correct all the time. Understand that Alkalinity is a base (that is it raises the pH) and calcium hardness is also a base. I would first recommend you get your calcium level down to maybe 50-100 ppm as calcium has little effect if any in my opinion for acrylic spas or swim spas. It is used more for concrete pools and spas. With the lower calcium level you will find your pH drop slightly. Then slowly bring the pH down to 7.4 range the alkalinity in the water may cause the pH to creep back up but just keep adding acid slowly over time until the pH stabilizes. Take note of the alkalinity at that time and keep it there you will probably find it in the 60-80 ppm range. This is fine, the water is only corrosive if the TDS reaches over 4000 ppm or the pH drops below 7.2. Alkalinity does not keep the water from being corrosive nor does calcium. I wouldn't worry about those levels as much as the pH as they are secondary to pH. Alkalinity help stabilize pH and the higher it is the higher the pH will stabilize at. Calcium keeps soft water from being aggressive to calcium or lime surfaces which will dissolve slowly trying to harden the water. When you stop using calcium you can also stop using a chemical they sell that says on it "To prevent stain and scale formation from calcium" (which is a water softener that may or may not cause foaming as it mixes with body oil producing 'soap'.) Next time give me the exact test reading you get and I will let you know what to do. I need pH, Alkalinity, Calcium, Temperature. With that I can tell you where you stand in regard to balance. Regardless of recommended levels.

R. You are absolutely right that my dealer actually had me add quite a bit of calcium this last time. Arghh. After reading your FAQ's, I saw how this was obviously counterproductive. I appreciate your thoughts on Alkalinity and water hardness /softness. Our water is not too hard or soft, it is just right. When I first got the spa, I was aggravated about not being able to find any written information on the chemical matters. I don't like following instructions without a clear understanding about the "whys." Your home page is extremely valuable. 


Q. I use the pool so infrequently (once or twice a week) it is kept very clean. It only seems to use a small % of the Bromine that the gallon size indicates. Therefore, do you think I should be "shocking" the water weekly? Maybe monthly or if I see a drop in the Bromine levels? When I shock the pool, it takes quite a while (a week or two) for the Bromine level to come down to a reasonable level. Is it O.K. to swim in it with Bromine near or above the top reading (3 or 6 PPM?).

A. If the bromine goes quite high when you shock, then you may have a large build up of bromine salts in the water. You may want to consider partial dilution of the water depending on the results of a TDS test. You may want to still shock frequently but with small quantities of shock more frequently than large quantities less frequently. There are many people out their that don't shock their water at all. It is up to you. One last thing if you are using ozone you don't really need to shock at all (other than after a party or something) as the ozone acts a shock in small quantities frequently and as an oxidizer.


Q. When running all the jets with the air turned on, I get a fairly large amount of foam build-up after 2-3 months of the same water. My dealer says that it is caused by phosphate residue from laundry detergents on our swim suits. In the beginning I believed him because we had several friends in it who all wore suits. Since the last complete water change, we have not had anyone else in the spa except us and we never wear swim suits. As an experiment, we also have been taking a shower without using any soap prior to entering in an effort to eliminate the introduction of residual body soaps or lotions etc.

A. They don't put phosphates in laundry detergents any more! And laundry detergents are low sudsing, rarely causing the foaming problem, but can't be ruled out. Are you using a chemical that says on the bottle to reduce stain and scale formation and may include "caused by calcium"? Calcium makes the water hard resisting foaming. However when this calcium is used there is a risk of scale build up. The dealer will recommend a stain and scale inhibitor (which lowers the surface tension of the water) with regular additions of this product the water becomes foamier and more effervescent then with a little bit of help from body oil you have literally made soap the old fashion way. Eliminate or reduce the calcium hardness and the stain and scale inhibitor may not be required. Not using it should eliminate the foaming, but be aware of the whole picture in regards to chemistry and water balance. I recommend if you eliminate calcium you should keep your pH at a higher level, like 7.4-7.8. Filtration and shocking can help a bit. But not much.


Q. I am having a few difficulties with my home spa, a 7 person whirlpool hot tub with a UV ozonator that runs 24 hours a day. The tub is not used a lot except by me. I find that I am severely allergic to the chemicals the spa sales staff sold me and have chosen to eliminate all. This appears to work fine for a long period of time, 3-4 months, and then white gummy like deposits (fettuccini shaped) appear. I think this is some type of scale forming on the heaters?? I empty the tub, pour vinegar in the heaters, rinse, vacuum out residue, clean the filters and refill the tub. It appears to solve the problem for a period of time. My question is: Is there potential harm to the spa system? Is there potential harm to users if I don't use chemicals and balance pH and alkalinity? The water is crystal clear and there is no staining.

A. Are they coming from your jets and look like flattened macaroni slightly off white? Are they deposits that dislodge and become free floating.? If the description I described above sounds right to you then it sounds like more of a body oil scum buildup in the pipes than bacteria but I can't be sure without seeing it. It sounds like you are a service persons dream. First, No- you don't need all those chemicals. However pH is not considered a chemical it is a condition. pH controls not only scaling but also the acidity of the water. This is very important to the operation and life of your equipment. Are you allergic to baking soda or vinegar? If not then use these to adjust your pH -Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to raise pH and vinegar to lower the pH. As for yourself, there is potential harm!. Ozone does a very good job of sanitizing the water however there are a few things it can't destroy without the help of chlorine or bromine. You should add these periodically once or twice every week at least, just to shock the water and allow the ozone to do a complete job. Shocking regularly,(1-3x/week) also covers you if your ozone stops working or isn't producing enough ozone without you knowledge. You are currently running a very tenuous situation relying solely on ozone.


Q. Several months ago per having a problem with getting sick after using my spa. I have disconnected the ozonator (it is set up to run 24 hours a day). Since then I have been able to use the spa with little or not ill effects. I was just wondering if you had heard of any others having problems (respiratory) that had spas equipped with ozonators. I have noticed locally (Pennsylvania, USA) that the dealers are no longer advertising ozonators for chemical treatment. Have you heard anything along these lines? Either way, you asked that I get back to you after disconnecting the ozonator and all seems OK without it. Thanks for the help.

A. Yes I have, Ozone is a known carcinogen and was decertified by CSA up here in Canada for a while because of lack of control on the industry in regards to safe installation and operation. It is a known fact that ozone can become unsafe for inhalation at higher levels or concentrations. It is important that the ozone generator be installed properly, unfortunately this is often not the case. Read about ozone under "Alternative Sanitizers" .


Q. Every few days, my hot tub gets a brown film or sludge around the sides. What is this?

A. It sounds like body oils that float to the surface and cling to the walls at the water level. This is normal and safe. (like the scum you get in the bath tub). Clean it off periodically with a damp cotton cloth.


Q. In a spa does it make sense to use Sodium Dichloro-s-triazinetrione when the pH is in balance and use Bleach when the pH is low? It seems like this would save money, and end up with less dissolved solids in the water. It also seems like it might be better to have less of the chlorine stabilizer around if you don't need it.

A. Sounds like a well planned idea, Should work great for helping bring the pH back up.  Another thing would to be use chlorine tabs while the pH is high, as they tend to lower the pH in time as they dissolve.


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