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Care for your Spa or Hot tub 6 Keys of Spa Care Chlorine-Bromine Spa Start Up Chlorin-bromine maintenance Soft Soak Start up & Maintenance Pristine Blue Spa Care AquaFinesse for Spas & Hot tubs Nature2 for Spas Spa Frog Swim Spa care Spa & Hot tub chemistry questions Purge, drain & refill spa or hot tub Spa Hot tub Water Balance Spa Biofilms Foaming, cloudy water Odors Spa Water Mold Spa water illlness, rashes Text Box: Spa & Hot Tub Care

6 Keys to Good & Easy Spa & Hot tub Care
(it's not just chemicals)

Key 4 - Testing
Test your hot tub water at least 2 times per week & bring in a 1 quart water sample for a complete computerized test & analysis whenever you change the water for best results. 

Testing keeps you up to date on what's going on with your spa water. 

Don't rely solely on how the water looks.  In fact most of the SERIOUS water problems that we see (skin rashes, odors, slimy surfaces, etc.) occur when the water is "crystal clear". 

OTO - pH test kit

Make pH, total alkalinity & calcium hardness adjustments promptly. 

You'll protect the filter system, the spa surfaces, get better chlorine & sanitizer efficiency and virtually eliminate red eyes & dry skin.

Here's what Spa water testing involves:

  • Testing & maintaining the sanitizer level - chlorine, bromine, biguanide (Soft Soak or BaquaSpa), Pristine Blue
  • Testing & maintaining the pH
  • Other important water balance levels

Testing & maintaining the sanitizer level - No matter what basic chemistry or spa care sanitizing system you're using, chlorine, bromine, biguanides (such as SpaGuard® Soft Soak®), or other alternatives such as Pristine Blue®, you have to keep an eye on that level.  Too low - bacteria & biofilms can get out of control & cause real problems.  Too high - that's just being wasteful; it's unnecessary to maintain high sanitizers levels in most spa or hot tub applications. 

But sometimes you do want that sanitizer level a bit higher, like just before a big spa party or if you're going to be away for a period of time.  That temporarily high sanitizer level will protect the spa water from getting "out of whack".  How many times have you been to or been the host of hot tub party and you can actually watch the water become hazy as the party goes on (then realize that hardly anyone has used the bathroom all day! Yikes!).  Starting a spa party with a higher sanitizer level could have prevented that.

But, you also have to know what sanitizer level you're testing.  Especially in the case of chlorine, which chlorine are you testing?  Free Available Chlorine (FAC) or Total Chlorine?  What's the difference?  FAC is the chlorine level that is actually active & working killing bacteria.  Total Chlorine is exactly that - the total amount of chlorine present in the spa, FAC plus combined chlorines.  And you don't want combined chlorines.  Combined chlorine is chlorine plus waste; usually in the form of nitrogen (chloramines).  It smells & causes red eyes and often times itchy skin - which is NOT necessarily an allergic reaction. 

When you have a strong chlorine odor, the cause is typically a very poor level of FAC and a High level of chloramines.  The only way to get rid of them is shock the spa.  Click on this link for more information on chloramines & other chlorine issues.  Here's quick chart as to proper sanitizer levels:

Chlorine 1.0 - 2.0 ppm
Bromine 2.5 - 4.5 ppm
Biguanide 30 - 50 ppm
PristineBlue® 0.5 - 1.0 ppm

How often should you test the sanitizer level?  Ideally, every day.  Realistically, 2 times per week is great.  You may want to keep a log in case you ever need to treat a problem.  When you call us, we'll be able to help you diagnose that problem.

Testing & maintaining the pH - Here's the question that we're regularly asked: "Why do I have to test the pH? The water looks great and besides, the chlorine level is more important to watch."  Where's that buzzer? Wrong! Testing & maintaining pH is almost more important than testing for sanitizer.  Why? 

With an improper pH level, nothing works the way it should! All hot water sanitizers work best in a very narrow range of 7.2 to 7.8.  If the pH is low (less than 7.2), you may have really clear water but, you'll burn through chlorine like crazy, your blonde hair will turn green, corrosion of spa surfaces & equipment will take place. We've even seen skin abrasions due to low pH ("but the water is SO clear!").

Water with a high pH, sanitizers become sluggish & work slowly.  The results: hazy or cloudy water, scaling of spa surfaces & equipment begins to occur.  Physically, you'll also notice red eyes, itchy skin, dry hair.

When you notice the pH going off, either low or high, don't ignore it.  Correct it as soon as possible. Use pH increaser such as SpaGuard® pH Increaser when the pH is low.  Retest the following day.  Use pH decreaser such as SpaGuard® pH Decreaser to lower the pH when it gets high.  Retest the following day.  Always make incremental adjustments to prevent see-sawing.

Testing tip: Never test the spa water after the running the jets or high speed pump. As the bubbles in the spa burst, carbon dioxide (CO2) is released and the pH is driven UP giving a false high pH reading. Always wait about 1 hour after the jets & air bubbles have run to perform a test. Leave the cover off for about 10 minutes to allow gas-off of the CO2.

Learn more about the importance of water balance here.

Other important water balance levels - Water testing shouldn't end with sanitizer & pH.  There are other components that need to be watched for optimal sanitizer effectiveness, protection of spa & hot tub surfaces & equipment, and bather's comfort & health.  These other water chemistry indicators are Total Alkalinity, Calcium Hardness, Metals, TDS & Chlorine Demand. 

Briefly, the Total Alkalinity (TA) is a buffer for the pH - good range 80 - 150 ppm, depending on spa surface type & type of sanitizer used.  If the TA is low, the pH will "bounce" around & you will have difficulty maintaining it for more than a couple of days.  If the TA is high, the pH will tend to be high which will contribute to scale build-up. 

Calcium Hardness (CH) is the measure of how much calcium & other carbonates are in the water.   Low CH will lead to aggressive water (similar to low pH) as the water wants to balance itself & therefore eats away at any & all hot tub surfaces.  High CH will be shown as cloudy water, with the water becoming cloudier as the water warms - especially above 85 F - typical in a spa.  Rapid scaling will also occur damaging filters & heaters.  High calcium is generally caused by using calcium based chlorines or from very hard source water. 

TA & CH should be tested at least once each month. Once adjusted, they do not fluctuate wildly except in the case of heavy rains or copious amounts of make up water. Gunite, concrete and tile spas should be especially aware of water chemistry to maximize the life of the spa's surfaces.

Metals, TDS (total dissolved solids) & chlorine demand should be tested from time.  Tests should be performed by a qualified pool & spa water professional.  If you suspect or are having staining problems, problems maintaining a sanitizer level, incurable cloudy water or slime, please bring in a one quart water sample for a free complete computerized water analysis.

For more information on the workings of your pool, click on the 6 Keys to Spa Care

Some information contained in this article is courtesy of the BioGuard Chem PLUS 2003, 2004, Chem College 2007 & H2-Know 2011 Reference Guide. 

Click here for Test Kits & Strips

Listen to or Download this Information
Ronald Parrs, Basic Author Links to all of the 6 Keys:
  1. Circulation
  2. Filtration
  3. Cleaning & Maintenance
  4. Testing
  5. Water Chemistry
  6. Drain & Refill

If you still need help, here's how to reach us:

Telephone (during store hours): Shelton  203-377-0100

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