Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Hot Tub and Spa Maintenance: Simple Ways to Keep Your Water Sparkling Clear

I bought a hot tub for the first time six years ago. I was apprehensive about how much maintenance it would need. Never fear, after five years of experience, I can say that hot tubs these days require surprisingly little maintenance and chemicals. Here's what I do to keep the water in my hot tub (spa) sparkling clear.

I have a fairly small, 275-gallon spa made by Sundance. I've had absolutely no problems with it, except in year three; I noticed a small, slow leak forming. I used the product Leak Seal by Leisure Time, and for once, this product actually worked. I have not had any more leaks for the past two years.

Perhaps the most important thing that I do is ask anyone using the hot tub to shower first.

If my water is clear, then I do the following:
1. Once or twice each week, add 2 oz. of shock (I use Leisure Time Renew Non-Chlorine Shock).
2. At the same time, I will add ½ oz. to 1 oz. of Clorox Bleach.
3. I will check the pH of the water, using Nature2 W29300 Spa Test Strips.

4. When the hot tub is filled for the first time, and for the first few months, I will include a Nature2 Spa Stick Mineral Sanitizer. To tell the truth, I don't know if this spa stick does anything, but my feeling is that it helps keep the water clear and helps keep the pH and other chemistry levels from bouncing around too much. I only use this spa stick for the first six months or so per water change.

5. If the pH levels, or other levels are off, I put in the proper chemicals. Most of the time, I won't have to add any chemicals other than the shock and chlorine for weeks and even months.
Usually, this is all I have to do for a couple of months. At some point every two or three months, the water starts getting cloudy or green more quickly. At this point, I will switch filters. I have four spa filters, both paper and polyethylene, which I rotate. When one filter is dirty, I will spray it off and let it dry. This goes into storage, and the next filter in line goes in the hot tub.

With the above procedures, I usually keep the water in the spa for a good two years before emptying the spa and refilling it. I empty and refill the spa when the water starts turning green or cloudy very quickly after being shocked – and after I've cleaned the filters, below.

Cleaning the filters is necessary but does not work that well. I just try to spray the outside of the filters with a garden hose and a hose attachment. All this does, really, is spray off some of the algae, hair, and skin particles. Most of the hair and dirt seems to be driven into the inside of the filter by the hose. I will try to spray the filter with a 50% bleach/50% water solution and then let it dry. Each filter will last 2-3 months before I have to rotate it – so I'll go through four filters every 9 months or so. Each filter can go into the hot tub twice with the above rinsing. After that, I've discovered that filters lose their effectiveness. I recently treated all my filters with Leisure Time Filter Clean, and this really worked well to clean the filters.

Sometimes after the above weekly treatments, the water will turn cloudy or green quickly. If the water is green, this means that algae is somewhere in the system. I'll replace the filter (if the water is green, usually the filter shows algal growth), and I will add up to 1 oz. of Clorox bleach to the water. The bleach is basically the same as chlorine, and it kills algae cells. I will wipe down all corners and sides of the hot tub with a bleach solution (1 part bleach to 16 parts water); this kills algae growing on the sides of the hot tub.

Do NOT use more than one ounce of Clorox bleach or chlorinator – using more can damage the finish of your hot tub. For all the above, check with your spa manufacturer or retailer – they may recommend that you NEVER use chlorinator or Clorox bleach.

Once in a long while, the water in my hot tub has remained cloudy despite my best efforts. When this happens, using Leisure Time Bright and Clear works wonders. It clears the water right up.

About Spa Chemicals:

I mention Leisure Time products a great deal in this blog post. I am not a shill for this company – I have just found that their products work well for me.

You can buy all kinds of spa chemicals, but in my research online, I've discovered that many household chemicals can be used in place of “formal” spa chemicals, and they are much less expensive.

1. Chlorine bleach (Clorox) can be used instead of pool chlorinator.
2. To raise pH of water, use baking soda instead of buying a pool chemical called “alkalinity increaser.” Baking soda works just like the stuff that you can buy from Leisure Time is just baking soda, from what I understand. Here's what one forum poster wrote:
Use baking soda instead of Alkalinity Increaser: Alkalinity Increaser" can cost $3/lb. A 4lb bottle will cost $10-$12 dollars. This infuriates me because the ONLY ingredient is Sodium Bicarbonate--Baking soda. Just get Arm and Hammer Baking soda instead!!!

3. Raising alkalinity of your water also raises pH – it is difficult to just raise pH and not alkalinity. One Internet poster states the following:
To raise the pH you need sodium carbonate (soda ash). Buy it in bulk if you find you need it. I buy 50# bags for 13 dollars from my pool distributor.
I found soda ash on Amazon (used for tie dyed shirts) but I am hesitant to use it much, because it hardens into a hard concrete-like paste when I add water to it. I sure don't want this hardening on the pipes in my hot tub.

4. To lower the pH in my hot tub, I've used Leisure Time's Spa Down. It is so inexpensive that I have not looked into household alternatives.

5. For this hot tub, I have not been concerned about adding calcium – but another, older hot tub uses test strips that do measure hardness and calcium levels. I've therefore added Leisure Time Calcium to this tub. Here's a note on the Internet that I found:
Be sure to also make sure your hardness level is correct 250-400ppm. Otherwise the water will take it from the parts in your tub it can, namely the heating element and seal to your hot tubs pump. Of course it is the same chemical as we use in swimming pools so buy that larger cheaper package. Calcium Chloride.

Some more tips:
Most hot tubs these days can be switched from 110V to 220V for power for the pump and heating. I highly recommend that anyone with a hot tub hire an electrician so that the hot tub can be powered from 220V rather than 110V. First, make sure that the hot tub can be powered from 110V and 220V (it was simple to change this on our hot tub). Having the power outlet changed to 220V wherever your hot tub is located can be done, but it can cost $1500 or more to get this done.

When the hot tub was powered by 110V, it took a long time to heat up. It took about 1 hour per degree to warm up the hot tub on 110V. If I were filling the hot tub, it could take a good 24 to 48 hours for the water to heat to 100 degrees. With 220V, the hot tub water heats up far more quickly – about 6 degrees per hour. So with 220V, I can leave the hot tub on 96 degrees all day, then just turn it up to 103F about an hour or two before using the tub, and it will go up to 103F that evening. I can't do this with 110V.

Cleaning filters:
Soak your hot tub filter in a 3-gallon bucket of hot water. Add a quarter cup of chlorine bleach to kill any germs and to whiten your filter.
Thoroughly rinse the filter with a hose. Be sure to wash out all traces of chlorine bleach especially if you use an alternative spa treatment like Baquacil.

Keeping Your Hot Tub Cover New:
My vinyl hot tub cover is expensive, and I don't want to have to replace it often. Every two months I wash the hot tub cover with a soap solution (just dishwashing soap solution) and then I spray it with a product called 303 Aerospace spray protectant. This stuff supposedly protects the vinyl from getting aged too quickly by UV and sunrays. My cover is five years old and going strong, so I guess that this stuff works.

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