Many people think that spa or hot tub water tests are complicated. If you have a spa or hot tub, you want to spend your time using it, not maintaining it. Here is a very simple way to maintain your spa water clarity and purity. Following my method of spa water testing; you'll spend only a few minutes - twice per week, to really get your spa water testing system perfected.
You need to keep in mind that with a spa you are dealing with hot water. This means that there is a greater risk of skin infections, and a tendency for scale formation on the surfaces. There also tends to be more perspiration and body oils, and when several people jump into a spa, the pH level changes dramatically. Evaporation is another issue to consider when spa water testing; as steam rolls off of your spa, so do your spa chemicals.
Taking care to test spa water correctly and consistently will reward you in many ways. You will spend less money on spa chemicals, when you have balanced spa water. Your skin will suffer less irritation, and the water will feel better, silkier even - with balanced spa water. Your filter cartridges may last longer, and the shell of your spa, and the fittings, o-rings and seals, will all last longer, when your spa water is properly balanced.
Thursday: On the first day you will test the spa water using pool and spa test strips. Use a good spa test strip that allows you to test for pH, Alkalinity, Calcium Hardness and Chlorine/Bromine. Follow your test strip instructions for dipping and reading the strip.[/notice]
The Spa pH level should be between 7.2 and 7.8, and preferably right in the middle. A pH reading of 7.5 is ideal for your spa. If your spa test strips show that your pH reading is below 7.2, you will need to add spa pH increaser chemical. If the pH is getting on the high side, you will need to add a spa pH decreaser. Follow the label instructions for dosages and always retest the spa about an hour later and redo if necessary. Keeping a proper pH level in your spa is a most important step. Too low and you can corrode the finish in your spa or damage heater elements. Too high, and the sanitizer won't work well, and bacteria can easily grow. Also, keeping the pH level proper is more comfortable to our skin, hair and eyes.
The Spa Alkalinity level in your spa should be between 80-140ppm. If the alkalinity is too low on the test strip, you will need to add an alkalinity increaser. If your spa alkalinity level is too high, add a pH decreaser until alkalinity is where it should be. You may have to readjust the PH afterwards. Remember always wait about an hour and retest after making spa balance adjustments. When using pH decreaser to lower your spa alkalinity level, here's a tip, To achieve a bit more effect on the alkalinity - and less on the pH, turn the spa jets off and allow the water to come still for several minutes. Consult the label for dosage, and add the chemical into a small bucket that's mostly full of water. Being careful to avoid splashing, place the small bucket on the floor of the spa. After 30 minutes or so, pull up and rinse out the bucket, turn on the spa and retest both pH and Alkalinity.
The Spa Calcium Hardness level should be between 150-250 ppm. If the calcium hardness is to low, it could affect your plumbing. Your spa water could become "agressive", and start corroding the plumbing as well as concrete, plaster or other surfaces it comes in contact with. It can also stain the surfaces of your spa. If the calcium hardness level in your spa is too high, the water could become very cloudy. It could leave a residue on the surfaces, similar to mineral deposits. In extreme hard water conditions, it can also damage your filter, piping and cause the heater to run inefficiently. The only way to lower the calcium hardness is to drain the spa down and refill with softer water. Calcium hardness should be checked once a month, and if you need to increase your spa calcium levels, add a bit of spa and hot tub calcium increaser.
Spa Sanitizer Level. If you are using the small chlorine tablets in your spa, it should be between 1-3 ppm. If you use the little bromine tabs, the reading should be between 2-4 ppm. If your spa chlorine/bromine level is low, add more of the 1" tablets to the spa floater, or open the dispensing holes a little more. Avoid allowing the sanitizer level to reach 0.00, and if it does, be sure to add some granular sanitizer [spa shock] quickly.
If you are on the high side of the sanitizer reading, you should adjust your spa tablet floater, to deliver less sanitizer. Higher sanitizer levels may keep a spa more sanitary, but it need not be on the upper end of the range all the time.
Does your spa have an Ozonator, or a Nature2 Spa cartridge (like I do)? With these to help, you can keep the sanitizer level in your spa at 1-2ppm, with no problems. This saves money, reduces the chlorine smell, and may help protect softer parts of your spa or hot tub that may become brittle or discolored from consistently high sanitizer levels.
Once the water in your spa is balanced, I usually add a product like the Leisure Time Clean and Clear. This removes dirt and oils from the water, by acting as a coagulant for the tiniest particles, so small you can't even see them. It attracts together micro-contaminants into larger, filterable clumps. This group of spa products is known as Spa Clarifiers, and they greatly assist your filter cartridge and also have the effect of helping to remove particles which would consume your sanitizer and cause your pH to wander.
Sunday: On the second day - Test the spa water like we did on the first day, to check sanitizer level, pH, and Alkalinity and Calcium Hardness levels in your spa or hot tub. After the water is balanced, shock the spa with a granular spa shock!
Shocking a Spa is done for two purposes; to super-chlorinate the spa, and oxidize any pathogens or contaminants that have escaped the normal chlorine routine, and - to "re-activate" a residual of bromine, or "boost" it up. I like to use a product called "Renew", by Leisure Time, but you can use any of our spa shocks. I like to do my shocking on Sunday, for the reason that our spa has the most use during the weekend, and it's kind of become my Sunday evening routine.
You can also shock the spa, or superchlorinate (always follow label instructions) anytime your spa water looks cloudy, or if algae develops. Be sure to balance the water first, by testing and adding spa balance chemicals, for the most effective oxidation. Make sure that the pH level is 7.5 or lower before shocking your spa, or much of your expensive shock will go to waste.
Continue doing this simple spa chemical maintenance routine every week and your spa water should stay clean & clear. And one more thing, if your spa water gets way out of whack, don't be afraid to drain and refill. Shut down the power to your spa, and attach a garden hose to the the spigot that is near your spa pack. Drain to a proper location, and then move the hose back to the water spigot and refill the spa. Watch it carefully, so it doesn't overflow or turn back on before it's full of water. After refilling, check and balance your spa water. Even when everything is fine, it may be a good idea to drain and refill your spa, at least once per year.
How do you maintain your spa water? Do you do anything differently? Enter your comments below, I'd love to hear from you!
SPP Pool [Spa] Enthusiast