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Introduction to Spa Water Care

As a spa owner, your primary task is to balance the water and maintain proper sanitizer levels, thereby ensuring a safe bathing environment. To do this, you need some basic knowledge of water chemistry and a familiarity with the various types of chemicals available for use in spas. If you’re diligent about testing the water and adding the proper amounts of the required chemicals, you’ll be rewarded with clean, healthy water. If not, you could encounter a host of problems including staining and corrosive water that over time will damage your spa.

Regular water testing and the addition of correct amounts of chemicals are key factors when it comes to having clear, healthy water. We recommend the use of a set of digital scales to avoid estimating, but use these only for spa chemicals and do not re-use them for food preparation.

Sanitation & Oxidising

Your top priority as a spa owner is to keep the spa water sanitised. Sanitisers kill pollutants such as algae and bacteria. Oxidisers burn up accumulated waste products such as sweat, body oil, shampoo, soap and organic wastes. Healthy spa water needs both a sanitiser and an oxidiser. Chlorine and bromine are common sanitisers that also oxidise.

Q Which sanitizer should I use ?
Chlorine is commonly used in swimming pools, but is unstable at high temperatures and its effectiveness drops drastically with pH variations which make it unfavoured for spas by many experts. Chlorine by-products (chloramines) are ineffective sanitisers and cause discomfort to bathers through their smell and irritation properties. The strong smell at the swimming baths is not chlorine – it’s chloramines!
Bromine is the kinder, gentler spa sanitiser and is more stable at higher temperatures than chlorine. Bromine is effective through a wide range of pH values and forms by-products (bromamines) that can be converted back to being effective sanitizers.
Many experts recommend the use of bromine in spas for these reasons.

Q How do I get the sanitiser into the spa ?
There are several methods of introducing sanitisers into the spa water, but the most frequently used are powder (referred to as “dosing”), slow release tablets in a floating dispenser and disposable bromine cartridges such as the Frog system.

Q How do I check my sanitiser level ?
The simplest method is to use test strips. Simply dip in the water, swirl and then compare the colour of the relevant pad to the colour chart provided on the box. Free available chlorine should be maintained between 3 and 5 ppm and bromine between 4 and 6 ppm.

Q What is ppm ?
Parts Per Million. This is frequently used to replace mg/l (milligrams per litre) and is a measure of the amount of one material in another.

Q Can I reduce the sanitiser levels if I use minerals in my spa ?
Yes. The addition of minerals such as those used by Spa Frog allows the free chlorine level to drop to between 0.5 and 1ppm and bromine to between 1 and 2ppm. However, you must ensure the mineral cartridge in is replaced regularly following the manufacturer’s guidelines (normally every 4 months).

Q What is “shock” ?
Shock is a concentrated form of sanitiser that’s used to oxidise the spa water by burning up dead bacteria, algae and bather wastes that have not been removed through routine sanitation and filtration. These wastes reduce the power of the sanitiser, making the water dull, cloudy and potentially irritating to skin and eyes. It is normal to shock a spa on a weekly basis or immediately after heavy use.
Chlorine Shock should not be used with a bromine sanitiser, but Non-Chlorine Shock can be used with Bromine or Chlorine.

Water Balance

Your top priority as a spa owner is to keep the water sanitised. For any sanitiser to work well, however, the water must be balanced. Balanced water is neither corrosive (acidic) nor scale forming (alkaline). Five factors affect water balance: pH, total alkalinity, calcium hardness, total dissolved solids (TA) and temperature. If any of these five factors is on the low side, metal corrosion and staining may result. If any are on the high side, you may see cloudy water, staining and mineral deposits. In either case, bathers are likely to experience eye and skin irritation.

A change in any one factor can affect the others, so your challenge is to “balance” the water using various types of chemicals that keep each factor in its proper range. The process may sound complicated, but it isn’t as difficult as you may think. It just requires a little study on your part so that you understand how each factor contributes to the overall water quality and how to adjust it if it’s out of whack.

Calcium Hardness
We are all familiar with hard water from the furring effect it has on a kettle element. A spa heater element will suffer the same consequences if the water is allowed to remain hard for prolonged periods. Cloudy water, scum lines and scale build up are also symptoms of high calcium hardness. The proper Calcium Hardness level in a spa is 100-200mg/l.
Due to high water temperatures, evaporation of spa water occurs, leaving the minerals in the spa water. Consequently, the Calcium Hardness of the water will tend to increase. However, the addition of soft water (most domestic supplies are soft) to top up the spa will reduce Calcium Hardness levels as will using a product such as a Scale and Stain Inhibiter.
Prolonged periods of low Calcium Hardness can lead to corrosion of the spa equipment and surfaces. Use a Hardness Increaser to raise the Calcium Hardness. This is often required when the spa water is changed.

Total Alkalinity
Total Alkalinity is the sum of all the alkaline substances in the water. Its ideal level is 125-150 ppm.
One of the miracles of a proper Total Alkalinity level is that it can help stabilize the pH. On the other hand, if Total Alkalinity is too low, pH will fluctuate drastically, making it a constant struggle to maintain perfect water balance. Use a TA Increaser to raise the level of Total Alkalinity and a pH Reducer to lower the level (Note: this will also reduce the pH level).

pH
Water pH is a measure of acidity or alkalinity. The pH scale runs from 0 to 14 with 7 being neutral. Values lower than this are acidic and higher values are alkaline. The ideal pH level for a spa is between 7.2 and 7.6 with 7.4 being ideal. Not coincidentally, this is the same as the pH of the human eye!
A low pH means the water is acidic or corrosive. Over time this can etch metals and will cause bather discomfort. Low pH also causes chlorine sanitisers to dissipate quickly (one reason bromine is preferred).
A high pH means the water is alkaline or scale producing and will cloud water and form scale deposits on spa surfaces. As with low pH, high pH levels cause chlorine to become less effective and skin and eye irritation may occur.
Use a pH Increaser to raise pH levels and a pH Decreaser to lower the level.

Total Dissolved Solids
The term Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) refers to the concentration of conductive chemicals, bather waste and other solids that can accumulate in the water. You can not see these solids because they are dissolved in the water, but they can still cause corrosion. TDS should not be allowed to exceed 1500ppm above the start-up TDS level.
Electronic TDS meters and liquid test kits are used to establish TDS levels. A reputable spa dealer should offer assistance with this. The best way to reduce TDS is to introduce fresh water to the spa (as with high Calcium Hardness).

Q How do I test the water balance ?
A Test strips are the most convenient way of testing water balance. These will give fairly accurate readings for pH, total Alkalinity and calcium Hardness as well as Sanitiser levels. Establishing the level of Total Dissolved Solids requires a liquid test kit or electronic analyser.

Water Care Routine

2 to 3 Times a Week
Check sanitiser level and dose if required
Check pH and adjust accordingly
Check Total Alkalinity and adjust accordingly
Clean around the waterline

Weekly
Shock to oxidise the spa
Check Calcium Hardness
Add Spa Stain & Scale away if required
Add Foam Reducer if required

Monthly
Remove and clean filters

Periodically
Top up spa water to desired fill level
Drain and re-fill spa with fresh water

Bi-annually
Treat Spa cabinet with wood preservative

Ozone

An ozonator produces and releases ozone which is an effective sanitizer. However, ozone doesn’t last long in water and there is no way of maintaining a measurable ozone residual in spa water. Therefore, ozone MUST be used in conjunction with a sanitizer.
Ozone is very effective at destroying bacteria and algae and also causes Total Disssolved Solids to be precipitated for easy removal by the spa filters.

Q Can Ozone be fitted to any spa ?
A A lot of spas come with factory fitted with ozone generators. Many models are supplied “ozone ready”. If you spa is able to accept an ozone unit, then installation should be a straight-forward operation.

Enhancing Your Water

Tiny particles of suspended matter and dust in spa water will make it look dull, cloudy and lifeless. These particles are so small they pass through the filter and remain suspended in the water. Using a clarifier will assist the filter in removing these particles by coagulating them together.

Due to the fast turnover of spa water, the aeration and the build up of bather wastes (e.g. body oils, lotions, shampoo, etc) unsightly foam can appear on the water’s surface. A weekly application of foam decreaser will help prevent foam becoming a problem.

Fragrances are a great way of adding that extra touch of luxury to your bathing experience. Spa fragrances are specially formulated to have no effect on water balance and come as either liquids or dissolvable crystals. Aromatherapy is a science all of it’s own, but there can be no doubting the sensory benefits of adding scents to a spa.

Spa Cleaning

Surfaces
Your spa surfaces should be kept pristine to preserve that ambience of health and relaxation. Some effort is required to achieve this, but at most it requires a few minutes a week and is a worthwhile investment. Keeping your water sanitised and balanced will greatly reduce the amount of cleaning a spa requires, but all spas from time to time will be subject to an unsightly tide mark at the water line. This is simply a build up of grease and debris, but can provide a breeding ground for bacteria. Clean the water line regularly with a Spa Surface Cleaner and a sponge.
When the spa is drained for re-filling, give the complete spa surface a clean and remove any debris from the suction covers on the water inlets, generally in the footwell of the spa.

Filters
Over a period of time, the filters can become clogged with grease and debris. This leads to the filter becoming less effective at removing particles and will result in reduced jet power. Many spas will show a reminder on the control panel when it is time to clean the filters, but every four to six weeks is a good guide to cleaning frequency.
You must remove power to the spa when removing filters and do not allow anyone to bathe with the filters removed. Then it’s simply a case of lightly hosing down the filter cartridge (do not jet wash) and leave in a solution of Spa Filter Clean overnight.

Draining & Re-filling
Just as all people are different, their bathing habits are different. It is therefore very difficult to give a definite time period between re-fills. However, as a general rule the following equation is an accepted method to determine how often your spa should be drained and re-filled:

Spa Litres divided by Average Daily Bathers divided by 12 = Days before re-filling

Eg 1500 litre spa divided by two daily bathers divided by 12 = 63 days

When re-filling a spa, it is very important to let the water run through the hosepipe for a couple of minutes before putting it into the spa to clear the hosepipe of any bacteria that may of accumulated in lying water.

Cabinet
Many spas now feature a plastic wood effect cabinet which is almost maintenance free. An annual application of a UV protectant such as 303 will help the cabinet resist fading. If you have a more traditional wooden cabinet, it is advisable to treat the wood with a suitable preservative once or twice a year.

Spa Safety

Read the Spa Owner’s Manual supplied with you spa.

Never allow the water temperature to exceed 40ºC

Do not permit children to use the spa unless supervised at ALL times.
Lock the cover between use to prevent access by children.

Never place or operate electrical equipment in or around the spa.

Do not use the spa if you are pregnant.

Do not use the spa if under the influence of drugs, alcohol or medication.

Persons suffering from obesity or with a medical history of heart disease, low or high blood pressure, circulatory system problems should consult a doctor before using the spa.

Persons using medications should consult a doctor before using the spa.

Persons with sores or open wounds should not use the spa.

Do not use the spa for extended periods at high temperatures.
Reduce the temperature for longer bathing sessions (more than 20mins).

Do not climb or stand on the cover.

Do not take glass items into the spa.

Do not use the spa with the filters removed or if the suction fittings are missing or damaged.

Take Care when entering and exiting the spa. Wet surfaces can be slippery.

Chemical Safety

Keep all chemical containers sealed and out of the reach of children.

Read and follow all label directions.

NEVER mix chemicals.

Accurately measure chemicals

Always add chemicals into water, never the reverse.

Store all chemicals in a cool dry place.

Never store chemicals in direct sunlight.

Clean up chemical spills in a safe manner.

Always handle chemicals with care.

Do not interchange caps or place wet caps on chemical containers.

Do not inhale fumes or let chemicals contact eyes, nose or mouth.

 



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