You purchased your hot tub to relax, release stress, alleviate pain and muscle tension. You, your family and friends enjoy it often, and you’re thrilled with your new purchase. What was life like before you had a hot tub? Not as great as it is right now!
But one day you pull back the cover to hop in and relax and notice that the water doesn’t have the crystal clear sparkling look it used to. It looks sort of cloudy and even smells a bit off. What’s going on? You checked the filter and the pump and they seem to be operating just fine. The water is pretty toasty.
You dig out the owner’s manual and flip through the pages and find recommendations about how you should be testing the water on a regular basis. They’re talking about sanitizers, and alkalinity content, PPM (parts per million), and PH balance. And what the heck is “hard water?”
Seems a bit intimidating. It looks like it’s time for some hot tub water testing. You’re not a chemist and it has you worried about the health and safety of your family and friends. What do you do? What should you check first? Let’s take the fear out of the hot tub testing process and get to the facts. Once you understand how to test your hot tub water, you’re well on your way to making maintenance streamlined and easy.
The Ideal Temperature is Important
Your hot tub is not a miniature version of a pool. The water in your hot tub is a lot different than the water you have in your swimming pool, based on the way it’s treated and the parameters of the care it needs.
The biggest difference is the temperature. Pool water is typically maintained at around 82 degrees on a daily basis. But your hot tub temperatures hover somewhere between 102 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit. In these warmer temperatures, there is a greater chance that bacteria can grow in your spa faster than in your pool.
When you take a hot shower what happens? Your pores open, which can make your skin more vulnerable to infections of the skin. If you don’t take good care of your hot tub water and keep it at a healthy level, then it can affect your health and the wellness of your fellow bathers. People want to relax and feel good in your hot tub, not get a rash or worse, a urinary infection!
But this is no cause for alarm. This is when you need to think about creating a routine and a schedule for keeping your hot tub water sparkling clean. Let’s examine the elements that need to be addressed to keep your hot tub water safe and most of all healthy.
The Importance of Testing Your Hot Tub Water
To fully enjoy all of the benefits your hot tub provides, keeping the water clear, and sanitary is a given. However, many new hot tub owners don’t know the first thing about maintaining the balance of the tub’s alkalinity, chlorine levels, and PH balance.
When you want to relax in your spa after a hard day at work or out on the links, you don’t want to think about playing around with a bunch of chemicals. If you go with a water care system installed by a dealer, you go with the traditional method of water care. It can take a bit more time and effort on your part when adding chemicals when your spa needs them. But no matter what you do, it’s critical that you begin using only well-balanced water content. Even back to the very first time you fill your new hot tub.
Test Your Water Before Filling Up Your Hot Tub
Before you even fill your new hot tub for the first time there are a few things you need to do first. The water that comes out of the spigot (tap water) can appear a little different in appearance and even taste. It’s not like bottled water! There are many places in this country where you can drink the water right out of your faucet, but in other places, you’d never think of consuming unfiltered H20 or even cooking with it until you boiled it first. There are some areas in rural America where there may even be a higher metal or mineral content than others. That water needs a little extra special treatment.
Test the quality of your water before you even put one drop into your hot tub. You can take a small sample from your tap or hose and bring it to your local dealer so they can see if it contains high levels of phosphate, calcium, fluoride, or any metals. If they determine that there are high levels of any of those things they can recommend solutions you need to get your hot tub water in tip-top shape.
Use Test Strips on a regular basis to check your chemical levels. (Color-coded test strips are available wherever hot tub and spa accessories are sold.) All you have to do is dip the little strip into your hot tub water. The strip will give you a reading that shows the pH, calcium, Alkalinity, chlorine level, and water hardness. This will tell you the overall condition of the water in your spa and if it’s at an acceptable, healthy level. Let’s break this down into a few easy steps.
Testing and Adjusting Alkalinity
Using your test strip, the first thing you’ll do is check your water for its level of alkalinity. The alkaline in your water measures how it neutralizes and balances the level of acid. The higher it is, the more acid it will take to lower your pH balance. The pH balance is crucial because chlorine works well at ridding your hot tub of bacteria at a specific level. (Check to see if your water is warm when you run your test.)
Take the test strip and dip it in the water and then check its color against the color on the instructions it came with. This will interpret the strip’s reading. It’s important to compare it against the instructions because many test strips measure several water conditions at the same time. But the strip should identify by its color if your alkalinity is too high or low. (or if you’re lucky, just right!)
It should read somewhere between 80 and 120 parts per million (PPM) If it isn’t in that range, you’ll have to make a few adjustments. There are several products available at your dealer that can lower or raise your alkalinity levels. Sodium bicarbonate makes it go up. Sodium bisulphate makes it go down. Sometimes these products are called by the names, Spa Up or Spa Down, or Alkalinity Up or Alkalinity Down. Pretty straightforward and easy to identify. If you’re confused you can always check with your local spa dealer.
Testing and Adjusting the pH Levels
Now that you’ve tested your alkalinity levels and made any adjustments, you can use the same strip to test your water for pH levels. pH shows the level of acidity or how “basic” your water is. There is a sliding scale from 0 to 14, with 7 being the median number. If the number is below 7 it shows the presence of acidic substances. If it’s above 7 it’s describing basic substances in the water. Put simply, chlorine kills bacteria effectively when your pH levels are between 7.2 and 7.8.
If for some reason your pH level is outside of the range, and you made sure your alkaline levels are right, try using the pH Up or Down product to bring those levels to an acceptable level.
A good rule of thumb is to use products made or offered by the manufacturer of your hot tub, or the dealer who sold you the unit.
Testing and Adjusting Water Hardness
You’ve got your alkalinity and your pH levels correct and now it’s time to test your spa for hard water. The hardness is the amount of calcium and magnesium levels in your water.
Water hardness comes from how much mineral content is in your water. If your tap water is provided by your municipality’s well that contains high amounts of natural calcium, then that’s going to translate to your hot tub having calcium in the water.
Between 175 and 275 PPM is an ideal level of magnesium and calcium. If the levels are higher with either of these elements, your water won’t support the chlorine content in your spa. Something called scale can begin to grow on your hot tub and in the plumbing. Which in turn can cause the water to be cloudy. If your chlorine levels fall below the acceptable levels it could cause you several problems. The plumbing, shell, and even the jets could all start to corrode. You can combat this issue by simply adding more calcium!
Testing and Adjusting Chlorine Levels
A lot of the impurities you want to remove or even better, prevent, are all forms of microbial life forms. Fungi, bacteria, protozoans, and archaea are all culprits when it comes to harming the wellness of your hot tub water. Pouring that chlorine into your spa will keep it clean and stop those microbial entities from existing in your hot tub. Create a hostile environment for them but a healthy one for your family and friends.
If there isn’t enough chlorine in your hot tub, this will allow all sorts of bacteria from growing in there. But, having too much chlorine can lead to irritation of the eyes and skin of your hot tub users. It could also create issues with some of the spa’s parts. But, you have your test strips to keep everybody safe and your hot tub in good working order. That strip will let you know if your water has too much or too little chlorine content. The proper level should fall between 1.5 and 3 PPM. If you need some help figuring out how to raise or lower the chlorine level in your hot tub, look at your manual or check with your local dealer.
Shock That Hot Tub!
Here is your last step. You need to shock your hot tub at least once a week to ensure that the base level of chlorine hasn’t been compromised. Especially if you’ve had a lot of traffic in your hot tub this weekend! The process of shocking your hot tub water is to give it a heavy dose of chlorine to cleanse the spa. This will aid in dissolving the collection of any unwanted impurities that usually result in cloudy water and that smell we mentioned in the opening of this article. Your dealer will be able to show you several shock products to get the job done.
Quick Tips to Keep Your Hot Tub Clean
Prep the Water
The tap water that comes from your faucet travels through metal pipes. You’ll need to alter the water to get it to a level referred to in the industry as “spa-ready”. Making these adjustments to your water is easy and all you’ll need are testing strips. A water treating kit determines if calcium levels are too high or low, and then you add the chemicals until the water is “just right”.
Zap the Bad Stuff
Sanitizing is easy, you just need to know what products to use. Your dealer will probably recommend that you use bromine or chlorine. These will eradicate all that gross stuff that can grow in your hot tub without damaging your hot tub.
Keep your hot tub cover on the spa when not in use. This will keep out any solid matter like leaves and bugs. Clean the cover and the outside of the unit regularly and condition it with the approved products.
A Consistent Care Routine Ensures Spa Water Stays Fresh and Clean
In order to maintain your hot tub’s great condition and level of safety, it really just comes down to simply running tests on the water on a consistent basis. As you follow this routine you’ll see that it gets easier and gives you the freedom knowing you can hop into your hot tub whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Learn From the Pros How to Keep Your Hot Tub Crystal Clear
Understanding how to efficiently keep your water safe and your hot tub clean will allow you and your family to enjoy your hot tub for many years to come. We hope this information helps you to see that with a little maintenance and care, you can simplify the process and keep your hot tub water fresh and inviting. Read more about hot tubs and swimming pools on our blog which is full of resources and information to help you enjoy your backyard more.
If this information has shown you that it’s not hard to care for your hot tub and you’re ready to amp up the year-round fun in your backyard, reach out to us. We’re here with advice, maintenance supplies and an array of sizes and styles of hot tubs to choose from.