Sanitizing your hot tub water is the most important maintenance you can do for your health and for the life of your hot tub. Soaking in a hot tub is like taking a bath, except you don’t drain this tub when you are done. In fact, you don’t drain it for months. The warm water provides a perfect breeding ground for organic material and microorganisms. Without an effective sanitizer system, things could get ugly quick. Notice I said “system.” You need more than one method working at once to keep your hot tub clean.
A sanitizer has two jobs: first, to destroy bacteria and other microorganisms and second, to oxidize (burn up or eliminate) the dead organic material left behind in your water, such as dirt, soap, hair spray and perspiration. That is a lot of work for the sanitizer to do.
Here are several sanitizers compared. You should be using at least 3 of these and often more than 3 to keep your water safe and clean.
Chlorine is the old standard for sanitizing and has a familiar odor. Used as chlorine bleach for household use for centuries, chlorine comes in granular form for hot tub use and is known as di-chlor in the industry. It breaks down contaminants by combining with them, causing combined chlorine or chloramines which can build up and cause a strong odor. Usually adding Shock will “burn up” the chloramines, but sometimes not enough Shock is added to clear the water. When combined chlorine levels overtake active chlorine levels, the water becomes unsanitary and must be heavily treated with more chlorine to break through this effect. Chlorine naturally turns to gas and disappears from the water over time. Despite these drawbacks, chlorine is still the sanitizer of choice for hot tubs.
Bromine is an alternative to chlorine. It is convenient because it comes in pellets that can be added in a dispenser that delivers it into the hot tub over time. Bromine gets used up when people get into the hot tub. Left unused, bromine can build up in the water since it turns to gas much slower than chlorine.
Ozone (03) is 3000 times more effective than chlorine in breaking down contaminants, leaving the water clean without waste by products. Ozone is now used as a laundry detergent substitute and also in a medical application to eliminate bacteria, virus, and fungus infections in the blood. Corona Discharge ozonators with a Mozi injector pump ozone into the water line to completely sanitize the hot tub water before being released into the tub. Every hot tub should have an ozonator working constantly to keep the water clean.
Shock (Monipersulfate or MSP) oxidizes or “burns up” dead organic material such as sweat, blood, or dirt. It should be added each time you use your hot tub, a parting shot to take care of the germs you’ve left behind when you get out.
Peroxide has been long used in the medical field to kill bacteria by overwhelming the germs with oxygen. In a hot tub, this is in granular or powdered form in some oxidizers.
Active Oxygen (OH) is used in many industries to purify ground water and waste water as well as treating water in food manufacturing and breweries. It’s another oxidizer that “burns up” contaminants completely without leaving behind chloramines or other waste by products. Active oxygen is a key product of salt water sanitizing systems.
Silver ions are released automatically from a mineral stick. This could be a blue cartridge in a frog system or a green or gray stick that goes into your filter compartment. Silver has long been used to kill germs and is available in health food stores for human consumption as well as topical ointments. Silver threads in certain types of cleaning cloths are ‘self-cleaning’ so the cloth doesn’t need to be washed with soap. Silver is an aid to sanitizing. It helps the other main players such as chlorine, bromine, or salt but doesn’t stand alone.
Water conditioners (Silk Balance) clump bacteria and organics together so your filter will catch them and take them out of the water. Because of this clumping and clearing action, the water feels better and can last longer between changes. Although it looks the same, it actually has fewer microbes floating in it.
Salt systems are computer-driven sanitizers that create up to 5 different sanitizers from simple salt water. First it produces Chlorine gas by breaking up the salt (NaCl). Then it breaks up the water (H20) into Active Oxygen (OH). The Active Oxygen then creates peroxide, ozone, and shock (MSP). These 5 sanitizers eliminate the need for many of the standard chemicals used in water care, giving a more natural and less time-consuming solution for water care. Salt systems still use a silver mineral stick, so with the silver six different sanitizers are at work in a salt system. These salt systems are add-ons in certain hot tubs with salt water capability.
There are many choices for keeping your hot tub water clean. It important part is steady and constant maintenance. A hot tub needs attention a couple times each week to be safe for use.