Hot Tub Terms: Your Glossary of Spa Jargon

Acrylic: a product used to make hot tub interiors

Air Leak: what happens when a pump has a crack on the suction side so it draws air into the water. This can damage the pump and the filter. If your water has a lot of foam and anti-foam isn’t working, this could be the reason.

Algae: microscopic plant life that grows in unbalanced hot tub water where the cover is off a lot

Alkalinity: (see Total Alkalinity) a measure of how much buffering agent is in your water

Anti-foam: a chemical which reduces or eliminates foaming.

Biguanides: (pronounced By-GUAN-eyed) sanitizer that is part of a non-chlorine and non-bromine water treatment system.

Broadcasting: sprinkling a granular chemical over the surface of the water

Bromine: a sanitizer that is a member of the halogen group, like chlorine

Calcium Hardness: the level of calcium salts dissolved in the water

Calcium chloride: an additive to raise calcium hardness

Cartridge filter: a filter with a pleated element that traps debris. It usually can be cleaned with a garden hose spray.

Chelating agent: a chemical that binds up metals. This is used to prevent copper or iron stains and discolored water and is often called Stain and Scale

Chloramines: (See Combined Chlorine) smelly organic by-product of chlorine mixed with ammonia. A heavy dose of chlorine is needed to break through for sanitizing to begin again.

Chlorine: a sanitizer and an oxidizer that kills bacteria and burns off organic matter and algae, similar to some types of bleach

Clarifier: a chemical used to clear up cloudy water

Combined Chlorine: chlorine mixed with ammonia. A heavy dose of chlorine is needed to break through for sanitizing to begin again.

Defoamer: a chemical which reduces or eliminates foaming

Dichlor: a form of chlorine

Discoloration: presence of unusual colors in the water, commonly green or brown from metals mixed with the water care chemicals

Disinfectant: a chemical that kills bacteria and deodorizes

Enzymes: living cells that break down organic substances (like sweat) in your water

Fiberglass: molded glass cloth to form the backing on an acrylic hot tub shell

Filter: a porous, fibrous material in cylinder form that allows water to pass through while it collects debris from the water

Filter cycle: a programmed period of time when the hot tub filters the water, usually 2 hours twice a day. It also refers to the length of time your filter lasts before needing a replacement

Flow Rate: the measure of how many gallons per minute pass through your hot tub’s pump. This is a better measure than horsepower

Flow Monitor: tells how fast and how much water is flowing

Foam: suds forming on top of the water, also the insulation sprayed under some hot tubs during assembly

Free Chlorine: the amount of chlorine available to sanitize the water and not tied up in chloramines

Haze: cloudiness in the water

Heater: the component that warms the water

Humidity: a friend of mildew

Hydrogen peroxide: a non-chlorine oxidizer (shock) used with biguaqnide systems

Ionizer: a device that makes copper and/or silver to kill bacteria and algae

Insulation: a fluffy or foam-like material between the hot tub shell and the skirting to avoid heat loss and muffle the sound of the moving parts

Intakes: grated openings in the hot tub shell where water is pulled in and circulated through the pump and filter

Jets: openings that spray water into the hot tub

Lighting: perimeter and underwater illumination for decoration, mood, and safety

Main Drain: an exit for water, usually at the lowest point in the hot tub. We usually recommend that you siphon your water out instead of using the main drain

Non-chlorine shock: potassium peroxymonosulfate, an oxygen-based shock eliminates chloramines

Organic matter: debris such as microorganisms, sweat, pollen, etc, that needs to be eliminated to prevent cloudy water, algae, or chloramines

Oxidizer: chemical that eliminates (or burns up) organic matter, usually oxygen

Ozone: a form of oxygen gas (O3) that kills bacteria and purifies the water produced by an ozonator. 3000 times more effective than chlorine

Ozonator: a device that generates ozone

pH: A measure of how acidic or alkaline the water is, not to be confused with Total Alkalinity which is a measure of your buffering agent

pH bounce: a wide change in pH over a short period of time

Pink slime: a tenacious form of algae that is actually bacteria

Polyethylene: a plastic used to make some spa cabinets

Polyquat algaecide: non metallic algae killer compatible with mineral sanitizing systems

Ppm: an abbreviation for parts per million

Primary sanitizer: the essential chemical that kills the bad stuff in your hot tub

Priming: starting a flow of water to a pump so it won’t suck air

Pump: an instrument that moves water through the filter and heater system and back into the hot tub

PVC: polyvinylchloride-a plastic used for tubing and fixtures

Quats: algae-killing agents used in pools that produce foam in hot tubs

Residual: chemical or organic matter left in the water

Sand filter: removes debris when the water runs through sand

Sanitizer: a chemical used to kill bacteria

Scale: hard deposit of calcium carbonate which can attach anywhere and is damaging to heater effectiveness

Sequestering agent: chemical that bonds with metals so they can’t cause staining or discoloration. See chelating agent

Shell: the inside of a hot tub

Shock: the action of adding an oxidizer to hot tub water to burn organic wastes that can cause cloudiness

Skimmer: a floating box that pulls in surface water to trap particles in the water

Strainer: a basket under the skimmer that collects debris

Stainless steel: material that resists staining from minerals and that will not rust

Super chlorinate: using high levels of chlorine to break down smelly chloramines. (See Shock)

TDS: Total Dissolved Solids. A measure of how much material is dissolved in the water

Tetraborate Compounds: alternative clarifiers

Total Alkalinity: (also known as TA) a measure of the buffering capability of water which keeps your pH stable. A low TA will allow pH bounce

Urethane foam: a plastic insulation used in some hot tubs

Valve: a mechanical means of altering water flow in a pipe

Water mold: a type of bacteria found in nasty hot tub water, white-gray or pink in color. Very difficult to eliminate

Weir: a pivoting flap or door in a skimmer where the water is collected to recycle through the filter and then the pump

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