6 keys of spa & hot tub care

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Key #1 - Circulation

Good circulation in your pool means much more than filtering water - it's  getting all of the water in the spa or hot tub moving & through the filter.   Circulation is more than filter or pump turnover; its removing dead spots - you  know those areas where there's always some slime growing or where dirt & debris  seems to constantly accumulate. 


The better the water is circulating, the better the filtration, the cleaner the  spa.  In fact it typically takes more than FOUR turnovers to get all of the  water completely filtered. 


Most of us see a typical hot tub & think,  "wow, look at all of that circulation."  And, yes, there is. Between high &  low speed jets, multiple pumps, air blowers, water falls, etc, there should be virtually 100% circulation.  But there isn't.  As in a swimming pool,  we're looking for turnover for filtration & treatment's sake.  


As you use your spa and move your body  around your spa, you aid in the circulation, thus eliminating these dead spots. This is also why regular wiping and cleaning is so important. Get inside of that filter well just before draining & clean the whole area with a toilet brush.  

Key #2 - Filtration

Now that the water is circulating properly, good filtration removes dirt, debris & even certain large bacteria &  algae.  Filter your water for 8 to 12 hours every day that the spa is operating. By the way, for the best filtration, be sure to chemically  clean your filter every 6 to 8 weeks to remove accumulations of greases, oils & other bather and environmental waste that clog your hot tub filter & that routine rinsing will NOT remove. Spa Care is simple.


Why you need to Chemically Clean your  filter:  As noted just above, chemical cleaning of your filter aids  removing greases, oils & other bather and environmental waste that will soil your filter and shorten its life. Normal, regular backwashing & rinsing  will not remove these wastes.


Use  filter cleaning products such as SpaGuardĀ® Filter Cleaner that is used when you can soak your filter (soak the elements or AquaFinesse Filter Cleaning Tabs.


Tip: allow the filter to thoroughly dry before re-installing.     

Key #3 - Cleaning

Most spas have at least several areas with little or  no circulation. This is where biofilms and bacteria can begin to grow.  These areas produce the "stuff" that contributes to cloudy or  "unhealthy" water and higher than normal chlorine or sanitizer usage. At least once a week, the surfaces should be wiped & vacuumed to remove debris that the filter misses. Wiping is a must.  It's like taking care of your teeth - you know that you should brush & floss,  but...Oh, and don't forget to clean that water line regularly to break up biofilm build up.


Here's what Spa & Hot tub cleaning involves:

  • Regular vacuuming - especially if the spa is outdoors, normally about once each week
  • Regular wiping of the walls & water line - at least once each week
  • Dealing with debris - as needed
  • Chemical cleaning of the filter - recommended every 6 to 8 weeks
  • Regular cleaning of the plumbing lines (known as Purging) - whenever the spa is drained & refilled

Key #4 - Testing

Test your spa water at least 2 times per week & bring in a 1 quart water sample for a complete computerized test & analysis monthly for best results. Testing keeps you up to  date on what's going on with your spa's water.  


Don't rely solely on how  the water looks or smells.  In fact most of the SERIOUS water problems that we  see (skin rashes, odors, slimy surfaces, etc.) occur when the water is  "crystal clear".  Make pH, total alkalinity & calcium hardness  adjustments promptly.  You'll protect the filter system, the spa surfaces, get better chlorine & sanitizer efficiency and virtually eliminate red eyes & dry skin. 

Key #5 - Water Chemistry

Finally we get to water chemistry.  Hot tub water chemistry IS easy - just 4 simple steps:


  1. Maintain a constant level of sanitizer in the  spa. Slow dissolving bromine tabs or granular chlorine or bromine;  proper level of biguanide (Soft Soak); Pristine Blue.
  2. Shock the spa weekly (biguanides shock every 10  to 14 days). Shocking oxidizes unfilterable wastes & breaks up  chloramines   that lead to cloudy water, biofilms, smelly spas &  skin irritation.
  3. Add natural enzymes weekly or at least every 2 weeks to prevent & control biofilm build-up.  A good quality natural  enzyme works as a back up so that the the chlorine or sanitizer can concentrate on killing bacteria due to heavy bather loads.
  4. Maintain good water balance.  Without good  water balance, the sanitizer doesn't work properly or efficiently.  The  water can become cloudy (high pH) or aggressive (low pH - water is often times really clear).  You'll also protect your friends & family who use your spa or hot tub.

Key #6 - Purge, Drain & Refill

Definitely one thing that swimming pool owners can't readily do!


The last key is draining & refilling.  This is a  key to spa care because proper draining & refilling MUST be done on a  regular basis - usually every 2 to 4 months depending on usage.  If the spa water is getting funky looking & smelling and it's been several months, don't bother with anti-foams or water clarifiers, just drain  it. 


Click here for all of the details on Purging, Draining & Refilling.


For greater detail on the previous 5 Keys, see our notes in the Pool Guru section

Spa Care: How a spa & hot tub system work

All Spas & Hot tubs work the same way...

Whether you have an inground spa (shown below) or  portable/movable spa or wooden hot tub, they all   essentially work the same:

  • There's a spa body with an interior surface of vinyl, plaster, tile, fiberglass or a combination of these materials.
  • Spa Water is drawn into the filter system (blue lines) from the skimmer & main drain 
  • Water comes into the filter system thru the 3-way valve (if equipped) & into the pump / motor 
  • Water travels into the filter (typically Cartridge) where fine dirt & debris are removed
  • After the filter, the clean or cleaner, filtered water goes thru the heater (usually electric, especially on portable/movable spas with skirts that are self contained)
  • Filtered & heated water returns to the pool (red lines) thru the return jets
  • Air is typically mixed with or injected into the jets through the Venturi control
  • Air is blown through or bubbled through the usually separate air system through holes in the bottom of the seating area    and/or floor


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