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Spa Chemicals


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To reinterate, there is a choice of 3 sanitizers....chlorine, bromine, and biguanide.

Chlorine is the easiest to use and when used properly keeps the spa water clean and sanitized with very few side effects. When used properly, there is little or no smell and it is gentle to the skin. Bleaching of bathing suits can occur if you let the levels get too high but that is not using it properly.

Bromine is more expensive and a bit harder to use, It is more likely to cause a reaction with some people since it is a known sensitizer but is a better choice than chlorine if you have an ozonator since ozone works with it instead of against it. (Ozone reactivates bromine while it tends to destroy chlorine, however ozone can be used sucessfully with chlorine if this is taken into account). It is also a better choice for indoor spas. Bromine is less fussy about pH but does make some other water balancing issues a bit harder. Bromine has a distincitive smell that some people find 'strong' or 'chemical'.

Biguanide is an antimicrobial that is used with a hydorgen peroxide oxidizer. It is expensive to use and will require filter and spa cleaning and filter replacement more often than either chlorine or bromine. It is a good choice for people who have a chemical senisitivity to chlorine or bromine. The biggest drawback (besides the price) is the tendency for white water mold and pink algae (both bacterias) to develop an immunity to it over time. It is not compatible with many spa chemicals so if you choose it make sure that any products you use are compatible with it!

Metals (copper/siver or copper/zinc, or copper systems) such as electonic ionizers, Nature2, Spa Frog, Pristine Blue, etc. are not stand alone sanitizers and do need to be used with a residual of chlorine or bromine. Some metal systems, Nature2 for example, are only compatible with chlorine while others,(Spa Frog) can be used with either. The claim is that you can use a reduced sanitizer level with these systems but recent research indicates that the reduced levels of residual sanitzer do not provide properly sanitized water.The Austrailian government has recently passed legislation that requires these system to be used with normal sanitizer levels in spas and pools because of this and Nature2, who promoted their system as a 'low chlorine' alternaitve has recently changed their directions for spa use and it now uses normal chlorine levels and not reduced chlorine levels in the US. The new directions are in the 2006 copyright boxes of their spa cartridges but their website had not been updated last time I looked (about 2 weeks ago). Metals can cause staining of spa surfaces and hair and nails if the levels get too high or the water balance goes 'off'. Metals do have algastatic and bacterostatic properties (they have no effect against viruses) but have very slow kill times which is why a residual chlorine or bromine level is required with them.

Ozone is not a stand alone sanitizer since it does not provide any residual in the water. It can help reduce the amount of sanitizer needed to maintain proper water quaility however.

Hydorgen peroxide by itself and MPS by itself will not properly sanitize the water.

Bottom line, whatever sanitizer system you choose you need to use it properly. The purpose of the sanitizer system is more than to just keep the water clear. It is to keep it safe, pathogen free, and prevent water borne illnesses.

A good test kit is a necessity! Don't rely on test strips. They do not have the precision needed for water balance. This is one area where you should get the best one you can find. Taylor is my fist choice. LaMotte also make good kits but they are a bit more expensive.

I would suggest that you research exactly what each system requires in terms of maintenance and cost and be aware that there is a lot of 'marketing hype' out there to sell expensive equipment with scare tactics (such as saying that chlorine causes cancer, which is a distortion of the facts, or that 'minerals' will keep your water clear....'minerals' are a marketing term for metals. If you want to give different systems a try that would be a good idea since spas are drained and refilled every 3 months approximately. If you decide to to this it is probably easiest to start with chlorine, then try bromine, and if you don't like those two then try biguanide. This is the least problematic way because of the chemical interactions between these different systems. It is very easy to convert a chlorine system to bromine, a bit harder to convert a bromine system to chlorine, and most difficult to convert a biguanide system to either chlorine or bromine but not as difficult to convert chlorine or bromine to biguanide.

Very informative Waterbear, and right on the mark. I prefer dichlor in my spas and have never had any problem. Many cust. have had me switch them from SoftSwim. etc, because of the water mold and pink slime problems.

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Waterbear, thank you so much for your help. Great answers! So I really think we'll start with chlorine, however I am still confused about the ozonator. Should we really disable it. That seems to be a waste since it's a nice option we did pay for. Is it really not usefull with the chlorine at all? Thanks.

It certainly IS useful with a chlorine system. You just might need to use a bit more chlorine than without it or you might have to add chlorine a bit more often since it will lower your free chlorine levels. It tends to 'burn up' the chlorine. Also, the chlorine tends to destroy the ozone but if you make the proper adjustments they can work fine together. It is with a bromine system that ozone really shines, however, since it helps maintain your bromine levels. Ozone, when properly used, can certainly make water maintenance easier!

Thanks I think we'll stay away from biguanide for now. What is dichlor? I'm confused with your statements on this "dichlor routine". Can you please clarify? Thanks.

Dichlor is the most commen form of chlorine used in spas. It is a fast dissolving powder and is very easy to use. It is stabilzed chlorine so it will help prevent the chlorine from being burned off by the sun in an outdoor spa. The other forms of chlorine commenly used in spas are:

Sodium hypochlorite, liquid chlorine or laundry bleach...exactly the same thing except for the strength, liquid chlorine comes in 12.5%, 10% and 6% strengths while laundry bleach (Clorox, etc.) comes in 5.25% and 3% (cheapie bleach) and also 6% (Ultra bleach). The only difference between them is the amount you need to use. Liquid chlorine does not contain stabilizer so it can be destroyed by sunlight very quickly.

Calcium Hypochlorite (cal hypo) is also a powder but it is slow dissolving and can raise your calcium levels. It is also a non stabilized chlorine. There has been a trend away from Dichlor to cal hypo because cal hypo does not contain stabilizer. Some state health departments have said that stabilized chlorine should not be used in spas. The reasons are very technical and I don't completely agree with them myself, except for indoor spas not exposed to the sun.. Stabilizer does decrease chlorine's ability to sanitize but if the spa is exposed to the sun all your chlorine can be gone in a matter of literally minutes if you have no stablizer in the water.

If you decide on using one of the non stabilized chlorines. IMHO, it is a good idea to add stabilizer to about 30-50 ppm to the water. Stabilizer is also called CYA or cyanuric acid.

If you use dichlor this is not necessary since it aready contains stabilizer.

Non stabilized chlorine is a better type of chlorine to shock your spa with since it will not add stabilzer with the chlorine and shocking is adding a high dose of chlorine to burn off any ammonia or orgaincs in the water. It is a good idea to shock once a week or when the water does not look clear. Ultra laundry bleach is an effective shock at a dose of 1/4 cup per 100 gallons. This will raise your Free chlorine to about 10 ppm.

If you decide to try bromine you can also use the laundry bleach to shock it at the same dosage. When used as a shock with bromine the chlorine is instantly converted to bromine, In fact, bromine tabs contain either chlorine or MPS (non chlorine shock) to activate them!

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Great, thanks all, I will close off on this topic now. 10 sleeps till spa time! Bye all.

Good luck and remember if you aren't happy with what you use to start with there is another great option out there despite what some of the naysayers say...wink..wink. I am sure you will enjoy your spa when you get it installed, up and running.

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