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Calcium Stearate (White Flakes)


arobbert
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I have a Spa that is 9 months old. I've maintained it meticulously. Over the past few months I've noticed white flecks floating in the water. The problem has gotten progressively worse so I looked to this and other forums for a solution. The flecks are squishy when you squeeze them between your fingers so I figured it was white mold. I learned about Ahh-Some jet cleaner on this website and read several posts by people with similar problems. I ran 2 disinfecting procedures with 100 PPM CHL and Ahh-Some. I got a lot of gunk out but continued to see the flakes upon refill. I ran one more cleaning procedure but still had the flakes. I then called the place I purchased the tub from. They were puzzled by the problem and didn't have any advice other than to continue the disinfecting/flushing procedures. Frustrated I decided to contact Unique Solutions who make Ahh-Some. I spoke with Jerry who suggested I do a test where you take some of the flakes in a small water sample and add 4-5 drops bleach. The flakes did not dissolve which indicates that it was not white mold. Jerry told me about a problem that’s developed over the past year or so with the manufactures of the plastic tubing used in spa plumbing. It's called Calcium Stearate. This is caused by a new lubricant used in the manufacturing process. There is not much information available on this and I suspect dealers and manufacturers are keeping it hushed.


I followed the Ahh-some procedure which is to do a normal Aah-Some treatment with the addition of 2 gallons of vinegar per 100 gal of water. Let it soak over night and then drain and refill. More information is available here on the Ahh-Some website: Ahh-Some for Jetted Baths, Hot Tubs Swim Spas - Ahh-Some Water Cleanser for Your Pool, Hut Tub, Jet Bath, Swim Spa and Washing Machine


I repeated this procedure a second time and I'm still getting white flakes out of the plumbing. I suspect that I need to raise the acidity even higher to get rid of this stuff. I found this video on how to remove calcium by adding two pounds ph down and running for 24 hrs How to Fix Calcium Buildup | Arctic Spas Tutorial Video - YouTube
I can't seem to find any other information on this other procedure and I'm a bit worried about damaging something. Does anyone have an opinion on whether this is safe or have another solution?

I found one reference to using dishwasher jet dry (I suspect this is acidic as well). Here is the link. The photos (view gallery) show the problem very well. Is anyone familiar with tis treatment?
Trouble Shooting: Is PVC Lube to Blame for Cloudy Spa Water?| Pool Spa News | Maintenance, Chemicals, Manufacturers, Hot Tubs

Thanks in advance,
Alexie

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Hi Alexie: I do remember speaking with you the other day. I am somewhat baffled that the Calcium Stearate problem still exists after you performed the purges. Did you use a new filter after the cleanings? This "CS" problem is first and foremost on the manufacturer's agenda to provide a solution. Unique Solutions is working with many manufacturers to arrive at a lasting and effective protocol. I have to say that the hot tub manufacturers we are working with are absolutely committed to helping each and every one of their hot tub customers work through this situation. We are not sure as to how many hot tubs are affected. It seems to be a hit or miss situation. We have been very successful in remediatiing many hundreds of affected tubs. Once we get rid of the "CS" we feel that it is no longer an issue in the years ahead. The Ahh-Some product was not created for this particular situation. It is a cleaning gel that effectively removes "biofilm" from plumbing lines and jets in closed-loop systems. It just so happens that our formulation is extremely effective in scouring the piping and lifting any bacteria, scale or build-up that is lurking within the system. In closing let me say this. If you have this problem speak to your dealer. They in turn can speak,with the factory to get you the service you deserve if they are not educated on the issue. You will be taken care of. The manufacturers are NOT running away from you. They want to service you and solve this issue.

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Hi Alexi: I do remember speaking with you the other day. I am somewhat baffled that the Calcium Stearate problem still exists after you performed the purges. Did you use a new filter after the cleanings? This "CS" problem is first and foremost on the manufacturer's agenda to provide a solution. Unique Solutions is working with many manufacturers to arrive at a lasting and effective protocol. I have to say that the hot tub manufacturers we are working with are absolutely committed to helping each and every one of their hot tub customers work through this situation. We are not sure as to how many hot tubs are affected. It seems to be a hit or miss situation. We have been very successful in remediatiing many hundreds of affected tubs. Once we get rid of the "CS" we feel that it is no longer an issue in the years ahead. The Ahh-Some product was not created for this particular situation. It is a cleaning gel that effectively removes "biofilm" from plumbing lines and jets in closed-loop systems. It just so happens that our formulation is extremely effective in scouring the piping and lifting any bacteria, scale or build-up that is lurking within the system. In closing let me say this. If you have this problem speak to your dealer. They in turn can speak,with the factory to get you the service you deserve if they are not educated on the issue. You will be taken care of. The manufacturers are NOT running away from you. They want to service you and solve this issue.

Thanks for your reply Jerry.

Upon refill there were lots of white flakes 1/8" average coming out of pipes. I'm going to run another cycle. I haven't used a filter since beginning the treatments. The tub is covered and I don't want to waste a new filter.

The first cycle I used about 1.5 gal. vinegar for approximately 160 gal H20. This released some material.

The second cycle I increased the vinegar to 2 gal. This seemed to result in more flakes coming loose.

Since flakes were still coming out after draining I opted for a more specific approach to reach a PH of 4. I used a pool calculator to determine how much muratic acid was needed to achieve this. Since test kits don't go low enough to test below 6.8 I purchased some urinary test strips that go down to 4.5. This allows me to test ranges between 4.5 and 6.8.

I now see lots of flakes floating in the water which I did not see before. I'll let it sit all night and do a PH test in the morning. If it holds at 4.5 to 5 I'll drain and run another Ahh-Some treatment as a final cleanse. I'll post the results.

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It is important to get the pH down to around 4.0 if the "CS" is the issue. Please use the 6% Cleaning Vinegar instead of the standard 5% Acetic Acid. Removing the filter is essential. Keeping the water in the tub overnight is essential. Draining completely and flushing the next day is essential. Refilling and getting chemical parameters in line is also essential to the success of this exercise. You manse trace amounts of flakes after the initial purge. Adding another dose of cleaning vinegar should take care of this. No need to drain again. Place NEW filter in tub when you are sure most or all the "CS" has been removed. There are three protocols for eliminating this problem. Some work better than others in certain water conditions. One is to use the Ahh-Some and 27-35% hydrogen peroxide, another is to just use the Ahh-Some and the third is the Ahh-Some and Cleaning Vinegar. We have had success with all three protocols. Please let me know if the last purge you are now doing is successful.

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The water got very milky this time with lots of small particles. I drained it and flushed the pipes with a pressure nozzle on my hose. I've been doing this every time to help clean the pipes. This is when I see larger particles coming out of the intakes at the bottom of the spa.

I then refilled and purged again with Ahh-Some. There were still particles and flakes in the water though not as much. I drained and flushed the pipes again. I still had some flakes come out during the flushing.

I'm going to fill it and run it for a while to see what happens. I'll post the results.

I'm curious about how much of the 35% hydrogen peroxide to use per gallon. I may try this next if needed. This is my new hobby.

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Thanks Jerry

I still have a small amount of white flakes floating around. I'm hesitant to ruin a brand new filter so I'm not using one for now.

I think I'm going to add the Hydrogen Peroxide. Will that dissolve the flakes? How long do you need to wait before you use the tub?

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Sounds like you are about finished with the flaking. Yes, the Hydrogen Peroxide should clear the water after running the jets periodically over a 1 - 2 day period. Be sure to open all air intakes and fill the tub up as high as you can so the water gets into the air lines. You can use the tub after this 48 hour period. No need to drain and refill unless you want to. The Hydrogen Peroxide acts as a sanitizer and seems to work well in dissipating the flaking. Be sure to adjust pH and alkalinity levels and continue with your regular hot tub maintenance routine. Glad to assist you.

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It sounds like you may still have some CS in the "air" lines. Be sure to keep opening and closing the air intake fitting(s) so that we can get the treated water up into the air tubes. Open and close each one repeatedly for 5 minutes or so. Do this a few times to be certain that we purge any solids that may be in those air intake tubes. Get the PH down to around 4.0 ( no lower), before you follow this routine. Drain the water, rinse and wipe clean. No new filter yet until you are sure the "CS" has been eliminated.

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I've emptied and done a thorough rinse after every treatment. I hosed it out several times, removed the water with a shop vac, applied pressurized water to every jet/ line and the inlet several times. I rinsed and vacuumed out the accumulating water during all this. So very well rinsed. I've done this for every application.

I have one control valve that feeds air into all the jets, I've had this open for at least 15 min. out of every 1/2 hour treatment. I ran it a lot during the overnight vinegar treatments.

I opted to skip the vinegar this time and just use Ah-Some. Had some green scum in the foam and lots of gunk and particles in the water.

The dealer was no help, other than saying it didn't sound like a health threat. The manufacturer support was no help either but said they would contact their development team and get back to me. I'm not holding my breath. Basically a waste of 1.5 Hrs.

Upon refill I see small particles. I installed the filter and am going to run it for a while. Hopefully the filter will catch everything. Since it's not a health risk I'm going to see how much of an issue it will be.

To recap this is what I've done to date:

A Two Complete Ah-Some treatments (including a complete rinse) with 100 ppm Chlorine. I thought it was bio film.

B. Ran additional Ah-Some treatment with 50 ppm Chlorine and let it sit all night. I drained and refilled (including a complete rinse).

C. After testing to determine it was not bio film I did an Ah-Some treatment with 1.5 gal vinegar for 160 gal h20 and let it sit all night. Then drained and refilled (including a complete rinse).

D. Another Ah-Some treatment with 2 gal vinegar for 160 gal h20 and let it sit all night. Then drain and refill (including a complete rinse).

E Another Ah-Some treatment with muratic acid to specifically reduce ph to 4 (verified with test) for 160 gal h20 and let it sit all night. Then drain and refill (including a complete rinse).

F Another Ah-Some treatment. Then drain and refill (including a complete rinse).

G Added 20 oz. 35% Hydrogen Peroxide to 200 gal H20. Let it sit 48 hrs.

H Another Ah-Some treatment. Then drain and refill (including a complete rinse).

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By the way, calcium stearate is also one of the main components of soap scum; magnesium stearate is another common component of soap scum. When hard water (calcium and magnesium) combine with soap (sodium stearate) it produces soap scum.

Calcium stearate is found in some lubricants but I'm surprised there's enough of it to have as much continual flaking as you are seeing.

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By the way, calcium stearate is also one of the main components of soap scum; magnesium stearate is another common component of soap scum. When hard water (calcium and magnesium) combine with soap (sodium stearate) it produces soap scum.

Calcium stearate is found in some lubricants but I'm surprised there's enough of it to have as much continual flaking as you are seeing.

It seams like any soap scum would have been cleared by now.

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The process did remove a lot of material. I don't see many of the larger flakes (1/8" or bigger). I do still have a lot of small dust size particles that the filter doesn't clear. I've been adding clarifier and rinsing the filter daily. I'm also running the pump 24 hours a day. Hopefully it will eventually clear. I assume it's still coming off the plumbing and hoping it's the final residue. I'll likely do another Ah-Some treatment possibly with vinegar in the next few weeks. Any other suggestions?

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