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Calcium Stearate (White Flakes)


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I've been adding clarifier every day and skipped rinsing the filter a couple days. I rinsed it today. The pump was between cycles and not running. I removed the filter and saw lots of large 3/8" to 1/2" flakes in the well. I went to get my shop vack to suck it out. Before I could get it plugged in the pump kicked on and sucked it all back into the system. I expected to see it come out the jets, but there was nothing. I suspect that this stuff dissolves when trapped in the filter and then precipitates back into the water in a constant cycle. This is visible as small floating flakes that get sucked into the filter and then reappear. Note that the amount of the floating flakes are greatly reduced since I did the system flushes.

I hoped that the clarifier would bind the particles together and allow the filter to trap it. This seems to have worked but because it was not stuck to the filter very well it was released when I unscrewed the filter. I missed the opportunity to get it sucked out of the filter well before the pump kicked in. Next time I'll shut off the power before checking the filter.

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I received an interesting reply from the manufacturer (Strong Spas):

Hello,

I have spoken with my research and development team about this issue. Calcium stearate is most commonly caused by hard water mixing with stearates found in laundry detergent, shampoos, and body lotions. These issues can be resolved by taking a shower before entering the tub, using a low or no stearate laundry detergent and checking the hardness of your water. At no point in time have the manufactures of the hose we use in our spas ever used calcium stearate as a lubricant during the manufacturing process. I apologize for the delay in my response.

Have a great day!!!

They offered no advice on how to clean the tub.

This reply is interesting because I use the same suit every time, only use it in the Spa and never wash it. I'm bald so no Shampoo and I never dunk my head in the water. I don't use lotions and I'm the only one who uses the Spa. How would they know if a supplier purchased the tubing from a manufacturer that used Calcium Stearate or not. Considering the spa is less than 9 months old and I'm the only user, it seems unlikely the amount of material I removed would have built up in the lines over an eight month period. It's likley that there are other owners of spas from this manufacturer who will have problems with this in the near future. Hopefully they will find this post.
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Found big flakes in the filter well this morning when removing filter for rinse. I was able to suck them up. I saw a few flakes floating around the tub. It looks like the clarifier is binding the particles as I had hoped. I examined one and it dissolved on contact between my fingers.

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arobbert thanks for posting your experience. I now realize that when my spa was delivered it was not only contaminated with biofilm it contained a small amount of the white flakes contamination. the interesting part is that I discovered the white flakes while successfully correcting the biofilm problem with a combination of ahh-some and chlorine. the white flakes were part of the material that the purge released - I didn't do any low-pH treatment though, but I had no where near the problem described here.

The only other comment I would add here is to clarify that the nature of contaminants we are discussing here are unique to the portable spa world, right? except perhaps for a new build, you wouldn't expect this kind of stuff in a pool or a gunnite spa, nor would you want to subject such a vessel to the low-pH treatment, am I right?

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arobbert thanks for posting your experience. I now realize that when my spa was delivered it was not only contaminated with biofilm it contained a small amount of the white flakes contamination. the interesting part is that I discovered the white flakes while successfully correcting the biofilm problem with a combination of ahh-some and chlorine. the white flakes were part of the material that the purge released - I didn't do any low-pH treatment though, but I had no where near the problem described here.

The only other comment I would add here is to clarify that the nature of contaminants we are discussing here are unique to the portable spa world, right? except perhaps for a new build, you wouldn't expect this kind of stuff in a pool or a gunnite spa, nor would you want to subject such a vessel to the low-pH treatment, am I right?

It sounds like yours was easier to clear than mine. I can't comment on the uniqueness of the problem. I imagine it could occur anywhere the tubing is used.
A possible variable is that I used the clean water blue system (copper ion sysytem) that came with my spa. As part of this I used MPS shock on a regular bases and occasionally Dichlor. Because of water clarity issues that I believe were caused by the ineffectiveness of the clean water blue system or the Calcium Stearate, I started to use MPS shock at approximately 1 to 2 TBL to 200 gallons on a daily bases. This is similar to what is recommended by nature2. This seemed to correct the cloudy water but It was during this time that I started noticing the white flakes. As a side note I had foamy water and very small bubbles (almost milky) when using aeration. These are symptoms of Calcium Stearate. I wonder if the MPS or copper aggravated the problem?
I have since switched to the BBB method with good results. The water does not foam with the aeration and the bubbles look normal. The only issue is the lingering white particles that that swirl in the water and accumulate in the filter well.
I continue add clarifier on a regular bases and rinse the filter every few days. Every time I do this there are white particles in and around the filter.
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I would question the brand of chemicals you are using, the easiest way to cheapen granular and tablet chemicals is to add fillers such as talc. I don't think the Nature's 2 cartridge is your issue, I have been using them for ever and its proven to be a quality product, although I have found a much cheaper stick now but same active ingredients. The only other thing I can think of is you mentioned your tub was 9 months old and if you went to long without replacing your water and it reached its max TDS (total dissolved solids) level that could cause that as well, I have even seen everything stick to the shell making it a rough surface. Hope this helps, for flushing I would use SpaEase Jet Line Cleaner, I use it before I drain my spa every time as a preventative maintenance product.

KyleCT

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I would question the brand of chemicals you are using, the easiest way to cheapen granular and tablet chemicals is to add fillers such as talc. I don't think the Nature's 2 cartridge is your issue, I have been using them for ever and its proven to be a quality product, although I have found a much cheaper stick now but same active ingredients. The only other thing I can think of is you mentioned your tub was 9 months old and if you went to long without replacing your water and it reached its max TDS (total dissolved solids) level that could cause that as well, I have even seen everything stick to the shell making it a rough surface. Hope this helps, for flushing I would use SpaEase Jet Line Cleaner, I use it before I drain my spa every time as a preventative maintenance product.

KyleCT

Thanks for your reply.
Do you use other sanitizers in addition to Nature2?
I read the ingredients of the products I use. They are similar or better when compared to other Brands.
My MPS-
MPS 45%
Other ingredients 55%
My Dichlor-
Dichlor 99%
Other ingredients 1%
Spaease MPS for example is 32.18% MPS with 67% inert or other ingredients. Their Dichlor is identical to what I use and similar to many other brands. I can find only one source for the Spaease brand.
I have filled my tub 3 times since installation. This is about 4 months per fill (cold winters here in Mi). That may be a stretch for a 200 Gal. tub and I'm going to increase the frequency. But it seems like it should have cleared after the numerous flushes and refills I've performed recently. I doubt changing my brand of flush (Ahh-Some) would make a difference. I have read comparisons between it and several other brands and it performs as well or better. Still, it couldn't hurt to try something else.
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I performed a 5 brand comparison and have a blog post about it. spaclean, cleanstart, natural chemistry, seaklear, and ahh-some. If I can obtain permission to post a link to it here I will. otherwise pm me and I'll give you the link

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I performed a 5 brand comparison and have a blog post about it. spaclean, cleanstart, natural chemistry, seaklear, and ahh-some. If I can obtain permission to post a link to it here I will. otherwise pm me and I'll give you the link

I would love to read that. I'm sure others would benifit as well.

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  • 2 months later...

 

Has your problem been solved? I am having the same issues on a 7 monthtub. Thank you. .

I've been meaning to do an update. I have since ran several other purges. I still get some flakes out of the filter well when I rinse the filter every two weeks or so. The problem has been greatly diminished. I intend to do one final purge in the next few weeks before the winter season.

My advice is to follow the Ahh-Some protocol. Make sure to use a test like litmus paper that will verify the PH is at 4. Run over night at full temp. Repeat this until the flakes are gone. It may take several flushes to get rid of it completely.

At least it's not a health threat. Just make sure it's not bio film by performing the test I mention in this thread.

 

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  • 2 months later...

The most effective protocol to treat the Calcium Stearate problem in hot tubs is to reduce the pH to around 4.0 for a few days with periodic running of the jets.  You must add the Ahh-Some purge gel to the tub a few times and then lower the pH.  Go to Www.ahhsome.com for complete instructions.  We have helped hundreds upon hundreds of spas affected with this problem.

 

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  • 1 month later...

Hello,

I am having the same problem. My spa is also new and I have been battling this issue for about 10 months. One of my good friends owns the hot tub store I bought this from and he told me the same thing about the manufacturer of the plumbing lines. They claim it only effected a handful of spas and the makes of the spa and lines are not offering any solution expect they suggest purging the lines with Spa defender. I am on round 3 and there are still tons of micro white particles in my spa water. I am really upset. Any updates on your situation would be greatly appreciated. My friend has offered to come over and do an acid wash to my lines to attempt to fix the problem if this next round does not work

Crystal

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I resolved my problem. It took about 16 purges though. Since that time Ahh-Some has developed a superior process for dealing with this. Are you using Ahh-Some? If not you should get some. They have good support. Spa defender will not help with this problem.

Follow the instructions posted by Ahhsomeguy above. This is a modification of the protocol 2 to Eradicate Calcium Stearate on the Ahh-Some website. Here is a link to the complete instructions http://www.ahhsome.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Ahh-Some-STEPS-PROTOCOL-2.pdf . Just increase the number of days as suggested above.

I had the best results when I lowered the PH to 4 and held it there over night. You could see tons of material in the water the next day. Normal PH pool/spa test kits or strips will not measure to 4 so you will need litmus paper. It's cheap and you can get it on Amazon or a pharmacy. I got some on Amazon and got a bad package though. Probably worth getting it at the pharmacy so you know what your getting. Call first because they don't all have it. It's used for people who need to monitor the PH of their urine.

It's critical to verify the PH is 4. It's also important to maintain the temperature close to 104. I would recommend holding it there for a few days like Ahhsomeguy says. If you do that you may be able to complete the process with one or two flushes. Keep some extra vinegar on hand so you can lower the PH the next day if needed. You'll probably want to re-fill and run a standard Ahh-Some flush to get all the material out when your done. Remove the filter and keep the tub covered to keep debris out while you run the flush. Don't replace your filter until the process is complete. It will just get plugged up and need to be thrown out.

Stick with it. You will eventually succeed. Good luck and let us know how it goes.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Just an update on the CS situation from our view is that there are still many many tubs that are not remediated.  Our staff have spoken with many manufacturers and customers directly in an effort to synergize a working protocol.  So far, we feel that the reduced pH method works fairly well.  You need to keep,the pH around 3.8-4.0 for a few days after the Ahh-Some cleaner has been added.  If the tub owner puts the tub on a run/stop cycle so we get flow and then a soak period for the product to penetrate more effectively, this should enhance the clean out.  People are always asking if this problem can reoccur?  The simple answer is probably not but we  Can't be 100% sure.  Lastly, if you are using any filter that has been in contact with the calcium Stearate, discard them.  Do NOT use a new filter or filters until you are certain that the issue has been successfully rectified.  This is a frustrating issue for the consumer, the selling dealer and especially, the manufacturer.

 

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  • 4 months later...

I have been dealing with this problem for several months now.  At first I just assumed I had let the chemicals get out of whack so I spent several weeks and 3 or 4 flushes just adjusting the chemicals as my spa retailer suggested - I brought my water sample in to be tested every week (sometimes more often) trying to get on track. The white flakes increased to an excessive (gross) amount and it became clear that it was not a chemical imbalance so after hours of googling the symptoms I finally came across your post. I am very grateful you shared your experience as I have hope now that this can be remedied. I called and spoke to Jerry at Ahh-some who was super helpful and encouraged the Ahh-some and vinegar flush. I have done the Ahh-some flush with vinegar twice (3 days the first time and 30 hours the second time) and I do not see the white flakes but I see what looks like dust (microscopic flakes?) and occasionally what looks like an slight oily film that is barely distinguishable. The most obvious symptom though is the cloudy water. I'm not sure how to proceed at this point. Do I use Ahh-some again or just keep emptying and refilling the tub? I'd appreciate any help.

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the folks at Ahh-some have researched this particular problem more than I have, especially the consideration of very low pH due to the vinegar, but but I will comment on the general issue of multiple purges.  I think  of the plumbing system complexity, with its many corners, different pipe sizes and nooks and crannies where stuff can hide, and the nature of the contaminants we are trying to remove, and this, along with my own experimental results shows that if the tub is in trouble (bad stuff in the pipes) it can take many purges to get things clean.  I do not have Calcium Stearate contamination in my tub (thankfully) but my (Hot Springs Grandee) did come shipped from the factory contaminated with biofilms. it took me three or four purges to correct this problem.  If I were in your situation I would be already committed to draining again, and once committed to draining I personally favor dosing with Ahh-Some first before you drain.

With a heavily contaminated spa you just have to power through and keep purging.  I have a friend who  required 10 purges to correct the consequences of a multitude of external contaminants (oils, lotions, detergents, and such) .  I can't comment on exactly what you are seeing but my approach would be to purge, purge, and purge again until you get no more result.  the goal is a fully running spa with filters installed, and no new material released.  This is not a trivial effort!

once you get your spa clean again, I advocate dosing with ahh-some before every drain (at least for the first few drains).  this allows you to see what is accumulating in your tub, and will allow you to determine if you should dose before every drain or perhaps every other drain. 

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It sounds like you are close. I remember mine looking like that towards the end. I would continue to purge with awe-some and vinegar.

It took me more than a dozen flushes to completely resolve the problem. It's important to verify the PH is at 4 to 5.  Protocol #1 with the vinegar solution worked best for me.

When I had my experience protocol #3 using CLR wasn't developed yet. It looks interesting. I wonder if it could reduce the number of flushes needed.

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Thanks for the replies. It helps remind me I'm not crazy and that this problem is real! I had to order Ahh-some on-line so I won't be able to flush for a few days.  I'll keep on with the Ahh-Some/vinegar soak for a couple of days and then drain and repeat. Do you have any thoughts on repeating immediately or wait a few days before repeating the soak? Also, I haven't bothered putting a filter in at this point as I've already throw 4 away. No one is using the tub while I work through this. If you think I should have a filter in, let me know.  Thanks.  I'll post an update in a week or so.

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I took a break for a week or two a couple of times when I had the dust size particles you describe. I used the tub (no Ahh-Some or vinegar). It's not dangerous, and why not enjoy it?. Jerry suggested doing this and it was good advice!  I kept an old filter for when I used the tub until the problem was eliminated. If the tub is covered and you're not using it I wouldn't worry about not using a filter. Don't buy more filters until it's clear.

I'm glad you found this post useful. It makes me feel better to know that the painful process I went through (most of last summer and fall) is helping someone else. And thanks Jerry from Ahh-Some!

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I am on my third purge with the Ahh-some/vinegar combination. I figure the first 3-4 flushes were in vain since I did not understand yet what I was dealing with. I let it sit overnight. Today there are some more white flakes (not a lot) but mostly small globs of a yellowish foam. I can scoop these out but if I agitate the water too much they separate and leave an oil slick on the surface. The strainer net that I'm using has a waxy build up on it even after rinsing it. There is also the expected residue on the sides of the tub that is also yellowish and very waxy. I am wiping it off just to make the final cleaning a little easier but I can feel there is a waxy residue after I wipe it. A simple wipe down is not going to work when I drain the tub. I think I will need a cleanser but I'm not sure what to use.

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