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Calcium Stearate (White Flakes)


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Make a small bucket of Ahh-Some solution. I use about 1/8th TSP to a quart of water. That will dissolve the stuff. After you wipe it rinse the tub with a hose as it's draining. That way it will stay suspended in solution as you drain. You should change wash cloths frequently as they become saturated. I used a wet dry vac to get all of the funky water out of the tub and rinsed continuously as it drained.

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I completed my third vinegar/Ahh-Some flush. I would've posted a few days ago but I was too depressed! a lot of material came out during the soak and I cleaned the tub top to bottom when it was empty and vacuumed out all of the jets. I was able to extract almost 10 extra gallons doing this. I was feeling very good. But as SOON as I put fresh water in large flakes started coming out of the jets. After the jets run I scoop all the big flakes out but there is still a very large amount of the small dust-like particles floating. I can scoop some of them but a lot of it is too small to get trapped in the net. Also, there is a soapy-like foam after the jets run and a slight oil slick on the top (which makes sense if this is a compound similar to soap scum). I feel like I have made no progress. I have spent 100s of hours on this (including the time spent before I realized what I was dealing with) and I can't imagine what my summer water bill is going to be. My spa dealer is no help - they say they have not heard of this and that I must be mistaken - they say it's not even possible that it could be caused by any lubricant during manufacturing. I'm planning another flush but has anyone left the solution in the tub to soak longer than a day or two? Will the cleaning vinegar damage the metal in the tub? If it's safe I'd like to just let it soak a week or two rather than empty fill empty fill etc.

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I feel your pain. I went through this last summer and had to flush more than a dozen times. Fortunately water is cheap here and my tub is only 200 gal. I received the same treatment from my dealer. You spent a lot of money on the tub. What is their explanation for the problem? You could try to make them come over and service it under warranty. If they refuse I would contact the manufacturer. This didn't help me but maybe you'll have better luck. At the end of the day someone will have to complete the purge process or replace the tub. I have read about manufactures replacing tubs because of this.

Did you test the PH? What was the reading after you added the vinegar?

You may want to try the Ahh-Some protocol #3 using CLR. You could skip the more technical parts and just use CLR instead of vinegar.

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I have ordered some ph strips but didn't have them during this purge so I'm not sure what the ph was. I have a 400 gallon tub and used 4 gallons of cleaning vinegar with the 3 tsp. of Ahh-some. I called the manufacturer a few weeks ago and the guy I spoke to claimed to have never heard of it - I wasn't convinced because he said a few things that contradicted that - either way he was not interested in helping me. I am worried about using CLR because it is so corrosive to metal and I'm not sure if it would cause any damage if I used it. I read protocol 3 but it was a little over my head. I will try another purge. This time I will monitor the ph. Did the dust like particles eventually clear up for you? And now that it's behind you do you ever see a flake pop up? 

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I understand your concern regarding the CLR. But I assume it has been tested since they recommend it on their website. I think it's very important to verify the PH is around 4. It's the acidity that loosens the CS. You should test it after it soaks a while and add more if the PH goes back up. I usually followed a vinegar purge with a standard Ah-Some purge to clean out stuff that was left loose in the lines. I also rinsed thoroughly and vacuumed the rinse water out with a shop vac. It's a lot of work!

The particles did clear up for me eventually. I did continue to see occasional flakes. I just rinsed my filter several times a week. When I pulled the filter the stuff would be left in the well. I cut a piece of plastic to block the well opening to keep it from getting into the tub. I would shut the pump off, put the plastic in and siphon the stuff out of the well.  I did another round of purges late last fall after a couple of months of this. I now rarely see any flakes. 

Out of curiosity what was is the brand of your spa? They don't want to accept liability for a manufacturers defect. This problem is well known in the industry. I guess we just have to chalk this up to bad luck.

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Thanks for the advice. I haven't put a filter in lately because it catches so much debris I can't clean it thoroughly. I might put one in after the next flush and see where I'm at. When I did have one in it would leave a lot of accumulated particles in the well so I like how you blocked it so you could clean it out before it went back into the tub. I'm going to look at that.  I'll have to revisit the CLR protocol - it seemed pretty complicated. I have a Mira tub manufactured by Four Winds in Tennessee. I spoke to the parts department. He adamantly stated he had never heard anything like I was describing but by the end of the conversation he admitted to "maybe hearing something about that". He called me back after he spoke to his manager who confirmed they have not had any complaints and don't know anyone it has happened to but to go ahead and try the Ahh-Some product. It's frustrating because the dealer and the manufacturer want me to believe I'm imagining it. I think they just want me to go away!

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You could educate them by sending a link to this article:

http://www.poolspanews.com/how-to/maintenance/trouble-shooting-is-pvc-lube-to-blame-for-cloudy-spa-water_o

I used the same filter until the problem was resolved. No point in ruining a new one.

I was thinking you could just use the CLR in place of the vinegar. You can call Ahh-Some about it. They are very helpful and have dealt with this issue a lot.

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I couldn't find any specific information on it. I researched jet dry and found that it is a Surfactant like Ah-Some as opposed to an acid like vinegar so I doubt it would work any better than Ah-Some. I like the fact that CLR is meant to dissolve Calcium. I would contact Ahh-Some and ask them if there is any danger of damage to the tub. I'm sure they've used it many times by now.

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Found the video below. It's for removing calcium scale but would work well for CS as well. This comes from a manufacturer. 2 pounds of Spa down would lower the ph of a 400 gal tub from 7.6 to about 3.75. I used Muratic acid for one purge. It removed the most material of any of the flushes I did. I tested to keep the PH at 4.

If you want to now how much acid to add you can use this calculator

http://www.troublefreepool.com/calc.html

 

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  • 1 year later...

Has anyone been successful in testing the flakes or confirming that it's calcium stearate?  We are having the same issue and have had a terrible time getting the tub back to usable. While we are not seeing any additional flaking I can see white stuff on some of the clear tubes.  

resized spa pipe.jpg

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 3 months later...

Has anyone totally solved the white flake problem?  I have struggled with this problem for a long time and tried a variety of solutions.  In my research I have not found anyone who has definitively solved it.  At this point I think replacing all of the flexible piping may be the only solution.  Thanks in advance for any assistance.

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 I don't want to say I solved the problem, but I solved my problem. I have extremely, extremely hard well water.  Calcium is from hardness in the water, so I assumed my problem was Calcium build up.  Below is how I fixed my issue. Please note all of the numbers below come from Nitro's decontamination procedure. DO YOU OWN RESEARCH. A submersible pump makes all the of the difference...get one with high gal/hr. 

1. Use an enzyme to clean out your pipes, such as Swirl Away, Spa Flush etc. Add this product, run the jets 30 mins and let sit overnight. It will clean out your pipes and deposit the gunk along the water line. Wipe the waterline with a dry paper towel or cloth. Make sure you remove your filter before adding this product. Better yet, buy a new filter.

A. I used "Ahh-Some Hot Tub/Jetted Bath Plumbing & Jet Cleaner" Unaffiliated Amazon Link. My research found that Ahh-some works much better, and most importantly, a more 'hot tub safe' product than SA or SF. This is when I choice to "super" chlorinate my tub.  Add 50 ppm FC using Regular Clorox 6% Unscented Bleach. That's approx. 1/4 gal (32 oz) per 350 gal tub.

B. Drained, cleaned walls with vinegar water. Rinsed, drain, refilled as high as possible, I then balanced water but again, I have poor well water. (this was within reason, it was by no means perfect, and I did not adjust the PH)

C. VINEGAR soak, you can find info on this on google, there's also lots of youtube videos. This works on the calcium well but it LOWERS THE PHI cant stress it enough, you have to be careful not to damage your spa shell. I think I used 1/2 - 3/4 a gallon @ 350gal of water. Added some more ahh-some and I let mine soak for 18 hours. And clean your walls prior to letting it soak. (Note: people leave vinegar in their spas for weeks at a time on these videos, so I wasnt worried about a one time thing for less than 24 hours.) I also chlorinated my tub again, but it was more of a 3/16th cup. Less than the super, but more than normal. 

D. Drain, clean walls with vinegar water. Refill tub to approx 50% (you want to clean out the lines), drain, rinse walls, drain, refill to normal height. 

E. Reinstall your filter.

4. Balance your water at this point. TA = 80 ppm and pH = 7.2. If your pH is too far out of range, it will decrease the effectiveness of the Chlorine.

6. Run all jets and air features for 30-60 mins. You can turn the air on and off every 10 mins, to help clean the air lines.

Test your Chlorine Demand to make sure the Decontamination worked by doing the following.

11. Shock with Dichlor (Stabilized Chlorine) to 10 ppm FC. Don't use the tub, let the jets run 10 mins, cover, and let sit 24 hours.

F. SOAK your filter in cleaner at this point. Reinstall after the 24hr is up. 

12. Check FC. If FC is 5 ppm or above, you're ok. If it's zero, your tub is still using excess Chlorine, and needs to be decontaminated again (Absent the Spa Flush). However, this should be rare.

I've had a few flake appear after this process but after those, I have not had anymore issues. 

By the way, if you have extremely poor, hard water like me, I would pick up one of those hardness removing balls. I got the XL one for pools and plan to reuse it multiple times.

 

Hope it helps.

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  • 4 months later...
  • 8 months later...

Thank you for sharing your white flakes problem. We also have them. We got them with our new hot tub ;-).

We even had the tub replaced by manufacturer since it was under warranty and the amount of flakes was tremendous. The new new one started to develop the flakes after few months and we were told that it is the bio film most likely mold. We treated with ahhsome it was better for few weeks but it started again after few weeks with milky water look and in few days lot of flakes. Thank you for sharing the recepie to remove them we are on our second round of vinegar. Definitely less flakes and they are way smaller. There is an oily film on water around the well area mostly. Fingers crossed...few more purges and it will be over.

I will keep you informed.

My first thought when this happened was about our old hot tub that we got when we bought the house which was already 10 years old and very basic...but never had any single flake...we used it for another 10 years just changing the water every 3 to 4 months...Now all this pain...I hope it will be solved soon or we will have some pickling business 😉...

Definitely the problem is about the new materials they use for the pipes.

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57 minutes ago, Ahhsomeguy said:

What are you using as a sanitizer?  I do hope it is Chlorine or Bromine.  Sounds like you may be using something else based on your reoccurring flake issues.

We use chlorine for sanitation. The flakes are smaller now , mostly like threads no big floating pieces any more. We made decision to leave vinegar for 2 days after 4 or 5 purgaes so far, first 3 were with ahhsome only then one was with combo vinegar and ahhsome, now only vinegar...fingers crossed, I will post tomorrow after filling a new water, hopefully no more tiny white things

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  • 10 months later...

Hi all, just found this form and I'm so grateful for all of your detailed sharing about your experiences and what you've tried.  We got a hot tub about 6 months ago, used.  It had these flakes (which only come out of the plumbing) from the beginning.  We assumed it was some kind of algae and that we just needed to flush the system and clean it more thoroughly, but they keep coming, sometimes less, sometimes more.  Is this what y'all's flakes look like too?

WhatsApp Image 2020-12-23 at 1.17.59 PM.jpeg

WhatsApp Image 2020-12-23 at 1.18.00 PM (1).jpeg

WhatsApp Image 2020-12-23 at 1.18.00 PM.jpeg

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  • 5 months later...

These are exactly what our flakes look like started after about 2 months in our brand new Dynasty Palm Island II hot tub purchased late 2020, I thought I was very meticulous at keeping it cleaned and sanitized and tested it 2 times a week. We moved shortly after I did a lot of purging and excess cleaning b4 totally draining it's been stored for about 6months and today we refilled and the flakes came back... I'm scared

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I'm so glad I found this post.   I've been battling this issue for months now,  tried all sorts of descalers, I flush the water every 3 months and keep my tub spotless.  Tried using Ahh- some and got very little biofilm out but the flakes are always there.   I've noticed the infamous "dried milk" looking flakes in my air lines and had no idea what that was,  now I know.  My tub is  2019 vintage Strong Spas tub.

I tried the links to the 3 protocols mentioned in this thread to the Ahh-some website but they are no longer active,  hoping ARobert can chime in and let us know if he may have saved them somewhere?

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