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Going out of town - what to do?


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to stay within the context of this thread (extended absences) and to avoid getting wrapped around the axle over combs and quats,  I'm going to bring the Hot Tub Serum topic back down to reality and concentrate on what the label says, what EPA says, what I am testing, and why it is relevant to the subject at hand.

The Label says it is a biocide in residential hot tubs.  I suppose that assumes no combs go into your spa, a restriction I can live with.  

EPA says they believe the label.  

I have found 'Serum to be profoundly effective at flattening the sanitizer decay rate and I have tested it for absences as long as two weeks with no sanitizer (or bather load).  Going forward, no combs will be harmed  but I will test to see if the product is useful to maintain a covered, heated but unused spa for extended absences, all the while staying within label dosing specifications in a "dichlor then switch to bleach" context (I set aside the amount of dichlor that represents about 30ppm CYA.  when that gets used up I switch to bleach.  I've switched to bleach). 

My test indicator will be the condition of the water after such absences, and the ability to dose with sanitizer and use the spa immediately upon returning.

those who are familiar with my work know that I have been testing spa products ever since my 2013 Grandee was delivered to me with active biofilms growing in the pipes.  that experience taught me about biofilms, snippets of which I have posted here over the years but which are consolidated on my hobby site:

https://rvdoug.com/hot-tub-maintenance/

 

 

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23 hours ago, dlleno said:

The Label says it is a biocide in residential hot tubs

Perhaps the first order of business is an understanding of exactly what an EPA registration number means and what a biocide is. According to the EPA a biocide is pesticide that kills microorganisms. It does not specify which microoganism it kills and is a very broad umbrella. For example, all sanitizers are biocides but not all biocides are santizers. All algaecides are biocides but not all biocides are algaecides. All fungicides are biocides but not all biocides are fungicides.

Quats are registered as biocides in pools and spa. Most are sold as algaecides. Copper based products are also registered as biocides in pools and spas, Most are sold as algaecides. Borax is also registered as a biocide in pools and spas as an algaecide. The EPA considered biocides to be under the umbrella of pestacides  and all pesticides need to be registered with the EPA. They also consider recreational water treatment products to be pesticides, including chlorine, bromine, and biguanide, and other products that are used as algaecides, or make claims that they kill pathogens. These are very broad umbrellas for a lot of products with very different actions.

A historical fact, there used to exist many products that has "blue" in the name that were copper based (basically a solution or powder that contained copper sulfate) that claimed that you could use these instead of using chlorine, bromine, or biguinide. They all proudly displayed an EPA registration number. However, the registration number was for copper sulfate and not for the actual product. Copper sulfate is an EPA registered pesticide for use as an algaecide. It will effectively keep the water from turning green but it does not sanitize the water. Many of these products still exist but now they say they must be used with chlorine or bromine to keep the water sanitized since copper is not a residual primary sanitizer. However it is an EPA registered biocide.


Yes, quats are a biocide in residential hot tubs BUT they are less effective against Gram-negative bacteria than against Gram-positive bacteria (both can form biofilms as can algae). They also have limited activity against bacterial spores and very little activity against viruses. This means that you still a redisufal fast acting sanitizers (another category under EPA regisitrations.)

https://www.epa.gov/ingredients-used-pesticide-products/types-pesticide-ingredients

Many products have EPA registration numbers and fall under the umbrella of pesticides or biocides. It does not mean that they are effective sanitizers, a specific category of pesticides. Being classified as a biocide means that it can kill microorganisms. Quats kill algae, Copper kills algae. Borate kills algae. Algae can be a component of biofilms. Interestingly enough, borate also shows antimicrobial activity against many strains of Pseudomonas, enteric bacteria, and staphylococci. the antifungal properties of borate is well known. Also interestingly enough, both fungi and yeasts can and do form biofilms.

 

Getting back to the topic of this thread which is extended absences:

Bottom line is that your sanitizer will most likely drop low or to 0 ppm (unless you are using biguinide but you will most likely need to oxidize when you get back). If you have a secondary biocide such as borate, polyquat, or a plain quat it might help prevent algae growth or possibly inhibit some biofilm formation.

IF you are  using chlorine then tabs in a floater is one possibility but it will cause CYA to increase and could cause pH to crash. IF you go this route bump up your TA to aroudn 100 ppm or a bit higher. IF you are using bromine then use bromine tabs in a floater if you aren't already.

Shock when you get back and then make any water balanace adjustments that are needed such as pH or TA.

What I have successfully many times to both a pool exposed to the sun and to a hot tub when I go away for an extended period (the longest a month) is to make sure my borate is at 50 ppm and then shock according to my CYA level.  I also shut everything down after shocking. The pool is not covered, btw. When I returned after a month both were crystal clear (no algae in the pool!).  My pool and spa had no chlorine left so I shocked again and then tested all my other water parameters, which needed no adjustment. You can probably achieve similar results with polyquat (which tends to be longer lasting than a linear quat) but be aware that quats, both poly and linear, WILL cause a drop in FC levels,much like ozone does. This is one of the main reasons I prefer borate.

To summarize:

before you go add either borate or a quat (can be one sold as an algaecide, polyquats are longer lasting than linear quats. Look for poly [oxyethylene (dimethyliminio) ethylene (dimethyliminio) ethylene dichloride]. Anything else is NOT polyqaat. IF possible get 60% and not the 30%. Price is usually very close so why pay for expensive water used to dilute the 60% to half strength?) I know Proteam has a 60% polyquat as does GLB), shock, turn off everything, and cover

when you return test the water, turn on system, shock again, and (when sanitizer drops to normal level )  rebalance water if needed.

 

 

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On 3/29/2021 at 3:04 PM, dlleno said:

Here's my experiments with the 'Serum

https://rvdoug.com/blog/pushing-the-limits-of-hot-tub-serum/

FWIW, your experiment is flawed. Just because the water looks clear does not mean it's sanitized. Bacterial growth started when your sanitizer dropped but it takes time for enough growth to cloud the water. This was a common marketing claim of copper based pool 'sanitizers', that the water would stay clear. However, this 'clear looking' water contained very high pathogen loads and was not safe water. This is why these types of products now say that they are to be used with chlorine or bromine since they were basically algaecides and had very slow kill times.  Your water stayed clear for an extended period because you had a closed system with no additional bather load. The same effect would be seen with polyquat or borate.

You are using a quat, which causes bacterial cell walls to explode so what you are seeing accumulate on the tub wall is well known to every biguinide user a since biguinide also cases bacterial cells to explode. However since there is no oxidation this goo collects on filters and in the tub.

You make some assumptions based on a lack of understanding of how quats work and on the limited empirical results in one tub. Whatever you want to do in your tub is your business but it is irresponsible to recommend it as a proven method when, in fact, it can put someone at risk for a water borne illness.

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On 4/1/2021 at 12:31 PM, dlleno said:

My test indicator will be the condition of the water after such absences, and the ability to dose with sanitizer and use the spa immediately upon returning.

However, you have done no tests of the water for pathogen levels so you really don't know if it is safe, only that it doesn't look cloudy. This is a major flaw in your 'testing'. Also, your sample size of 1 is way too small to be meaningful.

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Whew! Lots of great information coming in here. Thanks to all for the contributions.

I neglected to note previously that I’m using borates. I used the dichlor-then-bleach guides on this forum and ProTeam Gentle Spa to get to approx 50ppm borate levels. For what they’re worth borate test strips seem to confirm this level.

A water change will occur before the next long-term trip, but I’ll stick with this same methodology (seems to be working well for me) - I’ll shoot for 50ppm borates, 30ppm CYA, and properly-balanced pH and TA levels (my tub seems to like to stay at 70-80 TA and 7.7 pH).

I shock weekly with MPS and will do so again just before I leave town. New filter too, and then a nice dose of 12.5% liquid chlorine to get good but not too high levels. 

My first vacation will be just one week, so I’ll see how this regimen goes for that interval. If the water is cloudy when I come back I’ll have to re-evaluate, but if it’s not bad then in maybe two weeks without a floater / Serum / etc. isn’t so crazy.

Oh, and I haven’t tried the CYA reducer stuff yet. The mention of CC accumulations scared me off, and the tub is due for a top-off soon anyway, so I’ll just have to go a little big on the chlorine until the level drops a bit.

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On 4/2/2021 at 1:48 PM, dlleno said:

Nor do we test for pathogens after any other water correction procedure.  

These tests are done when products are being developed. If they are used off label then we don't know so shocking to the correct level (or making sure biguanide and peroxide levels are in range) takes care of the problem. As I said, you can do whatever you want in your spa but to promote this as a safe and effective spa sanitation procedure is irresponsible, particularly for any newbies that might try to follow it. Remember that I am a moderator and I monitor not only spam but also potentially dangerous information.

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So what's unsafe about shocking upon return as i have indicated? That's the water correction procedure im talking about. No one including me has ever promoted 9% ADBACs as a sanitizer. 

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Another thought I’ve had:  would anyone recommend disconnecting my ozonator during the time away? My understanding is the ozone attacks free chlorine in the water, so it’s increasing my chlorine demand. Correct? If so, would it be beneficial to turn the thing off for those two weeks? If there’s no bather waste there’s nothing for the ozone to oxidize, after all. And while the increased CD isn’t a big deal when I’m regularly soaking and dosing with fresh chlorine, maybe it’s better to let the FC last longer w/o the ozone interference when I’m away.

Thoughts?

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On 4/4/2021 at 1:32 PM, samwise801 said:

would anyone recommend disconnecting my ozonator during the time away?

I suggested turning off the system while you are gone in a previous post:

On 4/2/2021 at 1:10 PM, waterbear said:

To summarize:

before you go add either borate or a quat (can be one sold as an algaecide, polyquats are longer lasting than linear quats. Look for poly [oxyethylene (dimethyliminio) ethylene (dimethyliminio) ethylene dichloride]. Anything else is NOT polyqaat. IF possible get 60% and not the 30%. Price is usually very close so why pay for expensive water used to dilute the 60% to half strength?) I know Proteam has a 60% polyquat as does GLB), shock, turn off everything, and cover

when you return test the water, turn on system, shock again, and (when sanitizer drops to normal level )  rebalance water if needed.

Since you are already using borate and it's at 50 ppm  just shock, cover, and shut it off. When you get back turn it back on,  test the water and shock or rebalance as needed. . IF sanitizer is still within range or a bit high (it might be if it's only been a week) and everything else is good just heat it up and your good.

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10 hours ago, waterbear said:Since you are already using borate and it's at 50 ppm  just shock, cover, and shut it off. When you get back turn it back on,  test the water and shock or rebalance as needed. . IF sanitizer is still within range or a bit high (it might be if it's only been a week) and everything else is good just heat it up and your good.

Sounds good, thanks. That’ll work for my June vacation, but what about winter time? I live in Utah and it’ll likely get cold enough to freeze the pipes over a two-week vacation in December/January. So the tub’s gonna have to stay on to prevent freezing; think the ozonator should be disconnected during that period too?

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12 hours ago, samwise801 said:

So the tub’s gonna have to stay on to prevent freezing; think the ozonator should be disconnected during that period too?

IF it can be shut off (not all can be) it's probably a good idea since it will cause the chlorine to drop faster.

FWIW, quats and polyquat also don't play well with oxidizing sanitizers like chlorine. The are oxidized by the chlorine causing both the level of quats and chlorine to drop. This is why it s recommended to wait 24 hours between shocking and using a quat based algaecide. Also, if you leave the tub running be prepared for foaming if you use a linear quat. Polyquat and borate do not cause the water to foam. Also, borate does not cause chlorine levels to drop. The foaming makes sense when you realize that quats are cationic surfactants (foaming detergents, but not high foam formers like the anionic surfactant group).

Fun fact: while hypochlorite is not very effective at breaking up biofilms, monochloramine is. Anyone that has been a pool tech for MANY years will remember adding anhydrous ammonia to a pool to form monochloramine to kills algae, including black algae (a biofilm that is very difficult to kill).  In fact the product Green to Clean and Yellow out (SeaKlear/Natural Chemistry)  are basically ammonium sufate and when added to a pool along with chlorine effectively forms monochloramine, which is more effective at killing algae.

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Okay WAY too much info for me. But here was my take on it. 

Basically don't ever let the hot tub get below 1 or at least for any period of time. 3 to 5 ppm is ideal for jumping in. After soak get the numbers back to that 5 ish range FC.

If CC is present at 1ppm or above shock at 10ppm and get back to the above. 

How did I do? 

Also I bought the test strips you recommended for Borax. Hard to determine between the 50 and 80 mark as to my color and eyes, could be either or in between. 

Any issues with that? Should I add water and lower it or run with it. I used 20 Mule and just today got my PH 7.6 and AK to 50 ish or 60. 

@waterbear Thanks for all the help Sir. Your a hot tub forum rock star.

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