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How do I test, balance and maintain my spa water?

There are two ways of testing your spa water. The first way is to take a sample of spa water to a dealer and have them check the water. The dealer will recommend a chemical program that will correct the problem that you are having as well as suggest an ongoing maintenance program. The dealer will also be able to supply chemicals that will fit you needs.

The second way to test your spa water is by using chemical test strips. If you are using Chlorine as a primary sanitizer, you need to use a test strip that is suited for chlorine. If you are using Bromine as a sanitizer, you need to use a Bromine test strip. Chemical test strips will measure the pH, Alkalinity, Calcium hardness and chlorine level of spa water.

The proper way to use a test strip is as follows:

Turn on all of the spas pumps to activate the jets and agitate the water. This will ensure that you get the most accurate reading. Immerse a new test strip in the water and swirl it around for about three seconds. Remove the strip from the water and compare the colors on the test strip to the colors on the label of the container that the test strips are stored in. Record the readings on a piece of paper.

It is important to deal with each of the different areas of a test strip individually. You need to correct the water chemistry before you add any sanitizers, as poor water chemistry will reduce the effectiveness of the sanitizer. Add hot tub - spa chemicals in small amounts (1 tablespoon) at a time and make sure that all of the pumps are turned on while adding chemicals. Wait 15 minutes before you re-test the water to make sure that the chemicals have had proper time to react with the spa water. The initial “balancing” of the spa water takes time and patience, but if done properly, will provide clean safe water and protect your spa from damage.

The first step is to correct a hardness problem if there is one. The calcium hardness should be between 250 ppm and 400 ppm. Too soft of water will foam and cause corrosion of the equipment and water that is too hard will cause mineral buildup on the heater element. The typical problem is that the water is too soft and requires the addition of a calcium booster to raise the hardness of the water. If the water is too hard, use a metal sequestering agent to reduce the mineral content of the water.

The next step is to adjust the pH and Alkalinity. The two are related and use the same chemicals to adjust. Make the first adjustment using the alkalinity reading. If the Alkalinity is too high, use a pH down product to lower the level and if it is too low, use a pH up product to raise the level. It may take a lot of chemical to cause a change in alkalinity, but be patient and add chemical in low doses. If you overshoot, it will take a lot of the opposite chemical to correct the situation. When the alkalinity is in range, it is time to correct the pH readings. Use a Spa Up (raises pH) or Spa Down (lowers pH) to adjust the pH to the optimum reading of between 7.0 and 7.8. Be aware that the alkalinity will also change when you try to adjust the pH, this is normal and you will be able to get both pH and Alkalinity in acceptable range.

Now you can add a sanitizer. We recommend Sodium Di-Chlor (chlorine) as it is a powerful shock and sanitizer that will not affect pH and will use the least amount of chemical. If the water is cloudy or smells. You should add enough chlorine to “shock” the water, which means bringing the level to around 10 ppm. DO NOT USE THE SPA WHEN THE CHLORINE LEVEL IS THIS HIGH. Shocking the water will ensure that all bacteria and organic compounds are destroyed. Leave all of the pumps on and the cover off to help dissipate the excess levels of chlorine. Normal chlorine ranges for usage are between 3 ppm and 5 ppm chlorine. If you have too much, you need to wait until the levels drop before you use the spa. Check the water again in 20 minutes to see if the levels are sustained. If the water had high levels of organics or bacteria, the chlorine will be used up quickly and you need to add more before using the spa. If you are able to maintain at least 2 ppm to 3 ppm of chlorine after 20 minutes, it is safe to use the spa.

There are other chemicals such as de-foamers and clarifiers that will help you keep the spa water clear. I would suggest that you purchase a Hot Tub - Spa Chemical Starter Kit that contains all of the chemicals that are necessary to maintain high quality spa water as well as an instructional DVD to help you better understand spa chemicals and how to use them. This kit is good for about 1 month, so you may also want a Hot Tub - Spa Maintenance Chemical Kit. We assembled this kit to take you through about six months of regular hot tub use.