Spa Tips - Maintaining a Portable Spa
Maintaining a portable spa is very similar to the routine required to manage or care for a swimming pool and.
It is really not difficult to maintain either a pool or spa when we break down the tasks into the five basic areas to consider:
• Balancing the water
• Sanitising the water
• Oxidising the water
• Clarifying the water
• Filtering the water
The important thing to keep in mind is that what we want to achieve is clear, sparkling and safe water to relax in.
BALANCING THE WATER
Balancing the water is actually maintaining a balance between pH, total alkalinity and the level of calcium in the water.
Now while the pH differs between people based on age, gender and skin type, broadly speaking that range is between pH 7 and pH 7.8. The pH scale actually runs from 0–14 or acidic to alkaline and therefore 7–7.8 is considered neutral. To help keep the pH in the neutral zone, it’s important to stop the pH from rising above or dropping below these levels. Generally, the things that are added to the water will push pH up.
To stop this from happening requires a buffer, which maintains alkalinity at a point that stops uncontrolled rising of the pH. Traditionally, this has required careful measuring and the addition of pH increasers if pH is low, or pH decreasers when pH is high, balanced with a ‘buffer’ product.
The heat of the water affects the pH, as does the number of people using the spa, how long they stay in the water and the impact of other contaminants entering the spa water.
Sounds complex? Indeed it can be. However, the good news is that recently developed chemical products (such as the Poppits One Step Water Prep) allow spa owners to set pH and alkalinity at the preferred zone with a single dose. The water stays in that zone for 3–4 months and remains fresh until the spa needs to be drained and refilled.
SANITISING THE WATER
Balancing the water means that it is not going to irritate the skin or be harsh on the spa and, just as importantly, it is now in the range where the sanitiser will work most efficiently. Sanitiser aims to achieve three goals:
• Kill all dangerous bacteria, fungus and other health threatening contaminants
• Oxidise the things that it kills
• Provide a residual to prevent instant re-infection of the water
Spa sanitisers need to be registered with the Australian government agency, Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA). APVMA has approved four products for this use – two of which are chlorine in nature (lithium and bromine) and two that do not contain chlorine (baquacil and hydrogen peroxide). Only two of these products achieve all three goals listed above: lithium, which is chlorine-based and must be added daily; and hydrogen peroxide, which is free of chlorine.
There is also a non-chlorine hydrogen peroxide that also contains silver (Poppits Sanosil Spa Sanitiser), which is endorsed by the Asthma Council in Australia as the recommended product for people with asthma and allergies. Being a liquid product, it can also be automatically dosed, which removes another maintenance worry.
OXIDISING THE WATER
We mentioned oxidising in the sanitising section – but what does it mean? In layman’s terms, oxidising is like ‘burning up or dissolving’ organic matter such as hair follicles, skin flakes, make-up and body fats etc. While a quality sanitiser will do this — there are occasions when the amount of organic matter is higher — for example after a party, or heavier than normal use. On these occasions, it is advisable to use an oxidiser. Once again, there is a chlorine free oxidiser, which is recommended as it is not advisable to overdose with chlorine.
Oxidisers should be added to the spa in doses of 30g per 1000L and circulated for at least two hours with the spa cover removed. With average use (two to three people using the spa for 20 minutes two to three times per week), it should only be necessary to oxidise about every two to three weeks — unless using a sanitiser that does not oxidise, in which case it will be necessary to use an oxidiser at least weekly and possibly more often.
CLARIFY THE WATER
Sometimes, the spa water can become dull and slightly cloudy. This can result from a number of things such as heavy use, dusty weather, insufficient filtration and inferior sanitisers. On other occasions, it may be that the water has become contaminated with phosphates, which are airborne and unfortunately all too common these days.
If the problem is only simple dull and dusty water, then a dose of clarifier is in order, however if phosphates have invaded the spa, normally causing the sanitiser to be used up overnight, then it is important to take more action. There are super clarifiers and phosphate starver products available for this task. These generally require multiple doses over about a 10-day period and need to be used in combination with other products.
FILTERING THE WATER
Finally, there is the maintenance that should be occurring every day without any activity on the part of the spa owner, and that is filtration. The filter is the rear guard for us all and it is critical that your filter be working a minimum of four hours per day — EVEN WHEN THE SPA IS NOT BEING USED.
It stands to reason that with higher use and larger spas such as swim spas, the filtration cycles need to be extended. If the water is hard water or bore water, then it is advisable to step up the filtering time and frequency.
The maintenance task with filters is that, as you can understand, the better they do their job — the dirtier they become — and hence they MUST be cleaned. Don’t be fooled into thinking that simply hosing them off will clean the filter cartridges. Imagine just hosing off the dishes or pots with oils and fats on them — it just won’t work.
There are products especially designed to loosen the ‘soils’ that accumulate in the filter cartridges and these should be used weekly in hot water. Remember: Always add chemicals to water and not the other way around!
There is also available a chlorine-free filter cartridge cleaner and, of course, it makes sense to use that so that if you are wanting to have a chlorine free spa — you can. One of the products available even has an ingredient that stops the ‘soils’ from re-attaching to the filter cartridge as it is removed from the bucket or trough that you clean the cartridge in. This saves time and water as you rinse the cartridges.
Another tip is to let the filter cartridges dry before returning them to the spa. Or have a spare set. There are a number of specific areas that we could address, however that is for another time.