In these unprecedented times, we wanted to address hot tub sanitization and to reassure our customers that, when properly cared for,  your hot tub is safe. For the past few weeks, the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA) has been focused on the COVID-19 outbreak and its potential impact. We’ve asked for guidance on what to communicate to our customers about whether COVID-19 could be transmitted in pools and hot tubs.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released official guidance regarding this issue. According to the CDC, there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread to humans through the use of pools and hot tubs. Proper operation, maintenance, and disinfection (e.g., with chlorine and bromine which are EPA approved sanitizers) of pools and hot tubs should remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19. For our customers using BaquaSpa, while not specifically mentioned by the CDC, BaquaSpa is an EPA approved sanitizer for spas and the CDC says that there is no evidence that shows Covid-19 is able to survive in a properly sanitized spa.
This is comforting news but what is proper operation, maintenance and disinfection of pools and hot tubs?  Let’s focus on hot tubs in this blog piece since most pools are still closed for the winter.
Just like owning an automobile there are some basic requirements to proper ownership. The goal is to prevent any bacteria or viruses from being able to grow and multiply in our hot tubs. With a few simple steps this is easy to accomplish.
Let’s start with filter cartridge maintenance. The filter is often overlooked but it does a very important job.  The filter traps all the physical debris and body oils, cosmetics and anything else that comes off the bathers’ body. A dirty filter will increase the sanitizer consumption in the hot tub.  The sanitizer that is added to clean the water can be used up attempting to clean the filter which leaves the water with little or no sanitizer residual.  The filter should be chemically cleaned once a month or more depending on use and users.  If the bathers wear lotions and hair product into the hot tub the filter may need to cleaned, or minimally rinsed, each week.  A clean filter leads to cleaner, clearer and more easily sanitized water.
When cleaning a filter, it is important to remove the oily compounds in the fibers of the cartridge. Body oils will not just rinse off. This requires the use of an acid-based cleaner such as BaquaSpa Spray-N-Rinse filter cleaner.  Acid-based cleaners break down oils and they will rinse out of the fibers, using bleach can actually “set” the oils into the fibers which is why it’s not recommended. Most filters will need to be replaced every 12-18 months unless they develop rips or the fiber/fins start to break down and become fuzzy.
Regardless of which sanitizer is used, it’s important that the sanitizer’s level never drops out of the “ok” range.  If the sanitizer goes below the “ok” range, the water needs to be treated with high doses of sanitizer and/or oxidizer before the hot tub can safely be used.  We need to assume there has been a bacteria bloom.  The first step is to remove the filter cartridge(s) for cleaning.  In chlorine or bromine acrylic hot tubs, including those using mineral cartridges/sticks, add 4oz of granular chlorine for 500 gallons with the jets on and cover off. Thirty minutes later add 4 oz of Non-Chlorine Spa Shock with jets on and cover off.  The next day check the free chlorine/bromine level. If it is in the “ok” range then it is ok to use the hot tub.  If it has dropped below the “ok range” repeat the chlorine and non-chlorine shock treatments.  There were more impurities than the initial dose of chlorine could kill.  If the free chlorine/bromine level is above the “ok range” it is recommended to not use the hot tub until the level drops.
If BaquaSpa is the sanitization system, remove the filter cartridge(s) for cleaning.  Add the larger of the two doses of the Oxidizer (Step 2) with jets on and cover off.  Then add weekly does of the Waterline Control (Step 1) run jets for 15-20 minutes and add the top-up dose of the Sanitizer (Step 3).
It’s a good habit to wash the hot tub shell above the water line after adding the sanitizer.  This will help sanitize this area.  If the underside of the hot tub cover has an odor, remove and flip it upside down.  Wash the underside of the cover with a 4 to 1 water/bleach solution.  This should remove any mold or mildew causing the odor.  Remember to drain and replace the hot tub’s water every 4 months to prevent saturation.  Always refer to the manufacturers’ owner’s manuals.  Minimal maintenance will keep your hot tub water clean and fresh and ready for use.
As always, the professionals at Pettis Pools are ready to assist you in any way we can. Stop by either store location for a FREE water test and sound advice.