Beginner's Guide to Spa & Hot Tub Care
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Spa and hot tub care - take a deep breath! Don't worry, it isn't too hard. Remember, if things get out of control, you can always drain the spa and start over!
For the new spa owner, or for someone who is new to spa maintenance, we have a few easy tips to help you care for your spa. These simple hot tub maintenance and cleaning tasks will keep your water crystal clear, sanitary and ready to use. Keep reading to learn how to maintain proper water chemistry and keep your spa equipment in top shape.
Keep Up with Water Chemistry
If you've read the Secret to Hot Tub Chemistry post, you already know the secret of spa care and cleaner water. In short, you need to test the water. Use these results and make small adjustments to pH, alkalinity, calcium hardness and sanitizer levels regularly. This means testing the spa water 2-4 times per week and adjusting levels as needed to keep the water balanced within the proper ranges:
- Chlorine: 1.0-3.0 ppm
- Bromine: 2.0-4.0 ppm
- pH: 7.4-7.6
- Total Alkalinity: 80-120 ppm
- Calcium Hardness: 150-250 ppm
Keeping a log is a good idea to track your test results and make notes on adjustments. In many cases, you'll start to notice patterns in water chemistry, especially with pH and sanitizer levels.
Tap water is pretty good spa water in most areas. But in some areas (you know where you are), you may run into water quality issues. Soft or hard water, high alkalinity, pH imbalance, and high levels of chloramines, metals or minerals can all negatively impact water balance in your hot tub. Use a test kit to sample your tap water directly from the source or after a drain and refill. This will help you gauge the suitability of your tap water for use in the spa. Using a spa pre-filter removes metals, odors and the finest silt from your spa fill water.
Clean the Spa Filter
The spa filter is usually under the skimmer basket and can be accessed from the side of the spa, or it can be a small tank assembly that is opened up underneath the spa. You'll need to locate it first in order to clean or replace the filter during your spa care routine. If it's underneath the spa, there should be a closable valve that helps prevent water from rushing out when you open the filter. Loosening a large nut or just turning the filter body counter clockwise is the usual method to access the filter cartridge. Some water spillage is inevitable when opening it up. But if done carefully, this will be very little.
If your spa filter has a pressure gauge attached to it, the cartridge needs cleaned when the pressure rises 8-10 PSI higher than the freshly cleaned pressure reading, or when flow is noticeably reduced. If there's no gauge on your filter, just clean the filter on a regular schedule. I clean my own filter cartridge every 4-8 weeks, depending on how often I use the spa. If my hot tub is being used a few times per week, I'll clean the filter about every 4 weeks, or once a month.
Replace your spa filter every 1-2 years, again depending on usage. The general rule of thumb is to change it every 10-15 cleanings, because that's what really breaks down a cartridge. Every time it gets cleaned, the fibers loosen up and it loses a little bit of its dirt trapping ability. Keep track of your spa filter's age and/or cleaning cycles, because at some point soon it's gonna be "Hasta la vista, baby!"
Clean the Spa
Speaking of regular spa care, a full cleaning of all surfaces, the waterline and plumbing should happen whenever the spa is drained, which should happen every 3-4 months. Just be sure to NOT use any household cleaning products or soaps. If want to use cleaning chemicals on your spa surfaces, try something like our Spa Cleaner spray to keep out phosphates, nitrates and other contaminants that can negatively affect water quality.
For accumulated dirt and debris, vacuum seats and floors with a small vacuum made specifically for spas and hot tubs. Most are battery powered, but there are other styles available. The Pool Blaster spa vacuum is battery operated and easy to use. There's also the Grit Getter, a small manual cleaner that's perfect for picking up little grains of sand and debris that gather in the corners. The more powerful spa vacs can quickly remove even large leaves from your hot tub.
Floating debris can be removed with a simple skimmer net. If you happen to leave the cover off during a windstorm and the spa is full of leaves, a skimmer net can also be used to scoop up larger leaves under the water.
Air Out the Spa Cover
One of the most important things you can do to increase the longevity of your spa cover is to remove it at least twice per week. Use a spa cover lifter to completely remove it. If you don't have a spa cover lift, gently place it off the spa. Give your cover a few hours to breathe and get away from the constant heat and moisture. If you're not using it at the time, this is a great opportunity to add chemicals or shock the spa if needed.
Another good spa maintenance practice is cleaning and conditioning your vinyl spa cover. Especially if your spa is outside, using a spa cover cleaner can quickly remove airborne oils, dirt, tree sap and pollen. After it's clean, use a cover conditioner to replenish the vinyl plasticizers that keep your vinyl spa cover soft, strong and looking great.
Add Fill Water
This spa care tip is so often forgotten. However, if the skimmer starts to suck air instead of water, it can damage the pump. The water level should be in the middle of the skimmer intake or a little higher. You don't want it too high, and you never want to overflow the spa, so keep a close eye on the water level while filling.
Keep a garden hose nearby. If your garden hose is too far away, set up a sub-spigot by running a hose from a splitter on your current spigot, to a spigot that is mounted on a stake. Then you always have a hose right next to the spa for filling or topping off the hot tub water level.
To handle 95% of spa care and maintenance tasks, just remember these five easy tips:
- Test and adjust your spa water balance 2-4 times per week.
- Clean the spa filter every 4-8 weeks, and replace every 1-2 years.
- Keep the spa clean; drain and refill every 3-4 months.
- Air out the spa cover twice per week.
- Add water as needed to keep the spa full.
That's all there is to it! Hot Tub Works makes spa and hot tub maintenance easy with a full range of sanitizers, balancers, clarifiers, parts, accessories and other supplies to keep your hot tub in top shape.