Caring for your spa or hot tub: Don’t get anxious, this is something you can do easily. Remember, the worst case scenario is just draining the water and starting fresh.
I’ve put together some basic tips on equipment maintenance and water care for the new spa owner. Making a habit of giving your spa the basic attention it needs is easy, and it pays off in a big way. Your spa will always be clean and ready for action if you take care of it! Read about Garden Fresh and Healthy.
Water Chemistry Demystified
I’ve done an extensive post on the secrets of hot tub chemistry, so you may have already picked up some excellent tips on keeping your water cleaner. Here’s the quick summary: You need to test the water in your spa to make sure all the key levels – pH, alkalinity, sanitizer, and calcium hardness – are okay. A good rule of thumb is to test your water two to four times per week. Make minor adjustments when necessary to keep the levels in safe ranges. For the best results, you should keep a log of your tests and the adjustments you make over time.
In most regions, tap water is perfectly fine for use in your spa. If your water has issues, you probably already know it. Problems to watch out for include pH imbalance, alkalinity, soft or hard water, and high metal, mineral, or chloramine content. Use your testing kit on your tap water directly or immediately after draining and refilling your spa. If your tap water delivers problematic water, the permanent solution is using a spa pre-filter. A good one can extract minerals, metals, odors, and even the tiniest bits of debris from water as you fill your spa.
Cleaning Your Filter
Spa filters are located in different places based on your tub model. The most common places to find yours are under the skimmer basket (usually opening into the spa) or in a tank beneath the spa. Knowing where and how to access your filter is a vital part of maintaining your spa. Note that for under-spa filters, you’ll usually need to close a valve so that you can access the filter without spilling any of the water in the tub. The filter itself typically unscrews counter-clockwise. In some models, the filter is secured by a large nut that needs to be loosened before it’s removed. Opening up your filter always produces a little bit of spillage, but this can be kept to a minimum if you’re careful.
Many spa filters incorporate a pressure gauge to help you tell when the cartridge needs to be cleaned or replaced. If you see a noticeable reduction in flow or the gauge rises eight to 10 PSI higher than normal, it’s time for a cleaning. For filters without gauges, you need to set a regular schedule for cleaning the filter. This is the situation I’m in with my own spa. I give my filter a cleaning every four to eight weeks (monthly or bi-monthly). I adjust my schedule based on how much I’m using the hot tub; if it’s being used multiple times every week, I go with the shorter (four-week) cleaning cycle.
Your spa filter will need to be replaced entirely every year or two. This also depends on how often you use your hot tub. A good way to think of it is that replacement depends on cleaning. A filter can stand up to 10 to 15 cleanings before it breaks down. Each cleaning loosens the filter’s fibers a little more and reduces its ability to trap unwanted particles. Filter life is another important detail to keep track of in your log.
Cleaning The Spa Itself
Obviously, you can only clean your spa’s interior surfaces and waterline after draining the tub. This should be done every two to four months. When it’s time to start scrubbing, make sure you’re using the right chemicals. Many ordinary household cleaners leave behind nasty chemical residues that can contaminate your water with nitrates, phosphates, and more. For the best results, use a cleaner specifically formulated for hot tub use, like our own Spa Cleaner.
A small vacuum designed for spa work can really speed up your cleaning duties. There are many handy devices available for this task, with some being battery-powered and others connecting to your garden hose. The Pool Blaster line is a fine example of the quick, convenient battery-operated vacuums. The Grit Getter is a more specialized vac designed to cleanse those hard-to-reach corners. Some spa vacuums are even designed to hook up to your vacuum hose. These are typically heavy-duty machines that can quickly eliminate anything up to large leaves.
If you’ve got any floating debris, a skimmer net is an answer for removing it. The skimmer net can also be used to clear out sunken leaves if your spa suffered through a storm without its cover.
Keeping The Cover Fresh
The best spa care practice that owners overlook is airing out your hot tub lids. If you can do this twice a week, you’ll be amazed by how much longer your cover lasts. A specialized cover lifter makes this job a lot easier, but it’s not absolutely required. A few hours freed from the constant heat and moisture of your hot tub will let your cover breathe and dry out. Cover lifting is also an excellent time to test your water and make chemical adjustments or shock the spa if you don’t anticipate immediate use.
Vinyl spa covers can use regular cleaning and conditioning to keep them looking great and working well. Cleaners are designed to remove oil, dirt, pollen, tree sap, and other outdoor debris. Conditioners nourish the plasticizers in the vinyl so that your cover stays strong, soft, and flexible.
Topping Up The Spa
This is another basic care routine that gets overlooked. If the water level in your spa gets too low, the skimmer can take in air, and this has the potential to cause problems. You need to keep your water level above the midpoint of the skimmer intake. In order to avoid an overflow, monitor the filling process carefully.
If you don’t have a hose close to your hot tub, it’s worth the trouble to install a sub-spigot (a stake-mounted one connected to a permanent spigot) right next to your spa. This makes it much easier to fill or top up the water level when necessary.