biofilm“Hot Tubs are Gross”, “Brown Sludge Hot Tubs”, “Covered in Biofilm Germs”.  Recent media coverage has drawn attention to the importance of cleaning your hot tub on a regular basis.  The news stories made hot tubs look like abominable bodies of water, overloaded with sanitizing chemicals.  Several reports kept addressing biofilm, without explaining specifics.  To compound matters, images of bodies covered in bacterial blooms or folliculitis were shared.

The reality?  Hot tub ownership requires plenty of free time.  Not only to relax and enjoy the bubbling water, but for proper maintenance.  Sadly, hot tub owners may overlook this key element.

When you purchase a hot tub or move into a home with a garden spa, sales representatives or maintenance companies are quick to address chemical usage.  Unfortunately, what is occasionally left unsaid includes used sanitization chemicals, plumbing biofilm, draining the hot tub and correct refilling procedures.

Why should you be draining and refilling your hot tub water every 3 months?  First, there are used sanitization chemicals.  When chlorine or bromine comes into contact with bacteria in the water, it naturally morphs into a stable form of sanitizer.  These fragments are no longer able to kill bacteria.  Instead, they cause chloramines which are easily identified by a strong chemical smell emanating from your water.

Second, your hidden plumbing lines are home to a thriving bacterial playground.  It has been discovered over 95% of all hot tub bacteria does not live floating in the water or adhered to the shell.  Instead, the bacteria resides in your pipes, beneath matter called biofilm.  Biofilm is best described as a “sticky, tar like layer” preventing your chemical sanitizers from reaching the underlying bacteria.  Biofilm is noted for causing the dreaded itchy red bacterial blooms, and in acute cases, folliculitis.

Simply draining and refilling your hot tub is not sufficient.  In fact, by draining and refilling a hot tub, you essentially transfer the majority of old bacteria directly into the fresh water.  Yuck!

In order to remove the used sanitization chemicals and biofilm, you need to line flush your entire setup.  Remove your filter, and add a line flushing product to the existing water.  Always follow the manufacturer’s directions.  In most cases, the cleaner will require circulation for 30 minutes to 5 hours.  Do not panic if the surface of your water foams black or brown.  Owners who have never completed a pipe flush or do so infrequently will discover the biofilm accumulation is now dislodged and surfacing in the hot tub water.

Once the biofilm line flush product has been circulated accordingly, you will employ the built-in drain or use a sump pump to take out the water.  After draining, wash the interior shell surface.  You can purchase a spray solution or use a homemade white vinegar wash (one part white vinegar to four parts water).  Once the shell is scrubbed clean, you can refill your hot tub using fresh water.

Hot Tub Covers Canada Tip: Keep a maintenance log.  Record the date of your drain, line flush and refill.  Hot tub ownership should be relaxing and invigorating.  Be sure to soak happy and healthy!

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