Advanced Water Care Troubleshooting Guide

Advanced Water Care Troubleshooting


We try to keep spa water care as simple as possible here at Robertson Hot Tubs.  Understanding what is causing the issues is always the first step in troubleshooting less-than-perfect hot tub water.  It’s important to understand the basics before worrying about solving aesthetic water issues, like cloudy water.  I would recommend you read our hot tub water care 101 guide, to get an idea of how the care program should be going.

Cloudy Water

The most common issue people run into with their hot tub water is going to be cloudy water.  Cloudiness is always caused by dissolved solids in the hot tub. It’s important to know that cloudy water is never a safety issue as long as the water is not green.  It’s also not typically a problem for the components of the hot tub unless the cloudy water is related to hardness issues in the hot tub.  It’s easy to tell if your hot tub’s cloudy water is related to hardness because you can check the hardness with a standard spa test strip.


Most often when you have cloudy hot tub water, you’re going to be tempted to buy a water clarifier hot tub product.  These work by causing the dissolved solids to clump up making it easier for the filter to pick them up.  If you haven’t addressed the root cause of what’s making the hot tub cloudy, these products are often not going to be an effective solution long term for the hot tub.  Clarifiers are not going to address what’s causing the cloudy water just help to clear it out.


The main cause of solids getting into the hot tub and getting the water cloudy is going to be people not rinsing themselves off well before getting into the spa.  Dry sweat, skin cells, fabric softeners, hair care products, lotions, or dirt are the most common sources of tiny debris that cause the water to go cloudy.  The smaller the hot tub, the more likely you are to have issues with cloudy water.  Eliminate lotions, fabric softeners, and hair care products, and rinse off before getting in the tub.  If the problem persists it could be related to the other issues I’ll get into.  This is always the first thing to think about if you have cloudy water.


Another common cause of cloudy water is going to be if you forget to chlorinate or use whatever sterilizer you’re using, and the water turns green.  In most cases, green water can be saved without having to drain and fill.  That green water will turn into cloudy water after the algae is killed off.  This is usually the most obvious cause of cloudy water because of how quickly it happens after the sterilizer goes into the hot tub.  You can either drain and fill it to fix it quickly or wash out the filter every other day until it clears out.  Clarifiers usually work best for hot tubs that have cloudy water directly related to an algae bloom.


Calcium build-ups from your water running too hard for too long can cause cloudy hot tub water as well.  If your hot tub has been testing a little too hard for a long time, it can reach a breaking point that will roll over into cloudy water.  It will cause other issues with the equipment as well as cloudy water.  To fix hazy water from calcium buildup, you’re going to have to have to use a product to break up as much of the calcium buildup as possible, drain the tub, clean the shell, and refill.  You may have to do this a couple of times to clear out the calcium buildup.  You’ll want to understand why hardness increases in a hot tub if you have cloudy water related to calcium build.  You can go to a lower section of this hot tub blog to read more about hardness.


The last cause is generally going to come from leaving the cover off the tub and getting a constant stream of debris going into the tub.  Leaving the cover off will also cause water to evaporate, and allow material from your water line to build up in the hot tub.


The easiest fastest solution is going to be to just drain the tub completely and refill it.  This is usually what we do in our stores in Clearwater, Tampa, & Sarasota.  We do this because it can take a few weeks to fully clear out cloudy hot tub water with the other solutions.  If you go that route, it’s important to drain the hot tub from the factory drain line, and you can wedge up the tub to get as much water out as possible.  Getting all the old water out is important because that will eliminate any possibility of the dissolved solids hiding in the bottom jets of the hot tub.


The other way to deal with it is going to be to wash out your filter once a day for a week or two and use an oxidizer or shock to help break down the solids.


The last solution is going to buy water clarifiers.  When doing a clarifier it’s important to follow the instructions to the letter.  We usually don’t recommend clarifiers because the cost of them is usually going to be more than the cost of draining and then refilling the hot tub, they also take longer to work and take more effort.  They also will never fix what caused the water to be cloudy in the first place


Chlorine Quickly Disappearing or Algae Blooms

Another very common issue in a hot tub is people going through more chlorine than what the bottle says they should be using.  It is important to know that the amount the bottle of chlorine tells you to put in is a guideline.   The more often you use a hot tub the more chlorine you’re going to go through.  The hotter you keep the tub, the more chlorine you will go through.  A family of 5 that’s in the hot tub every day, with kids that get in and out with dirty feet is going to go through a lot more chlorine than a single person using the spa 3 or 4 times a week and keeps the hot tub under 90 degrees.  That can be difficult in Clearwater, St Pete, Tampa, or Sarasota Florida because of how hot the ambient temperatures are.  In the summer it can be difficult to keep the hot tub water under 90 degrees even with the heater off.


Another issue that will burn through chlorine in a hot tub quickly is going to be biofilm buildup in the pipes.  Biofilm is a protective layer that algae will grow to protect itself from chlorine in the piping of the spa.  This will build up over time regardless of how well you maintain your hot tub water.  There is a product called jet line cleaner, or spa purge.  This hot tub water care product has enzymes that break down the ability of biofilm to grip the interior of the pipes.  After that product is used, you should seed clear sheets of biofilm shooting out of the jets. After that you’ll want to do a  super chlorination which is just keeping your chlorine level at 20ppm for 72 hours, then a drain and refill of the hot tub.  At that point, the hot tub will be totally clear of algae.  Once that is done you will be able to go back to using the minimum amount of chlorine that will be possible based on how you’re using the hot tub.


High phosphates are another cause of disappearing chlorine.  Chlorine wont reduce the phosphates which are fuel for algae growth.  So if you’ve purged and super chlorinated, started over and you’re having issues, you likely have phosphates getting into the hot tub, either through the yard or your main water supply.   Luckily there is a phosphate-reducing product you can buy to clear it out.  If you do all of these solutions and are still having chlorine going away too quickly, you might want to invest in a security camera because your neighbor may be taking a bath in your hot tub.


Ph/Alk Issues

Ph/Alk refers to how acidic the hot tub water is.  The lower the number, the more acidic the spa water.   These are very easy to adjust and don’t usually change rapidly in a hot tub.  When adjusting acidity, just add ph/alk up or ph/alk down.  I usually don’t worry about fixing it in one day.  You can slowly adjust it when you’re doing your checking your chlorine.


The most common cause of low Ph/Alk is going to be leaving the cover off during the rain, or getting leaves in the hot tub.  Usually, low Ph/Alk isn’t a problem in a hot tub.


More commonly the Ph/Alk is going to increase over time in your hot tub.  This comes mostly from sweat or other things you bring stuck to your body when you get in.


Acidic water or low ph/alk will corrode equipment pipes and glues over time.  It will also hurt the life of the shell of the tub.  A high-quality shell, that has the water properly maintained will last 20 years in most cases.


Water that doesn’t have enough acidity or too high ph/alk will cause the hardness to build up creating scaling on every surface of the hot tub.


Hardness too High or Low

Very rarely is your hot tub water going to be too soft.   This is unfortunate because it’s much easier to raise water hardness than it is to lower it.  Hard water primarily comes from Ph/Alk being too high,  it can also build up over time from sediments in your sweat, using the incorrect chlorine, and not draining and filling the hot tub every 6 months.  Hard water will cause scaling which hurts the life of the components and seals.  Too soft water becomes corrosive to the components, pipes, and shell of the hot tub.


To raise hardness simply add hardness increaser.  Decreasing it requires a product called vanishing act which is a water softener pillow.  Another solution is to drain and fill the hot tub.  But if your water is too hard out of the hose, you’ll either need a portable softener or a vanishing act.  If it’s a hardness build-up, your going to want to run a stain and scale and clean the hot tub before you fill it back up.


Foamy Water

Foam can be one of the more annoying issues.  It’s generally going to come from soaps, lotions, fabric softeners, or other viscous materials brought into the hot tub from the outside.  Certain maintenance chemicals can cause hot tub foam as well.  The best way to deal with it is to make sure you’re clean and clear before getting into the hot tub.  No lotions, no oils, no fabric softener, etc…  Foamyness is going to work itself out over time if you’re not bringing in more of what caused it in the hot tub in the first place.  A foam eliminator can help as well but it won’t address that cause just treat the symptom.  There are products like scum bug, which are floaters that absorb oils from the top of the tub which can help.  Also when you’re cleaning the tub at the water line where oil and sediments build up make sure you’re rinsing the rag you’re using out in a bucket, not in the tub, where all the stuff you wiped off will just go right back into the system.


If you have any questions feel free to contact us at any of our three locations, Clearwater, Sarasota, Tampa Florida.  You can even call if you’re in a neighboring town Like St Pete, Brandon, or Bradenton.  Even if you didn’t get the hot tub from us we love to help!


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