How do I use Bromine in my spa (or pool)?

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Molson

LifeTime Supporter
Apr 15, 2008
479
Midland, Ontario
Originally Posted by waterbear
There is a lot of misinformation on the proper way to use Bromine so I hope this primer is helpful.

First, you need to establish a bromide reserve in the water. Bromine tablets can do it by themselves but it can take literally weeks until enough dissolves. Some people crush about 6 of them up and put them in the water on each water change to achieve this but it really is easier and cheaper to add a packet or two of sodium bromide! It is available from such companies as HTH, Leisure Time, Robarb (Rendezvous) and others. Bromine tablets contain both bromine and chlorine to oxidize the bromine into active sanitizer. (There is one that I know of on the market that contains MPS instead of chlorine but it works exactly the same way.) If you do not add the sodium bromide and just put in bromine tabs then you will be starting with a chlorine system until enough bromide dissolves in the water.

There are basically two ways to do a bromine system--2-step and 3-step. In the 2-step system you add the sodium bromide to the water to the proper concentration, then add oxidizer on a regular basis (usually chlorine, MPS or ozone or a combination of them) to oxidize the bromide ions into hypobromous acid, your active sanitizer. It's pretty easy but does require a bit of attention daily to maintain the bromine levels in the water.

A 3-step system is identical with the addition of bromine tabs in a floater. This will help maintain a more constant bromine level in the water with less maintenance but otherwise there is no difference. The 3-step system costs more since the bromine tablets are the most expensive part of this equation. The dimethylhydantoin in the tablets seems to have a similar (but not identical) function in a bromine system as CYA does in a chlorine system. It tends to stablilize it but, like CYA, too much is not good. Not that much info is readily available on the effects of dimethylhydantion other than that it makes the bromine more difficult to destroy, a consideration if you ever want to switch over to a chlorine system.

If you add sodium bromide to your water and have an ozonator you might be able to achieve the constant bromine level without the floater since the ozone is constantly oxidizing the bromide while it is on. However, you might deplete the bromide reserve quickly this way, leading to a shorter time between drain and refills. Also, ozone can cause bromates to form in your water. Bromates are a suspected carcinogen in drinking water.

You still need to superoxidize (shock), usually about once a week to destroy organics in the water whether you choose the 2-step or 3-step method.. I prefer plain, unscented laundry bleach (5.25%) for shocking a bromine spa. 1 cup per 250-300 gallons is about right. If you use Ultra bleach (6%) then you need about 3/4 cup. You can also use 12.5% pool chlorine at half the ultra bleach dose. They are all sodium hypochlorite, just in different strengths. If you do not want to use a liquid shock you can also use calcium hypochlorite granules (slow dissolving and will cause your calcium levels to rise), Lithium hypochlorite (very fast dissolving but very expensive, however my first choice for a granulated shock since it really has minimal impact on your water just like the liquid does), or MPS--potassium monopersulfate, also called non chlorine shock (will lower your pH and TA and add sulfates to your water). There is no advantage to using dichlor (stabilized chlorine) for shocking a bromine system but it probably wouldn't hurt. CYA (stabilizer) does not stabilize bromine.

Here is a step by step:
1) On each fill balance the water (adjust TA and pH. Add calcium if below 125 for acrylic spas or below 200 for plaster). More info here on balancing spa TA and PH, How do I use Chlorine in my Spa (or pool)?. If you have metals in your water add a metal sequesterant.
2) On each fill add sodium bromide to the water. (Follow manufacturer's directions on dosing. You will end up with about a 30 ppm concentration of sodium bromide.)
3) Shock with your preferred oxidizer (chlorine/bleach or MPS) and turn on the ozone if you are using it. Your bromine levels should now be above 10 ppm. Wait until they drop below 10 ppm before entering spa.

4) If using a 3-step system add your floater with bromine tabs and adjust it to maintain a 4-6 ppm bromine level. If using a 2-step system add your preferred oxidizer as needed (and adjust your ozone) to maintain a 4-6 ppm bromine level.

5) Shock weekly to burn off organics that collect in the water. (If you are using ozone and your bromine levels are staying at 4-6 ppm then you can shock less often.) Wait until the bromine level drops below 10 ppm before entering spa.

6) Test bromine and pH before entering spa each time. Test all water parameters (bromine, pH, TA, Calcium Hardness) weekly.

7) Drain and refill about every 3-4 months.

One final note. A good test kit is a must, just like with a chlorine system. IMHO, the BEST test kit for bromine is the Taylor K-2106 which has an FAS-DPD test for bromine and also tests for pH with acid and base demand, TA, and CH. If you already have a Trouble Free Testkit TF-100 (or are getting one for your chlorine pool) then use the OTO test (small comparator with yellow color blocks) for your bromine levels since you only want to know total bromine. The TF-100 has all the other tests you need also. Remember, you don't need to test CYA in a bromine system.

Happy bromine hot tubbing!
 

giulietta1

In The Industry
Mar 29, 2007
289
Knippa, Texas
Evan, I've bought some granular sodium bromide which is supposed to be a shock and oxidizer (I don't think you need to add chlorine or MPS). I don't have it in front of me right now so I can't say for sure! It's an Omni product, I believe, but I don't have it in front of me right now. It's labeled as a 1-step process.

Does that sound right? The local pool lady said it could be used as a sanitizer also; or one could use tablets in the floater and use the granular stuff as a shock and on startup.
 
G

Guest

There might be some products on the market that contain both sodium bromide and chlorine or MPS together. OMNI doesn't list any granular sodium bromide based products on their website, only sodium bromide tabs. They do make granular dichlor, cal hypo, and lithium hypochlorite. All three a forms of chlorine and can be used in a spa but then you would have a chlorine spa and not a bromine spa. If you could post the name of the product and the ingredients then I could tell you more.

Edit: I was able to find Omni Bromine concentrate and the MSDS for it says that it contains sodium bromide and dichlor. The only problem I see with it is that your level of sodium bromide will keep increasing as you use it and you might need to drain and refill more often. Also, until enough sodium bromide is in the water on each refill you will have a chlorine spa and not a bromine spa. I am not that familiar with the product but it is trying to do two steps in one so, IMHO, there will be some compromises.
 

giulietta1

In The Industry
Mar 29, 2007
289
Knippa, Texas
Yes, I believe that's the stuff I have. I'm planning to use bromine tabs in a floatie, so I won't be using the granules as my regular sanitizer, just for startup and maybe shock.
 

giulietta1

In The Industry
Mar 29, 2007
289
Knippa, Texas
Borax in the spa with bromine?

Is it good to use borax in a bromine spa? About 50 ppm like I'm using in my pool for algaestatic/pH stabilizing/water softening properties? Borax is compatible with bromine, isn't it?

Or would the borax be likely to cause excessive foaming in the spa? I'm seeing a slight degree of foaming in my pool which has about 50 ppm borates.
 
G

Guest

Proteam makes a product called Gentle Spa that is sodium tetraborate (borax) and sodium bisulfate (dry acid, pH increaser) so you do not have to worry about adjusting the pH when adding. They sell it as part of the Gentle Spa system that includes bromine tablets. The Gentle Spa additive is compatible with chlorine, bromine, or biguanide sanitizer systems. IMHO, borax in a 30-50 ppm concentration would benefit any spa.
 

giulietta1

In The Industry
Mar 29, 2007
289
Knippa, Texas
Evan, after re-reading your "primer," I find I am more confused than ever. Is the "bromine reserve" a different animal from the "total bromine" reading which is obtained from the test?

In step 2 (after balancing the water in step 1), the 30-ppm bromine reserve is established. Then in step 3 the shock/oxidizer is added. Then the bromine level is supposed to be 10 or so?? That seems to indicate that the bromine reserve and the total bromine are two different things.

Help, please?

Thx,
Jules
 
G

Guest

The bromide reserve or bromine bank, as it is sometimes called, is created by adding the sodium bromide on filling the tub. This puts bromide ions in the water. This is your reserve or bank. When you shock (oxidize) you convert them to active bromine santizer, hypobromous acid. This is what you are measuring when you test your bromine levels, not the sodium bromide. If you did not have the bromide ions in the water you would not be able to create hypobromous acid. If you do not do this and rely on bromine tabs only you will have a chlorine system until you get enough tabs dissolved to create the bank, which can take several weeks.
 

giulietta1

In The Industry
Mar 29, 2007
289
Knippa, Texas
Ok, thanks! That does help. I am still baffled, tho, on why my bromine goes SO high when I shock. . . like over 20.

I tried shocking with ultra bleach for a change last weekend. I used 10 oz which was based on the amounts you gave, adjusted for a 500 gallon spa. The next test I ran, some hours later, showed a bromine level of 20. Before that it was no higher than 5 or 6.

Still bemused,
Jules
 
G

Guest

That is because the chlorine is oxidizing the bromide in the water from your 'bank' and forming hypobrormous acid. 20 ppm would be about the same as shocking a chlorine system to 10 ppm. The high sanitizer levels will then burn off organics in the water. The chlorine is destroyed when it oxidized the bromide ions into bromine sanitizer and forms chloride ions in the water. This is the way it's supposed to work!
 

giulietta1

In The Industry
Mar 29, 2007
289
Knippa, Texas
So adding 10 ppm chlorine produces a 20-ppm rise in the bromine (hypobromous acid)? The chlorine oxidizes the sodium bromide, that much was already clear to me. . .

Bromine really does behave differently from chlorine! Now I have a much better handle on it, and I can stop testing the spa every single day.

Thanks again,
Jules
 
G

Guest

giulietta1 said:
So adding 10 ppm chlorine produces a 20-ppm rise in the bromine (hypobromous acid)? The chlorine oxidizes the sodium bromide, that much was already clear to me. . .

No, 10 ppm chlorine is roughly the equivalent of 20 ppm bromine in terms of santizing.
Bromine really does behave differently from chlorine!

Yes, it does. Once you understand bromine chemistry it's pretty easy to maintain it.
Now I have a much better handle on it, and I can stop testing the spa every single day.

Thanks again,
Jules
 
G

Guest

IF you have a bromide bank in the water it will be bromine. If you don't it will be chlorine. Chlorine won't exist for very long in water that contains bromide ions. It converts the bromide ions into hypobromous acid and becomes chloride ions.
 

JeffPenn

LifeTime Supporter
Jun 11, 2007
16
Springfield IL
Adding Bromine Oxidizer?

Waterbear: I have been using your 3 step bromine regiment for a couple months and love it. My question- How and when would you use the oxidizer treatment for a 300g tub? How many ounces and how often?

Thanks in advance for you reply. I have learned so much here!
 
G

Guest

Shock or oxidize weekly. It's step 4 of the sticky. as to how much to use it depends on which oxidizer you are using.
 

Titanium

LifeTime Supporter
Jun 26, 2007
441
SF Bay Area
waterbear,

While I don't have a stand-alone hot tub, my brother/sister in law do. They just purchased a "gently used" spa. They are following the spa stores recommendations with religious zeal. :shock:

They don't seem too interested in listening to my pool success stories and following "internet" advice. So I guess I would say they are getting "spa stored" rather than "pool stored" :roll:

I don't know a lot about their spa, but I want to make sure that I am not going to catch some nasty bugs when they invite us over to use it. It appears that the spa water is much less clear than our pool water. Plus there is always foaming when the spa is in use. Their spa uses both bromine and some sort of mineral cartridge.

1) What kind of test kit should they use? Drop-based bromine tests?? I believe they are using some sort of test strips. Are bromine test strips any more reliable than chlorine test strips? Somehow I doubt it....

2) I know the cons of mineral systems for pools. Are the downsides identical for spas also?

Would it be possible for you to update your sticky to address 1) testing methodology, and 2) discussion of mineral systems?

Thanks!

Titanium
 
G

Guest

Titanium said:
waterbear,

While I don't have a stand-alone hot tub, my brother/sister in law do. They just purchased a "gently used" spa. They are following the spa stores recommendations with religious zeal. :shock:

They don't seem too interested in listening to my pool success stories and following "internet" advice. So I guess I would say they are getting "spa stored" rather than "pool stored" :roll:

I don't know a lot about their spa, but I want to make sure that I am not going to catch some nasty bugs when they invite us over to use it. It appears that the spa water is much less clear than our pool water. Plus there is always foaming when the spa is in use. Their spa uses both bromine and some sort of mineral cartridge.
IF they are using bromine then they are using a Spa Frog from King Technology. this is the only mimeral system that is compatible with bromine (and is also private labeled.) Nature2 can only be used with chlorine. The problems with both are the same. If the sanitizer is too low (which it often is with these systems) then you will have foaming and cloudy water!

1) What kind of test kit should they use? Drop-based bromine tests?? I believe they are using some sort of test strips. Are bromine test strips any more reliable than chlorine test strips? Somehow I doubt it....
Test strips are NOT a good choice for either bromine or chlorne. If they want the BEST bromine test kit it is a Taylor K-2106 which is an FAS-DPD test but since you are only interested in Total Bromine an OTO or DPD test is fine for testing bromne levels. They still need to test pH , TA, and CH so they need a good testkit that will do that.I would still suggest a Taylor kit. They could get by with a K-1003 (OTO, pH and TA) AND a K-1770 (CH) but that will cost about as much as a K-2005 If they don't want the FAS-DPD test then a K-2005 would be fine.
2) I know the cons of mineral systems for pools. Are the downsides identical for spas also?
Pretty much
Would it be possible for you to update your sticky to address 1) testing methodology, and 2) discussion of mineral systems?
I don't feel that those are relevant to the sticky since it deals with using bromine, not mineral systems. I will add my advice about the test kit.
Thanks!

Titanium
 

Titanium

LifeTime Supporter
Jun 26, 2007
441
SF Bay Area
waterbear,

Thanks for the quick reply and quick update of your sticky.

Would it be possible for you to update your sticky to address .... 2) discussion of mineral systems?
I fully understand your reluctance to discuss mineral systems in a sticky covering bromine. I think I misspoke above when I requested a "discussion of mineral systems". What I was really looking for was a note or statement in your sticky that didn't discuss mineral systems, but rather said that mineral systems were not needed in a hot tub.

The reason I was hoping for such a statement is that I am going to "accidentally" leave a copy of your sticky just "laying around" at my sister-in-laws, and they MIGHT end up reading it. THERE IS NO WAY I am going to be able to get them to come to TFP and read entire threads.

Just a thought. I will understand if you choose to leave the sticky as is.

Thanks again!

Titanium
 
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