New Bullfrog Owner

BCCHowdy

New member
Mar 30, 2021
3
Tucson, AZ
Hi everyone!

I came across this website while searching for "hot tub rash". That in itself probably tells you the condition of my water! I'm incredibly thankful for the encyclopedia of information on this website and in the forums. The more I read, the more questions I have.

My story:
Wife and I decided to get a hot tub and landed on the Bullfrog R7L which holds 426 gallons of water and we keep the temperature at 103. We received the spa mid-January and so far have been loving it. I was using it about every day or every other day. The spa came with the frog spa-ease system, the revolutionary low-maintenance set it and forget it but bring a sample in to us weekly so we can sell you more chemicals system. The grey chemical cartridge is supposed to last a month. I found out the hard way that they only last 2-3 weeks by a test result stating I have 0 Free Chlorine and 0 Total Chlorine. But not a big deal right? The blue cartridge kills bad things so it's ok to dump a package of starter chlorine in and change the grey cartridge and you're good to go. The water is starting to look cloudy, kind of a yellow-ish hue, so I dump in a few caps of Clear Spa Crystal Shock Oxidizer (Potassium monopersulfate) and run it with the cover open for an hour with jets on high. Water is now clear. Fast forward another 2-3 weeks, I shake the grey chlorine cartridge... it's empty. Put a new one in. This is about the time I start developing a rash after the hot tub. I got in it about 3 weeks ago, had a reaction. Stayed out for two weeks to heal. Adjusted chemicals, got in it a few days ago... big mistake. As I've read on this forum the water can look crystal clear (which it does), yet be contaminated.

Items I have on order:
TF-100 test kit - large size
Ahhh-some hot tub cleaner

Items I have on hand:
Frog-ease test strips - Useless in my opinion. I've spent far too much time trying to determine which shade of red the TA is.
Aqua-check strip reader - If anyone is reading this wondering if the Aqua-Check strip reader is useful and works, it doesn't.
ClearSpa Alkalinity riser (Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate)
ClearSpa pH Minus (Sodium Bisulfate)
ClearSpa Crystal Shock Oxidizer (Potassium Monopersulfate)

My last water test:
Performed 3-27-2021 by the dealer
Free Chlorine = 1.32 (Range 0-1) From what I've read this is typical for the low chlorine spa-ease system, but should otherwise be up around 4-6?
Total Chrlorine = 17.18 (Range 0-1) This seems oddly high but I'm guessing this is because Cyanuric Acid (CYA?) is low
Combined Chlorine = 15.86
pH = 7.1 (Range 7.2 - 7.6) We're always chasing pH with sodium bisulfate to lower this. We add a capful weekly.
Alkalinity = 43 (Range 80-140) Dealer wants this above 80 and provided instruction to add 2/3 of a cup of sodium hydrogen carbonate. Pool School says this should be around 50 though to help stabilize pH. What should my Alkalinity target be?
Hardness = 171 (Range 175-350) This is low from what I've read, but dealer provided no instruction to increase it
Cyanuric Acid = 4 (Range 0-100) This is really low, correct? Should be in the 30's to buffer chlorine? If this is 4 doesn't that mean my chlorine is essentially ineffective at cleaning the water?
Iron = 0.10 (Range 0 - .2)
Copper = 0 (Range 0- .2)
Phosphate = 112 (Range 0-500)

Conclusion and next steps:
My water is a mess. According to the maintenance schedule I'm about 30 days from a water exchange but I can't use it in its current state anyway. Once the Ahhh-some hot tub cleaner arrives I'm going to add that to the tub, dump it, and start over with fresh water.

I like the concept of a low maintenance system but not if I'm bathing in a colony of wee beasties. I'm going to ditch the spa-ease system and follow the guidance of this community. I don't like the idea of daily chlorine additions or checks. I realize I'll need to do this to get the initial chemistry correct, but I'd prefer the chlorine to manage itself which means I'm probably looking at a SWG.

More questions:
Recommendations for an SWG?
I think I need to have chlorine and dichlor on hand and possibly CYA. I'll buy regular bleach with no additives for chlorine. Where do I find dichlor? I'd guess this is a common chemical at most pool supply stores.
What else should I have on my shopping list for chemicals to have on hand?

If you made it through my story and questions I thank you! I look forward to the responses and becoming more educated on proper spa maintenance.

-Howdy
 

Newdude

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Jun 16, 2019
10,784
NY
HowdyBCC and Welocme !! In the hot tub section there is a sticky at the top of the threads that is your new best friend. Read it, take some time to process and read it again. Repeat as many times as necessary and post up any questions. Others may join in too but @jseyfert3 and @Mdragger88 are GREAT with tubs.
 

cowboycasey

Gold Supporter
LifeTime Supporter
TFP Guide
Jul 3, 2013
8,645
Southern OK
Welcome to TFP :)

SO happy you found us and it usually takes something like a rash for someone to search for and find us... Wait until you TF100 and Ahhsome comes in... Just for fun test your current water...

On Amazon grab you a Saltron Mini Amazon.com: Saltron Mini Salt System Drop-In Saltwater Chlorine Generator for Hot Tubs & Swim Spas - up to 2000 Gallons: Garden & Outdoor

Add ahhsome to the tub and run it until all that crud comes out...
empty
refill
I did another ahhsome treatment, it is up to you..
refill if you did

:)
 
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jseyfert3

Silver Supporter
Bronze Supporter
TFP Guide
Oct 20, 2017
1,790
Southern WI
My last water test:
Performed 3-27-2021 by the dealer
So first off, we don't trust dealer testing, it can be better than test strips but it may be done by inexperienced people with expired reagents. So please do not act on my recommendations until you get your TF-100 and test things yourself, but you have a lot of good questions that I can answer generally.

Free Chlorine = 1.32 (Range 0-1) From what I've read this is typical for the low chlorine spa-ease system, but should otherwise be up around 4-6?
Where this should be depends on your CYA level. Follow the CYA/FC chart. For a CYA of 30 a target of 4-6 is correct.

Total Chrlorine = 17.18 (Range 0-1) This seems oddly high but I'm guessing this is because Cyanuric Acid (CYA?) is low
This is actually normal for the Frog system. The type of chlorine used shows up as combined chlorine (CC) on a normal test. Don't worry about this, since you'll be doing an Ahh-Some purge and then dumping the water anyway.

pH = 7.1 (Range 7.2 - 7.6) We're always chasing pH with sodium bisulfate to lower this. We add a capful weekly.
Alkalinity = 43 (Range 80-140) Dealer wants this above 80 and provided instruction to add 2/3 of a cup of sodium hydrogen carbonate. Pool School says this should be around 50 though to help stabilize pH. What should my Alkalinity target be?
pH and TA are related. ~50 is usually needed when following TFP advise. Higher TA can be useful for those adding only dichlor all the time, as dichlor is acidic, but it doesn't work with TFP methods. Worry more about the pH than the TA. Basically the high TA will cause a fast pH rise, lower TA will slow the pH rise.

When you get your TF-100 test the tap water TA, this will be important to know.

Hardness = 171 (Range 175-350) This is low from what I've read, but dealer provided no instruction to increase it
Look at the recommended levels for a vinyl pool to use for hot tubs. CH essentially does not matter for standalone hot tubs, except very low levels can cause foaming.

Cyanuric Acid = 4 (Range 0-100) This is really low, correct? Should be in the 30's to buffer chlorine? If this is 4 doesn't that mean my chlorine is essentially ineffective at cleaning the water?
Yes we recommend CYA of 30 ppm to buffer harshness. At 4 it doesn't mean that the chlorine is ineffective, rather the chlorine will be excessively harsher than it needs to be.

Welcome to TFP!
 

Ahhsomeguy

In The Industry
Jul 26, 2016
190
Vero Beach, Florida
Howdy to BCCHowdy: Welcome to the best and most helpful forum for hot tub owners. I m glad to hear that you are going to do the Ahh-Some Purge. Here are a few tidbits of information you may find helpful. In a Bullfrog Hot Tub, very good manufacturer by the way, we strongly recommend that you remove the seat inserts if you have them. I think they are called Jet Paks or something like that. Remove these so that the Ahh-Some can really flush out the bio-contaminants that hide behind them. We receive many calls from bullfrog owners purging and there is lots of leftover bio-gunk hiding back there. So, if you have these, please remove them. Always read the manufacturer's manual to be sure you know exactly how to do this and place them back after the purge.
Lastly, the Ahh-Some is a very concentrated gel cleaner. You only use 1 level TEASPOON of the blue gel for each 125 gallons of water. More is not better and will not work faster. Remove the filter(s), and any removable headrests or pillows. Put the gel in the tub BEFORE you do a drain and fill. Run the jets on high to create maximum turbulence. Usually 30 minutes does the job. If you get a wacko amount of the sticky gooey stuff out of the plumbing you may want to do a second purge after draining the first round. You can do this a few weeks down the road if you wish. You will see foaming and this is good. We want foam. The single most important thing to remember is to always Wipe The Released Gunk off the shell before it is allowed to dry and adhese to the acrylic. Use a wet old towel and keep wiping the gunk as you see it. Biofilm can be a rainbow of colors and a lot of the gunk hides in the foam. To reduce the foam after a purge you can simply spray the foam with a garden hose. Voila, it's gone. What I do with my Hot Tub is fill it almost to the brim just prior to purging, add the gel and let the spillover foam with all the bio-contaminants fall down the side to the patio. I hardly ever have to wipe the shell more than a few times since the dirty stick stuff runs over the top of the hot tub. I just spray the outer shell when completing the purge process. Refill, balance the water and enjoy! Once you purge successfully and maintain minimum sanitizer levels at all time you should never have the hot tub rash again. Remember to do the purge at least ever 4-6 months for tubs holding 275-400 gallons. Be sure to Ahh-Some the underside of the hot tub cover with some of the water in the hot tub that has Ahh-Some in it. Lots of nasty bacteria can harbor on the vinyl material. Swim Spas only need one purge annually. Sorry for the long post but we want to help you get through this. Ok to call us if you need additional support.
 
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5tan

Active member
Jan 9, 2021
37
Canada
@Ahhsomeguy: if you remove the Bullfrog JetPak seatbacks, it depressurizes the jets that remain (including the waterfall, and the foot jets), creating very little turbulence and aeration since there is a giant hole where each of my 5 JetPaks were. I've put in 1sp/124gal, which is 3.5tsp/434gal, and not seeing much foam nor any released gunk (spa is 5 months old, never decontaminated before).

Is it a problem if there is very little foam? Should I add more product? Should I let it sit overnight to be extra sure? Should I plug the JetPaks back in to create high velocity jet action?

Also, if the JetPak seatbacks are removed, the plumbing inside them don't get purged, not sure if they need to be?

@BCCHowdy: Regarding skin rash, I self-diagnosed an allergy to MPS (aka non-chlorine shock) so I stopped using the separate non-chlorine shock. I also found that one of the weekly powdered products my dealer gave me (SoftSoak Trio) contains MPS, so I stopped that too. Discontinuing all products containing MPS, and using Spa Marvel Water Conditioner made my rash go away. While various products incl ozonators, Spa Marvel, Nature2, etc claim they allow you to run with less chlorine, I think it's best to maintain 6ppm and to shock to 10ppm weekly, and to never let the spa go below 3ppm, all assuming CYA is 20-30ppm. If you're allergic to sulphites, you may have to switch from dry acid pH-down products to muriatic acid.
 

BCCHowdy

New member
Mar 30, 2021
3
Tucson, AZ
Time for an update!

Added about 3 tsp of Ahhhsome with jets on high. Only took about 30 seconds or so to generate foam. Ran for about 30 minutes and observed a green foam residue sticking to the edge of the waterline. The product is blue so I don't know if green has any significance or not. Shut off the spa and then started draining. As the water line dropped below the green goo line I got busy wiping it up. I did remove every jetpack and clean behind. Fully drained and refilled. Added about 1 oz of liquid chlorinator and let it sit overnight. Dichlor and SWG had not yet arrived but was due to arrive the next day.

Next day came and had an early morning emergency where I was not able to attend to the spa for about 4 days. I did have someone come over and add an ounce of liquid chlorinator the next day. Fast forward to when I got home... ph was around 8 and little to no chlorine. Not good, but considering this is fresh water and nobody has been in it, I took a chance that it was not necessary to drain and start over. I added 1 oz of dichlor to shock. I was able to do the rest of the planned work just this morning and I ran a full chemistry:

Ph: 7.8
Free Chlorine: 3
Combined Chloramines: 2
Total Chlorine: 5
Calcium: 400
Alkalinity: 150
CYA: <10
Salt: 2200

I added 4 oz of CYA per Pool Math but forgot that you're supposed to put it in a sock near a return. It's sitting at the bottom still in granules. Oops. Is this a big deal or no? I've been using sodium bicarbonate as a PH reducer and I recently found out you're supposed to use muriatic acid with a SWG, so I bought some. I also bought some dispensing bottles to better control how much liquid chlorine and acid I add instead of messing with the gallon jugs. SWG is installed and is set to run for 6 hours per day. It's currently making bubbles. I plan on getting in it tonight!

@5tan - It's interesting you mention an allergy to MPS (non-chlorine shock). I'm guessing this is the same as Potassium Monopersulfate? I started seeing skin irritation when I began using it to clean up cloudy discolored water. What do you use to get the water clear now? Or does maintaining a high level of chlorine take care of it? Or shock with just liquid chlorine?
 

Ahhsomeguy

In The Industry
Jul 26, 2016
190
Vero Beach, Florida
We would like to have maximum turbulence throughout all the jets and waterfalls. if This means putting the jet packs back in place go ahead and do this. I would rely on what your dealer tells you since they have intimate knowledge of this brand of hot tub. Please open all the air venturis as well. We want air to mix with the water and Ahhsome. Probably not necessary to let is set overnight. Go ahead and add another teaspoon of gel to make more foam.
 

5tan

Active member
Jan 9, 2021
37
Canada
Thanks @Ahhsomeguy, will go do that now. EDIT: immediately got foaming and got gunk settling in the foam. I had removed the seats and scrubbed them with superchlorinated water prior to Ahhsome, but can see that gunk will accumulate behind the seats after so will have to do that again. Based on my many interactions and attempted interactions with my dealer's entire staff over the past 5 months of ownership, I would rather consult you and other more experienced people on such matters.

@BCCHowdy: Yes, any non-chlorine shock will contain trace or more amounts of the chemicals that trigger the allergic reaction generally classified as an MPS allergy. It is extremely common and well-documented in many dermatology studies. I could provide a list of studies I've compiled if you'd like to look them up (academic library account usually required).

My water has always been clear. I assume it's because of my combination of: (1) keeping FC at 6ppm or higher, (2) adding extra in anticipation of heavy bather load (more people, more hours, or both), (3) regular large doses of chlorine to shock to 10-20ppm, (4) EOS ozonator, (5) dual filter system, (6) rinsing filters when my touchscreen prompts me to, using the Filter Flosser and Power Pic Reach tools, and (7) chemical cleaning of filters whenever the touchscreen prompts me to.
 
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phonedave

Well-known member
May 30, 2012
964
Montville NJ
I just got my Bullfrog A6 last weekend - 9 months after I ordered it, COVID really backed them up.

I have been using BBB in my pool for 5-6 seasons now (or more) and that @Ease Frog Spa stuff really confused me. It is a totally different kind of chlorine that really messes with a CC reading. First time I took a reading with my TF-100 kit, I almost had a heart attack. FC looked great, now to test CC - holy Crud! Then I did some reading.

I'll use up the 3 more frog cartages that came with my spa, and then switch to bleach (or bleach and di-chlor after water changes)

I did purge with Ahhsome when I got the tub, and I *think* it got gunk out. They purged the fire hydrants in the area the night before I filled the tub, and I did not notice. I dropped a hose in that morning, and walked away for 20 minutes. I came back to a tub full of brown water.

Well I was into it now. I finished filling, purged with Ahhsome, drained, wiped, and vacuumed EVERYTHING. I pulled all the headrests, jet packs, filter equipment, etc and cleaned all of that separately too.

I guess some people like that @Ease system - pop in two cartages and away you go. I like to see what is going on, and more to the point, control the dose based on what my tub needs, not just turn the dial to "number 2" because i have 334 gallons in the tub.

I have been using the Non-Chlorine shock, with no issues so far (but we have only been in twice) - maybe in an abundance of caution I will stop using it.
 

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BCCHowdy

New member
Mar 30, 2021
3
Tucson, AZ
It's now day 110 after switching to the TFP way of maintaining the water and I couldn't be happier. The water is crystal clear, super easy to maintain, and no more skin irritation or itching! Thank you to everyone on this website and this forum for sharing their wisdom and advice. My last water test results:

FC: 5
PH: 7.5
CYA: 60
TA: 70

The SWG is doing a fine job keeping the tub chlorinated. The water is at a point where it's very stable week to week but we also haven't been using it as much with ambient temps in the 100's. When is it time to change the water? According to the water change reminder I'm 20 days over-due, but I don't see a reason to change it when there's nothing wrong with it. Do I follow the maintenance reminder (90 day water change) or is there another telltale when it's time to change? I figured it would need changing when I can't keep the chemicals in balance, but that's definitely not the case.
 

phonedave

Well-known member
May 30, 2012
964
Montville NJ
It's now day 110 after switching to the TFP way of maintaining the water and I couldn't be happier. The water is crystal clear, super easy to maintain, and no more skin irritation or itching! Thank you to everyone on this website and this forum for sharing their wisdom and advice. My last water test results:

FC: 5
PH: 7.5
CYA: 60
TA: 70

The SWG is doing a fine job keeping the tub chlorinated. The water is at a point where it's very stable week to week but we also haven't been using it as much with ambient temps in the 100's. When is it time to change the water? According to the water change reminder I'm 20 days over-due, but I don't see a reason to change it when there's nothing wrong with it. Do I follow the maintenance reminder (90 day water change) or is there another telltale when it's time to change? I figured it would need changing when I can't keep the chemicals in balance, but that's definitely not the case.

I got mine mid April, and I changed the water over the July 4 weekend. My water was still clear and balanced. I had the TA where I wanted it so my pH was steady. It was not consuming excessive chlorine and was fine, except I had some foaming. Nothing outrageous, but with both jet pumps on high, I would get foam build up. We were pretty careful about not overly washing swim suits, and making sure things were rinsed (including ourselves) but it was still foaming. Noting horrible, but it is only 334 gallons, so I changed the water. I am sure that if it was the middle of January and in the 30's out, I would have held off on the change for a while, but over a long weekend it was an easy call to make.
 

jseyfert3

Silver Supporter
Bronze Supporter
TFP Guide
Oct 20, 2017
1,790
Southern WI
Do I follow the maintenance reminder (90 day water change) or is there another telltale when it's time to change? I figured it would need changing when I can't keep the chemicals in balance, but that's definitely not the case.
My thoughts on my tub is if the water is clear, CC is good, no other issues I just keep on going rather than changing on an arbitrary time basis.
 
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