New Spa Owner, how do I clear up cloudy water?

joecooler

Well-known member
Jan 13, 2019
80
Longmont, CO
Per title, I've owned my spa a little less than two months, bought it new, have had ongoing issues w/the water clouding up.

I've had trouble determining the pH from the strips the local shop gave me w/the spa, the shades of color are all so close together!, but in general the pH seems to drop over time and I've noticed this can cause the water to get cloudy. Adding pH increaser has cleared the water up several times. Most recently just in the last week it got REALLY cloudy, I tested and it looked like the pH was low again so I added the increases and tested again and the pH had clearly increased, but this didn't help much w/the clouding.

I then hit it with a double dose of the clarifier and ran the jets on high for a while; when I turned them off I observed a white-ish film on the water and some white kind of slimy stuff on the sides of the tub. I wiped up what I could but a lot seemed to dissolve back into the water.

I've come to the conclusion that this is the result of lotions, body oils, and maybe sweat (?) washing off people after they used the spa. I rinsed the filters and kept running the jets but the water just isn't clearing up. Is there anything I can do to filter all this stuff out or do I just need to empty and refill the spa?

It seems like it's way too soon to have to do this - I use the spa almost daily and I don't use any type of skin lotion. My kids were home for a couple of weeks over their Christmas break but they only used it a few times, with their girl friends. My girlfriend might use it twice/week. Is this considered heavy usage? How often should I expect to have to replace the water if I'm using it daily?
 

kimkats

Mod Squad
LifeTime Supporter
Jul 10, 2012
37,556
Tallahassee, FL
The first thing you need to do is order and good test kit and some ahh-some.

Here is a link to help with the test kits: Pool School - Test Kits Compared

ahh-some can be bought here: TFTestkits.net note you can also buy the TF-100 test kit here to help with shipping costs.

ahh-some should be used before you ever use the spa. WHAT???? yeah, they put water in it to test it at the factory. They drain it and wrapped it up BUT there is still some water in the pipes and such. It gets yucky then you fill up and use it=hard to manage water.

Here is a link to show how to care for a hot tub: How do I use Chlorine in my Spa (or pool)?)

The most important thing is to have a good test kit of your own.

Kim:kim:
 

Jimrahbe

Mod Squad
TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
Jul 7, 2014
11,467
Bedford, TX
Joe,

Tell us more about your spa and maybe you'll get some better responses..

What do you use as a sanitizer, Chlorine or Bromine? What level do you run it?

Do you have Ozone or UV?

I suspect the white scum is the result of the Clarifier.. It basically just clumps all the waste together...

I see you talk a lot about pH which has very little to do with the water being clear. It is interesting that you can't keep your pH up as most everyone else has the opposite problem.

Tell us more...

Thanks,

Jim R.
 

joecooler

Well-known member
Jan 13, 2019
80
Longmont, CO
I use chlorine. I've had a hard time keeping the chlorine levels up ... I add a couple of teaspoons after I use it (just me), and I usually test before getting in, and when I get in the next day the levels are down to 0 or 1.

The spa has an ozone system built in.

My routine had been to add 2 tbsp of clarifier ever week, this past weekend I added 4 as on the bottle is said to double the dose if the water is really cloudy, which it was. After this was when I observed the scum.

The store where I bought the spa said low pH could cause the water to get cloudy. The first few weeks after I filled it, it got a little cloudy and it looked like the pH was low on the test strip so I added increaser and the cloudiness went away. Maybe a coincidence but since then it has looked like the pH was low a couple of times and each time when I added increaser it seemed to clear up the water.

- - - Updated - - -

Also the scum is maybe more yellow than white ... I checked this morning and there was some on the door to the filter intake and around the water line in the filter area. I wiped it off ... kind of nasty, slimy stuff. :-(
 

dlleno

Well-known member
Sep 9, 2016
60
denver, CO
I can't emphasize enough what the others have said here regarding a purge with Ahh-Some, and my conclusion, along with many others, is that the optics of having to purge a spa on day 1 is just not something the stores care to do. If you've got yellow scum my input here is do NOT cover this up or let the store attempt to explain it away -- you absolutely need to do a "purge". If you are into some reading, here is essentially my "whitepaper" on purging and purge products:

Zenfolio | Photos by Boise Diesel | Controling biofilms in spas and hot tubs - PART 1



I was experimenting with this stuff years ago, and helping to lay the foundation for what is now a happily accepted practice here on this forum. I have continued to perform experiments as well, the most recent of which pitted "oh Yuk" against Ahh-some and, well, here is my result

Zenfolio | Photos by Boise Diesel | Controlling biofilms in Spas and Hot Tubs PART 3


As for the need to purge a spa that has been in storage -- my own personal experience with a brand new spa is chronicled in "part 1/2" above. In addition I showed that even when you purge first -- when a spa sits in storage (even winterized in my case) it WILL grow biofilms

Zenfolio | Photos by Boise Diesel | Purging after spa storage


As you can see from the above articles ,I learned the hard way with good strong experimental methods and data-driven conclusions. My own spa store ,with whom I have a great relationship, btw, doesn't even see the light. I honestly think if you purge per the label directions you will have a much easier time with the water maintenance
 

ant 83

Well-known member
Nov 3, 2015
190
appleton wisconsin
It should be noted that the root of your problem is an insufficient amount of chlorine.

The chlorine granules leave behind CYA in the water after the chlorine has been used up. As CYA levels increase, chlorine levels need to be increased as well. The backbone of trouble free pool method, is to follow the ratio: Pool School - Chlorine / CYA Chart

You'll need to test chlorine, PH, and CYA with appropriate testing equipment that doesn't involve any dip strips.

FAS/DPD Chlorine CC's test
Taylor K-1000 Basic OTO Test Kit
CYA (Cyanuric Acid) Test
Ahh-Some Hot Tub/Jetted Bath Plumbing Jet Cleaner (2 oz)

These are the items you will need.

Something else I will just mention, I've found that replacing my filter can have a dramatic effect on clearing up water, after a pipe clean, and water change.

Also, most of us utilize plain bleach as a chlorine source that doesn't increase CYA, in addition to the granules to maintain CYA levels (they drop over time). Bleach doesn't lower your PH like the granules do.
 

joecooler

Well-known member
Jan 13, 2019
80
Longmont, CO
Thanks for the input. Some follow up questions:

1) Re/aww-some, are you saying that biofilm is a possible source of the clouding and that treating w/aww-some, then refilling, will resolve the issue and probably prevent clouding from occurring again so soon?
2) Re/chlorine, I've been wondering if that might be the issue. Given that I'm nearly two month in w/this water and I've been futzing over the last week w/clarifier and shock, at this point would adding chlorine help? Or has the water crashed and I just need to drain and refill?
3) I did swap out the filters yesterday altho I just swapped them out two weeks ago. The "old" ones did look a little dirty but not very bad at all. So far I don't see a change w/the new filters.
4) Talked to a neighbor last night who also has a spa, who theorized that my filter cycles are too short. In the interest of not running up my electric bill I have just been running two cycles of 1 hour each. On his advice (he runs his 30 minutes out of every two hours and uses his spa much less than I use mine) I cranked the late night cycle up to 2 hours and the afternoon cycle to 4 hours. Going to try this for a few days to see if I see any improvement.

At this point I feel like I'm kind of out of ideas ... I've tried clarifier and shock several times w/very limited improvement. If you all think I should hit it with more chlorine I will do that; if that doesn't work, or you think it's not a good idea, I think I have to dump the water and start again. In that case I will probably try aww-some to see if there is gunk in the pipes that needs to be cleaned out.

Honestly I'm feeling a bit frustrated with all of this ... really a pain to be doing all this and not have it solve the problem. I am holding out hope that this is just newbie issues and I will get my chemistry figured out soon; if this happens again w/the next fill I'm going to feel very discouraged.
 

Certified106

Well-known member
Sep 10, 2018
98
Athens, Ohio
Thanks for the input. Some follow up questions:

1) Re/aww-some, are you saying that biofilm is a possible source of the clouding and that treating w/aww-some, then refilling, will resolve the issue and probably prevent clouding from occurring again so soon?
2) Re/chlorine, I've been wondering if that might be the issue. Given that I'm nearly two month in w/this water and I've been futzing over the last week w/clarifier and shock, at this point would adding chlorine help? Or has the water crashed and I just need to drain and refill?
3) I did swap out the filters yesterday altho I just swapped them out two weeks ago. The "old" ones did look a little dirty but not very bad at all. So far I don't see a change w/the new filters.
4) Talked to a neighbor last night who also has a spa, who theorized that my filter cycles are too short. In the interest of not running up my electric bill I have just been running two cycles of 1 hour each. On his advice (he runs his 30 minutes out of every two hours and uses his spa much less than I use mine) I cranked the late night cycle up to 2 hours and the afternoon cycle to 4 hours. Going to try this for a few days to see if I see any improvement.

At this point I feel like I'm kind of out of ideas ... I've tried clarifier and shock several times w/very limited improvement. If you all think I should hit it with more chlorine I will do that; if that doesn't work, or you think it's not a good idea, I think I have to dump the water and start again. In that case I will probably try aww-some to see if there is gunk in the pipes that needs to be cleaned out.

Honestly I'm feeling a bit frustrated with all of this ... really a pain to be doing all this and not have it solve the problem. I am holding out hope that this is just newbie issues and I will get my chemistry figured out soon; if this happens again w/the next fill I'm going to feel very discouraged.
I have been through everything you are describing right now and the best advice I can give you is order the TF testkit so that you understand where your water chemistry is and then throw away the test strips! Test Kits

Once you have the test kit, do an Ahh-some purge, refill and run the tub, drain and refill and follow the TFP method outlined in the sticky (How do I use Chlorine in my Spa (or pool)?). Once I followed the above sequence I have been on the same water for 4 months and it is just as clear as it was the day I put it in and it feels/smells great. I am sold on this method after months of headaches and constant fights with water chemistry.
 

ant 83

Well-known member
Nov 3, 2015
190
appleton wisconsin
are you saying that biofilm is a possible source of the clouding
Not really. The clouding comes from bacteria growth in the water. You need to kill it with chlorine, or you'll end up with a rash (hot tub itch), or worse. People have died from lung infections (legionnaires disease) from not sanitizing their tub. This is no joke.

This biofilm issue is related in that it provides protection to the bacteria from the chlorine, allowing it to grow even while the tub has proper chlorine levels. This creates higher chlorine demand, and makes it harder to keep the tub sanitized. This biofilm is an ongoing issue that never really goes away in my experience. The best we can do is manage it, and knock it back down with the ahh-some periodically. Letting chlorine levels drop below the minimum level in the CYA/Chlorine chart lets it grow back very quickly.

It's important to keep your chlorine levels above the minimum at all times, and the dip strips wont cut it.

would adding chlorine help? Or has the water crashed and I just need to drain and refill?
Drain and refill is the standard recommended, protocol for your situation, after ahhsome treatment. However it is the middle of winter, an alternative (what I would do at this time of year) is follow the SLAM protocol: Pool School - SLAM - Shock Level And Maintain

This is written with pools in mind, so in my experience the OCLT, and CC tests cannot be achieved the same way for various reasons. But you can absolutely use it to clear up cloudy water. You need the testing equipment to do it. It also lowers CYA levels in my experience (no one else here will tell you this).
who theorized that my filter cycles are too short
That filter cycle just runs your worthless ozone generator. That thing doesn't do anything. You want to sanitize with chlorine. You are welcome to run the filter cycle as long as you wish without impacting your electric bill. The electricity used to run the pump just adds heat to the water. You have to heat the water anyway. For what it's worth, I've just left mine to do two two hour cycle per day, and it's been that way for years.
I'm feeling a bit frustrated with all of this
You are not alone. The problem is the people who sold you the tub are motivated by money, more so than what works best. They don't make money on bleach, and profit more off dip strips than the right testing equipment. Also they want you to come to them for testing, and want to sell you garbage that you don't need. The only things that should ever go in a spa are bleach, chlorine granules, buffer (washing soda/baking soda), and in some rare cases (hard water), muriatic acid.

Do yourself a favor and get some bleach (unscented, do not get splashless) and start adding a half cup (or more) every day. Do this until you get your test kits, then follow SLAM protocol, or better yet, and ahsome water change.
 

ant 83

Well-known member
Nov 3, 2015
190
appleton wisconsin
Just as an antidote: I tell you an experience I had about a month ago, and what I did to clear it up.

My tub went 5 days with no chlorine added, and at 104 degrees the whole time. Cloudy? Oh yes. And smelled like rotten fish.

gross.

It took nearly a gallon of bleach just to get the chlorine to hold in the water. Something like 40-60 PPM free chlorine. Lots of brown gunk came out of the pipes. I removed this with a pool net like this: Skimmer, deep, fine mesh net

Get one if you don't have one, and use it to remove foam if you get it.

Then I added Ahhsome. More foam removed. Interestingly, no more brown gunk.

Then I wiped down the interior shell of the tub, and keep up the SLAM protocol.

The tub didn't clear until a new filter came in the mail. After I added that, it was like new water the next morning.

I'll just note that chlorine (double with bleach) leaves salt behind, and salt is corrosive to heaters and such. Water changes remove salt, and so are a good idea to do on a regular basis to promote longevity of spa equipment. Also shocking the water with bleach like that is also hard on equipment (especially your spa cover).
 

joecooler

Well-known member
Jan 13, 2019
80
Longmont, CO
OK, so, to summarize:

- If I don't want to simply dump the water, do a SLAM to try to get things back in shape right.
- If I can dump the water, run do a clean (or two) with aww-some, then follow the recommendations here for getting the chemical balance right and keeping the chlorine at the right levels.

In either case, invest in aww-some to clean the tub the next time I dump the water, and a test kit instead of the crappy strips. And maybe get a skimmer ... this has been on my list anyway. Seems dumb not to try to skim out the gunk when you can see it floating on/in the water.

One more thing - any thoughts on these scum absorbing sponges? Seems like this might help too and take some of the load off the filters.
 

joecooler

Well-known member
Jan 13, 2019
80
Longmont, CO
Oh, one more thing ... as I stated above I've had a hard time keeping the chlorine up ... even tho I add it after every use as recommended on the bottle, when I come back and test it the next day (yes, with the crappy strips) it's 0 or maybe 1. I inquired about this at the store where I bought the spa and they said this is ok, that it means the chlorine is doing it's job - it is getting used up killing the bad stuff. This kind of made sense to me so I haven't bothered to try to get the chlorine up to 3 on the stick. Is this wrong? Should I actually be shooting for a constant level of chlorine above 0? If so I am thinking this may be the real source of my problem.
 

santacruzpool

Gold Supporter
Feb 24, 2015
567
Santa Cruz, CA
Yes you absolutely need to have a constant level of chlorine.

For example, the minimum level of free chlorine with CYA 30 is 2 - so anything below 2 is a problem. That is why the target is 4-6.

In my small spa I can do 1.5 oz of 8.25% bleach for 4ppm free chlorine. Which is what I typically add after each soak. If I have more than myself in the spa I will add 2 oz to get it back to above 6.

I also typically do a daily test and adjust as needed to keep in the 4-6 range.
 

joecooler

Well-known member
Jan 13, 2019
80
Longmont, CO
BTW when I go to tftestkits I also see a product called scumbuddy that claims to absorb oils and lotions ... no one has mentioned this here, is this worth investing in? Or is it just a sponge?
 

ant 83

Well-known member
Nov 3, 2015
190
appleton wisconsin
I'm ignorant about the scum buddy, but oils/lotions cause foam. You can remove this with the net.

Also lowering temp slows chlorine loss. Try to do this when not in use.

Yes indeed to all the other stuff.
 

Jimrahbe

Mod Squad
TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
Jul 7, 2014
11,467
Bedford, TX
83,

I have not used the "Scum Buddy" but I have used similar products and they were worthless..

Jim R.
 

joecooler

Well-known member
Jan 13, 2019
80
Longmont, CO
Just wanted to say thanks to all for the information shared here ... I was finally able to get my water to clear up! I think the primary issue was insufficient chlorine. After swapping out the filters, hitting it w/pH increaser, and clarifier, I was seeing minimal improvement if any. Then I hit it with shock and 12 hours later a heavy dose of the chlorine granuals. Then it finally started to clear up. After a few days I hit it with more shock and another decent dose of chlorine and that got it back to almost normal. I wanted to come back on here and summarize what I've learned, if anyone has further comments or suggestions I'd love to hear them. Also have a couple of follow up questions that will follow:

Lessons learned:
- Need to rinse filters weekly.
- Clarifier does work, need to clean the scum off the sides of the spa and around the filter door after adding this. Probably need to add more than I was doing, until there is no more scum appearing on the spa walls.
- Need to really keep on top of chlorine, probably need to add more than I had been doing and need to shock more frequently. I use the spa daily and my GF joins me a couple of times/week. I didn't think this qualified as "heavy" use but now I think it probably does.

Questions:
- Does it matter if you leave the air on or off for filtering and when running the jets after adding chemicals? I notice that when I leave the air open I get more junk coming out of the water then when I don't, so it seems like a good thing to me to speed up the cleaning process.
- I continue to have difficulty getting the chlorine to stay up. I'm really not sure what this means - do I need to add still more granuals? Shock it until the levels stay high? Does this mean it's just got too much biofilm and it won't resolve until I clean it out with ahh-some and refill?
- Speaking of shocking, what exactly does shock do? It says there is no chlorine in it so I'm a bit confused about how this works w/chlorine to clean the water.

I am planning to convert the spa to salt water using the Controlomatic SmarterSpa device. Once I do this I believe my chlorine issues will be over as this is a set-and-forget type device. Does anyone know what additional treatment will be needed at that point? I know I'll still need to get hardness, alkalinity, and pH to the right level, and check periodically. Do I still need to shock the water w/a salt water system?

Thanks again for all the help!

Joe
 

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