The Middle Child of Water Chemistry

Retailers and manufacturers offer advice on proper chemical care for swim spas

 For many swim spa owners, water chemistry can be bewildering and intimidating. Chemical packaging is typically geared toward dosage for hot tubs; dosage on pool chemicals is likewise packaged for swimming pools. Given the size difference, swim spa owners must calculate correct amounts. But disparities in use and typical loads, and significant differences in the chemistry of source water, all contribute to making proper chemical measurement a formidable challenge.  

The overlooked middle child

“Both mismeasuring and miscalculating chemical amounts for swim spas are problems in the industry,” says Nadia Beane, chief operating officer of Jack’s Magic, a manufacturer of pool chemicals in Largo, Florida. “Calculating dosages on swim spas can absolutely be a concern.” 

She notes that sometimes product needs to be added to swim spas in halves or even quarters of a measurement, which can cause confusion. Frequently, homeowners and service companies fail to consider the effect of adding a chemical that foams, as the agitation of the water can exacerbate the foaming effect. 

“In a body of water the size of a swim spa, small miscalculations in water chemistry can have much bigger effects,” Beane says. 

A well-rounded education

What’s the solution? Michele Gill sums it up in three words: “Education! Education! Education!” 

Gill is the business manager of Elite Pools & Spas in Lake in the Hills, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago. 

“A spa in general needs to be cared for correctly,” she says. “If a dealer is going to sell someone a spa, they should be educated in how to properly care for it.” 

Gill notes that many retailers don’t do this and can’t educate their customers as they themselves don’t have the water chemistry knowledge either, doing little more for their customers than providing a starter chemical package and wishing them luck. 

Gill’s store includes an in-house water lab. She and her employees frequently help people who bought swim spas at other stores but say they were never properly educated on water chemistry or spa maintenance. Her customers are given a free, one-hour consultation on swim spa care as well as detailed instructions and information they can reference at home. Customers are also encouraged to bring spa water in regularly for testing. 

Proper attention

“My biggest thing is making customers aware of how much the water can affect everything,” says Trevor Simon, manager of Spas of Montana, a retail store with locations in Missoula and Helena. “Just because it looks clear doesn’t mean it’s in good shape.” 

After learning the size of a customer’s swim spa, Simon will make a rough calculation of the necessary chemical amounts. He encourages customers to test their water frequently in the first few weeks, since the frequency of use and other variables will affect the amount of chemicals needed.

“I try and help every customer understand the importance of water chemistry and how much it can affect your spa, the water and even your own body,” Simon says. “However, I try not to overcomplicate the process. The comment I most often hear is how much of a nightmare spas and swim spas are to keep clean.” 

Scott Nichols, sales manager at Easy Care Products, in Fresno, California, says equipment maintenance is also paramount.

Nichols notes that since swim spas are usually kept partially heated all the time, maintaining a sanitary environment is important to prevent them from becoming a breeding ground for bacteria. He urges customers to ensure ozonator or UV units on their swim spas are working properly, to check filters weekly and clean them when necessary and make sure the equipment area is clean, dry and free of debris. He also recommends cleaning and maintaining the swim spa skirt, cover and steps. 

He also encourages customers to ask a lot of questions when they purchase a swim spa and to test their water often. “If a spa retailer doesn’t take the time to give the buyer some assistance, especially first-time buyers, don’t buy from them,” Nichols says. “Education is always beneficial to both parties.”

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