Water maintenance and chemical guide for spa pools and swim spas 2022

Caring for your spa water is essential for your health, prolonging the life of the spa, and your enjoyment of the spa itself. This Water Care Guide covers everything you need to know to keep your spa water clean and safe.

Spa pool water care guide

This guide explains the key things you need to know about spa water maintenance, spa chemicals and water treatment.

Please note; the recommendations in this article are guidelines only. You should always follow dosage and safety instructions on your chemical containers.

What is included in this guide:

  • Quick Start-up Guide – How to prepare the water after filling your spa
  • Routine Maintenance Guide – How to maintain your spa water
  • Which spa chemicals to use
  • Chemical safety and what not to do

WATCH: Water care guide for new spa owners

Water Care Start-Up Procedure for spa pools, swim spas and plunge pools

After your new spa is installed, one of the first things you’ll need to do is fill it with water and make sure the water is treated and safe to soak in.

The Quick Start-Up Procedure below explains the top four things you need to do to get your spa water ready for action!

Step 1: Fill with water

Fill your spa with water according to the instructions in the user manual. Remove the fittings from the end of your garden hose and place your hose into the spa until it reaches the correct level as per the user manual.

Step 2: Turn on and heat up your spa

Once your spa is full, apply power to your spa and set the temperature to your desired level. (26-38 degrees is recommended).

Step 3: Test and balance your spa water

Once the spa water is heated, use the test strips to measure pH and Alkalinity. Wait at least 20 minutes after applying any balancer chemicals before testing again.

Acceptable or ‘OK’ ranges are:

  • pH between: 7.2 - 7.8
  • Total Alkalinity between: 80 – 160

Important:

  • Do not use the test strips to monitor chlorine levels. Use the daily dosing instructions on the back of the chlorine container instead. Failure to follow this can result in damage to your spa or unsafe conditions. Always pre-mix the chlorine with water in a bucket before adding it to the spa water.
  • Do not turn on the jet pumps or clean cycle for at least 30 minutes after you have added the sanitiser.
  • To allow for off-gassing, please leave your spa cover open for 20 minutes after dosing with spa sanitiser or spa shock.

PH out of balance? If the PH is too LOW, add alkalinity increaser (alkalinity up). If the PH is too HIGH, add PH decreaser (PH down).

Alkalinity out of balance? If the alkalinity is too LOW, add alkalinity increaser (alkalinity up). If the alkalinity is too HIGH, add PH decreaser (PH down).

Important: Unbalanced spa water can damage your spa pumps and heaters.

Step 4: Sanitise your spa water

Once your spa water is balanced, sanitise your spa with Spa Store Spa Chlorine.

Use a start-up shock dose of 25 grams per 1,000 litres of spa water. See the sanitiser container label for the specific dosing instructions. Obtain your spa litreage from your spa model specification sheet.

Routine Maintenance Guide for spa pools, plunge pools and swim spas

Once you've filled and treated your spa or swim spa, there will be some ongoing maintenance required.

While every spa is different, they all typically require regular treatment and care to keep the water safe, clean and clear, and to ensure the spa pumps and filters operate effectively. Establishing a regular maintenance routine should also make it easier to maintain in the long-term.

Keep reading to learn our recommended routine for daily, weekly, monthly, and annual spa water care and chemical treatment.

Spa water care routine | Daily

Following the instructions on the sanitiser container label, dose your spa with Spa Store Spa Chlorine at 6-10 grams per 1,000 litres of spa water.

In the event of heavy spa use or water clarity issues, a shock dose of 25 grams per 1,000 litres of spa water can be used. See the label for the specific dosing instructions.

Important. Do not use the test strips to monitor chlorine levels. Use the daily dosing instructions on the back of the chlorine container instead. Failure to follow this can result in damage to your spa or unsafe conditions.

Spa water care routine | Once a week

1. Test the water is balanced

Using your Test Strips test the pH and Total Alkalinity of your spa water and adjust to the acceptable ‘OK’ range as shown on test strips, following the instructions on the back of the test strip container. Adjust pH, alkalinity and total hardness to the acceptable ‘OK’ range as shown on test strips.

2. Sanitise the water

Continue using your daily dose of sanitiser, following the chemical manufacturer's dosage instructions found on the container label.

3. 'Shock' your spa

Spa Shock helps remove chloramines and organic residue built up from bathers during the week. For water clarity, add spa shock to your spa at least once a week, following the manufacturer's dosage instructions. After dosing, leave the cover off and press clean cycle on for 20 minutes. Let your spa run for 10 minutes then replace the cover.

4. Rinse your filters

Remove your pleated filters and rinse with a low pressure hose or make the job quicker and easier with a filter wand. This removes any large particles from the filters.

Spa water care routine | Once a month

Most quality spa pools like Fisher Spas™, Vortex Spas™ and Jacuzzi Spas™, have pleated cartridge filters.

If your spa has these, we recommend that once a month you remove and clean your pleated cartridge filters. Use a specially formulated cartridge cleaner, such as those sold by Spa Store. Follow the instructions on the cartridge cleaning container.

Please note, the micron filters that are also found in Vortex Spas™ and Jacuzzi® Spas cannot be cleaned and must be replaced.

Tip: If your water is consistently cloudy, your filters may need to be cleaned more frequently.

Spa water care routine | Every 3 to 6 months

How often you change your spa water, depends on a range of factors including the type of spa you have, the number of spa users, how often you use it, and how vigilant you are with hygiene.

Water in your spa can only be treated for three to four months. After that the water needs to be dumped and refilled with new tap water and the initial start up procedure repeated.

As a guide, water should be changed every three to six months in portable spas and 12 to 18 months for swim spas or as required. Follow the instructions below for how to change your spa water.

How to empty and replace the water in your spa

As explained above, spa water should be changed every three to six months, while swim spa water can be replaced every 12 to 18 months or as required.

Click the button below to read step-by-step instructions for how to drain and refill your spa pool.

What is a Spa Chemical Start-Up Kit and do I need one?

When you purchase a new spa it’s a good idea to get a chemical start-up kit at the same time. This kit includes all the water care chemicals needed to get your spa ready to use.

Good spa watercare start-up kits will include:

  • Cartridge Cleaner
  • Water testing strips
  • Spa Sanitiser
  • Spa Conditioner
  • Pipe cleaner aka pipe degreaser
  • Alkalinity increaser
  • Detailed instructions

Please note: If in the rare event you use bore or tank water you might need products such as hardness increaser or decreaser. These aren't included in most start kits so you'll need purchase them separately from spa chemical suppliers like spastore.co.nz.

If you are thinking about or are purchasing a new spa and are not getting a Water Care Start Kit with your spa we strongly recommend having all the water care chemicals you’ll need on hand, before your spa arrives. Why? Because when you fill your spa you need to sanitise the water to remove any germs or bacteria present, and to ensure the water is pH balanced.

Failure to correctly sanitise and treat your spa water on start-up, could result in illness and/or skin irritations. More on this below.

Where can I buy a Spa Chemical Start-Up kit?

When you purchase a new spa from Spa World, you have the option of adding a Water Care Start-Up kit to your order.

You can also purchase a chemical start-up kit from Spa Store – our recommended supplier of spa and pool chemicals and accessories. Click the button below for details.

What not to do when using spa chemicals

Before we explain how to care for the water in your spa, there are a few things you need to know when using spa chemicals to avoid any issues later on.

Here are the top 5 mistakes people make with spa chemicals and how to avoid them:

  • Not safety approved. In Australia, only sanitisers certified by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) can be sold for use in spas. If in doubt, look for an APVMA certification number on the label.
  • Using no-name brands. For peace of mind, only use chemicals manufactured by known spa chemical brands. Even better, make sure any spa chemicals you buy are APVMA certified. That way you’ll know they’re safe to use.
  • Using the wrong chemicals. Only use chemicals designed for use in spas and swim spas. Using the wrong chemicals or ones not fit for purpose could damage your spa and its parts. Importantly, any damage caused by using the wrong chemicals, will likely not be covered under your spa warranty. Better to be safe than sorry, and use the right chemicals for the job!
  • Using pool chemicals in the spa. Spa chemicals are not necessarily the same as pool chemicals. When used in a spa, pool chlorine, bromine and other chemicals designed for swimming pools can cause injury because they will not be as effective and they can damage your spa which, again, will not be covered under the warranty.
  • Not following instructions. Always adhere to the safety, storage and usage instructions on the chemical label. As above, not following the instructions, could result in injury or damage to your spa and your warranty being voided.

Now you are aware of what to avoid, let’s dive into water care products and maintenance.

What are the main spa chemical types?

All spa pools, pools and swim spas require chemicals to keep the water clean, clear, safe and healthy.

The three main types of chemicals used in spas, swim spas and plunge pools are:

  1. Water balancing products
  2. Spa sanitisers
  3. Spa shock

Learn more about these below.

1. Spa water balancing products

As their name suggests, water balancing chemicals ensure the alkalinity, pH and water hardness are all balanced. If your spa water is unbalanced, it could become corrosive – not great for your skin or your spa!

2. Spa sanitisers

Water sanitising chemicals ensure the spa water stays sparkling clear and hygienic.

Unlike pools, spas are small bodies of warm water that if not properly maintained can become ideal environment for microorganisms to grow . If you don’t sanitise your spa water regularly with quality spa chemicals, then the spa water could make you sick.

3. Spa shock products

Spa Shock is a water treatment that reacts with organic waste material and contaminants in your spa water and helps break them down quickly. Chlorine spa shock can also kill bacteria.

Spa Shock is commonly available in two different forms. There is chlorine based shock (Sodium Dichlor), which increases your sanitizer levels as well as shocking the water, and non-chlorine shock (potassium monopersulfate or MPS) which is purely for oxidizing the water.

It is a good practice to 'shock' your spa water once when you fill or refill your spa. After that, regular maintenance shocking once per week is recommended.

Using balancing products, sanitisers and spa shock as part of a regular water maintenance routine will keep your spa water healthy and reduce the time and effort to keep it takes to keep it clean, clear and safe.

What is the best sanitiser for a spa pool?

It depends on your requirements what spa sanitiser will suit you best. If you are after an effective, safe, low maintenance and affordable treatment option then you can’t go past a good quality spa chlorine sanitiser.

Top chlorine sanitisers in Australia:

  • Spa Store® Spa Chlorine
  • BioGuard® Armour Spa Sanitiser
  • Zodiac® Spa Chlorine

What is spa chlorine and how does it work?

Chlorine is a naturally occurring element and is a gas at room temperature. Its disinfectant properties are used in many mediums because of its effectiveness.

When used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, chlorine is an excellent, safe and highly effective sanitiser for spas, pools and swim spas.

Pools and spa pools treated with chlorine are generally safe to swim in with no side effects, especially if they are well maintained and ventilated.

Top tips when using spa chlorine:

  • Shop smart. Look for chlorine that is rated as a non-dangerous good as it will reduce the shipping time and costs when resupplying.
  • Use granular chlorine only. While it's safe to use in swimming pools, liquid chlorine should never be applied to spas as it is not designed for hot temperatures or small bodies of water.
  • Do not use floating chlorine dispensers. They can over-sanitise your spa and cause damage to expensive components. You will also risk voiding your warranty.
  • Remember the 30-minute rule. Do not turn jets on for at least 30 minutes after dosing the spa with chlorine-based sanitiser as it can damage the acrylic.
  • Follow dosage instructions. Stick to manufacturers’ instructions when it comes to correct dosing of your spa sanitiser. Don't use test strips to measure sanitiser level. Instead use the test strips only for water balance.
  • Do not use pool chlorine. Pool chlorine will not work with the higher temperatures and can damage your spa.

Please note, while we are spa and swim spa experts – we are not medical professionals. If you have any health concerns about chlorine and possible side effects, we recommend you speak with your GP or medical specialist.

Can you buy Chlorine-free spa chemicals?

If you prefer not to use chlorine, you can use chlorine-free spa chemical like Hydrogen peroxide but be aware it is considerred more expensive and labour intensive to use than chlorine. We do not reccomend Chlorine-free enzymes as they can clog filters.

Learn more about chlorine-free sanitisers in this article below.

What are the best chlorine-free sanitisers for spa pools?

There are a range of chlorine-free spa sanitisers on the market.

In Australia, two of the top-selling chlorine-free sanitisers are:

  • Poppits® Spa Sanitiser
  • Spa Store® Hydrogen Peroxide

View the full range of chlorine and chlorine-free spa sanitisers on the Spa Store® website.

Where can I buy chemicals for my spa, swim spa or plunge pool in Australia?

You can find a wide range of chlorine and chlorine-free treatment options for sale at Spa Store®, our recommended retailer for spa chemicals, treatments and accessorie.

What is bromine sanitiser and is it good in spas?

Bromine has a similar oxidising effect as chlorine – although, it is actually an ioniser. Therefore, it not only kills bugs but also clears the water. That being said, Bromine levels are hadr to manage and so we do not reccomend Bromine only sanitisers as we have seen a number of spas damaged from people overdosing their spas.

While bromine can be a very effective chlorine-free sanitiser – it has its limitations.

For example, (like chlorine) bromine can dry your skin and cause itchy eyes. Bromine also doesn’t do well in hot water, making it better for swimming pools than hot spa pools or swim spas.

While bromine doesn’t have the immediate impact that chlorine does, it tends to last longer in the water. This is why some spa sanitiser manufacturers combine the two. A very popular chlorine-bromine combination sanitiser is Bioguard Armour. Spa Store also sells its own brand of bromine-chlorine sanitiser. Both of these are reccomended because they do not cause the same issues as a Bromine only sanitiser.

We do not recommend using bromine-only sanitisers as they can damage the spa surface and components.

Some people buy bromine tablets to put in a floating dispenser or ‘floater’ in their spa. We do not advise doing this, as it tends to concentrate the bromine on the surface of the spa’s water and can damage the acrylic shell around the spa’s water line, damage which is not typically covered under the spa warranty. It can also harm jets, headrests and heaters.

Is hydrogen peroxide a good alternative to chlorine in a spa pool?

Like chlorine, hydrogen peroxide (although less effective) is an oxidiser, so it is effective at keeping your pool water clear. It has antiseptic properties and so it's also good for killing bugs.

Hydrogen peroxide is sold in liquid form for use as a chlorine-free spa sanitiser. It does degrade in sunlight and so it is best stored in a dark space.

In our opinion, hydrogen peroxide is the best option for chlorine-free spa sanitisation but will require a little more effort than chlorine. One of the most popular hydrogen peroxide products is Spa Store Hydrogen Peroxide, which is available at Spa Store.

Hydrogen peroxide pros:

  • Excellent for those with chlorine allergies, asthma or sensitive skin
  • No chlorine itch for those with sensitive skin or allergies

Hydrogen peroxide cons:

  • Classified as a dangerous good so shipping may take longer than other sanitiser products
  • Must be handled carefully and can also be more expensive to use than chlorine-based sanitisers

What are Chlorine-free Enzymes and how do they work in a spa?

Enzyme treatments can be used as part of a combined water treatment system with either chlorine or bromine but should not be used as a sanitiser unless they are APVMA approved.

Whilst a useful supplementary treatment, we do not recommend enzyme treatments as a stand-alone chlorine alternative because enzymes are not great at killing living organisms and need to be used alongside chlorine or bromine.

Chlorine-free enzyme products can also plug filters prematurely, which can lead to poor water clarity. Click the button below to read the full article on chorine-free enzymes and other chlorin-free products.

What is spa shock and why do I need it in my spa?

Shocking a spa pool or swim spa is when you apply a dose of chlorine (sodium dichlor) or non-chlorine shock (potassium peroxy-monosulphate or MPS) to the spa water.

You can use a higher level of sanitiser as a shock dose or use specialised shock products that create fast oxidation of organic compounds.

The ingredients in spa shock treatment react with organic waste material and contaminants in your spa water and help break them down quickly. Once treated with spa shock, water quality and clarity are usually completely restored. Chlorine spa shock can also kill bacteria.

Shocking your spa can also remove irritating chloramines by converting them back to active chlorine if you are using chlorine sanitisers. Chloramines are a combination of ammonia with chlorine which can cause skin, eye and respiratory irritation in some people.

Chlorine and chlorine-free shocks are available.

What are water balancing products and why do I need them for a spa pool?

When spa water is ‘balanced’ it means the three basic water components (total alkalinity, pH and water hardness) are within comfortable and safe levels for human skin. When the water is balanced, it also enables the sanitiser to work more effectively.

The main water balance products are:

  • Alkalinity increaser
  • pH decreaser
  • pH increaser

In Summary

Crystal clear spa water is a priority for any spa owner. With these tips and tricks up your sleeve you’re well on your way to becoming a water quality expert!

Most importantly, you’ll have peace of mind and can sit back, relax and enjoy stress-free soaking.

Remember:

  • Follow the dosage and safety instructions on chemical containers.
  • Use quality spa chemicals purchased from reputable brands and stockists. The use of poor-quality chemicals can lead to damage not covered by your spa warranty.
  • Mix sanitiser in a bucket of spa water before adding to your spa. Don’t risk damage to your spa.

Please note; the recommendations in this article are guidelines only. We always recommend you follow the directions for dosage on your sanitiser labels.

For more information on spa sanitisers and keeping your pool clean and healthy, please contact us or visit your local Spa World showroom. We’re happy to help!

DISCLAIMER. The following registered trademarks are owned by companies not affiliated in any way with Spa World™ or Vortex Leisure Pty Ltd – the parent company of Spa World Ltd:

Poppits® Spa Sanitiser trademark is owned by Waterco. Bioguard® Armour Spa Sanitiser trademark is owned by Biolab – a KIK Custom Products Company. Zodiac® Spa Chlorine trademark is owned by Fluidra Group Australia Pty Ltd.

Affiliations: Vortex® Spas, Fisher™ Spas, Spa Store® and Spa World™ are trademarks owned by Vortex Leisure Pty Ltd.

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