You bought a spa to relax, reduce stress, and get away from the hustle and bustle of the fast-paced world around you. You’ve owned it a little while and have found that it’s all those things and more!

There are a number of things you can do to maintain your hot tub, some of which we wrote about in a recent blog. Eventually, when you lift the cover to hop in, you could see that it’s not filled with the sparkling clear water you are used to, but a cloudy and stinky mess.

At this point, you remember that your hot tub dealer told you that you were going to need to regularly test and balance your tubs’ chemicals to ensure that it remains clean, healthy, and safe to use. So you dig up your owner’s manual and see words like PPM (parts per million), sanitizers, total alkalinity, pH, and something about the possibility of the water being hard.

You don’t have to panic! It’s important to learn about balancing your water’s chemical levels, but rest assured that water chemistry doesn’t have to be frightening or hard to understand.

This blog helps you understand what total alkalinity and pH are, why balancing them is essential to keeping your hot tub in top condition, and how to properly maintain your hot tub’s pH balance.

Let’s Talk Hot Tub Chemistry

The first thing that you need to understand is that your hot tub is not a small pool. Hot tub water, and its treatment and considerations, are quite a bit different than a swimming pool.

The main difference of course, is temperature. Hot tub water is most often set between 102 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit, while a pool’s temperature typically hovers around 82 degrees. This higher temperature means that there’s far more opportunity for bacteria growth in a hot tub.

Also, hot water opens our pores which makes bathers much more susceptible to skin infections. When not properly maintained, hot tub water can be responsible for common ailments like rashes and urinary tract infections. It can also cause cloudy water and damage your hot tub equipment and surfaces.

These are just some of the reasons why regularly testing and maintaining your hot tub pH balance is so important.

What is Total Alkalinity?

Total Alkalinity is the measurement of dissolved alkaline substances in water. It helps control the pH level and acts as a buffer, so it needs to be balanced properly. A Total Alkalinity level between 80-120mg/l ppm must be sustained in your hot tub. Anything above or below this range makes balancing pH levels quite tricky to preserve.

Below 80mg/l ppm can cause your water to become corrosive and acidic and even stain or damage your hot tub surfaces. Algae may bloom if alkalinity drops which can cause you discomfort. Above 120mg/l ppm can cause your water to become cloudy and allow scale to grow on pool surfaces and equipment.

Total Alkalinity is closely related to pH, and managing it is a key factor in maintaining healthy pH levels. When adjusting alkalinity, you’re also adjusting the pH levels and vice versa. We recommend getting your Total Alkalinity balance correct first as it acts as a buffer and prevents rapid pH fluctuations; plus, high pH levels are much more challenging to adjust.

High alkalinity in a hot tub can be caused by adding too many chemicals, bacteria, or bodily oils such as sweat or lotions. If you live in a hard water area it can also be a cause of high alkalinity.

Low alkalinity in a hot tub can be caused by rainwater which can lessen your alkalinity levels and result in an acidic pH. This is one reason why we always recommend using a hot tub cover between soaks. Using chlorine tablets that have a low pH level can affect it too.

What Are pH Levels?

PH levels measure acidity and alkalinity in water on a pH scale. The pH scale is numbered from 0-14, with a measurement of 7 considered neutral or balanced. A pH level between 7.2 and 7.8 is ideal for maintaining in your hot tub. Keeping your pH levels in check creates a more comfortable environment for your bathers, avoids scale and calcium build-up, and will keep your tub free from corrosion.

A measure of 7.2 or below signifies that your water is too acidic. This can lead to eye, nose, and skin irritation, itchiness, and your sanitizer being less effective. A measure of 7.8 or above, like high alkalinity, can contribute to scale build-up, foam, and cloudy water. High acidity can result in costly damage to your hot tub parts too.

Testing Total Alkalinity and pH Levels in Your Hot Tub

We suggest using dip test strips to test the pH level, total alkalinity, and sanitizer levels. They’re easy to use and provide quick and accurate readings, so you can make necessary chemical adjustments.

There are fancier pH water test kits available if you love gizmos and gadgets. These kits consist of a probe with a digital readout, calibration solution, and storage solution.

Whichever method you choose to test your hot tub’s pH level we recommend testing the water at least once a week, depending on how frequently you use your hot tub, to keep it fresh and clean.

Testing Total Alkalinity

Common Balance Problems

The major challenge facing many hot tub owners is making these two different measurements balance. The reason for this is the same chemicals that lower your pH, also lower your TA levels. This can sometimes cause hot tub owners to enter a very annoying circle as they try to balance their water chemistry.

Here are some hot tub water balance situations and what you need to do to suitably modify your water chemistry:

  • Low pH, Normal Total Alkalinity (TA) – Add a pH increaser that will not impact the TA. This guarantees that your pH levels rise while not impacting the overall TA levels.

  • Low pH, High TA – First, add a pH decreaser to lower the TA levels. Then, use an increaser that won’t impact the TA levels to raise the pH to normal.

  • Low pH and TA – Add a pH increaser to raise both the TA and pH levels. Then, retest the water to make sure both have been brought into a normal range.

  • High pH and TA – If both levels are too high, add a pH decreaser to the water to bring both levels down. Retest the water to make sure both the TA and pH are in normal range.

  • Normal pH, High TA – Use a pH decreaser to lower the overall TA levels. Once these are in normal range, test your pH. If those levels have dropped below normal, use an increaser that won’t affect the TA levels.

  • Normal pH, Low TA – Use an alkalinity increaser to raise the overall TA levels. In most cases, the overall pH levels will not be affected.

  • High pH, Normal TA – Use a pH decreaser to lower the pH to a normal range. If the TA levels drop, add an alkalinity increaser to bring the overall TA levels back into normal range.

  • High pH, Low TA – Use a pH decreaser to lower the pH levels, then add an alkalinity increaser to raise the TA levels. This won’t affect the overall pH level.

Water Source Issues

Some hot tub owners just have bad water, plain and simple. If that’s the case where you live there are filtration systems you can buy for your hose to help with this. There are also filters you can put on your water lines in your home to help improve the situation.

In the end, however, it may just mean that you have to work a little harder to bring the water into balance. If you want to enjoy your hot tub, you have to spend a little extra time on your water quality.

To Sum it Up

You love your hot tub and want to safely enjoy it with family and friends for many years to come. A vital part of maintaining your hot tub is regularly testing and adjusting the pH balance. For the average hot tub owner, we recommend using simple test kits as the easiest testing method. You will also need to have access to a supply of pH and alkalinity increasers and decreasers to treat your hot tub’s water.

Crystal Waters Hot Tubs didn’t just sell you a hot tub. We can also supply you with everything you need to maintain your hot tub pH balance. If you’re not inclined to do all this testing and treatment application, we are pleased to let you know that we have recently introduced a reasonably priced annual hot tub maintenance plan! Contact us to learn more about how we can give you the peace of mind of knowing that your hot tub will be cared for by professionals.