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December is upon us, and cars and planes will soon be packed with people, visiting relatives for the holidays. Around my house, a popular 'amenity' for our guests has always been our 8-person spa, especially for those that don't have their own hot tub at home.
Now is the time to step up spa maintenance, kick it up a notch to have over-filtered and over-sanitized water, and hot water for your guests. Now is also the time to review some spa safety standards, and be sure that your hot tub will be safe for all family visitors - adults, kids and pets.
Unless your water needs changing that is; if your water has 2 or 3 months of age to it already, go ahead and do a complete drain, refill and re-balancing of the water. Otherwise, balance the pH and Alkalinity to 7.2-7.6 and 80-100 ppm, respectively. The next step may be to add calcium increaser, if your fill water is below 150 ppm. In my area it comes out very soft, around 80 ppm, so I add a few lbs of calcium when refilling. Soft water can cause staining, foaming and other problems.
For shocking the spa, you can use either chlorine spa shock like Spa 56, or you can use non-chlorine MPS shock, but in either case don't be shy about it - hit it hard, which is usually about 1 - 1.5 oz., see label for correct dosage. Run the pump on high when shocking a spa, and leave the cover open for 30 minutes or so after shocking with chlorine. Shock the spa after each heavy usage while visitors are staying at your place.
A new filter cartridge and a new mineral stick from Frog or Nature2 will boost the water clarity and purity, to a point where it can take a sudden increase in users, without turning cloudy or dull, or foamy and greasy. I usually replace my filter cartridge every December anyway, and use a new Nature2 stick every 4 months, so it works with my schedule.
If you do expect to have more spa users than normal this month, it may be a good idea to adjust the timer settings or the programs to filter the spa an extra 20% - 50% longer each day, to compensate for the additional bather load. A little extra insurance to be sure that the filter system can handle the increased users.
This one is my little secret weapon, what clarifier does is - it acts like a magnet to tiny particles, making invisible stuff clump together until it is large enough that the filter will trap it, which makes your water look great, even with the lights shining through the water. TIP: Do Not over-dose with clarifier, follow label instructions, and treat only once weekly, or it can have the opposite effect, and make your spa water cloudy!
My spa sits about 8 ft from the back sliding glass door, across a fairly clean, but gritty, concrete paver patio. I buy these runner carpets at my local 'home' store, for about $40, and they last nearly a year. I'm due for a new one, they're about 2'x8' and in dark colors that look good for quite awhile. You can put one inside the house too, for 'drippers' dashing into the house.
I have an antique console leaning up against the back of the house and I stock the cubbies with lots of colorful towels, and hang a few robes and lots of hats (don't forget the hats). I also have a small hand drawn (cute) sign that says "Please bathe before Use", as a reminder to not use the spa as a bath tub. And plants, lots of plants (if you live in the south). Even plastic plants are very nice to have, surrounding the spa.
Don't forget to set some ground rules, spa safety must come first. Many tragic accidents around spas and hot tubs actually happen at the homes of relatives, by people unfamiliar with the basic ground rules.
Finally, make sure the heater is running well, see Danny's post last month about the most common spa heater problems and how to troubleshoot them. And be sure to close-up the spa yourself after use, unless you can train an 'able-body' to remove and replace the spa cover, safely and properly, so you don't have to. :-)
Hot Tub Works