The Peanut Problem

There I was at a water care training course, and the instructors were discussing the topic of ‘Bather Wastes.”  They were explaining how the 1-3ppm of chlorine level was established as the safe range to kill off contaminants that are present in pool and hot tub water.  This information was valuable to learn but wasn’t what I would consider, memorable.  That is, until someone put up their hand and asked a very simple question:

What are some examples bather wastes?

The instructor was a little hesitant to answer the question directly.  Now everyone there was captivated and we prodded a bit more as a class.  So, the instructor said, “Fine, if you really want to know I’ll tell you.  But, once I do you will never be able to forget it?”

I will also reiterate that to you who are reading this.  Stop here if you don’t want to know, cause it’s true, once you know you won’t forget.

index

Ok, you’ve been warned.

Here we go.

Bather waste includes the following:

  • Dead skin cells
  • Hair
  • Cosmetics/Soaps
  • Sweat/Urine (chemically almost identical)
  • Bodily fluids (up to 1 Pint from an adult in 20mins of Hot Tub use)

Not too bad, right.  Here’s the kicker:

  • A peanut sized amount of fecal matter

That’s right, an adult human on average has a peanut sized amount of fecal matter on their body at all times. (just to clarify, peanut refers to the nut only, not the outer shell, that would be…nuts)

You’re never going to forget that are you?

I thought long and hard about whether to share this info with the public on this blog.  But I wanted to tell you the truth about everything related to hot tub and pool water care I have learned.  My reason for sharing this is in the hope that it helps you understand the importance of proper water sanitation.

I often have conversations with customers about sanitation and many have stated, “I don’t like to use that much chlorine/bromine.”  To which I respond, “you don’t know about the peanut do you?”

If you think about, the amount recommended for hot tubs and pools isn’t that much anyway.  1-3ppm.  That is 1-3 parts per million.  Or in other terms, 1-3 milliliters per liter or 1-3mg/kg of water.  Enough math.  It’s a tiny amount.

When you really stop to consider what that small amount can protect you from it really changes your perspective on it.  It protects you and your loved ones from, not only all the bather wastes listed above, including everyone’s peanut, but also from other harmful water borne pathogens like cryptosporidium and giardia.  That small amount acts like a super-hero instead of a super-villian.  peanut obit

We could call it.

PEANUT BUSTER

Maybe not.

In a future article I’ll discuss some common myths about chlorine and some products and equipment you can use to assist the chlorine/bromine in cleaning your water.  We’ll call them,                  ‘the sidekicks.’

Thanks for reading.

How about some chemical soup?

I never heard the expression, ‘chemical soup,’ until I began working in the pool and hot tub industry.  I now know it’s a bad expression, a taboo thing to say, and what all pool and hot tub owners are trying to avoid; especially hot tub owners.  I think it’s because hot tubs often look like a big steamy bowl of soup. images

There is nothing scary about soup, but put the word ‘chemical’ in front of it and suddenly people’s eyes jump out of their heads.  I have heard many many customers talk at length about this fear and how it has lead them to not using chlorine or bromine anymore and instead opting for “something safer like hydrogen peroxide.”  (trust me, that is a way scarier thing to use)

This is such a delicate topic to discuss with people because it has to do with their health, and the health of their families.  I completely understand this.  Our industry completely understands this, and has been preaching proper water sanitization for decades.

Back to the question.  Is a hot tub a chemical soup?

Yes.

Here is an explanation of what a chemical is:

“Chemical substances are often called ‘pure’ to set them apart from mixtures. A common example of a chemical substance is pure water; it has the same properties and the same ratio of hydrogen to oxygen whether it is isolated from a river or made in a laboratory. Other chemical substances commonly encountered in pure form are diamond (carbon), gold, table salt (sodium chloride) and refined sugar (sucrose). However, simple or seemingly pure substances found in nature can in fact be mixtures of chemical substances. For example, tap water may contain small amounts of dissolved sodium chloride and compounds containing iron, calcium and many other chemical substances.”

Water, salt, sugar, gold, and even diamonds are all chemical in naOXX-312-AQture.  A chemical soup like that wouldn’t be anything scary.  In fact, I know many women would be fine with a hot tub full of gold and diamonds.

In my experience, this fear of a chemical soup all comes from the use of two chemicals.

Chlorine and Bromine.

These chemicals have been vilified as evil substances that cause cancer.  When in reality, when used as the recommended dosage rate of 1-3ppm (parts per million) they not only don’t cause cancer, but instead, act as highly effectively sanitizers that clean the water of many viruses, bacteria, and pathogens that are extremely harmful to humans.  Not using them is way scarier than using them.

It’s true chlorine can be harmful.  But it all has to do with dosage.  Chlorine gas and mustard gas are very harmful to humans, even deadly.  But that is almost a pure dosage of chlorine.  Many substances are harmful or deadly in high dosages, even oxygen.  And yet, at the right dosage it allows us to breath and live.

No one would stop breathing because the air has some oxygen in it, and so it is true with chlorine or bromine.  In fact, properly sanitized hot tub water is often cleaner than tap water.

So, now that you know the ingredients in hot tub water, enjoy it as the safe and clean chemical soup that it really is.peanut

In a future article I will explain further why I would never get in a pool or hot tub with less than 1ppm chlorine.  (Hint: the reason involves a peanut)

Thanks for reading.

Shocking Truth

The shocking truth about shocking is it’s shocking how infrequently most people shock their pool and hot tub water.

From that first sentence either I am in desperate need of a thesaurus, or a different word altogether.  Let’s go with a different word; ‘shock treatment’ sounds scary.

When I was a kid my friend had a pool that we used almost every day during the summer.  Every day except for one day every week.  The day it got shocked.  I thought it meant we’d be electrocuted pool shockif we went in it.  I didn’t know why it had to be shocked, just that it ruined our lives for one day a week.  Maybe that’s why so many don’t do it regularly.  It sounds scary and they can’t use the pool.

Instead of shocking, lets change the word to oxidizing.  Technically that’s what the purpose of it is, and it sounds nicer too.

To put the purpose of oxidizing as simply as I can; chlorine/bromine neutralize contaminants in the water but does not remove them from the water.  That’s what oxidizing does.  It gases neutralized contaminants out of the water as well as re-engerzies the chlorine/bromine that neutralized it in the first place.  This article explains it in much more detail if you have 10 min to read it (please do at some point).  In addition, modern non-chlorine oxidizing products only render the pool unsafe to use for 30min, not the whole day like when I was a kid.

Now getting back to the reason I wanted to write about this topic.  Most pool and hot tub owners aren’t doing it enough, and since I now understand that it has nothing to do with electrocution and everything to do with the cleanliness of the water, I want to get the truth about it out there.

Here is the truth from a perspective that you as a pool or hot tub owner will appreciate.  Of our hundreds of customers here in the Victoria, BC area I have noticed something.  Those who oxidize their pools and hot tubs on a weekly basis rarely ever experience cloudy, smelly, and dull water, and avoid getting algae.  Those who rarely oxidize, on the other hand, often deal with algae blooms, cloudy and dull water, and foul odors.

Something else you will appreciate, is cost savings.  Let’s use a standard 80,000L backyard swimming pool as an example.

Cost for product to oxidize weekly for summer (16 weeks) – $245                                  Time involved – 5 min/week                                                                                                   Pool down-time – 30min

Cost of treating 1 Algae bloom – $125 – 200                                                                      Time involved – 4-8 hours of your time spent adding product, vacuuming, brushing, backwashing filter.                                                                                                              Pool down-time – 5 days – 2weeks 

I am not going to inflate numbers to make oxidizing coming across as cheaper than treating an algae bloom.  However, that is the cost to treat just 1 algae bloom.  And for those who neglect to oxidize weekly, they will be very fortunate to experience only one 11-01-08_012algae bloom during the summer.

And beyond the cost of the products used to effectively kill and remove algae from your pool is the collateral damage it causes to other areas.

1. Backwashing – Algae blooms require backwashing every 2 days to remove dead algae from the filter.  This means you will be sending thousands of liters of heated, balanced water down the drain.  That is expensive water to be losing.

2. Wear and tear on equipment – Killing algae blooms quickly requires extremely high levels of chlorine.  Levels high enough to damage anything metallic on a pool system.  Heaters and pump shaft seals wear out prematurely as a result.  They are not cheap to replace.

3. Possibly the most valuable thing algae blooms affect is your time and energy.  Plus, the pool is unusable for on average 1 week.  Which here in Victoria is a sizable chunk of our pool season.

I always feel bad for people who get algae blooms.  Especially if they come into our store with their children and they ask how long will it take before they can use the pool again.  I know that having to wait a week before using the pool again would feel like forever to a img020child, a day felt like forever to me when I was one.

I wrote this so that all of you understand how oxidizing weekly is directly linked to avoid the green monster we call algae, and as a result you will have more time to enjoy your pool like you should.

In the next article I’ll explain some more benefits that you will gain from weekly oxidizing, especially in hot tubs.

Thanks for reading.

Balanced water is a happy dog

The internet is full of helpful info for pool and hot tub owners.

For example, if you search ‘pool water balance ideal ranges’ then click on images you get lots of absolutely fantastic charts and graphs like this:

water_balance_table

This one in particular is so fantastic I am going to print out a few copies to give to my customers in our store.  And I may even hang one up in our water testing lab.

However, as great as this and many other charts are to me as an industry professional, I feel they are a little boring, dull, and possibly confusing to the average homeowner.  I feel it’s my job to make that chart make sense to the homeowner and instruct them how to apply it to their pool or hot tub.

In my experience explaining this to hundreds of customers I’ve noticed that linking water balance to money savings captures a lot of interest and really motivates them to follow through with the instruction

So, how does adding a bunch of stuff that you had to pay for actually save you money?

Let me explain.

1. Sanitizers (chlorine or bromine) keep the water free of nasty stuff (virus, pathogen, bacteria) that can make you sick.  Being sick can cost you money through prescription medicine and time off from work.

2. Balanced water (pH, Alkalinity, Calcium Harness in ranges shown idog_dishwasherPET-dog-on-rugn the chart above) is happy water.  Let’s compare water to a pet. Lets say it’s a dog.

Imagine your dog was hungry.  And instead of letting you know in some way  it just decided to start eating your dishwasher.  That would be frustrating and expensive.  Bad dog!

Then imagine the opposite.  You gave your dog too much food and it ate it all only to turn around and get sick all over your new Persian rug.  Again, frustrating and expensive.  Bad dog!

About now you’re probably wondering where I’m going with all this and how is it linked to your pool or hot tub.

The water in your pool or hot tub is a lot like a pet dog (unless it smells like one.  If that’s the case please give me call).

If it is hungry (low pH, low Alkalinity, low Calcium) it starts to eat things.  What it really likes to eat unfortunately, are expensive things.  Heaters, pump shaft seals and bearings, and even the surface of the pool or hot tub if its concrete are some of its favorite things. Bad water!

Also, if the water is full, or has too much Alkalinity, Calcium and a high pH it will start to vomit them out causing scale formations to appear on surfaces and especially in heaters. Bad water!

Both of these scenarios lead to premature breakdown of expensive equipment.  That is why it is worth every penny to properly balance you pool or hot tub water.  Then Hungry-Dog-800x450test it regularly to see how its doing. Because, unlike a pet, it wont tell you when it’s hungry.

Let me know in the comments section if you have any questions.

Thanks for reading.

Can we get back to basics?

When you walk in your local poIMG_20130115_150518_717ol or hot tub store does it look anything like this?  An intimidating wall of chemicals that leaves you wondering, “how much of this stuff do I REALLY need.” I don’t blame you.  I really wish it wasn’t like this.  I can assure you though, that you don’t NEED all of it.

The most common question I get asked goes a little something like this.  “I just got a hot tub/pool, what chemicals do I need?”

Since that really is a simple question I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to simply answer it.  Here’s what I’ve come up with. All pool and hot tub products could be split up into 3 categories:

  1. Essentials
  2. Enhancers
  3. Problem Solvers

That’s it.  Simple so far, right?  Hope so.

Under the Essentials category are all the products you NEED.  Again, I have thought about how to keep this simple, so let’s see if we can make it as easy as ABC.

Alkalinity Increaser

Balance pH (best to purchase a pH up and pH down product)

Calcium Hardness Increaser

That’s 4 products that you will use in amounts that will vary depending on your source water and how much water you are balancing.  The only other products needed are a Sanitizer (bromine or chlorine) and an Oxidizer (aka shock).

6 Products.  That’s it.  That is all you NEED.

Those 6 products alone are all you need to properly balance and sanitize the water.  And balanced water is happy water.

In the next article, I’ll explain what is involved in water balance and why it is worth every penny to do it properly.

Thanks for reading.