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Spa Chemicals: Sanitize vs. Oxidize – Know the difference your tubs life depends on it

Updated: May 17, 2018

Ok, here I go, There are two distinctly different things that are going on inside of you hot tub water.

First is what is known as sanitizing, second is oxidation. Actually if we are to put them in the proper order of importance lets switch their order and talk about oxidation first. Oxidation is the breaking down of the oils and organics in your water.

What are these things? They could be body oils, lotions, deodorant’s, dead skin cells, sweat, left over detergents from suits or leaves that fell in when the cover was open.

The reason oxidation is so important is because a sanitizers ability to kill bacteria and virus is greatly diminished if there are organics present in the water. Why?  Generally sanitizers are great at doing what they are there to do…..sanitize, but unfortunately they are not great oxidizers  So if the sanitizer is battling organics they will use themselves up trying to oxidize the organics and not have enough left to sanitize….What do you get then? A cloudy or funky smelling spa.

spa chemicals

So now that I have your attention let’s talk about how to oxidize. There are a couple different ways to accomplish this. The first is mechanically…well not really a mechanical device but what is known as an ozonator. There are 2 basics styles of ozone generating devices the first is a light style. Inside of the ozone generator is a uv light bulb that has air drawn across it and injected into the spa. The second is a corona discharge model which has a chip in it that is sometimes replaceable sometimes you need to replace the entire device. Both of these devices produce ozone gas that is a very strong oxidizer, unfortunately they do wear out within a few years. When they are operating properly they emit an odor that can smell like fresh cut grass. The next type of an oxidizer comes in the form of a non-chlorine shock (potassium peroxymonosulfate or peroxymonopersulfate) huge words but effective products. The last is to super-chlorinate or as it’s affectionately known as “shocking”. The problem with this method is the smell and bleaching effect.

Once the water has been properly oxidized the sanitizer can easily do its job. The type of sanitizer you choose to use and the amounts used can be greatly reduced if they do not need to oxidize. There are many different combinations of spa chemicals you can use but it is very important to be consistent and do not play mad scientist with your chemicals.

After many years of testing new products in both display spas and our personal spas we have come to rely on the Nature 2 mineral regiment. Every 4 months the nature 2 stick is replaced and it is your primary sanitizer, along with the mineral stick that goes in your filter, granular chlorine (dichlor) is added twice a week to reactivate the minerals and to disinfect your spa cover. Also twice a week a small amount of non-chlorine shock is added to oxidize the spa water that’s it!

Keep in mind there are a ton of spa water maintenance systems out there, far too many to mention, some are good some not so good but there is NO one size fits all answer. If you are having problems ASK for help from a pool & spa professional.

(Box stores don’t offer H2O testing or good advice about water chemistry) but I did get my oil changed and picked up a cool Frisbee for my kids………JUST SAYIN.

For more questions call us at 585-343-7665 or visit us at


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