Best Hot Tub Chemicals for Sensitive Skin (Buyer’s Guide)

I love getting in my hot tub. But between the chemicals, I have to add to the water, and my easily irritated skin, I’ve wondered what the best hot tub chemicals for sensitive skin were.

Here’s what I’ve discovered:

Bromine is better for sensitive skin than chlorine and it also does a better job of killing viruses and bacteria than chlorine. Bromine also remains in hot water longer requiring less frequent applications. You can also avoid both bromine and chlorine if you are willing to do more frequent maintenance on your tub.

But there’s more to know about treating the water in your hot tub to both be gentle to your skin but also to ensure your health and safety. After all, the chemicals you treat the water with are designed to kill potentially deadly bacteria and diseases.

So balancing these 2 needs is important!

We’ll also get into alternatives to both bromine and chlorine and answer the question of whether you need chemicals at all.

Let’s dive in!

Do I have to use bromine or chlorine in my hot tub?

The short answer is no.

However, not using either one will require some additional effort on your part to make sure your water is free of bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens.

For starters, if you normally change your filter every 12-24 months (and you should), you’ll want to double that frequency if you’re going “au naturale“.

Next, you’ll want to drain and refill your hot tub more often.

I currently do mine every 3-5 months depending on the season and how often we’re using it. I also go off of appearance and smell.

Without bromine or chlorine, start to change your water every 2-3 months depending on how often you use it. Also, since your water goes into pipes and equipment not easily seen, it’s a great idea to use Jet Clean by the Leisure Time company.

Just click the link to see the current price on Amazon.

You add Jet Clean to the water (with the pump running) right before you drain it. It removes “organics, dirt, oils, and minerals that can restrict water flow and damage equipment.”

Use 1 bottle every time you drain and refill your tub.

It will keep your water flowing and ensure your jets are blowing at full pressure. But using water without a sanitizer, it will also help protect the water from contaminants that can built-up in the pipes.

Next you’ll want to use a non-chlorine shock product like Zodiac Cense. It’s an EPA recognized non-chlorine or bromine spa sanitizer. Just click the link to see the price on Amazon.

Just a few tablespoons of this once a week or after each use will work great!

Lastly, since nothing quite kills bacteria quite like chlorine or bromine, consider adding an Ozonator to your hot tub.

Ozone systems kill all types of bacteria, viruses, yeast, and other growths that might crop up in a non-bromine or chlorine hot tub.

These, unfortunately, are not something you can just toss in the tub as they’ll have to be plumbed into your pipes by a pro.

But you can also check out a YouTube video and see if it looks like a DIY project.

Is bromine safer than chlorine?

Bromine and chlorine are the 2 primary sanitizers for the water in a hot tub or swimming pool.

They are both readily available on the shelves of your pool supply store, Wal-Mart, Amazon, or wherever you buy your hot tub chemicals.

But most of us don’t know the difference between bromine or chlorine.

We know chlorine is the main ingredient in bleach, but bromine is more of a mystery. So is one better or safer than the other? Should we use both? Does it matter which one we use?

Let’s break it down!

CHLORINE

  • More popular and more widely used
  • Can be put in a feeder, but a granular powder you sprinkle in is most common
  • Less expensive than bromine
  • Shock treatments are needed more often than with bromine
  • Disolves faster than bromine
  • Kills algae more quickly than bromine

BROMINE

  • Dissolves more slowly than chlorine
  • More stable than chlorine at high temperatures
  • Better at killing viruses and bacteria than chlorine
  • Less irritating to the skin than chlorine
  • The better choice for people who are lax about checking water quality
  • Water tends to be a little cloudier than with chlorine
  • Bromine levels remain higher longer than chlorine

Ultimately while both are similar, bromine is probably the better AND safer choice for hot tubs unless you have a significant problem with algae.

Bromine lasts longer, is less irritating to skin, has a less obnoxious odor than chlorine, is better at killing bacteria and viruses, which is, after all, why we add this stuff to begin with!

Can you have a hot tub without chemicals?

I already covered what you can do to avoid both bromine or chlorine.

But some folks want to know if they can just fill up their hot tub from the hose and not treat the water at all.

The short answer is you really shouldn’t.

While the water isn’t any more treated than the lake water you might swim in, the lake water is exposed to lots of oxygen and the sun’s UV rays. Those things combined with the flow of the water have a purifying effect on the lake water.

Your hot tub sits mostly under a giant cover and sits perfectly still until you get in and turn the jets on.

Think about a lake or pond you’ve seen where there was no movement and maybe it was under a shade tree. That water is often algae-ridden and stagnant.

Your body is covered in dead skin cells, oils, and potentially small particles of even fecal matter. Not to gross you out, but those things all can come off our body and into the hot tub water.

So with no chemicals whatsoever, you’d be putting yourself and your family and friends at great risk of infection.

Is bromine bad for your skin?

Bromine is definitely better for your skin than chlorine.

That being said, it’s still a chemical disinfectant and can still irritate the skin in large doses. High doses of bromine can lead to the following symptoms:

  • Itchy, irritated eyes
  • Scratchy throat
  • Cough

That being said, most people don’t see much, if any reaction from bromine if the dose is applied correctly in your hot tub.

Too much bromine (I’m talking a very large, hopefully, accidentally done like when you over-pour) can create a compound called bromamines. These are created when the bromine comes in contact with ammonia in the water.

Ammonia is often transmitted to pool and hot tub water simply from our skin.

Oddly, when bromines convert to bromamines, the test strip readings can show an acceptable level but in fact, the bromine is no longer actively protecting you from bacteria and viruses.

So always be very careful when treating your water. You can always add more bromine, but if you overpour, you’ll need to wait a day or 3 and treat again.

One of the benefits of occasionally using shock products in your hot tub is that they remove bromamines.

Can I use Epsom salt in my hot tub?

No is the short answer.

Don’t get me wrong. If I have sore muscles, there’s nothing better than a hot bath with some Epsom salts. So it’s natural to think of adding it to a hot tub.

Don’t do it!

The problem is that salt is incredibly corrosive. But it also disrupts the PH and alkalinity of your water and can reduce the effectiveness of the sanitizer. But disrupting the PH is mild compared to corroding your heater and pipes.

In your bathtub, it mostly sits in your plastic or porcelain tub and then goes down the drain (continuously moving).

In your hot tub, the salt has nowhere to go. So it gets pulled into every pipe (admittedly many of which are PVC), but also your pump and heater.

It only takes 1500 parts per million of Epsom salt to be corrosive to a hot tub. But the typical user of Epsom salts put in the equivalent of 20,000 parts per million!

Luckily, someone invented aromatherapy products designed specifically for hot tubs.

InSPAration Hot Tub Spa & Bath Aromatherapy Fragrance Assortment is an awesome product you can see on Amazon (just click my link).

It comes with 50 assorted packs; just snip one open and dissolve into your hot tub!

The scents include: Coconut Lime Verbena, Vanilla Twist, Mangosteen & Goji, Pomegranate, Cucumber Melon, Jasmine, Tropical Island, and April showers. No oily residue and a pleasing scent to cover up your bromine or chlorine smell.

What are the best hot tub chemicals for sensitive skin?

In truth, there are a TON of different brands on the market.

Most probably work about as well as another, but honestly, it can be very confusing. So let’s take the mystery out of it.

For the average hot tub, you will need 4 things:

  • Sanitizer (like bromine or chlorine)
  • PH balancer (technically 2 things as 1 will go up and 1 will go down)
  • Alkalinity balancer (also 2 things as it too goes up and down)
  • Shock (kills bacteria but also removes bromamines and chloramines)

You can also add a calcium hardner depending upon how much calcium is in your water. If calcium hardness levels are low, that can lead to corrosion. There are also products for de-foaming and to kill algae.

But those aren’t likely things you’ll use or need on a regular basis.

For sensitive skin, you’ll definitely want to make sure pH and alkalinity are well balanced, but that’s easily done with test strips.

Then, as we’ve mentioned elsewhere, bromine is better for sensitive skin than chlorine.

So taking all that into consideration, and then reading reviews and knowing what brands I like, here are my top recommendations for the best hot tub chemicals for sensitive skin.

All are links to Amazon products, so just click them to check the current prices on Amazon.

BROMINE SANITIZER

Spa Essentials Brominating Concentrate Granules for Spas and Hot Tubs

Great reviews, free shipping, and a great price!

Check it out on Amazon.

PH UP & DOWN

I prefer to treat pH and Alkalinity separately.

They are related, but there are plenty of times where my pH is high and my alkalinity is low (or vice versa). So if I have one of those products that do both (such as “Spa Up or Down”) then it’s confusing as to what to do.

If you are as confused about the difference between pH and alkalinity as I was, check out my recent article where I break down exactly how the 2 are similar and how they’re different. I was fascinated to see how they 2 impacts each other while being altogether different.

     

Spa Choice Granular pH Increaser and Decreaser

The Spa Choice products are Amazon’s Choice products with free Prime shipping and have awesome reviews.

Check out the Increaser on Amazon.

Check out the Decreaser on Amazon.

ALKALINITY UP & DOWN

I mentioned this above, but I like to control pH and alkalinity separately even though they are related.

Unfortunately, while companies make pH up and down products, alkalinity products that aren’t paired with pH only come in increasers.

So for that reason, I am recommending a Spa Down product here if you need to reduce alkalinity. Just know that will lower pH also (but then you can add a little pH up to balance)

Leisure Time Alkalinity Increaser

An Amazon’s Choice product with almost 100 near-perfect reviews and free shipping when your total order is over $25.

Check it out on Amazon.

Leisure Time Spa Down

Not a ton of reviews but all are perfect star ratings. And free shipping when your total order is over $25.

Check it out on Amazon.

SPA SHOCK

Leisure Time Renew Non-Chlorine Shock

An Amazon’s Choice product with free shipping and hundreds of near-perfect reviews.

Quick dissolving and you can use your hot tub within minutes of adding it. Treat weekly to protect, clean, and oxidize your hot tub water.


And then don’t forget the Test Strips. For some reason, these buggers are pricier than it seems like they should be. Especially in stores. Amazon, however, has a great price on Leisure Time’s 2 pack of 50 strips which should cover you for a year or more.

Just click the link to see the current price on Amazon.

Did I cover all you wanted to know about the best hot tub chemicals for sensitive skin?

In this article, we took a look at the balancing of chemicals in your hot tub water.

We explored some of the key differences between bromine and chlorine. But we also looked at what chemicals might not be necessary and some of the impacts of putting these chemicals in your water.

Specifically, though, we answered the question of what are the best hot tub chemicals for sensitive skin.

Do you use chlorine or bromine in your hot tub?

Above all, make sure you also know about all the ways to use and not use bleach in your hot tub. I cover all the do’s and don’ts of bleach and hot tubs in a recent article. If you have sensitive skin, you’ll especially want to make sure you know the worst thing you can do with bleach in a hot tub.

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a husband, father, martial artist, budget-master, Disney-addict, musician, hot tub lover, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market.

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