Can Too Much Chlorine in a Hot Tub Hurt You?

Man suffering itching scratching eyes in a park

If you own a hot tub, you know about sanitizing the water. But sometimes, between sanitizer and shock, we can overdo it and add too much. So can too much chlorine in a hot tub hurt you?

Here’s what I’ve learned from owning hot tubs for years:

Too much chlorine can cause burning eyes, skin rashes and lead to difficulty breathing. And extremely high levels can also lead to nausea and vomiting.

It is all a question of balance, as too little chlorine can be almost as bad.

If you’re not sure how much or which chemicals you need to keep your hot tub healthy, then this is the article for you.

So let’s jump straight in and find out what you need to know.

What are the side effects of too much chlorine?

Chlorine side effects from exposure in a pool or hot tub include irritation to the skin, eyes, and respiratory system, causing itchiness, possibly a burning sensation, and breathing difficulties. Nausea and headaches are also symptoms of chlorine poisoning.

Chlorine is a chemical element that occurs naturally and dissolves easily in water. 

It is excellent at killing off germs and forms of bacteria that can cause us serious harm in the warm, moist environment of a hot tub, such as cryptosporidium, legionella, and norovirus.

However, you can have too much of a good thing, and if you over-chlorinate your hot tub, you might find yourself feeling ill or a little itchy.

However, the real danger is not so much the chlorine but how it reacts with other things in the water, such as body fluids, lotions, deodorants, shampoos, and conditioners. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has produced a fact sheet about chlorine.

You can read by clicking on this link if you are concerned about the use of chlorine in your hot tub, but for most users, if you stick to the guidelines of between 1 and 3 ppm and test the water regularly, you won’t go far wrong.

There is no antidote for exposure to excessive amounts of chlorine.

But the important thing is to remove the chemicals from your body as quickly as you can by showering and then treating the damaged skin with creams containing hydrocortisone (but avoid the face) and antihistamine if you have hives.

How do I lower the chlorine level in my hot tub?

High chlorine levels in a hot tub will naturally drop in 1-2 days. Since sunlight depletes chlorine, it is a good idea to leave the lid off for a while to speed things up and turn on the jets too. This agitation of the water will release the chlorine gasses into the air.

But if you want to use your hot tub faster, you can use a chlorine neutralizer such as sodium thiosulfate on Amazon to get the level down but add it slowly and keep on checking the level.

You should also check the pH and alkalinity levels after this and adjust as necessary.

It is easy to add too much chlorine to your hot tub, making it uncomfortable to use, but before you do anything, you must establish that it is the chlorine that’s the problem. 

If you smell chlorine when you lift the lid, this is most likely caused by chloramines, which develop when the chlorine in the water mixes and reacts with things such as body oils, deodorants, perfume, and sweat.

So, check the chlorine level with a test strip – it should be between 1 and 3 ppm, and if it is over 5, you have too much chlorine in your hot tub.

You can, of course, empty your tub, clean it and refill it with fresh water, but this is a bit drastic unless you are close to that point in your maintenance cycle.

Find out more about the differences between chlorine and bromine by clicking on the link to read this recent article here. I really prefer bromine for my sanitizer. But there’s 1 crucial reason some people might want chlorine.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

What happens if you get in a hot tub with too much chlorine?

Slightly elevated chlorine levels in a hot tub will cause some discomfort after a few minutes. This can vary from mild irritation of the skin to a burning sensation, and your eyes will sting as well. In worse cases, breathing can also be affected.

If you feel any of these sensations after jumping into your hot tub, get out immediately! 

Take a shower to get the chemicals off your body, and don’t let anyone else enter. You will need to address this issue before anyone goes back in.

In a recent article, I discussed going into a hot tub with high chlorine levels. I go a little deeper into the symptoms of chlorine poisoning, including the 1 thing you should go to the hospital immediately for.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Keeping a good chemical balance is essential to your hot tub enjoyment, and that starts with your choice of sanitizer. Some people prefer to use bromine rather than chlorine to sanitize their hot tub water.

This is fine, but remember that bromine is chlorine-based, so if you have an allergic reaction to chlorine, it is not necessarily a good alternative.

How long does it take for chlorine levels to go down?

You should always allow at least 30-45 minutes before entering the water after adding chlorine, and it works faster if you leave the jets running and the cover off. Super high chlorine levels may take 1-2 days to drop.

If you’ve put too much chlorine in, you will have to leave it at least 24 hours unless you use a chlorine neutralizer such as sodium thiosulfate. This also applies after using chlorine to shock your water.

As always, regular checking of chemical levels, adding sanitizer, and cleaning the filter will go a long way to ensuring that your hot tub is ready for you whenever you want a relaxing soak.

I go into this in more detail in a recent article. And while some sanitizers require as much as 2 hours to wait after adding before it’s safe to soak, one way of doing it allows you to enter almost immediately.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

How do I know if my hot tub chlorine is too high? 

The best way to determine proper hot tub chlorine levels is by dipping a test strip into the water for 2 seconds, shaking off the excess water, and comparing the colors on the strip with the chart on the container. Adjust as needed, but wait 20 minutes before testing again.

You can get test strips from your local hardware store, but the type I recommend is the Poolmaster 6-Way test strips on Amazon —click on the link to check the latest prices. 

It has almost all 5-star reviews from around 1,700 ratings, so it can’t be bad, and at less than 10 bucks a pack, it’s good value too. It’s the only brand of test strip I use.

These strips check for:

  • chlorine level (or bromine if you’re using that) 
  • alkalinity
  • pH levels 
  • total hardness

All essential for maintaining clear, healthy water with no scale build-up. 

Easy to use, you just dip them in the water at least 6” below the surface for a couple of seconds and then take out, shake off the excess water and wait.

The colors should be visible almost immediately, certainly after a few seconds, and you can compare the reading with the color scale on the card that comes with the test strips. This will show the active amount of chlorine or bromine in the water and the level of acidity.

The total hardness of the water is what causes scale to form, which can corrode the surfaces of your hot tub, and this is also indicated.

You should test the water 2 or 3 times a week.

But I like to do it every time I get out. I test, adjust if needed, and leave the cover off 20 minutes with the jets on.  That way, my hot tub is ready every time I am.

Incidentally, you can use chlorine to shock your hot tub even if you use bromine as a sanitizer – check out this recent article here on my website to find out more.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Did I cover everything you wanted to know about what to do if you get too much chlorine in your hot tub?

So, now you know all there is to know about chlorine – well, at least as far as your hot tub is concerned. 

Remember that chlorine does more good than it can cause harm, and provided you regularly check the levels, you, your friends, and family will be safe in your hot tub.

If there is anything I missed or you have any questions on this subject, just drop me a line, and I will do my best to answer it. And don’t forget to check out the other related articles. 

here on my site. Just click on the links.

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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