Confused About Hot Tub Chemicals and Maintenance?

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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.

Why Does My Hot Tub Water Smell Like Rotten Eggs?

Why Does My Hot Tub Water Smell Like Rotten Eggs lg

Many of us hot tub owners have come home from a hard day’s work, lifted the hot tub lid, and thought, phew, why does my hot tub water smell like rotten eggs?

Here’s what I’ve discovered over the years:

The smell of rotten eggs in a hot tub is most likely hydrogen sulfide gas, which is usually caused by decaying organic matter or bacteria called biofilm. This can be present in the water but more likely is in the plumbing and equipment, and not visible. Luckily, there’s an easy solution.

That smell of sulfur is quite noxious and is a sure sign that something is not right.

But before you do anything, you should make sure that the smell is coming from your hot tub and not from your drains.

Sewer gas has a similar odor, so make sure that is not the cause of the smell.

To learn what to do next, read on.

Is there sulfur in my hot tub water?

Sulfur is not typically present in hot tub water. The smell is most likely hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas, which is harmless and will dissipate with the lid off for a few minutes as the gas quickly disperses into the atmosphere. However, it could be a symptom of another problem.

However, just because the smell is harmless doesn’t mean something isn’t wrong.

The smell is often caused by the decay of organic matter, but it could also be corrosion of metallic parts. So to find out what your problem is, you need to ‘troubleshoot’.

In most modern hot tubs, there are only a few, if any, metallic parts to corrode, but don’t rule it out straight away. Look at the more likely event first.

When we jump into a hot tub, especially with kids, we bring in all sorts of organic matter with us. This can be plant or animal-based, but all organic matter derives from living things, unlike the deodorants and body lotions we apply ourselves.

So even if you shower beforehand, you can still bring leaves and bugs in with you. Even dead skin can add to the build-up.

Bugs and plant life can also get into your hot tub if you leave the lid off for a while before getting in, or even when you’re in there, so it is hard, if not impossible, to keep them out.

So, check your filters and chemical balance first, then look to see if you have any rusting elements if this is okay.

How do I stop my hot tub water from smelling like rotten eggs?

To eliminate a rotten egg sulfur smell in the hot tub water, change the water every 3 months and perform a biofilm cleanout every time. In addition to maintaining proper water chemistry, rinse filters every 3 weeks and do a filter deep clean every 3 months and replace them annually.

It is important to introduce and maintain a rigorous regime to keep your water clean, clear, and smelling sweet. 

The filter on your hot tub is the first line of defense in terms of keeping all the nasty things from getting into the plumbing.

You should clean the filter every 3 weeks if you use it a lot, once a fortnight for lighter use. This can be just a matter of hosing it down, but you need to get right into those pleats.

Check out this Filter Flosser on Amazon – it’s made for this situation, and you just connect it to your garden hose.

Then you should check the sanitizer levels and pH and alkalinity levels too. If you’re getting a smell of rotten eggs, it is more than likely caused by an imbalance, so you will need to hyper-chlorinate.

Hyper-chlorinating the water will give your water an extra dose of sanitizer.

This is known as shocking the water, and you need to bring the chlorine level up to 100 ppm or more to kill off the sulfur bacteria. It is important to get rid of all bacteria; otherwise, the problem will return, so keep up with the maintenance program.

I do a biofilm clean-out every time I change my water.

To do this, I simply add about 8oz. of Oh Yuk! Healthy Hot Tub Cleaner from Amazon to the water. Then I leave the lid off, take the filters out, and run the jets for 1 hour. I restart the jets as needed since they time out occasionally.

Then I rinse or wipe off any residue along the waterline, drain, and wipe down the hot tub before refilling and balancing the water.

Is it bad to get in sulfur water in a hot tub?

A sulfur smell in hot tub water is not toxic and does not pose a health hazard in itself. However, the gas that can develop from sulfur bacteria, H2S, can irritate your mucous membranes and respiratory tract. More acute symptoms include headaches, nausea, and convulsions.

In the concentrations likely to be experienced in your hot tub, it is not so much the sulfur or the hydrogen sulfide gas that will cause you harm; it is the bacteria in the water.

Getting into any smelly water is not a good idea.

In a recent article, I discussed what makes hot tub water cloudy and smelly, and you can see this by clicking on the link. Hot tubs provide the ideal environment for bacteria to develop, and this can lead to diseases such as folliculitis and, worst-case scenario, Legionnaires’ Disease.

Just click that link to get all the details on my site.

So, you need to get the water cleaned up before going anywhere near it, and that involves shocking it. You can use chlorine or a non-chlorine shock for this.

It is best to leave the hot tub with the jets running and the lid off for 30 minutes or more after adding any chemicals. That will help to get rid of other gasses that are likely to develop.

Will chlorine get rid of a sulfur smell in my hot tub?

Chlorine shock or sanitizer, as well as bromine sanitizer, will kill bacteria in hot tub water that can lead to a sulfur smell. However, if biofilm is present in the plumbing, that can quickly render chlorine and bromine inert, so it’s best to perform a biofilm cleanout then drain and refill the hot tub.

If that seems likely, just see my instructions 2 sections above.

If you are keeping up with your water maintenance, you may just get away with your regular shock treatment. But if you’ve let things slip a bit, maybe you’ve been away for a while, then you need to get down to some serious sanitization.

Cleaning the filter, checking the pH and total alkalinity levels, and making sure the water is in balance are all things you should do to get the water clean again.

Get rid of the bacteria, and you will get rid of the smell.

Run your jets for a while to purge the pipes and clean the pump as well. Bacteria can often lodge in your plumbing after a major problem.

If the situation reoccurs, it’s probably a good idea to change the water in your hot tub.

You should do this anyway every 3 or 4 months, so if it is getting close to that time, this is your best option. You should check out this recent article about changing the water. A hose will take about 2 hours to drain a large hot tub. But I drain mine in less than 15 minutes!

Just click the link to read it on my site and see how!

How can I make my hot tub water smell better?

Spa Crystals can improve the smell of hot tub water with none of the risks posed from Epsom salt or oil-based aromatherapy products. However, never use scented products to cover up a bad smell in a hot tub.

If you have had a problem with foul odors in your hot tub, you need to, first of all, make sure your water is clean and clear.

Don’t add products to disguise a smell.

Many people like to use their hot tub for aromatherapy, and the best way to do this is to add some essential oils such as lavender, tea tree, cinnamon, or cedar. However, you can’t just use any oils – it has to be a product made specifically for spas and hot tubs.

The Spazazz Spa Crystals on Amazon are perfect for enhancing a hot tub’s spa-like experience – just click on the link to see the full description and the latest prices.

The original Lavender Palmarosa fragrance, Grapefruit Orange, Green Tea Peony, Pomegranate, Coconut Vanilla, and White Musk Jasmine Vanilla are excellent choices for a fragrant and relaxing soak in the hot tub.

These lightly scented crystals help you relax, and the oil-free formula does not leave any residues or affect the chemical balance of the water, nor does it clog the filter.

The only downside is if you have an outdoor hot tub, the aroma dissipates quickly, but at least it sets the mood and provides a lasting sensation.

Did I cover everything you wanted to know about why your hot tub might smell like rotten eggs?

I hope this gives you the information you need to deal with the smell of sulfur in your hot tub.

Don’t forget: you need to create a maintenance regime and stick to it to avoid bad smells and murky water.

If you need any more advice, just reach out to me – I’d be glad to help. And don’t forget to click on those links to read other associated articles here on my site.

Why Does my Hot Tub Smell Like Pee?

Why Does my Hot Tub Smell Like Pee lg

All of us have had that funny feeling at the pool when we see a bunch of little kids in the water. But we don’t expect that at home in our hot tubs. So why does my hot tub smell like pee?

Here’s what I discovered:

A pee smell in hot tub water is due to a mix of chlorine and urine. Chlorine doesn’t fully kill the pee smell, which is why public pools often over-chlorinate. But small amounts of urine entering the hot tub water, even unintentionally, is common.

Pee in hot tubs? Yes, there are remnants in a lot of hot tubs.

It’s probably never deliberate in most cases, but lab tests reveal that it’s a common occurrence. In fact, a study conducted by some researchers on a sample of 31 pools and hot tubs found remnants of pee in all!

Sweat, oil, poop, sanitizers, and urine invariably mix with the hot tub water.

And over time, the pee smell becomes noticeable. In this article, I’ll share more details about what causes this and how you can get rid of the odor, based on my experience as a hot tub owner and independent research.

Read on to discover more…

Do hot tub chemicals sometimes smell like urine?

Hot tub sanitizers such as bromine or chlorine smell like bleach and do not smell like urine. But a pee smell can be created when chlorine combines with waste products in the hot tub, which can be but don’t have to be urine exclusively.

A hot tub, especially when it’s not been properly maintained, may contain algae, mold, fecal matter, sweat, urine, oil.

They naturally affect the quality of the water and its smell.

As chlorine breaks down while it’s sanitizing the tub, it forms a bond with ammonia, and this combo known as chloramine (a disinfection product) is what gives off the smell.

So, what you’re perceiving is the odor of chlorine (in a changed form) and ammonia. Urine may naturally smell like ammonia. After all, ammonia, in this context, is a mix of sweat and urine.

Apart from the smell, there are times when a hot tub is cloudy, right?

What causes it? In a recent article of mine, an in-depth expose, I examined all the possible causes and how you can fix the cloudy and smelly tub.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Does bromine cause a urine smell in a hot tub?

Bromine does not interact with contaminants and causes a urine smell the same way chlorine does. That smell is caused by chloramines, which are chlorine molecules that have degraded, and those are not present with bromine.

Chloramines are effectively chlorine’s waste products. Bromine is an alternative sanitizer that I use and prefer to chlorine.

Why? Chlorine and heat do not play nice together.

Chlorine is great for swimming pools, where the temperature is not high. But, in a hot tub, it breaks down faster and combines with the residues of urine. It also has a drying, stingy, and of course, stinky character.

If you have sensitive eyes, skin, and nose, you want to be careful with how you use chlorine.

When chlorine mixes with urine, it creates a toxic chemical called cyanogen chloride, which is released when chlorine reacts with the nitrogen in urine. Cyanogen chloride is so lethal it’s classified as a chemical warfare agent!

Now, bromines also produce a waste product, bromamines, but these are not as noxious as chloramines.

Bromine is a more stable sanitizer, even when applied in water that’s high in temperature.

It’s gentler on the skin, and its effect on your hut tub water lasts longer. But, both bromine and chlorine sanitizer should never be used together! You have to choose.

But it is OK to use bromine sanitizer and chlorine shock.

Should I avoid my hot tub if it smells like urine?

Never get in a hot tub that smells like urine. A urine smell is a sign that something is not right with the water chemistry, and that should be corrected before soaking.

So that smell is a reaction of chlorine and urine. And some other waste products from the bathers and sanitizers.

It’s gross, and at the same time, it reduces the pleasurable experience you’re hoping for.

The smell is due to chloramines which we looked at in an earlier section. They are chlorine molecules that have “spoilt.” The effectiveness of the chlorine or bromine used is reduced. It’s the reaction that gives off the awful odor.

You don’t want to sit in that.

We’ll look at how to get rid of the smell in a bit. You might also be curious about how often you should change your hot tub water.

A recent article of mine offers tips. In it, I explained that 3-6 months is ideal, depending on the frequency of use.

And that you should ensure proper water chemistry through testing and adjusting. The filters should be cleaned regularly and replaced as needed.

Just click that link to read the article on my site.

How do I get rid of the pee smell in my hot tub?

The best way to remove a urine smell in hot tub water, short of a complete draining and refilling, is to hyper-chlorinate the water with a double dose of chlorine shock.

Do this even if your test strips show chlorine levels.

As I mentioned, chlorine gets turned into chloramines, and while it can no longer sanitize the water, it will still show (inaccurately) on a test strip.

Ultimately, that’s why we shock our hot tubs once a week; to convert those chloramines back into chlorine.

You have to break that bond by super-chlorinating the water: you’ll have to add more chlorine.

You have to add more chlorine to break the chlorine away from the chloramine (remember chloramine is a mix of chlorine and ammonia).

If you add chlorine of about 10 ppm (parts per million), it should be enough to break the bond.

Run your jets afterward to let it gas off with the cover open. Then, balance your water chemistry again. The smell should be gone. But if it’s not, you could simply drain the water and replace it.

Then, balance the water chemistry again.

How do I stop my hot tub from smelling?

To stop a hot tub from smelling, rinse the filters, shock the water, or, if it has been over 3 months since the last drain and refill of the hot tub, perform a biofilm cleanout, drain the hot tub, wipe down, and refill.

Not sure what I mean by biofilm cleanout?

Check out this recent article where I walk you through it. It’s a simple procedure I do every time I drain and refill my hot tub, which is every 3 months. Just click that link to read it on my site.

Never use a scented product to cover a bad-smelling hot tub.

That is an indicator the water needs to be sanitized or changed. You can use spa scent packs instead, which are an easy way to infuse spa-like scents into your water for an enhanced experience.

There are spa scents that give off a pleasant, subtle fragrance.

Some come with skin moisturizing emollients. And, they’re safe to use because they do not affect the water’s chemistry, foam, cloud, or leave an oily residue.

An awesome one I love is InSPAration on Amazon. It’s got over 450 reviews on Amazon, and almost all are 5 stars. This multi-pack gives you 50 individual packets with multiple scents to choose from!

You just twist the tip of a pillow packet and squeeze it into the tub. It promotes total relaxation while leaving your skin soft. And it’s free from chemical odors.

In addition to spa scents, you might be wondering if it’s okay to use bath salts in your tub.

In a recent article, I explained that bath salts, especially Epsom salts, are not ideal for hot tubs because if the salt is magnesium-based, it can cause flash burns when mixed with chlorine. I also suggested what to do instead.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Conclusion

It’s shocking, but pee residues in hot tubs are more common than we’d like to believe.

Apart from being gross, this could lead to dangerous illnesses when mixed with disinfection products such as chloramines, which are by-products of the sanitation process.

We looked at how hot tub chemicals smell.

No, they don’t smell like urine. They smell like bleach. We looked at whether bromine, an alternative to chlorine, causes a pee smell. We saw that it’s best not to use the tub when we sense the smell. It should be treated at once.

We looked at how to treat the tub to get rid of the smell, and we wrapped up by considering how to make your hot tub fragrant.

Why Does my Hot Tub Smell Like Ammonia?

Why Does my Hot Tub Smell Like Ammonia lg

A foul-smelling hot tub is a common issue for most hot tub owners. But the odors can, unfortunately, come in many different forms. One common question people ask is, why does my hot tub smell like ammonia?

Here’s what I’ve learned over the years:

As a general rule, when a hot tub smells of ammonia, it is due to perspiration, oil, and/or urine left unknowingly by users and reacting with the chlorine in the water. This turns the chlorine into chloramines and reduces its effectiveness in sanitizing the water and requiring action to fix.

Fortunately, there are simple and effective solutions to remove the awful odor.

So in this article, we’re getting into the who, what, how, when, and why this might be happening, how to stop it, and how to fix it when it does happen.

Read on to discover what I have learned as a hot tub owner and from independent research…

Is it normal for hot tub water to smell like ammonia?

It is not normal to have an ammonia smell in a hot tub. An ammonia smell is an indicator that the sanitizer has been rendered ineffective by contaminants, and the hot tub should not be used until the water has been cleaned.

In fact, a hot tub shouldn’t have an offensive smell at all.

If a hot tub is being properly maintained, there’d be no ammonia smell, just the smell of the sanitizer used in treating the water.

The ammonia smell is a sign that the hot tub hasn’t been properly sanitized. The ammonia-like smell is triggered by the presence of chloramines in the hot tub’s water.

Chloramines? Yes, what are they, and are they harmful?

Chloramines are formed when chlorine combines with ammonia. Chloramines are chlorine molecules that have gone bad.

This results from nitrogen (ammonia) being more attracted to the chlorine atom than the hydrogen atom. The foul smell is common when bromine is used as a starting stabilizer.

Chloramines can cause leaching of lead from lead pipes.

This lead leached by chloramine could lead to lead poisoning. And lead poisoning can lead to neurological damage, other health challenges, and even death in small children.

Luckily, that’s a non-issue in most modern hot tubs. But it could be an issue with old hot tubs or possibly in-ground hot tubs.

Chlorine is one of the chemicals used in treating water, while ammonia, in this context, is from perspiration, oil, and urine, unwittingly left in the tub by bathers. They form an “unholy alliance.”

Apart from the smell, there are times when a hot tub is cloudy, right?

What causes it? In a recent article of mine, an in-depth expose, I examined all the possible causes and how you can fix the cloudy and smelly tub.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Does bromine cause an ammonia smell in a hot tub?

Bromine does not cause the same chemical reaction as chlorine that can create an ammonia smell in a hot tub. So ammonia odors in a hot tub are less common when bromine sanitizer is used but can still occur if chlorine shock is used.

The smell is not caused by bromine but by chloramines, which are chlorine molecules that have gone bad. They are effectively chlorine’s waste products. Bromine is an alternative sanitizer that I use and prefer than chlorine.

Why? Chlorine and heat do not play nice together.

Chlorine is great for swimming pools, where the temperature is not high. But, in a hot tub, it breaks down faster. It also has a drying, stingy, and of course, stinky character.

If you have sensitive eyes, skin, and nose, you want to be careful with how you use chlorine.

Chlorine sanitizer has to be used multiple times throughout the week due to how quickly it breaks down. With the bromine tablets I use, I simply put 4-6 in a floater weekly, and that’s it.

Now, bromines also produce a waste product, bromamines, but these are not as noxious as chloramines.

Bromine is a more stable sanitizer, even when applied in water that’s high in temperature. It’s gentler on the skin, and its effect on your hut tub water lasts longer.

But both should never be used together as a sanitizer! You have to choose. But it is OK to use bromine sanitizer and chlorine shock.

Should I avoid my hot tub if it smells like ammonia?

As a general rule, never use a hot tub that smells like ammonia. The ammonia smell is a sign that something is not right and may not be safe or pleasant to soak in.

It’s either a sign the water’s been improperly treated, or it’s due for another treatment.

In fact, it’s a reaction of chlorine and perspiration, oil, and urine. It’s gross, and at the same time, it reduces the pleasurable experience you’re hoping for.

The smell is due to chloramines which we looked at in an earlier section.

They are chlorine molecules that have “spoilt.” This occurs when ammonia gets more attracted to the chlorine atom than the hydrogen atom. It’s the reaction that gives off the awful odor. You don’t want to sit in that.

We’ll look at how to get rid of the smell in a bit. You might also be curious about how often you should change your hot tub water.

A recent article of mine offers tips. In it, I explained that 3-6 months is ideal, depending on the frequency of use.

And that you should ensure proper water chemistry through testing and adjusting. The filters should be cleaned regularly and replaced as needed.

Just click that link to read the article on my site.

How do I get rid of the ammonia smell in my hot tub?

Add chlorine shock to eliminate ammonia in a hot tub. This converts the chloramines back into chlorine. Add 10 ppm (parts per million) chlorine and run the jets with the cover open. Test and adjust the chemicals as needed. If the chlorine levels are too high, wait 24 hours and test again before using.

Remember, chloramine is a mix of chlorine and ammonia.

As I explained earlier, the ammonia smell is because of a bond between chlorine and ammonia. Even though you’ve added chlorine to the tub, it may not show up when you use a test strip to check the level of FREE CHLORINE (FCI). Why is this so?

This is because ammonia is effectively suppressing the activity of the chlorine. It inhibits the effects the chlorine is supposed to have.

So, what’s the solution? You have to break that bond by super-chlorinating the water: you’ll have to add more chlorine.

Then, balance your water chemistry again.

The smell should be gone. But if it’s not. You could simply drain the water and replace it. And balance the water chemistry again.

How can I make my hot tub water smell better?

Correctly treated, hot tub water should be neutral smelling. Non-oil-based spa scents or spa crystals work well to improve the smell of the hot tub water and enhance the soaking experience.

Just don’t use them to cover up a bad smell. Bad smelling water is a sign that something is wrong and should be dealt with and corrected.

But spa crystals give off a pleasant, subtle fragrance.

An awesome one I like is Spazazz Spa and Bath Crystals on Amazon. It’s got over 100 reviews on Amazon, and most are 5-star.

They are not only oil-free but promote improvements with both inflammation and stress relief. And they come in several different scents.

Just add a few scoops into your water, and you’re on your way. It promotes total relaxation while leaving your skin soft. And it’s free from chemical odors.

In addition to spa scents, you might be wondering if it’s okay to use bath salts in your tub?

In a recent article, I explained that bath salts, especially Epsom salts, are not ideal for hot tubs because if the salt is magnesium-based, it can cause flash burns when mixed with chlorine. I also suggested what to do instead.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Conclusion

A foul odor is the last thing you need when you’re hoping to have a relaxing and fun time soaking.

We looked at what causes ammonia smell.

It’s due to chloramines, a waste product of chlorine, a sanitizer for keeping hot tub water clean. The smell is released when chlorine and ammonia (perspiration, oil, and urine) bond. We saw that it’s best to avoid using the tub when it’s giving off the smell and to get the water treated as soon as possible.

We also explored bromine, another sanitizer, and we found out that it doesn’t trigger ammonia smell. I shared a few reasons why I use and prefer bromine to chlorine.

We looked at what to do to remove the ammonia smell and wrapped up our exploration by considering what you could use to make your tub smell better.

Why Does My Spa Water Smell Bad?

Many people love to soak in their hot tub at the end of a long hard day. But the reality is that hot tubs do require ongoing maintenance to keep them functioning properly. Have you ever asked yourself: “why does my spa water smell bad?”

Here’s what’s happening and how to fix it:

Smelly hot tub water can indicate low levels of chlorine or bromine sanitizer, a dirty filter, or water with high levels of total dissolved solids likely from going too long in between water changes.

Luckily, all of those problems have simple remedies. And the solutions can easily be put into practice and just become part of your routine, taking just a few minutes per week.

If this is something you are facing, this article is just for you.

So we’ll cover all the possible causes, how to know which one applies to you, and how to fix each one, quickly and easily. Let’s get into it!

Does bad-smelling hot tub water mean anything?

Cloudy or smelly water in a hot tub can indicate a low pH, high alkalinity, or low chlorine levels. The issue is potentially harmful or at least unpleasant and should be addressed before getting in.

So, when you lift that lid on your hot tub and get a bad smell, you know you have a problem. This is often accompanied by cloudiness in the water. DO NOT GO IN!

The first thing to do is check pH and alkalinity.

If the pH is too low, you may notice a sharp, pungent smell. If you get a musty, stale odor, that is an indication that the pH is too high. High alkalinity can also be the cause of cloudy water.

Start by testing the Total Alkalinity (TA), which should be between 80 and 120 parts per million (ppm).

Then test the pH, which should be between 7.2 and 7.8 ppm. You should always adjust the TA first because if this is outside those parameters, you will have difficulty balancing the pH.

The bad smell may also be caused by poor sanitation, allowing a build-up of biofilm and bacteria in the water. Adding chlorine or bromine to the water regularly will solve this.

If you get a strong smell of chlorine when you lift the lid, don’t make the mistake of thinking this is a good thing either.

It is most likely caused by chloramines, which develop when the chlorine in the water mixes and reacts with the things you as a bather bring in with you – the oils, deodorants, perfume, and sweat, to name a few.

Shocking the water will eliminate this by increasing the chlorine level, which releases the free chlorine in the chloramines.

If you want to know more about keeping your hot tub clear of smells, see this recent article. I get more into biofilm; what it is, how it could hurt you, and how to get rid of it.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

How do I keep my spa water clean?

Keeping your spa water clean is simple enough – you just have to put together a maintenance program and stick to it. This should comprise:

  • Remove and rinse your filter at least every 3 weeks. This is just a matter of hosing it down and getting into the folds. I recommend the Filter Flosser on Amazon, which connects to your garden hose and allows you to easily get in the cracks of all the paper pleats in your filter.
  • Check the pH and alkalinity levels weekly to make sure the balance is right.
  • Change the water and thoroughly clean your hot tub every 3 to 4 months. 
  • Give your filter a deep clean every 3 months by soaking it in a 5-gallon bucket of cold water with a good quality cleaning agent overnight. Alternately with hot water, the soak time can be just 1 hour.
  • Add sanitizer multiple times per week as needed.
  • Shock the water once a week.

For the filter deep clean, there are lots of products on Amazon, but one I would recommend is Power Soak.

I add about half a cup to a 5-gallon bucket of hot water. Then I simply soak my filters in that for 1 hour. Rinse, and put back in, and I’m good to go.

I do that every 3 months.

Chlorine or bromine can be used as a sanitizer. The choice depends on personal taste, and I explained the differences in this recent article. But one is clearly better for hot tubs than the other.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

How do I know if my hot tub has bacteria?

The biggest indicator that a hot tub has high levels of bacteria is when sanitizer and shock have to be added much more frequently than they had been to maintain the same levels when tested. Unfortunately, bacteria won’t be seen in the water.

Over time, the water becomes contaminated with dead skin, sweat, oils from body lotions, deodorants, and perfume. 

This residue forms a biofilm on the surface of your hot tub, most of which gets caught in the filter, but some will find their way into the pump and pipework.

Chlorine – or bromine, if you prefer that – will kill off bacteria and keep your water clean and safe to bathe in.

But sometimes, things can go wrong, and you or one of your friends or family may develop some form of a rash following a hot tub session.

More often than not, a rash is caused by a chemical imbalance in the water, which is easy to resolve, and apart from a little discomfort, isn’t serious.

However, occasionally, a more serious problem can occur.

Hot tub folliculitis is not a common ailment for hot tub users, but it can happen. It is an infection of the hair follicles caused by a bacteria known as pseudomonas, and it can easily spread across the body as we have these all over.

Check out this recent article to find out how to get folliculitis out of your hot tub.

There is no cure, but the symptoms can be treated until it clears up naturally after a few days. The bacteria that causes it is easily destroyed just by following a few simple steps.

Just click on the link to read it here on my site.

How do I stop my hot tub water from smelling?

A smelly hot tub is likely caused by low pH, high alkalinity, low sanitizer, or water that has gone too long since the previous water change and now has high levels of total dissolved solids and/or biofilm.

If the smell is caused by an imbalance in the pH and alkaline levels, you need to address it. 

High pH signifies low acidity, so to lower alkalinity and pH, you should add an acid such as sodium bisulfate or even vinegar (acetic acid).

If alkalinity is fine, you just need to focus on the pH and ensure that it is the correct level on your test strip.

If the smell is due to chloramines, then shocking the water will clear this up. Sodium Dichlor is best for this as it is chlorine-based, and it is the free chlorine you want to release. But any chlorine-based hot tub shock should do the trick.

Smells can result from bromine reacting with the biofilm as well – sometimes described as a chemical or caustic odor – creating bromamines, and this can be treated similarly, but you should use a non-chlorine shock.

It is best to leave the hot tub with the jets running and the lid off for 30 minutes or more after adding chemicals to get rid of any gasses that are likely to develop.

As always, prevention is better than the cure, so to avoid bad smells, stick to your maintenance regime, including changing the water regularly.

For more information on how and when to change your hot tub water, check out this recent article.

Changing your hot tub’s water isn’t hard and you can easily just use a garden hose you already have on hand. However, that will take about 2 hours to drain, whereas I drain mine in 15 minutes!

Just click the link to read more on my site.

How can I make my hot tub water smell better? 

A well-balanced hot tub should have a neutral smell with just a faint aroma of chlorine. However, there are aromatherapy products that can scent the water without the damaging effects of bath bombs or oil-based products.

One thing everyone who owns a hot tub should understand, a hot tub is not a bath, and you cannot treat it in the same way.

Adding products such as Epsom salts and bubble bath may work in an ordinary bathtub, but if you put them in a spa, you are asking for trouble.

Epsom salts are particularly bad because of the high salt content, which can be extremely corrosive for your hot tub. Bubble bath should also be avoided because this will clog the filter and block the jets.

The only products that should be used in a hot tub are those made specifically for that purpose.

Check out this recent article on my website on the topic of using bath salts by clicking on the link.

If you want to improve your hot tub experience and add some aromatherapy, why not try some spa crystals like those in from Spazazz on Amazon  – just click on the link to see the latest prices.

The original Lavender Palmarosa aroma, Grapefruit Orange, Green Tea Peony, Pomegranate, Coconut Vanilla, and White Musk Jasmine Vanilla are all available.

The oil-free crystals do not affect the pH balance of hot tubs and do not leave any residues or clog filters.

Did I cover everything you wanted to know about why spa water can smell bad?

Lots of things can make your hot tub water smell bad.

Luckily, there are things you can do to improve the situation when it arises, but the main thing is to avoid it in the first place.

Maintaining your hot tub water and keeping it crystal clear is the best way to deal with bad smells.

I hope this gives you the information you need to keep your hot tub in tip-top condition, so you don’t have the disappointment of having to miss out on a good soak. If you need any more advice, just reach out to me – I’d be glad to help.

And don’t forget to click on those links to read other associated articles here on my site.


Photo which requires attribution:

Yellowstone NP trip by ilya_ktsn is licensed under CC2.0 and was cropped, edited, color-adjusted, and had a text and graphic overlay added

What Happens if You Put Bubble Bath in a Hot Tub?

The thing that attracts most people to owning a hot tub is the ability to relax and feel those bubbles working on your muscles, easing the aches and pains. And, it’s natural to wonder what happens if you put bubble bath in a hot tub.

Here’s what I found out (the hard way):

Bubble bath will quickly overwhelm a hot tub with excess foam and it can also put extra wear and tear on the pump and heater, causing them to work harder to move the water through. But some detergents can also have a chemical reaction with chlorine, leaving a rough film on the acrylic shell.

So, as tempting as it might be, especially if you have kids and they want a bubble party with their friends, let me tell you this – don’t do it! That doesn’t mean to say they can’t have fun, though. There are plenty of other things you can add to enhance your enjoyment.

To find out what you can and can’t do and what to do if someone puts bubble bath in your hot tub, read on.

Is it safe to put bubble bath in a hot tub?

Putting bubble bath in a hot tub will not harm people, but it may harm the equipment in a hot tub. The excess of bubbles is likely to become so overwhelming that it makes the hot tub difficult to use and enjoy.

So, the first thing that will happen is you’ll get an immense amount of bubbles – so much that you probably won’t find the controls let alone your kids!

This is why. If you put dish soap in a bowl and slowly add water, you hardly get any suds at all but turn on the faucet full blast, and the suds soon build up. This is because you are adding air into the mix. The hot tub jets work the same way. Agitating the water intensifies the process, and soon things get out of control.

This mountain of bubbles will do nothing to increase your enjoyment. In fact, it will make it virtually impossible to sit in your hot tub for any length of time, even if you turn off the jets.

And the bubbles won’t really go away on their own.

Every time you get in and turn the jets on, they will come foaming back! So, unfortunately, the only way to deal with it effectively is to drain, rinse, and refill the hot tub.

It may seem like great fun for the kids, but you could end up having to replace the pump because it has to work harder to move the water around.

If I put bubble bath in my hot tub, do I need to drain it after?

Small amounts of bubbles from bubble bath can be removed with a skimming net. Large amounts of bubble bath will require draining, rinsing, and refilling a hot tub. In either case, also remove and rinse off the filters,

But let’s look at that in greater detail:

First, you need to turn off the jets, and then you should skim off all of the soap suds from the top.

There will be some residue, but to disperse this, try sprinkling salt over the surface. Check your pH and alkalinity levels after adding anything like this, and adjust accordingly.

Take out your filter and hose it down for a good 5 minutes or more, making sure you get into the pleats. A handy tool to have around for this is the Filter Flosser from Amazon, which simply connects to your hose pipe.

You can find it on Amazon by clicking on the link.

Then you should shock your tub. Add a large dose of chlorine and run the jets for around an hour before turning them off and leave for a couple of minutes before turning them on again.

If more bubbles appear, and you still have some of the product in the system, and you have no alternative but to drain the tub, thoroughly clean it before refilling.

For more information on changing the water and cleaning the tub, check out this recent article. I not only get into how often you should be changing your water, but how I can drain mine in under 15 minutes!

You can read it here on my website by clicking on the link.

Will bubble bath hurt the equipment of a Jacuzzi hot tub?

Do not use bubble bath in a Jacuzzi hot tub. Jacuzzi is just a brand name and not different with regards to bubble bath than any other hot tub manufacturer.

Hot tubs aren’t like bathtubs where they get drained after every use – never add bubble bath, detergents, or soapy products to create an effect.

Some aromatherapy products contain other oils that can be damaging to your hot tub as well.

I talked about using bath salts in your hot tub in a recent article. Unfortunately, most bath salts and essential oils will seriously damage hot tubs. But there is 1 product that works really well that accomplishes the same thing.

Just click on the link to read it here on my site.

Bubble bath, in particular, can damage your pump if it draws in foam. Because it lacks the friction of water, the pump will start to run too fast and overheat. If it repeatedly draws in foam then liquid, the vibration can cause the bearings and seals to work loose, resulting in failure.

Jets can also become clogged with foam as it mixes with air and expands. This will be very difficult to remedy if all the nozzles become blocked.

Is there a safe alternative to bubble bath for my hot tub?

There is not a safe product on the market to produce bubbles in a hot tub. However, there are some approved aromatherapy products designed to improve the smell and feel of the water.

So, if it’s the foam you’re looking for, the hot tub is not for you. Hot tubs do create bubbles, that’s one reason why we love them, but this is a natural reaction as air mixes with water at the jet nozzle.

One product I like in particular is InSPAration aromatherapy on Amazon. It works well with chlorine, bromine, and all saltwater spas.

For less than 60 bucks, you get an assortment of 24 different scents in 50 individual sample pillow packets, so you can choose which ones you like the best and only order those in the future. You just twist off the tip and squeeze the liquid directly into the water.

One packet will easily serve a 6-seat 300-gallon hot tub, and it will not create foam, cause cloudy water or leave an oily residue.

The skin moisturizing emollients will also help reduce wrinkly skin from staying in too long.

InSPAration has been serving the spa community since 1974, so you know you’re going to get a tried and tested product from them. These small samples are a good introduction to their aromatherapy and wellness ranges.

CLICK HERE to see InSPAration on Amazon.

Just one word of warning.

It seems some users bought these to hide a chemical smell and then complained that the water was cloudy after using them for a while. Although they will mask some hot tub odor, if you are getting a bad smell from the water, you need to deal with that first.

See this recent article here on my website by clicking on the link.

How to get rid of bubbles in a hot tub

Eliminate bubbles in a hot tub by ensuring pH levels are correct, scooping out excess foam on the surface, and hyper-chlorinating the water. For large amounts of bubbles, a full drain and refill of the hot tub may be necessary.

Bubbles or foam in a hot tub can indicate high pH, high levels of Total Dissolved Solids (TDSs), or bubble bath or detergent was added to the water.

Things such as makeup, deodorant, body lotions, oils, and shampoo all add to the TDS content of your hot tub, and over time these build up to a level where, when the jets are turned on, foam is created.

Foam on the water’s surface could also indicate that there is a chemical imbalance and the pH is too high. Check your pH and alkalinity levels regularly and adjust accordingly to prevent the water from foaming.

If you get dish soap in your hot tub, the best way to disperse it is by sprinkling table salt over the surface.

Table salt is a combination of sodium and chlorine, so it won’t react adversely with the chlorine in your water but don’t overdo it because adding ordinary household products such as this could affect the chemical balance of the water.

In a recent article, I looked at how to get detergent out of your hot tub. After all, it’s not uncommon for people to reach for that to clean their hot tubs. But there’s only 1 surefire way to get rid of its aftereffects.

Read it here on my website by clicking on the link.

Did I cover everything you wanted to know about what happens if you put bubble bath in a hot tub?

The main thing you should take away from this article is never to add bubble bath to your hot tub. But if you do, your best option is to drain it and start again.

You should only add salts and essential oils that are created for use in hot tubs and avoid cheap products that claim to be for spas and pools – the two are entirely different and work in different ways.

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.


Photo which requires attribution:

Bubble bath anyone? Purging the hot tub by Jeff Sandquist is licensed under CC2.0 and was edited, cropped, color-adjusted, and had a text overlay added.