Is it Bad to Use a Hot Tub Without Chemicals?

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People with sensitive skin often look for alternatives to chlorine or bromine for their hot tub. However, sometimes they just decide not to add anything. But is it bad to use a hot tub without chemicals?

Here’s what I‘ve learned:

It is bad to use a hot tub without chemicals because it can easily become a breeding ground for disease-causing bacteria, which can lead to hot tub rash or folliculitis. In time, the hot tub acrylic shell could become discolored and slimy, and the equipment will gradually corrode.

But, there are some alternatives to using chemicals.

But most still require that the maintenance regime be supplemented with the use of chemicals, such as shock. The alternatives can help reduce the quantity of traditional hot tub chemicals you’ll need.

My wife and I have owned 4 hot tubs for over 15 years. In this article, I’ll explore issues around using a hot tub without chemicals and some of the alternatives available.

Let’s dive right in…

How do you keep a hot tub clean without chemicals?

Keep a hot tub clean without chemicals by using alternatives such as a UV system, a salt-water system, ozonators, ionizers, enzyme-based treatments, or non-chlorine shock.

The water chemistry must be balanced, the filters in top condition, and bathers ought to take showers before using the tub.

But let’s check out these alternatives:

Note that some of these alternatives still require some dose of traditional sanitizers, and at times the water still needs to be shocked. (There’s no getting away from using any chemicals whatsoever).

Ultraviolet system

It sanitizes your hot tub via a process of radiation as the water passes through UV bulbs via a tube.

It’s believed that ultraviolet systems destroy 99.5% of the pathogens that live and breed in the hot tub water. The water that passes through the UV germicidal light targets the DNA and RNA of harmful microorganisms, destroying them in the process.

Salt-based systems

Saltwater systems, through a process known as “electrolysis”, convert salt (sodium chloride) into chlorine or bromide (which is then converted to bromine).

So, it’s not a “pure” alternative because the result is our familiar chlorine or bromine. And, you may have to add a traditional hot tub sanitizer for it to function well.

Ozonators

They kill off all kinds of harmful microorganisms that grow in your hot tub if you’re not using traditional sanitizers such as bromine or chlorine.

But, they aren’t something you buy and simply use by yourself. You’d need a professional to install it for you.

Ionizers

They provide gentler and more comfy water and are a lot cheaper than traditional sanitizers. They’re also gentle on your hot tub equipment.

They work through a form of water purification using ultra-low voltage charge and mineral electrode. Copper and zinc ions are released into the water, killing off harmful microorganisms and mold.

Say chlorine is your sanitizer of choice.

Is it safe to use your tub when the chlorine level is low? I shared the answer in a recent article of mine. And I even get into the 1 situation where your levels can look fine on a test strip when they are actually dangerously low!

Just click the link to read it on my site.

What can I use instead of chlorine in a hot tub?

Bromine is an excellent alternative to chlorine because it is more effective, longer-lasting, and it is gentler on the skin. Since it dissolves slowly, it reduces the need to check the water quality more frequently.

However, it’s a bit more expensive, although you have to add it less frequently than chlorine.

Bromine is what I use. It’s better than chlorine because it is more stable in heat, which means it works better. It gradually dissolves, protecting the water longer, and it is gentler on the skin.

And when you shock the water, it regenerates and is reactivated, so it continues its good work, having been freed from the contaminants.

Even though it’s a tad more expensive, the fact that it works longer and is more easily reactivated means you’re getting great value for your money. In effect, you won’t have to change your water too frequently.

Which begs the question: how often are you supposed to change the hot tub water in the first place?

Luckily, that’s what I explored in a recent article of mine where I advised that it should be replaced in 3-4 months depending on the frequency of use. But in certain circumstances, you can actually let it go up to 6 months.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

What kind of infections can you get from a hot tub if you don’t use chemicals?

The infections one could get from a hot tub where chemicals are not being used include skin rashes, ear and eye infections, swimmer’s hair, folliculitis, diarrhea, and lung disease.

(source)

The moist environment of a hot tub is a great place for harmful microorganisms to live and breed. Consider that there’s even a species that’s almost resistant to chemicals and how easy it’d be for it to thrive in a tub without chemicals!

As bathers use the tub, residues of all the products they’ve used enter the water. If a bather has germs on their body… straight into the water that others use and would use.

This is why skin rashes, severe itching of the eyes, ear infections, swimmer’s hair, diseases of the lung are some of the negative potential risks of not using chemicals to maintain a hot tub.

Folliculitis is another infection.

What is it? It is an infection of hair follicles caused by bacteria called Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The infection is the consequence of using poorly maintained hot tubs.

I devoted a recent article of mine to explain how you could easily get rid of it in your hot tub. It’s an in-depth dive. So, check it out. I also get into the 1 sure-fire way to prevent it in the first place.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

What is the best hot tub sanitizer for sensitive skin?

Bromine is the best hot tub sanitizer for sensitive skin. It is gentler on the skin than chlorine and is more effective at killing bacteria and viruses. Aside from bromine, there are also enzyme-based sanitizers that are even gentler on the skin.

Bromine is not only gentler on the skin, it is safer than chlorine, and it’s also more effective as a sanitizer.

Chlorine is more popular and cheaper, but a lot of people don’t know much about chlorine. I have been using bromine for years, having owned 4 hot tubs over 15 years.

I devoted a recent article of mine to explore the differences between chlorine and bromine. I even get into the 1 situation where it might make sense to use chlorine instead of bromine too.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Let’s check out some key facts about bromine.

  • It’s more lasting than chlorine because it dissolves slowly
  • It’s more effective at killing bacteria and viruses than chlorine
  • You can be a bit laid back if you use it — you don’t have to check water quality too frequently
  • It’s less irritating on the skin. This is why it’s the best option if you have sensitive skin
  • Even at high temperatures, it’s more stable than chlorine
  • But, it’s more expensive
  • Water is often cloudier than if you had used chlorine
  • Might not be the best option if you have a serious problem with algae

In summary, bromine is more effective, and it’s great if you have sensitive skin. 

Do natural hot tub chemicals work?

Natural hot tub chemicals are effective. But while they reduce the need for large amounts of traditional chemicals, most alternatives do not completely eliminate the need for them.

Now, let’s check out an effective alternative to traditional chemicals, which doesn’t require that you still use chlorine or bromine.

We’ll look at Spa Marvel Trio on Amazon. It’s a combo that includes a cleanser, water treatment and conditioner, and a filter cleaner.

Spa Marvel chemicals are enzyme-based — It is made of natural compounds. It’s packed with skin conditioning elements that moisturize your skin naturally.

It is gentler on your skin and hot tub, and it’s awesome for sensitive skin.

It removes the contaminants, odor, and microorganisms that make your hot tub an unpleasant and risky place to be. It removes substances that have been trapped in your filter.

And, it is relatively inexpensive and lasts longer than traditional hot tub chemicals. You can use a bottle for up to 3 months, so you won’t need to change the water frequently.

It’s got good ratings on Amazon, and almost all are 5-star.

CLICK HERE to check out Spa Marvel Trio.

Conclusion

We looked at whether it’s bad to use a hot tub without chemicals. It is. That’s the honest truth.

Are there a few alternatives? Yes, there are. But, most still require that you supplement them with traditional hot tub chemicals.

We checked out an option you could use if you’re no fan of chlorine, the kind of infections that could come from not using chemicals, and the best hot tub sanitizer for sensitive skin.

Lastly, we looked at an enzyme-based alternative to traditional hot tub chemicals.


Photo that requires attribution:

Testing Underwater Camera by Michael (a.k.a. moik) McCullough is licensed under CC2.0 and was cropped, edited, and had a text overlay added.

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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