Chlorine or Bromine? How to Choose the Right Sanitizer for Your Hot Tub

After you’ve bought your hot tub, how do you decide whether bromine or chlorine is right for you? Both chlorine and bromine are popular hot tub sanitizers, but they get the job done differently.

When making the choice between a bromine and a chlorine hot tub, consider factors that impact upkeep, such as maintenance, effectiveness, sun exposure, and more.

Maintenance

Maintaining a hot tub for safe soaking and relaxing can be a challenge. Chlorine hot tubs require more active maintenance and attention than bromine hot tubs since pH levels can rise quickly and bromine is less affected by these pH fluctuations. Chlorine hot tubs also can’t handle large swings as efficiently as bromine hot tubs, requiring s more attention to prevent water from turning cloudy or green.

Recommendation: If you want to spend less time maintaining your hot tub, bromine is your best bet.

Effectiveness and Efficiency

The environment of your hot tub might help decide which chemical system is right for you. While bromine is better at killing bacteria and viruses, chlorine is better at attacking algae.

Efficiency is also a factor – Chlorine acts faster than bromine, but dissipates quicker because it breaks down faster in high water temperatures. Once the chlorine is used, it needs to continue to be replaced with fresh chlorine. On the other hand, bromine tablets take longer to dissolve, but dormant bromine salt stays behind even after the active bromine has killed off unwanted organisms. The bromine can be easily reactivated into active bromine multiple times, which makes it last longer.

Recommendation: It’s a matter of personal preference, depending on what works best for your particular situation. It may be worth trying both options and seeing which best fits your needs and lifestyle.

Water Temperature

Hot tubs have different chemical demands than pools, and the temperature you want your hot tub can also be a deciding factor between chlorine and bromine. Chlorine functions best between about 65 and 99 degrees, and it quickly turns into vapor at around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Bromine is less effective at temperatures below 75 degrees, but it thrives in hot water environments, especially over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Recommendation: Bromine is better suited than chlorine to handle the temperature of the hot tub and to combat the buildup of waste materials in hot water.

Cost

Many people choose chlorine because it’s less expensive —  at first. Although bromine can cost  20% or more than chlorine, it can give you more bang for your buck.  After it’s added, bromine can easily be reactivated after it has killed all the bacteria which means that, over time, you’ll use less bromine and spend less money.

Recommendation: This is a pretty even decision depending on whether you want to spend less up front, but purchase more often or whether you want to spend a little more up front and have the product last longer.

Sun

If your hot tub is in a sunny spot, you need to consider the effect of UV rays. Chlorine can be protected from the sun with the right amount of stabilizer. Bromine is broken down by the sun faster, which means you will need more to compensate for the UV breakdown. However, when bromine is broken down by the sun’s UV, it leaves behind dormant bromine salt (sodium bromide), which can be reactivated by additional bromine or non-chlorine shock to perform additional sanitization.

Recommendation: Chlorine will help combat algae development and has higher tolerance for the UV rays.

Personal Considerations

Chlorine has a very distinctive odor,  can be an irritant to sensitive eyes and skin, and can also be damaging to hair. Experts say that bromine protects the eyes and skin better, and emits less odor than chlorine.

Recommendation: Bromine is less harsh across the board but still provides quality sanitization.

What Do the Experts Say?

We asked our chemistry expert to give his pick between bromine and chlorine for hot tubs:

Bromine! It remains effective in a wider range of pH levels (7.0 – 8.4) than chlorine (7.4 – 7.8), and therefore, it can better protect your water from bacteria and viruses. Also, bromine in itself is a strong sanitizer. At a high pH level of 7.8, only about 25% of chlorine is active, but bromine remains efficient. And its byproducts, bromamines (a combined substance), produce their own sanitizing action, making bromine an even more powerful bacteria and virus killer. As an added benefit, that bromine already in your water can be reactivated using potassium monopersulfate after it has killed the bacteria. Reactivated bromine means less chemical use and bigger cost savings for you in the long run.”

How Do I Decide Whether Bromine vs Chlorine is Right?

If you want to try bromine instead of chlorine, or vice-versa, you’ll need to drain your hot tub and flush the lines, refill and enjoy. Make sure you keep the bromine and chlorine separate, including the containers, tablets, and granules. Chlorine and bromine combined will create negative chemical reactions that can be unhealthy and even dangerous.

Once you’ve got everything back online, test it for a week or two and decide if it works better for you and your hot tub. Regardless of your choice never underestimate how crucial it is to keep your hot tub clean, sanitized and healthy so that you can enjoy all the benefits.

If you need help monitoring and managing the chemicals for your bromine or chlorine hot tub, consider a smart monitor like pHin. With its built-in analytics, pHin  will take the guesswork out of f how much and how often to add chemicals by sending exact instructions to your smartphone.

New Pool? Tips for Getting Water Ready for Swimming

You wanted a pool, longing to jump into cool water after a hot day, splashing with your family on the weekends, or floating around with a cocktail after work. So, you researched. You planned and consulted. You purchased, you landscaped, and you waited.

Congratulations on your new pool! A pool full of new water isn’t safe to swim in right away. To get the most out of it (and protect your investment), you need to prepare it before welcoming swimmers. pHin team put together what you need to know to get your water safe and ready for swimming:

Assemble your tools.

Every pool owner should have a standard set of tools they use to test and treat their pool water. That includes:

  • A water test kit
  • Pool brushes and cleaning tools
  • Chemicals
    • Chlorine or salt, depending on your system
    • Baking soda
    • Muriatic acid: One of the chemicals used to lower pH and total alkalinity in pools. Follow the instructions on the label, and make sure it is compatible with your pool; some muriatic acid can’t be used in hot tubs or with fiberglass, vinyl, or painted pools.
    • Sequestering agent: Iron and copper can build up in your pool. Sequestering agents help prevent staining and scaling by suspending the metal particles in solution.

Test the pool water.

Take your first water measurements with test strips to get the pH, chlorine, and total alkalinity levels of the water. You can purchase a test kit at your local pool store, or online.

Safe water should have pH between 6.8 and 7.2, and total alkalinity between 70 and 80 ppm.

There is a range for an optimal pH, which should then be raised between 8 7.1 and 7.7 for chlorine pools and 7.0 and 7.5 for salt pools. Lower pH provides better sanitizing benefits. At the same time, this will raise the total alkalinity. For example, concrete pools should have total alkalinity between 80 and 120 ppm, where painted, vinyl, or fiberglass pools should be between 125 and 170 ppm.

Remember, whenever you’re adding chemicals to your pool, use extra caution to prevent them from touching your skin or eyes, by using gloves or goggles. Keep the chemicals secured and stored safely away from children and pets.

Grab your scrub brush.

To get the water balance right, you’ll need to keep your pool clean.

As a best practice, brush the pool often using a nylon brush. Particles, leaves, or dirt can get stuck in corners, steps, and other crevices, so make sure they get extra attention. You can also use a pool skimmer to catch leaves or bugs that accumulate on the surface overnight.

After the pool is balanced, you may want to add algaecide. Always check with your manufacturer to make sure it’s compatible with your pool, how much to add, and when it would be safe to swim.

Let the water settle.

Your pool water needs time to run through the system. Allow the pump to run for 1-2 days, and, as you add chemicals through the process, you may need to wait a few days in between to allow for stabilization.

You should also wait until the chemicals settle before using a heater or vacuum. If you don’t wait, it could interfere with the pool’s curing time, which can cause long-term damage. Some experts recommend letting your pool cure for 21 days, but it’s best to check with your manufacturer or local pool expert to determine the most suitable time-frame.

Set your pool care routine.

Once your pool is open and ready for swimming, you need to set a routine to keep it safe. Schedule weekly water test strips and chemical adjustments.

If you’re brand new to pools, testing, and chemicals, technology like the pHin Smart Water Monitor can remove the guesswork of water care. Instead of testing just once a week, pHin gives you a clear picture of your water quality in real-time. The device takes over 1,000 measurements a week (few pool owners can match that by hand!), and sends alerts, reminders, and chemical dose instructions in the app. See what users think of pHin.

Why and How Do We Shock Our Pools?

Seasoned pool owners know shocking is important to water care. When new pool owners research maintenance tips, they quickly find the advice: “Shock your pool. Shock your pool. Shock your pool.”

But, why do we shock?  

Regular pool shocks are critical to keeping the water safe, and to maintaining balanced water.

The main reason you need to shock is to get rid of the chloramines in the pool, which can be responsible for eye irritation and an ammonia smell. Shocking is an extra boost to burn off of bacteria so that the free chlorine can do its job.

Chlorine or bromine sanitizers can get overworked and need to be removed from the pool. This could be after a heavy rainstorm, lots of kids in the pool, or a pool party. Using a non-chlorine shock is the first step to eliminating bacteria, and doesn’t disrupt your chlorine or bromine levels, so your water can remain balanced.

How do you shock?

  • Check the label: If you have shock for a chlorine pool, carefully read the instructions to know how long the manufacturer recommends waiting before you can swim.
  • Set a schedule: Shocking your pool should be done each week – and it can be as simple as tossing a pod in the water. There are many brands that offer shock, so find what works best for your pool, or consult a local pool retailer or service technician.
  • Pick a time: Shock your pool when it’s not going to be occupied. These chemicals aren’t stabilized, so you may have to stay out of the water for at least a few hours to let the shock spread and start working, depending on the type of shock you’re using. Evenings or late afternoons work, or if you’re not a morning swimmer, maybe your shock can be in the morning.

In addition to pool shocking, make sure you check your pool water balance regularly. The right water balance keeps your pool safe to jump in anytime, and it can be simple. Pool experts created the pHin Smart Monitor, a system that measures your pool water chemistry, sends you alerts, and helps with chemical dosing. 

Need more pool know-how? Check out our Pool Chemicals 101 guide.

The 9 Common Hot Tub Questions

Hot tubs are a great way to unwind in the privacy of your own home or backyard. Whether it be with family, friends, or even just by yourself after a long day, your hot tub helps melt away stress and lets you relax. Since you never know when opportunity will strike, you want your tub to be ready whenever the mood strikes. This can be difficult if you don’t know how to maintain your spa, but caring for your tub should be just as easy as relaxing in it. Here are the top hot tub questions to consider.

1) How Often Should I Clean My Filters?

You want to thoroughly rinse your filter with fresh water every other week. A garden hose works great for this, since it easily dislodges hair and most other materials from the filter. You should also soak your filter cartridge in a filter-cleaning compound every three to four months, as well as whenever you change your water. Keep two filters on hand – one in the spa and a clean, dry spare. This allows you to pop in the spare while soaking the main filter. Then, after you rinse the cleaning compound off after the original is done soaking, you can replace it and clean the spare. Your filters last longer and you get to keep enjoying your hot tub.

2) How Often Should I Drain My Hot Tub?

The answer mainly depends on how often you use the tub and your sanitizing system. However, draining and refilling your spa every three to four months is a good schedule to follow to ensure that contaminants and solids that dissolve in the water do not become excessive, which makes it difficult to maintain proper sanitation.

3) Why is My Water Cloudy?

Cloudy water in your spa usually means one of two things: either the filtration system is failing to clean smaller particles out of the water or bacteria are growing in your spa. If it is a problem with the filtration system, products that act like a coagulant to trap the dust and dirt should help. Just make sure to pull out and clean your filters once the hot tub is clean, otherwise the coagulants can break down and reintroduce all the dust and dirt they just collected. If it is bacteria you need to act fast and use a double dose of both chlorine and non-chlorine shock.

4) Can I Use Pool Chemicals in My Hot Tub?

It might seem like a good idea to just use pool chemicals for your hot tub, but that is a big mistake. Pool chemicals are much stronger than those meant for a spa and can cause serious damage to your tub. When it comes to buying the chemicals for your spa, remember that you get what you pay for. Cut-rate products are more likely to include fillers and additional chemicals that can cause issues with your water and the filtration systems. A quality product keeps your hot tub running well for years to come. In addition, product labeling differs between pool and hot tub chemicals, particularly as regards acceptable EPA guidelines. Chemical overdosing is very common when you use products specifically intended for a swimming pool in your hot tub.

5) Should I Use Bromine or Chlorine as a Sanitizer?

The chemicals that you use to sanitize your hot tub really come down to personal preference. Chlorine has a stronger odor, but is a very effective sanitizer. However, chlorine can also cause colors to fade, whereas bromine does not. Bromine also causes less eye, skin, and nose irritation and can be an effective sanitizer in its own right when administered properly in a two-part form.

6) Can I Get a Rash From My Hot Tub?

Yes, but it typically means that something is wrong with your chemical routine, not the tub. Skin rashes can be caused by both a surplus of chemicals and a lack of chemicals. For example, pseudomonas folliculitis is a skin rash commonly known as “hot tub rash.” It occurs when hot tub water is not properly sanitized. It is important to make sure the chemical balance of your water is exactly where it needs to be. This is where your pHin device comes in handy. But, when in doubt, drain, clean, and refill your spa.

7) How Should I Care for My Hot Tub Cover?

Twice a month you should remove the cover and wipe the entire surface with a cover cleaning agent. You only need a few squirts, and make sure to use a clean, damp cloth when you wipe it down. To guard against odors and bacteria growth, clean the underside of your cover with a mixture that is one part bleach to nine parts hot water. You may also use a cover cleaner such as 303 Aerospace vinyl cleaner and preserver. These products are available at most local pool and spa retailers.

8) Why is My Hot Tub Green?

Your hot tub should never be green; this means that there is bacteria growth in your spa. Drain the water and scrub every surface with a chlorine solution, then rinse the tub out with water. Refill your spa and shock the water with a dose of chlorine and non-chlorine shock. Remember, you should use your hot tub if the water is not crystal clear.

If the problem persists even after you sanitize the tub, your water may contain excess copper, which attacks the plumbing and equipment. Similarly, chromium may turn the water a lime green Jello  color. Proper water chemistry, especially pH, balances chromium and copper levels in your hot tub water.

9) Why Doesn’t My Hot Tub Get Hot?

The most common culprit when your hot tub goes cold is the filter. When the filter gets clogged, the heater shuts off because it needs water flow to be able to operate properly. Pop out your filter and give it a thorough rinse and soak in a cleaning solution. If your filters are over two years old, it is probably time to replace them. If cleaning the filter does not bring back the heat, turn the heater off for about 15 minutes. If it is still not working when you turn it back on, it is most likely time for a service call. Another common cause of heater failure is scale buildup on the heater core or element, typically caused by not using a stain and scale control. Scale buildup on the heater element of only 1/20” can reduce the heater’s efficiency by 40 percent!

To ensure the water in your pool or hot tub stays balanced, consider pHin. It constantly monitors your water and tells your smartphone what you need to do to keep the water in your pool and hot tub healthy. Use it with your own chemicals for flexibility or get our single-dose, pre-measured chemicals delivered to your door. If you need someone to service your equipment, Pool Service on Demand connects you to local, qualified pool techs.