Chemicals used in hot tub sanitation

While some retailers might advertise that they sell chemical-free hot tubs, that’s never the case.

Despite what those retailers might have you believe, it’s impossible to have a hot tub that’s completely free of chemicals.

However, there are a few methods of sanitization that can greatly reduce the amount of chemicals you need to use.

Here, we’ll explain more about why chemical-free hot tubs are impossible, then run down some low-chemical alternatives you can use to keep your hot tub safe and clean.

What Are Hot Tub Chemicals?

The truth is, everything in our world is made up of chemicals. From the food you eat to the water you drink to your own body, chemicals are everywhere.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though: chemicals are the building blocks of matter, and without chemicals, no matter would exist.

In terms of hot tubs, though, people usually have two specific chemicals in mind when discussing chemical-free hot tubs: chlorine and bromine.

  • Chlorine is a naturally-occurring halogen element with a strong and distinctive smell. If you’ve ever been in a pool or spa that’s sanitized with chlorine, you probably remember the harsh smell.
  • Bromine is also a naturally-occurring halogen element. Unlike chlorine, however, it’s virtually odorless when used to sanitize pools or hot tubs.

Chlorine is generally more irritating than bromine, and can cause rashes, dryness of the skin and hair, burning eyes and coughing or sneezing.

Bromine can cause similar symptoms, though many people find it to be less irritating.

Additional chemicals commonly used in hot tubs include:

  • Silicones (to eliminate foam).
  • Alkalizing agents (to raise the pH level).
  • Acidifying agents (to lower the pH level).
  • Oxidizers (to reduce chlorine smell and sanitize water).

Which Sanitization Methods Require the Least Chemicals?

If you’ve found chlorine or bromine to be irritating, or simply want to avoid using harsh chemicals when possible, there are plenty of alternatives to choose from.

Here are a few fantastic choices:

  • Salt water hot tubs. These types of hot tubs use salt to eliminate bacteria. They accomplish this by using salt to produce chlorine through the use of a chlorinator cell (also known as a salt cell). However, salt water hot tubs are much less irritating than hot tubs treated with pure chlorine, and can take less time to maintain.
  • Ozonators. These devices sanitize hot tub water by producing ozone molecules. These are the same types of molecules that create the distinctive smell of a recent rainstorm. When ozone molecules come into contact with bacteria, they eliminate the bacteria through the process of oxidation.
  • Ionizers. These devices purify hot tub water by releasing ions into the water. Ions are atoms or molecules with an electrical charge, and in hot tubs are typically derived from metals like silver or copper.

Keep in mind, however, that all of those sanitizers and every other chlorine- and bromine-free option still require the use of chlorine or bromine, albeit in very small amounts.

So, the good news is that alternative sanitizers can greatly lower the amount of chlorine or bromine you use. The bad news is that you’ll always have to use a little bit of chlorine or bromine, even if the amount if virtually undetectable.

For more information on hot tub sanitation, check out our previous articles on the topic: