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Pool and Spa Chemicals: An integral part of a water maintenance program

By David Huxtable

Proper maintenance of your pool and/or hot tub will ensure its long-term enjoyment, and chemicals play an important role in this regime.

This article will detail the chemical products available for pools and hot tubs, as well as discuss when and why they are used. Chemical manufacturers have developed easy-to-follow programs that incorporate the following chemicals to make your water care easy and economical. It is up to you and your professional dealer to determine which products and systems work best.

Before you start any maintenance program, however, you must ensure your pool and/or hot tub’s circulation and filtration system are functioning as per the manufacturer’s recommendations. Further, your pool and/or hot tub must be kept clean and free of debris.

Pool and hot tub chemicals fall under three categories:

  1. Sanitizers and oxidizers for the protection of bathers;
  2. Water balancing products for the protection of surfaces and equipment; and
  3. Specialty products, which are used to solve different water quality problems.

1. Sanitizers and oxidizers
In Canada, all sanitizers and oxidizers are regulated by the Health Canada Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA). Chlorines and bromines are the only two families of products registered for use in Canada as sanitizers. A professional company will only incorporate these as part of a legitimate chemical program.

It is important to know there are no registered pool or hot tub chemicals available in Canada that are known carcinogens (cause cancer). The chemicals used today for water maintenance programs incorporate the latest in science and technology. The availability of safe, potable, chlorinated drinking water is what increases our life expectancy over third world countries. In fact, chlorinated drinking water has all but eliminated microbial deaths in this past century (e.g. typhoid fever, diphtheria), and helped increase life expectancy from 46 years in 1900 to more than 80 years today.

Chlorine and bromine, which come in many forms, are the only products that will ensure your pool and/or hot tub water is safe for you, your family, and your friends. There is no perfect product; each has its pros and cons. That said, it is important you discuss the unique aspects of your water with a professional to determine which products best suit your pool and/or hot tub, and your lifestyle.

When handling chemicals, always follow the instructions on the label and the maintenance professional’s directions. Never mix two chemicals together, and always add them to the water. Under no circumstances should you add water to chemicals.

Stabilized chlorines and bromines
These are used as daily sanitizers. They dissolve slowly and leave a chlorine or bromine residual that protects your water with a constant level of sanitation. This ensures bathers are protected from micro-organisms (e.g. algae, fungi, bacteria, and viruses) at all times. Products in this category include: tablets, pucks, sticks, briquettes, etc.

Unstabilized chlorines
These can also be used as daily sanitizers; however, because they must be hand fed into the water, they tend to be used as a weekly oxidizer or shock treatment. Pool and/or hot tub water is periodically oxidized to eliminate organic buildup that a daily sanitizer cannot keep up with. Products in this category include: liquid chlorine, oxidizers, shock, etc.

Chlorine generators (saltwater pools and hot tubs)
A saltwater pool and/or hot tub has a generator that uses salt in the water to manufacture chlorine (pools and hot tubs) or bromine (hot tubs). The generator is constantly producing chlorine or bromine and can be used as a daily sanitizer and an oxidizer.

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