Why is my spa water cloudy? If I’ve heard that question once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. It may be the most common spa water problem plaguing spa owners.
You can find a massive amount of misinformation around about cloudy spa water – like for example, “Bromine can make your spa cloudy”, or “Metals within the water cause cloudy hot tub water”, and the constant sales pitch – once you simply add this super-special-magical spa water treatment, your spa water problems will disappear.
In the event your hot tub water is cloudy, hazy, milky, the challenge will be one of these conditions listed below, or a combination of more than one.
1. High Calcium Hardness or Total Alkalinity
Your spa water chemical balance can be responsible, and it’s the first place I would check. Obtain an accurate reading of your calcium hardness, alkalinity and pH levels. In areas where hard water is common, calcium can easily separate out of solution and cloud the spa water. If your calcium hardness levels are above 300 ppm, use Calcium & Scale Control to tie-up minerals in solution, and prohibit them from turning the spa water cloudy.
When your test for Total Alkalinity shows elevated levels, in excess of 150 ppm, excess carbonates will come out of solution, and make the spa cloudy. High TA levels will likewise cause it to be more difficult to control your pH, or keep it in range. Use pH decreaser to lower TA to around 100 ppm. If your spa pH level is beyond the range of 7.2-7.6, adjust accordingly for easier control of cloudy water.
TDS, or total dissolved solids, is not ordinarily a concern in spas and hot tubs – but, if it has not been not drained your spa in a long time, for whatever reason – you could have a high concentration of dissolved solids in the water. When water reaches it’s saturation point, where it can absorb no more solids, frequent bouts of cloudy water are the result. Time to drain and refill the spa.
2. Low Spa Sanitizer Levels
A lot of people are sensitive to bromine or chlorine, and attempt to operate the spa with as little as possible. That may be OK, in the event that you have other sanitizers working, such as an ozonator, or a mineral cartridge, and your water chemistry is balanced, especially your pH level.
Otherwise, spas should have a level of 2-3 ppm of bromine, or slightly less if using chlorine. When sanitizer level drops below 1.0ppm, particles and contaminants in the water begin to run rampant or grow at a rate faster than they are being destroyed.
An adequate sanitizer level should destroy the particles that induce cloudy water. To help it out, shock the spa water regularly, especially several people have been using the spa, or if sanitizer levels have mistakenly dropped to very low levels. In the event that a chlorinated spa shock is clouding your water, try using MPS shock instead.
3. Cloudy Fill Water
It could be the problem is not with the spa, but instead in your fill water. Nonetheless, balanced and sanitized spa water with proper filtration should self-correct, and clear the water in a day or so. A spa clarifier helps to coagulate suspended particles for easier filtration. In most cases, it may be worthwhile to use a spa pre-filter, to get rid of particulates that cloud your spa water. Just attach it to the hose when adding water or refilling your spa or hot tub.
4. Air in the System
Small particles of air, tiny bubbles – can make the spa water appear cloudy. If the spa has bubbles coming into the returns, but your air blower and spa ozonator are turned off – it could be an air leak, on the suction side of the pump. The suction side is anything preceeding the spa circulation pump. A loose union fitting before the pump, or a loose pump drain plug can pull air into your system.
Low water level within your spa can also bring air into your spa, and give the water the appearance of being cloudy or hazy. Inspection of the pipes and equipment preceeding the spa pump can reveal the source of the air leak, that could then be sealed up with sealants or lubricants.
5. Spa Filter Problems
This is a common reason for cloudy spa water. A spa filter cartridge could be positioned incorrectly, allowing for water to bypass the filter cartridge. Make sure the cartridge is fully seated on both ends to cause the water to flow through the pleated spa filter material.
A spa filter cartridge won’t last forever, and each cleaning reduces it’s efficiency a bit more. After about 15 cleanings, replace the spa filter and you’ll notice an abrupt improvement in water clarity. Based on how much the spa may be used, and how much is asked of the filter, you should replace the spa filter every 12-24 months.
Spa filter cartridges can also become gummed up with oils or minerals, drastically reducing their filtration ability. These substances can be very hard to eradicate by using a garden hose alone. Spraying a cartridge in spa filter cleaner before cleaning will digest greasy or crystallized deposits, and restore full flow to the filter.
DE filters are more regularly used on inground spas, and should a DE filter grid develops a hole, it may allow DE filter powder leak into the spa. This tends to cloud the water, and leave deposits of a light brown powder upon the seats and floors of the spa.
6. Spa Pump Problems
There are a few of pump problems that can lead to cloudy spa water, the most common being the length of time the spa filter is running daily. It may be simply to lengthen the period of time that the spa pump operates, to extend your daily filtering time. Running a pump only on low speed can also contribute to ineffective filtration. Run it on high at least 2 hours every day.
Another issue may be with the spa impeller. It could possibly be clogged – packed with pebbles, leaves, hair or a wide range of things. The vanes on any pump impeller are extremely small and can clog easily, which will inhibit the flow volume considerably. Another possibility is that the impeller is broken – the pump activates, however the impeller is not moving, which can reduce flow rates to zero.
Should you have no flow from your pool pump, there might be an air lock, which is most common after you have just drained and refilled the spa. To fix an air lock, switch off the pump and loosen a union on the pump and make it possible for the air to escape, tightening it when water begins to leak. If the pump doesn’t switch on at all – well, there’s your cloudy spa water problem. There might be a tripped GFI button, loose wires, bad contact or relay, or another control problem.
Air leaks before the pump, as discussed above, also makes the pump less efficient by reducing the overall water volume. Water leaks after the pump can be a problem, in so far as your water level can easily drop below the skimmer intake, begin to suck in air, lose prime and stop pumping your water through the filter.
7. Biofilm Problems
Biofilm is a sort of slimy bacteria that coats the interior of pipes and fittings. In extreme cases, it will cloud the water, and you could notice slimy flakes floating on the water, or severe challenges with spa foaming. Biofilm forms quickly in a spa which has sat empty and idle for some time. Whenever you suspect a biofilm contamination, lower the pH to 7.2 and apply spa shock to elevate the chlorine level above 10 ppm. Follow this up with a treatment of Jet Clean, to clear out biofilm deposits.
8. Salt System Problems
Salt systems are increasingly becoming more popular with spa owners, although they remain more widespread on swimming pools. The difficulty with salt systems is one may place too much reliance on them, and forget to test the chlorine level. Spa salt cells also need occasional cleaning to keep up chlorine output.
Adding salt to the spa when needed may cloud your spa temporarily, till the salt becomes fully dissolved. When adding salt, do not overdose, and run the jets on high for greater agitation of the water.
9. Biguanide Problems
Should you use a non-chlorine, biguanide sanitizer in the spa, and then have difficulty with cloudy spa water, welcome to the club. This is actually the main issue for using a PHMB sanitizer. You might find relief by draining and refilling the spa, and changing the spa filter, which is probably clogged up with residue. Using spa chemicals with any amount of chlorine, or using algaecides or even a non-approved chemical will not simply cloud the water in a biguanide treated spa, but might create some wild colors, too!
10. Soaps, Lotions, Cosmetics and Hair Products
The difficulty is common to just pretty much every spa, unless you are careful to shower well before using the spa. Everything we use on our body and in our hair can end up in the spa, and could bring oils, phosphates and detergents into the water, along with a hundred other undesirable chemicals. These can consume sanitizer, clog spa filters and make the spa water cloudy and foamy. If the spa has a high bather load, or is utilized as a giant bath tub, you should expect issues with water clarity. Adding spa enzymes can help control greasy gunk, and reduce sanitizer demand and clogging of one’s spa filter.
Cloudy spa water typically is not so difficult to understand and fix – but do not forget that you may have a few of these issues working against you. Consider each possible cause of cloudy spa water carefully – it’s likely one of these situations above. Draining the spa regularly is one more bit of advice to prevent cloudy water – depending on how much the spa is used, draining it every few months is a good preventative method to keep the spa water from becoming cloudy to start with!
More information about hot tub covers is available at SpaCap.