Help, My Hair Turned Green!

Every summer we hear about or see people with green streaked hair.  Swimmers seem to suffer the worst, but hot tub and spa owners aren’t far behind.

The general consensus among those affected believe that chlorine in their spa or pool is to blame for their hair turning green as well as their fingernails turning blue and bathing suits turning turquoise.

Chlorine may be partly responsible, but the real culprit is Copper, not Chlorine.

Chlorine after all, is a bleach. When you add laundry bleach to the washing machine, it makes clothes whiter, removes discoloration and stains, and kills organisms – it does not make your clothes green, blue, turquoise or any other color.

Any amount of chlorine in water more than about 15 ppm (parts per million) starts the bleaching process. Although typically a load of laundry in a washing machine has about 600 ppm of chlorine.

If it is copper, where does the copper come from?

Copper can get into the pool or spa a number of different ways. First, drinking water (source or tap water) has a small amount of copper in it already. So each time makeup water is added due to evaporation, a little more copper is added. Since copper does not biodegrade or go away on its own, it builds up.

Second, some algaecides have as their active ingredient copper. The copper in algaecides usually has a special ingredient added to it that prevents it from staining people and vessels. This ingredient is called a chelating agent (pronounced KEY-lating) and copper algaecides that have this ingredient are said to be chelated.

However, sunlight, constant high levels of chlorine or bromine, ozone, super-chlorination and even non-chlorine shock treatments can oxidize the chelating agent. Once this happens, the copper stain protecting ability is decreased.

A third way copper gets into your hot tub, spa or pool is from the equipment.  Water that has a low pH actually dissolves a small portion of the copper metal in components such as copper pipes, heater headers, heater heat sinks, bronze or brass pump parts and even metals used in the filters.

This is called corrosion. This small amount of copper gets dissolved from the equipment or components and then mixes with the main body of water in your pool or spa.

Another way copper gets into the water is by water velocity through copper pipes and fittings. Water that is moving faster than the recommended velocity through a pipe will erode the pipe.

This most often happens when you use a large powerful pump on a system that was designed for a smaller less powerful pump. It can also take place when a solar water heating system is used for a pool or spa.

The last way that copper can get into the water also comes from the equipment, but for a different reason.  It’s fairly common to chlorinate a pool by placing a trichlor tablet, trichloro-s-triazinetrione, into a spa, pool or a spa skimmer.

Pool owners often place bromine tablets in their spa skimmers to brominate their pools as their scooping out leaves and debris. Water flowing over the tablet dissolves a small portion of the tablet and carries it through the equipment and back to the pool or spa. Trichlor tablets have a very low pH of about 2.8 while bromine tablets are about 4.0.

If enough of the tablet dissolves, the pH of the water flowing over the tablet acquires a low pH too. We have seen pHs from 3.0 to 7.0 – all of which can cause metal components to dissolve.

Please note: Some manufacturers have produced special trichlor tablets and sticks that are designed to be placed in the skimmer. These products will not be a problem if used properly.

Pumps in residential pools run about 6-8 hours a day. Spas run 2-3 hours. This means that a pump can be off 16-18 hours a day in a pool and more than 20 hours in a spa. When the equipment is not running, the trichlor or bromine tablet in the skimmer continues to dissolve.

This causes all of the water in the skimmer and even down the pipe below the skimmer to get a really low pH. Then, when the equipment turns on tomorrow, this low pH body of water in the skimmer heads straight for the equipment where it dissolves some of metal.

Copper also gets into the water is by adding chemicals through the skimmer with the pump running. With many chemicals, this is OK. Check and follow manufacturer’s directions for adding chemicals. However, if acid or acidic chemicals are added, the same corrosion occurs.

Copper can get into water on purpose by using an ionizer (sometimes called a copper/silver or copper ionizer). However, it is very important when using these devices that you follow all manufacturer’s directions for use.

Keep the pH in the recommended range (usually a little lower than NSPI recommended levels). Test the water with a copper test kit and adjust the output to maintain the recommended level of copper (usually 0.2 to 0.5 ppm).

Add a sequestering or chelating agent if directed. Ionizers will not cause staining if used properly.  Copper does not biodegrade or break down in the water so it just builds up. Eventually, the water can no longer keep the amount of copper dissolved. This is called the saturation point. The saturation point for copper in most pools and spas is about 0.2 ppm or maybe 0.4 ppm depending on pH and alkalinity.

Higher levels cause stains. You may remember that calcium and magnesium also reach a saturation point in the water. Once copper reaches its saturation point, copper combines with certain other chemicals present in the water and forms a precipitate.

Copper usually combines with sulfates ( ) in the water to make copper sulfate (CuSO4) – a blue-green particle. This copper sulfate then attaches to the walls of the pool or spa and a stain is created. This stain can be on the walls or on people.

Copper and other metals can also combine with hydroxides, carbonates, phosphates, silicates, cyanurates to form any number of stains and precipitates which can be almost any color.

The copper sulfate bluish-green stains show up on kids first because they spend many hours in the water and second, many kids have blond hair when they are young. The green color shows up on blond or white hair better than on brown, black or red hair. The white part of fingernails are next, then cotton, white bathing suits.

To remove the copper or other metals from the water, use a sequestering or chelating product. These are usually called metal inhibitors or metal removal products.

As you can see, it’s really not the chlorine that causes the green hair, it’s the copper. Chlorine gets blamed because the most common suspect is the chlorine tablet in the skimmer.

This caused it, but it’s not the chlorine in the tablet, it’s the low pH.  To remove the stain from hair or fingernails use one of the commercially available “chlorine removing” shampoos or enzyme products.

You also could dilute a metal removal or inhibiting pool or spa chemical with a lot of water, apply to hair, leave on for a few seconds and rinse.  This is not the best approach as these chemicals may damage the hair or get into eyes but, as a last resort and carefully, it could be done. Better to use a product designed for this purpose.

Don’t Blame Chlorine, Blame the Copper!

Hot Tub Folliculitis

What is Folliculitis?

Folliculitis is an inflammation of the hair follicles. Each hair on your body grows out of a tiny pouch called a follicle. You can have Folliculitis on any part of your body that has hair. But it is most common on the beard area, arms, back, buttocks, and legs.

What Causes Folliculitis?

It may be caused by bacteria. It also can be caused by yeast or another type of fungus. You may get Folliculitis if you have damaged hair follicles. Shaving or wearing clothes that rub the skin can irritate the follicles, which can lead to Folliculitis.

They also can become blocked or irritated by sweat, machine oils, or makeup. When the follicles are injured, they are more likely to become infected.

You are more likely to get Folliculitis if you:

• Use a hot tub, whirlpool, or swimming pool that is not properly treated with chlorine.
• Wear tight clothes.
• Use or work with substances that can irritate or block the follicles. Examples include makeup, cocoa butter, motor oil, tar, and creosote.
• Have an infected cut, scrape, or surgical wound. The bacteria or fungi can spread to nearby hair follicles.
• Have a disease such as diabetes or HIV that lowers your ability to fight infection.

What are the Symptoms?

Folliculitis usually looks like red pimples with a hair in the center of each one. The pimples may have pus in them, and they may itch or burn. When the pimples break open, they may drain pus, blood, or both.

“Hot Tub Folliculitis” most often appears about 72 hours after you’ve been in a hot tub or spa. Many small pimples appear on your stomach and sometimes on your arms and legs. You might have a mild fever and have an upset stomach. Most of the time, this kind of Folliculitis goes away on its own in 7 to 10 days.

How is Folliculitis Diagnosed?

Your doctor will check your skin and ask about your health and activities. He or she may do tests to find out what is causing your Folliculitis and to make sure you don’t have a different problem, such as impetigo or heat rash. Testing a sample of the fluid in the pimples or a sample of tissue can help your doctor learn what is causing the infection.

How is it Treated?

Mild Folliculitis usually heals on its own in about 2 weeks. You can take care of yourself at home with:

• Warm compresses made with saltwater or Burow’s solution. These may ease itching and help healing. To make a warm compress, soak a hand towel in warm water that you have added salt or Burow’s solution to. Wring out the excess water, and place the towel on the affected skin.

• Medicated shampoo. It can be used to treat Folliculitis on the scalp or beard.

If the inflammation gets worse or doesn’t go away, you may need to see your doctor. He or she may prescribe medicine, such as an antibiotic.

Call your doctor if you have Folliculitis and:

• It spreads or keeps coming back.
• You have a fever over 101°F (38°C).
• The affected area becomes red, swollen, warm or more painful.

If the inflammation doesn’t go away or keeps coming back, laser hair removal may be an option. Laser treatment destroys the hair follicles, so they can’t get inflamed.

How Can You Prevent Folliculitis?

• Bathe or shower daily with mild soap
• Shower after you exercise & after working around chemicals
• Avoid sharing towels, washcloths or other personal items
• Don’t scratch the bumps
• Avoid shaving the bumps. If you must shave, use a new blade each time
• Avoid using oils on your skin. Oils can trap bacteria in skin pores & cause Folliculitis.
• After you use public hot tubs or spas, shower right away with mild soap
• If you own a hot tub, follow proper sanitation to keep it clean

Overlooked Hot Tub Care Tips

Here are some basic, but sometimes overlooked tips on prolonging the life and maximizing your enjoyment of your hot tub or spa.

Following these suggestions will help preserve your tub and equipment while making your water cleaner, safer and more clear.  As an added bonus, it will also save you time and money!

1. Oil and soap based products are public enemy #1 when it comes to keeping your hot tub or spa water crystal clear. Never use regular household cleaners for cleaning the inside or outside of your hot tub or spa.

These products contain soap and/or ammonia which are both harmful and unsettling for your tub’s water chemistry. They can also clog up and prematurely age your spa equipment and you could easily wind up with a giant sized bubble bath if you don’t get all of the soap out of your spa’s water system.

2. Swim trunks and bathing suits are also a common cause of foamy and unappealing hot tub and spa water.

Small amounts of laundry detergent remain in bathing suits after they have been washed and dried and the residual detergent ends up back in your hot tub’s water supply.

An easy fix for this issue is to simply run an extra rinse cycle when you wash your swimwear or you can always just re-rinse your swimwear by hand.

3. This is a good one that most hot tub and spa owners aren’t aware of. When your hot tub or spa is not in use, keep the Air Control Valves closed.   The image below shows air control valves from some of the most popular and well known spa manufacturers.

These valves or dials are usually located on top of or near the top of your spa and they allow air to mix with the water coming out of your jets.

This is great when your spa is in use, but not so great when it’s not.  To image on the right shows

Besides letting cold air into the spa water and increasing heating costs, it can also introduce air borne debris and algae spores that can cloud your water and increases your chemical usage.

4. Personal hygiene products should be used in the shower and not in your spa or hot tub. Even though this is common knowledge, it’s amazing how many soakers seem to forget this basic rule.

Hair spray, hair mousse, styling gels, deodorant, anti-perspiration, sun tan lotion, excess sweat, make-up and skin creams of any sort will cloud your water and clog your filter, reducing its life and increasing your maintenance time.

 

 

5. Floating oil-absorbing sponges such as the Dirty Duck are fantastic at reducing the amount of clogging oils that are sent through your filter.

Remember to squeeze them out occasionally and to replace them when they start to deteriorate or when they no longer float.

 

 

6. Make sure your filter cartridge is fully seated in the filter compartment. This ensures 100% of the water passing through the filter, rather than bypassing it. Remember to clean the cartridge once a month for maximum longevity and to replace it every 1 to 2 years.

The fibers of the cartridge start to break down and deteriorate after a while and won’t do an adequate job of filtration after a while. It’s a not a bad idea to have two filter cartridges on hand for your spa and use them on an alternating basis.

This way, while one is being cleaned by soaking in a “Filter Cleaner” solution, the other one can be used in your spa to reduce the down time of your spa.

 

7. Make sure to test your spa water at least once per week and always after adding new water. Make sure that the pH and TOTAL ALKALINITY is within the proper ranges.

This is MOST important. Either adjust the pH and Alkalinity manually each week, or use “pH Balance”.

If you’re using a liquid test kit be sure to clean it after every use, keep the solutions out of the sun and to replace them ever year.

Also, always get your sample water from at least 12 inches below the surface. If you’re using test strips be sure to replace them if they are 6 months past the expiration date.

8. One quick and easy way to vacuum debris from the bottom of your spa is to simply use a garden hose and siphon it out.

9. If you have an in-ground spa you know you should never drain the water if it’s rained in the last few weeks, or if the ground is wet (if you didn’t know this, glad you’re here). If you do it’s very possible that the spa will float out of the ground.

But if you find yourself in that position and you need to change the water here’s a neat little trick. Drop a sump pump in the bottom of the spa and spread a large sheet of plastic over the top of the water.

As the sump pump removes the water, run water from a garden hose on top of the plastic. If the hose and pump are running at the same speed the water level won’t drop and the old and new water wont mix.

Non-Chlorine Shock Treatments

Non-Chlorine Shock

For years, hot tub and spa owners have been keeping their water crystal clear by “Shocking” it on a weekly basis with Chlorine or Bromine.

Shocking your hot tub or spa quickly raises the sanitizer level of the spa water, killing off any of the bacteria that may be present.

Unwanted bacteria in spa water can cause skin irritation, rashes, odors and cloudy water. The down side of “shocking” your hot tub or spa with chlorine is that it leaves a strong chlorine-like chemical odor, causes skin and eye irritation and can wreak cause bathing suits and hot tub covers to prematurely fade.

The folks at DuPont have come up with a great alternative product called Potassium Monopersulfate or more commonly referred to as “Non-Chlorine Shock.”

The benefits of Potassium Monopersulfate is that it is easy and convenient to use, it maximizes your existing sanitizer efficiency of Chlorine or Bromine by killing and eliminating contaminating waste and it doesn’t produce irritating and foul smelling chemical odors.

It restores sparkle and clarity to dull water and doesn’t bleach or fade bathing suits or spa covers. It also assists with the bacteria killing, with no unwanted side effects.
Potassium Monopersulfate is a powerful, odorless oxygen-based versatile oxidizer that works in conjunction with chlorine, bromine and most alternative sanitizing systems including ozone.

Sanitizers are used in hot tubs and spas to protect soakers and bathers from harmful pathogens, but sanitizing alone is not enough.  Soaker and bather waste, along with external factors, contribute to the buildup of organic contamination, especially in residential hot tubs and spas.

Two people in an average hot tub holding 250-350 gallons of water is equivalent to 200 people in a 20,000 gallon swimming pool! Regular oxidation is necessary to eliminate these contaminants and promote maximum sanitizer efficiency and water clarity.

Potassium Monopersulfate is ideal for oxidizing spa water because it reacts very quickly to eliminate bather waste, increases existing sanitizer efficiency, enhances water clarity and soaker comfort. It also eliminates the need to shock the spa with heavy chlorine-based products which cause foul odors, skin and eye irritation and prematurely fades clothing.

Chlorine Only Shocks also have a few other significant drawbacks. When used in heavy doses, chlorine can react with contaminants in hot tub water to produce foul smelling and irritating combined chlorine compounds called chloramines.

Chloramines can be simple compounds like monochloramine or they can be complex like the organic chloramines. Organic chloramines actually resist oxidation by free chlorine and persist long after chlorine shocking.

Chlorine shocking also raises chlorine residuals, which are not wanted in a brominated hot tub or spa. This can be a real problem if your hot tub is inside, where air circulation is a problem.

One of the big reasons that people use bromine as their main sanitizer is to reduce the chemical odor, both in the water and in the indoor air around the unit. Potassium Monopersulfate will not cause these unwanted odors when used on a weekly shock.

When used properly, it eliminates chloramines, ammoniated compounds, oils, soaps, perspiration, urine and odors as well as enhances the disinfection and sanitation of your hot tub by regenerating some of the existing chlorine and most of the bromine in the water.

*Please Note that Potassium Monopersulfate should not be used during the initial fill up of your hot tub or spa. It is not a disinfectant when used alone and a normal level of sanitizer must already be present in the water for Potassium Monopersulfate to react correctly.

Hot Tub & Spa Basic Use, Information & Tips

Here are some basic tips on using your hot tub or spa that are occasionally overlooked. They will help keep your water cleaner and clearer, and even save you some money!

Oil and soap based products are the number 1 enemy of crystal clear spa water. Never use regular household cleaners for cleaning your spa. These products contain soap or ammonia based products and are very bad for your water chemistry and if you don’t get all of the product out of the spa you could wind up with a very large “bubble bath”.

One of the most common causes of foamy hot tub and spa water is residual detergent in bathing suits. Try running an extra rinse cycle in the washing machine, or re-rinse swimwear by hand.

When not using your spa, keep the Air Control Valves closed. These are the valves or dials on top of the spa that allow air to mix with the water coming out of your jets. Besides these valves letting cold air into the spa water and increasing heating costs, this air can also be full of air borne debris and algae spores that can cloud your water and increases your chemical usage.

Personal hygiene products belong in the shower. Hair spray, hair mousse, styling gels, deodorant, anti-perspiration, sun tan lotion, excess sweat, make-up, skin creams of any sort and excess soap or dyes in bathing suits will cloud your water and clog your filter, reducing its life and increasing your maintenance time.

Floating oil-absorbing sponges  are fantastic at reducing the amount of clogging oils that are sent through your filter. Remember to squeeze them out occasionally and to replace them when they start to deteriorate or when they no longer float.

Make sure your filter cartridge is fully seated in the filter compartment. This ensures 100% of the water passing through the filter, rather than bypassing it. Remember to clean the cartridge once a month for maximum longevity and to replace it every 1 to 2 years. The fibers of the cartridge start to break down and deteriorate after a while and wont do an adequate job of filtration after a while. It’s a not a bad idea to have two filter cartridges on hand for your spa and use them on an alternating basis. This way, while one is being cleaned by soaking in a “Filter Cleaner” solution, the other one can be used in your spa to reduce the down time of your spa.

Make sure to test your spa water at least once per week and always after adding new water. Make sure that the pH and TOTAL ALKALINITY is within the proper ranges. This is MOST important. Either adjust the pH and Alkalinity manually each week, or use “pH Balance“. If you’re using a liquid test kit be sure to clean it after every use, keep the solutions out of the sun and to replace them ever year. Also, always get your sample water from at least 12 inches below the surface. If you’re using test strips be sure to replace them if they are 6 months past the expiration date.

One quick and easy way to vacuum debris from the bottom of your spa is to simply use a garden hose and siphon it out.

If you have an in-ground spa you know you should never drain the water if it’s rained in the last few weeks, or if the ground is wet (if you didn’t know this, glad you’re here). If you do it’s very possible that the spa will float out of the ground. But if you find yourself in that position and you need to change the water here’s a neat little trick. Drop a sump pump in the bottom of the spa, them spread a large sheet of plastic over the top of the water. As the sump pump removes the water, run water from a garden hose on top of the plastic. If the hose and pump are running at the same speed the water level wont drop and the old and new water wont mix.