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What Causes Hot Tub Foam? Find out here

Hot tubs are for relaxation and unwinding after a long day at work, however, as much as many bubbles are fun and relaxing in a bubble bath, the foam has no place in a hot tub or spa. When you do start to experience hot tub foam, it is time to take a look at a few things that might be out of whack in your hot tub water. In this article, we are going to outline exactly what hot tub foam is and how it gets there in the first place, what is the primary cause of hot tub foam and how can you get rid of it?

hot tub foam

How to deal with Hot Tub Foam

Have you ever been to the beach and taken a look at the ocean, the foamy, frothy bubbles swishing along the shore? These bubbles look nice for Instagram photos however, they are an indication of chemical imbalances in the water as well as other underlying issues. Ocean foam is pretty much the same thing as hot tub foam. Foam arrives when there is water, air, and surfactants, which are molecules that decrease the tension of liquids, this facilitates the combination of certain substances that don’t usually mix such as oil and water.

You need to understand the chemical makeup of water, it is certainly not just made up of hydrogen and oxygen. It often contains, salts, detergents, proteins, and other organic materials. These substances are actually surfactants and they make it easier for substances like lotion and hair conditioner to mix with the water to make it thicker.

Have you ever woken up in the morning after having a few friends over to enjoy the hot tub and the tub is full of foam? Well this happens because you have water, surfactants and when you turn on the jets, you add air to the mix. All these components lead to hot tub foam.

Surfactants create a very fine layer of water that separates each molecule from one another. They force the water molecule into a spherical shape to form bubbles. Therefore, when you have lots of surfactants in the water, you get plenty of foam.

The Primary Cause of Hot Tub Foam

You probably maintain your hot tub on a regular basis, check your water chemistry and clean it out often, however, if you fail to do this a couple of times, you will notice that bubbles begin to form. There are a number of things that cause hot tub foam, these are the three main culprits:

  • Cosmetics

Cosmetics such as hair conditioner, makeup, shampoo, hair gel, and body sprays contribute massively to the buildup of surfactants in the hot tub water. These things actually make sanitizers work much harder to achieve their goals of removing excess bacteria from the hot tub water. If you use these products a lot and you don’t rinse off before getting into the hot tub, you will find that your hot tub is often foamy. You might think that laundry detergent is a good thing, it cleans your clothes and ensures they smell fresh and clean however, laundry detergent can cause major issues in your hot tub water.

  • Drinks

Drinking alcohol in the hot tub might seem like a fun or necessary activity, however, you should probably avoid drinking in the hot tub because if you spill sweet drinks or alcohol into the water, you will certainly end up with foam in your hot tub.

  • Human Beings

We have natural oils on our skin, sebum and sweat are major culprits as well as dead skin cells and other waste. Sanitizers do help to eliminate some of these contaminants however, you might still notice some foam at some point. This will be less likely if you keep up regular maintenance of your swimming pool.

Be Careful of Low-Cost Chemicals for Your Hot Tub

One thing you should be very careful of when purchasing chemicals for your hot tub is cheap chemicals. Mostly these chemicals are slightly watered down therefore, you will not get the same sanitizing effects that you would get if you were to use high-quality chemicals. You will also need to use more chemicals so eventually, you might even end up spending more money.

Using cheap chemicals could be detrimental to the safety of your hot tub because they will most likely not sanitize the hot tub water properly. When the sanitizer becomes less effective, you are more likely to experience hot tub foam.

Getting Rid of Foam in a Hot Tub

Getting rid of foam from your hot tub is quite straightforward, it might seem like a long, tedious and laborious task but it certainly is not as difficult as it might seem.

Test the Water

The first thing you need to do is test the water out, you need to check the pH levels, the alkalinity levels and check the sanitizer chemicals in the water. It is also a good idea to check for total dissolved solids too. These are the surfactants that are in the water, checking for these is crucial to treating your pool for hot tub foam.  Finally, before you begin any treatment, you need to check the calcium hardness which can cause hot tub foam as well as corrosion. You should be checking and testing your water regardless of hot tub foam on a regular basis.

Drain the Water

Once you went through the testing process, the next thing you need to do is drain your hot tub, get rid of all the water and refill it. Before you refill the tub, clean the interior thoroughly to remove any excess residue that might be in the tub.

How to Drain a Hot Tub

  1. Take the filters out, clean them or fit new ones if necessary
  2. Switch the hot tub power off
  3. Remove the water from the tub with the sump pump or draining plug
  4. When the water has been removed, clean the inside of the tub with 1/5 white vinegar or 4/5 water. You can also just purchase a special hot tub cleansing solution but the cheaper way is to use white vinegar.
  5. Rinse out the hot tub well and dry It with a clean cloth
  6. Refill the hot tub by using a garden hose, if you have a hose filter attach it to your hose to filter out any heavy metals or contaminants.
  7. Once you have filled up the hot tub, you can now test the water again and add the appropriate chemicals. Let the chemicals sit for a day or so, you can turn on the jets to facilitate the process.

If you need to get rid of foam urgently, there are products that you can purchase to get rid of the foam such as foam remover. This is a quick fix to remove excess foam but it will not get rid of the route cause of the issue. Therefore, this should be only seen as a temporary solution and it should not be used as a long-term plan for hot tub foam. Also, these chemicals could eventually have a long-term effect on your hot tub water therefore, it is best to use the slow method to get rid of the foam as opposed to the quick method of using foam remover.

Prevention is Better Than Cure

Here are some of the ways that you can prevent hot tub foam:

  • Take a shower before you enter the hot tub, tell anyone who gets into the hot tub to take a shower prior to entering the hot tub
  • Use clean water to rinse your bathing suit before you enter the hot tub (best to soak it in-plane water before soaking in the hot tub)
  • Rinse hair properly with clean water after shampooing and conditioning
  • Avoid drinking sweet drinks or alcohol in the hot tub
  • Check and test chemical levels on a regular basis
  • Purchase good quality chemicals
  • Ensure regular maintenance such as weekly water testing and water drainage every 3 months

To conclude

When it comes to hot tub foam, the best thing you can do is take the necessary steps to try and prevent it from appearing in the first place. Hot tub foam is caused by surfactants such as cosmetics, laundry detergents, sweat, and natural skin oils. It is vital that you rinse off before you enter the hot tub and that you avoid drinking sweet drinks when you are using the hot tub. Maintaining your hot tub regularly is also an essential preventative measure that you can take. Try and test the chemicals once a week, or twice a month, be sure to drain the pool every three months. Also, when you do refill your hot tub, use a water hose filter to filter out anything that might contaminate the water. 

Regular water testing is key, don’t neglect this step, as you know the major cause of hot tub foam is surfactants. When these surfactants build up in the water, they reduce the effectiveness of the sanitizer chemicals causing excess bacteria growth. Therefore, testing the water can give you an indication of how the surfactants are affecting the water. 

Posted in pool maintenance

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