Baking Soda in a Hot Tub? Spa Chemical Alternatives

hot tub vinegar

The idea of a chemical free hot tub might seem too good to be true. But some hot tub owners have found a way to keep their water safe for use while using fewer chemicals. These owners swear by common household products to keep water balanced.

Baking soda used in a hot tub can raise pH or change total alkalinity. Vinegar is used to lower pH levels in your hot tub. And some people use liquid bleach, like the kind found in the laundry aisle, as a sanitizer.

But can these products really do the work of the spa chemicals recommended by your local retailer? 

While the motto “less is more” is great when it comes to hot tub chemicals, replacing the products from your hot tub store with household items might lead to a desired result. 

hot tub baking soda
Baking soda can be used to balance the pH of your hot tub. However, it can cause scaling when it interacts with other products.

Baking Soda Nightmare 

The PoolSpaForum is a place where  spa and pool owners can share their expertise and seek advice about products and water care woes. 

One post on the forum, a hot tub owner wrote about his experience using baking soda to maintain water clarity. 

“I put some baking soda in the other day and walked away like normal. The next time I used it, the entire inner wall and seating area (basically anywhere the water touches) feels like sandpaper. I can scrub it off with a pad but it just comes right back.

“I need to get rid of this, I’m afraid it may clog my intake, and I am afraid if I drain it I still won’t get it all. Any ideas?”

The gritty feeling that the hot tub owner was noticing was likely calcium scale. The remedy was to lower the pH and to use a product to clean the plumbing. After those treatments, draining the hot tub might be beneficial. 

Baking Soda in a Hot Tub

The pH is one of the key levels of your hot tub water that needs to be balanced. Body oils, beauty products, and other contaminants can affect the pH of your hot tub water.

If your pH is not in the proper range, it can damage the components of your spa, such as the plumbing and heater. 

Just a reminder: Your hot tub’s pH should be between 7.2 and 7.8 ppm. 

If your pH is too low, you can use a pH increaser or baking soda. But depending on how much you need to increase your pH, you might need a lot of baking soda — a pound or more. There’s also potential that the baking soda will interact with other products in your hot tub and cause scaling.

Just like the hot tub owner who wrote into the forum.

Spa owners who still want to add baking soda to their water should do so an ounce at a time. Sprinkle it evenly over the surface of the water with the jets on. Re-test the pH after 20 minutes.

Vinegar in a Hot Tub

Vinegar is a household staple, used for cooking and cleaning. It’s an ingredient in salad dressings and a way to clean your showerhead. 

Hot tub owners, though, have also found that adding vinegar to the water can lower the pH.

Vinegar, though, is a great agent to clean your hot tub shell or spa cover. Be sure to mix the vinegar with equal parts water. Carefully apply the mixture, whether with a spray bottle or damp cloth, and clean your spa.

clean hot tub
Chlorine is a popular hot tub sanitizer, making the water safe to use. While bleach might seem like a better alternative, manufacturers do not recommend using it.

Chlorine in a Hot Tub

There are two sanitizer options for hot tubs — chlorine or bromine. These products help remove contaminants from your water, making it safe for soaking.

But not all chlorine options are created equal, at least when it comes to hot tubs. The concentrations vary and some products have additives. The type of chlorine used can affect the pH levels, and some products might dissolve more slowly. 

One household product — bleach — seems like an affordable option for sanitizing your spa water. After all, you use it on your laundry and maybe even your bathtub. There are some considerations if you want to use bleach in your hot tub.

Most manufacturers do not recommend using bleach in your spa and doing so could void your warranty. If you have a hot tub with an ozone system, you should not use bleach in your hot tub. The aeration can cause the pH to rise too quickly. In addition, it might cause skin irritation.

Instead, use sodium dichlor granules that are designed for hot tubs. Alternately, bromine can be used.

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