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April 1, 2021

Saltwater for Hot Tubs

(and why we don’t recommend them)

Basic Chemical Maintenance is going to be our starting point. Gaining knowledge of required products will allow a greater understanding of why saltwater may or may not be a fit for your hot tub.

Chemical maintenance requires four products, Total Alkalinity, pH+, a Sanitizer (Chlorine or Bromine), and Shock.

Total Alkalinity is a powdered chemical that acts as a stabilizer. It ensures drastic highs and lows don't occur from the pH levels. After the first initial balance, it generally requires minimal adjusting.

pH is a powdered chemical responsible for bringing the water back to less acidic levels. The sanitizers used (Chlorine or Bromine) are acidic products. The more used, the more acidic the water becomes. Adding pH+ allows the water to maintain a more alkaline level. If pH is not adjusted, issues can arise resembling skin irritations. Water with high acidity will eventually destroy components in the hot tub like gaskets, heaters & pump seal, etc.

Chlorine or Bromine comes in powdered or tablet form; its job is to kill bacteria. Since we don't drain our hot tubs after each use, we need something to combat the bacteria left behind by bathers. Especially since temperatures above 100 degrees F are an ideal
breeding ground for bacteria. We recommend using tablets as they are slow dissolving.

Shock is a powdered chemical treatment. When the Sanitizer (Cl or Br) comes in contact with bacteria, it leaves behind a by-product, known as "Chloramines" Or "Bromines". These particles build up in the water and are responsible for any irritations (harsh scents, skin/eye irritation). Chloramines/Bromines must be shocked or aerated out of the water. To do this, we add a shock treatment every week, allow it to work into the water with the hot tub lid open and the by-products gas off.

Now we’re on to Saltwater Generators. These systems ONLY replace the sanitizer. (Cl or Br) Users are still required to add Total Alkalinity, pH, and shock treatments to the hot tub regularly. There are two kinds of Salt Water Generators.

  1. Sodium Bromide Generator --Sodium Bromide Salts dissolve into the spa water. The Sodium Bromide generator’s cell uses electrolysis to create Sodium and Bromine (Sanitizer). However, Health Canada has re-evaluated Sodium Bromide Generators and recommended discontinued use. Anyone who retailed this system had one year from Nov 30th 2018, to cease sale/use. For more information, refer to SODIUM BROMIDE RE-EVALUATION
  2. Sodium Chloride Generator
    --Sodium Chloride Salts (NaCl) dissolve into the spa water at a volume of 2000- 2500 ppm. The saltwater generator's cell uses electrolysis to create Sodium and Chlorine (Sanitizer).
    --Most systems will have the ability to control the volume of chlorine the cell produces, but it will generate chlorine consistently.
    --Assists with automatically shocking/aerating spa water.
    --Health Canada deemed Sodium Chloride systems safe to use on Pools/Hot Tubs.

Sodium Bromide Generators = Sanitizes the Spa with Bromine
--If you have one of these systems, please consider removing/replacing your sanitizing system with a Sodium Chloride Generator or Bromine/Chlorine Tablets

Sodium Chloride Generators = Sanitizes the Spa with Chlorine.
--If you are currently using or considering one of these systems, see our list of Pro’s/Con’s

1. Generates Sanitizer automatically on demand.
2. The perception of "No Chemicals" since there is no need to add Chlorine tablets manually.
3. Assists with shocking/aerating chloramines from the water, which is why users report little to no irritation
4. The salt content in the water offers a soothing experience to bathers.

1. Chlorine is still the chemical used to kill bacteria, just in an alternative form.
2. Salt Cell Generators are an expensive upgrade. Salt cells average replacement every 1-2 years.
3. Salt cells generate automatically and will continue to produce chlorine daily. A tub that goes un-used by bathers can cause issues from over chlorination. Chlorine is acidic and corrosive if used in excess. If more sanitizer becomes available, then there are bacteria for it to neutralize, then it can cause damage to the tub’s components.
4. Users are still required to balance the Total Alkalinity, pH and clean filters to maintain healthy water chemistry.
5. The constant presence of Sodium Chloride (aka Salt) is also corrosive. Over time the salt content will cause rust & deterioration to the hot tub's components. Users will be required to replace heat elements, manifolds, pump seals & other equipment far sooner than necessary.


Take out the middle man; Sodium Chloride (aka Salt), and simply use Chlorine Tablets as needed.

We also recommend using chlorine as an after-soak treatment. It is not required to have chlorine reading on a test strip to soak safely in the spa. Add a chlorine tablet AFTER each use of the hot tub. The chlorine tablet will combat the bacteria left behind by bathers and dissipate by the next use. If the water looks and smells clean, it's safe to go in even if there is no chlorine in the water by the time of the next soak. This method will offer confidence that users are not over chlorinating the spa.

Invest in an OZONE generator. Ozone generators create an O3 gas that reduces the rate at which bacteria multiplies, and it shocks or aerates the by-product of chloramines out of the water. The automatic aeration the ozone provides will drastically reduce any irritations associated with using chlorine.


Even though we don't recommend Saltwater Systems for Hot Tubs, they are a great option for Pools! Here are the reasons & differences why.

  1. Pools are kept at much lower temperatures than hot tubs, so bacteria are less likely to develop as quickly.
  2. Pools are much larger bodies of water, with larger pumps, and generally run with sand filters with gas or solar-powered heating systems. The equipment used to manage pool water is more capable of handling the salt content.
  3. Pools are exposed to the sun for extended periods If your generator is producing chlorine that isn't being used by bacteria, the UV rays from the sun will assist in burning off any extra chlorine in the water.
  4. Pools have way less components (think jets!) If there happens to be a bit of extra chlorine content there aren't as many plastic components for it to corrode.

A link has been provided for a video further discussing Saltwater generators on Hot Tubs for personal use. SALTWATER VIDEO

Article written by Amanda Hart
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