Have you just opened up your hot tub’s cover to find a thick layer of foam?
Don’t worry – your hot tub isn’t broken, but you are going to need to get rid of that foam before you can get in it.
Read on to find out how to fix foamy hot tub water – and prevent it from ever happening again.
How to fix foam in hot tub water – fast
Got people coming over and need a fix for your foamy hot tub now? The quickest fix is to add a foam remover chemical, which will get rid of the foam sitting on your hot tub in minutes and stop it from building up again for the rest of the day.
While this is a handy solution if you’re in a pinch, it only treats the symptom, not the cause. It’s an effective temporary solution, but it’s only a band-aid. Read on to find out why there’s foam in your hot tub in the first place and how to prevent it from happening again.
Foamy hot tub water all comes down to surfactants – molecules that reduce the surface tension of water and make it easier for oils and water to mix.
The total dissolved solids (TDS) your hot tub test strip measures? Those are surfactants. And if they build up in your spa, they’ll form a film on its surface that traps air and forms bubbles. Add your hot tub’s jets into the mix and you get bubbles – lots of them.
And that’s how you get foamy water in your hot tub.
Where do surfactants come from?
You can prevent hot tub foam by stopping surfactants from building up in your spa in the first place. That means maintaining good hot tub chemistry so your sanitiser can do its job of dissolving organic compounds so they don’t build up.
But no matter how hard you try, there’s always going to be some surfactants in your hot tub’s water. The key is to always keep that amount down to a manageable level to ensure you keep your hot tub water clean.
With that in mind, things to keep a keen eye on include:
Soap, shampoo, and laundry detergent
You leave any residual soap residue from your skin, hair products from your hair, and detergent from your bathing suits behind when you get out of your spa. Each of these is a surfactant that can cause foam in your hot tub water if left unchecked.
Oils and lotions
Suntan lotion, body lotions, make-up, deodorant, and moisturiser can also build up over time and cause hot tub foam.
Food and drink
Sitting back and sipping a cold drink during a soak in your home spa is one of life’s greatest pleasures. But beware: spilt drinks and food crumbs will send your TDS levels through the roof, which will quickly lead to hot tub foam if left untreated. Avoid this by shocking your hot tub if you ever spill a drink in it.
It’s not exactly pleasant to think about, but the truth is that you leave oils and dead skin cells behind every time you get out of your hot tub. Keep your sanitiser levels topped up and these will all get dissolved.
But if you have lots of people around for a hot tub party, the standard dose of sanitiser probably won’t be strong enough to neutralise everything your guests leave behind and keep your hot tub clean.
So, be sure to shock your hot tub water weekly or after each time you entertain to give it a sanitiser boost that will prevent surfactants from building up and foam from forming in your spa water.
Your sanitiser will go into overdrive to try and break down dead leaves and muck that gets brought into your tub on the bottom of your feet.
So, be sure to scoop any dirt and debris out of your tub as soon as you spot it so your sanitiser doesn’t get used up trying to break that down rather than neutralising the compounds that cause hot tub foam.
Unbalanced water chemistry
Unbalanced hot tub chemistry won’t cause foamy hot tub water by itself. But poor water balance – especially low calcium hardness – prevents your sanitiser from working effectively and reduces the surface tension of your hot tub’s water. Together, these make your hot tub a lot more likely to foam up.
Cheap hot tub chemicals
Cheap hot tub chemicals can lead to a whole host of problems with keeping your hot tub’s water balanced. Stay away from cheap chemicals and stick to quality spa chemicals to keep the chances of hot tub foam to a minimum, ensuring you spend as much time enjoying your hot tub – and as little correcting its chemical levels – as possible.
Soft water can be a major driving force behind causing foam, particularly if organic material is present. To combat this situation, increasing calcium hardness levels to around 100 ppm should do the trick! You can achieve this by adding some calcium hardness increase to your tubs water, this will eliminate foam and provide better process control over time.
A foam remover chemical will quickly – but only temporarily – remove the foam from your hot tub. To get rid of it for good, follow these simple steps:
1. Test your water
The first thing you should do with a foamy hot tub is test its water. Once you know which of the pH, alkalinity, sanitiser, calcium hardness, and total dissolved solids levels are out of balance, you’ll know what to keep an eye on in the future to help make sure it doesn’t happen again.
If your hot tub’s chemistry is unbalanced across the board, your best bet is usually emptying, cleaning, and refilling your spa (more on that in just a bit).
If they’re not too bad – and your hot tub isn’t too foamy – it can be worth adjusting your hot tub’s chemicals and seeing if that does the trick. Pay special attention to the calcium hardness and TDS levels if you choose to go this route, as these are the most common causes of a foamy hot tub.
2. Shock your spa
Hot tub shock oxidises your hot tub’s water and reactivates the chlorine or bromine in its water. This will help it break down surfactants and get rid of foam, making it a great next line of defence if rebalancing your hot tub chemicals doesn’t do the trick.
If your hot tub is foaming, its sanitiser levels are more than likely running low. A chlorine-based hot tub shock will boost its sanitiser levels as well as oxidise the water, hitting two birds with one stone.
3. Drain, clean, and refill your hot tub
If shocking your spa doesn’t work – or if your hot tub’s water is so unbalanced that you don’t think it’s worth trying to rescue – draining your hot tub and starting again is a surefire way of getting rid of the foam.
Follow these simple steps to empty your hot tub and make sure no contaminants are left behind that might make it foam up again:
‘Zap’ the foamy water with a fast-acting plumbing cleaner to remove any residue or greasy body oils from the inside of the plumbing system, then drain your hot tub’s water.
Once empty, thoroughly clean the inside of your hot tub with a damp cloth and a spa surface cleaner solution.
Remove your hot tub’s filters and soak them in chemical cleaner, then rinse them off.
Remove your hot tub’s headrests and thoroughly clean them (and the acrylic area behind them) to remove any potential contaminants. Once dry, use a vinyl protectant such as 303 Protectant to help preserve their lifespan.
Start refilling your hot tub, then add some fast-acting chlorine or bromine granules to start the sanitisation process. Remember that you’re aiming for a Free Chlorine level of 2 – 5mg/l or a Total Bromine level of 3 – 6mg/l once the spa is refilled, so don’t go overboard at this stage with your chemical levels.
Once your tub is full, check and adjust your spa’s pH to 7.2 – 7.6 and Total Alkalinity (TA) to 125 – 150mg/l.
If your hot tub cover is made of vinyl, wash it with warm soapy water, leave it to dry, and then use 303 Protectant to protect it from UV damage and prolong its lifespan.
Once your hot tub is full of fresh water, test the water and leave it to circulate for at least a day. Then test it again and adjust if necessary before you hop in.
No matter what you do, surfactants are going to slowly build up in your hot tub – which is why you need to change its water every three months.
Stick to the advice we’ve laid out in this short guide and compounds won’t build up to the point that they cause foamy hot tub water. And if they ever do, you now know exactly how to fix it – and prevent it from happening again.
For more hot tub maintenance tips – plus our pick of the best hot tubs on the market today for every budget – get the latest edition of WhatSpa? magazine for free.
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I am the Content Writer and Marketing Officer at WhatSpa? Magazine. I have worked at WhatSpa? for over 8 years, and I recently graduated with Distinction from Northumbria University with a Master's degree in Occupational and Organizational Psychology.
My role at WhatSpa? is to ensure that all hot tub lovers can easily access the highest quality and most up-to-date content, news and information from within the UK wet leisure industry.