Most people think that when it comes to maintenance, maintaining a swimming pool and a spa are the same. We’re going to set the record straight today and will say that yes, while they are similar, spa maintenance is different and if you have both a spa and a swimming pool, they should have different cleaning schedules as they have different needs.
Spa vs Swimming Pool, the Main Differences
There are three main differences between your swimming pool and your spa that changes everything when it comes to maintenance and they are the following:
- Water Temperature - Spas are actively heated and will reach high temperatures which in turn will use up more chemicals. Some chemicals will evaporate off or become unstable at high temperatures which causes your spa to use chemicals.
- Water Volume - Spas contain a very small amount of water (obviously). While three or four people swimming in a pool won’t make a dent on a swimming pool’s chemistry, three or four people in a spa is already considered a heavy bather load.
- Changing water - Ideally, pools shouldn’t be emptied because it might cause some structural damage to your pool, while spas should be emptied and cleaned out every few months depending on usage.
Spa Water testing vs Pool Water testing
Testing your spa water for chemicals is basically the same as testing your pool water with one big difference: Spa water should be checked more often! Here at Mr Pool Man (Mr Spa Man doesn’t quite have the same ring to it right?) we recommend that you test your spa water at least two or three times a week.
The reason? We already mentioned it before, since spa water runs hotter, your spa chemicals are more unstable and will need to be replenished more often. Your water volume also plays a role, a few splashes in your swimming pool won’t matter, but a few splashes in the spa will take out a significant percentage of water and replacing that water will further dilute the remaining chemicals.
The chemical levels or water chemistry required for your spa is basically the same as the pool, so to learn more about what levels are needed, see our Ultimate Guide to Pool Chemicals here.
Spa Sanitising, Chlorine vs Bromine
This is a common question we get here at Mr Spa Man... Hmm, nope, still doesn't sound right! If chlorine works as well as bromine, then why bother with having different sanitisers for your spa and your pool? Not only that, but Bromine is also more expensive than chlorine. Well, to answer that question, here’s a chart detailing the pros and cons of both chlorine and bromine.
More Expensive than Chlorine
Unstable / Less Effective above 24C
Effective at high Temperatures
Smell / Odour
Has that “chlorine” smell
Can be stabilised with Cyanuric Acid / UV Blockout
Bromine cannot be stabilised
Sensitive Skin Issues
Can be irritating for those with sensitive skin
Better for sensitive skin
Can be Cloudy
If we take everything together, it does seem like chlorine is perfect for the pool and bromine is perfect for the spa right? Let’s take it step-by-step.
- Price - Yes, chlorine is cheap, so it’s perfect for sanitising large amounts of water like your swimming pool. Bromine is more expensive than chlorine, but since the volume of water for your spa is lower then you’re going to be using less of it.
- Working Temperature - Bromine is effective at high temperatures, which is pretty much the standard working temperature of hot tubs and spas. Chlorine on the other hand is less effective above 24C, but if we look at it, it’s extremely hard to find a pool with a temperature higher than 24C!
- Smell / Odour - This actually doesn’t come from the chlorine or bromine itself, but from the chloramines produced when chlorine disinfectant binds with organic waste like sweat, urine, oil from pores and so forth. It’s less noticeable in a pool because of the water volume so it will get dispersed, while in the confined spaces of a spa and the concentration of oils released by the body due to the high temperatures of the spa will cause a very noticeable “chlorine” smell.
- UV Protection - Yes, bromine can’t be stabilised and protected against UV rays, but most spas and hot tubs are either indoor or in covered areas so that kind of balances out that con right? All the more reason to use chlorine in your pool and bromine in your spa.
- Sensitive Skin Issues - With the high water temperature opening up the pores on the skin of spa / hot tub bathers, bromine is the sanitiser of choice as it is less harsh on the skin.
- Water Clarity - Nobody wants to look at a cloudy pool, so chlorine is the best for your pool sanitising needs. Your spa on the other hand, cloudy spa water when using bromine isn’t much of an issue since the water will be constantly stirred by your spa jets, causing those oh so therapeutic bubbles, making clarity a non-issue.
Covers: Pool Covers vs Spa Covers
No difference whatsoever in our eyes. If you have a pool cover, use it whenever your pool is not in use and the same goes with your spa, if you have a spa cover then use it if your spa is not in use. Actually, let me revise that statement, your spa needs a cover more than your pool. Because of the lower water volume in your spa, external contaminants and evaporation will have a greater effect on it. If you have a spa cover, use it. If you don’t, then we recommend getting one. Browse our collection of spa covers here.
Here are some spa-specific accessories that can keep your spa experience as pleasant and as relaxing as possible.
Life Spa Disc
To be quite honest, the first time I saw this, I was thinking to myself "Why would anyone want to play frisbee in a spa?" But when I found out what it was for, it was like a lightbulb lit up in my head!
Due to the high water temperatures, the pores on the spa users’ skin will open up and release more body fluids like oils and body fat (this is part of what makes a spa so relaxing and therapeutic). Due to the low volume of water and the confined space, scum marks, lines, and staining can be a problem. Prevent this by dropping a spa disc on your spa or popping one on your spa skimmers to absorb all of the oils and other organic material in your spa. Not only does this make your water cleaner, but this extends the life of your spa’s filter cartridge as well!
Spa Shock Sanitiser
This specially formulated spa shock sanitiser has been designed for use in spas. We swear that it’s not just a marketing gimmick! Due to the low volume of water in your spa or hot tub, it is very easy to overshoot the mark if you’re using regular pool shock! Overshooting / too high chemical concentrations can cause damage to your spa equipment, so better safe than sorry.
Spa Vac Pods
If you can use your regular pool cleaner on your spa then great, but chances are, your spa will have a lot of ridges and the small space will cause even the most nimble of pool cleaners to tumble and not reach those nooks and crannies. Spa vac pods like the Life Supa Vac Pod Spa Kit are specially designed to vacuum and clean those hard to reach corners and bumps on your spa. And let’s admit it, using a full sized telepole on a spa looks kind of silly (or cute), as is the picture below.
Spa Cartridge Filter Cleaning Solution
This is your traditional filter cleaning solution packed in spa-sized packets. Since your spa’s filter cartridges are much smaller than your regular pool filter cartridges, get some spa-sized filter cleaner whenever you need to give your filter cartridges a good soak and clean. While you can get the larger containers, you can avoid issues like the powder caking or getting exposed to air and moisture by getting these smaller packaged filter cleaning solutions for your spa filter needs.
Spa Booster Seats
Not everyone is blessed with height! Just kidding, no, really, just kidding. Spa booster seats are useful if you need just a little bit more reach when lounging around in your spa. Not only that, they’re super comfortable as well! They’re easily filled with a garden hose and they have suction cups that hold on to your spa’s surface to prevent them from moving around or slipping. They’re also made with extra-durable material so they’re guaranteed not to break and they can resist the high water temperatures of your spa.
Spa Dining Sets
Admit it, what’s a spa experience without a couple of drinks and some snacks right? Mr Pool man (Yep, definitely much better than Mr Spa Man) carries a range of spa accessories like the Life spa bars that will allow you to have your own mini-floating drink and snack bar right there with you! The spa bar is designed to be self-balancing and buoyant so that you won’t have to worry about all your snacks and drinks tipping over into your spa.
We also have some unbreakable champagne flutes and wine tumblers that look like the real thing! Make it a complete spa experience by infusing a touch of class, really, nothing spoils the atmosphere than sipping wine or champagne out of a plastic cup for safety reasons.
Safety Note: NEVER bring any sort of glassware to your pool or spa, broken glass can wreak havoc on your pool equipment and spa jets can send broken pieces of glass at high speeds causing injury. Not only that, broken glass is almost invisible to the naked eye especially underwater.
There you have it, the difference between your spa and your swimming pool. They’re the same, but different at the same time! As long as you remember the minor differences between pool and spa maintenance then you should have refreshing water for both your pool and spa the whole year round!
Keep your pool and spa maintained all year long. Check out these other blog posts below:
- Do THIS, not THAT. Swimming Pool Tips and Tricks
- Seasonal Pool Maintenance Guide: Updated for Summer 2021!
- Recondition your spa just in time for winter
- Cooler Times are Coming! Time to warm up your Spa!
Do you have any questions about this topic or the featured products? No worries, we're here to help! Drop us a question down below and we'll get back to you ASAP.
Happy swimming :)