White Water Mold & Pink Slime in spas & hot tubs is
only the covering for the real problem - bio-films.
If you think your hot tub water is clean & sanitary just because it looks clear, think
twice. You may have shocked the
water & even maintained a good chlorine, bromine, biguanide (Leisure Time Free or
BaquaSpa) level, or installed a new Nature2 or Spa Frog cartridge but the
reality is you've
only controlled about 1% of the bacteria present!
Bio-films are turning out to be the root cause of
most spa & hot tub
"problems." That's why those problems are difficult to get rid of -
they are almost always undetected.
Bio-films in spas & hot tubs lead to cloudy water, foaming,
odors, scale build-up on the heater (prevents efficient heating), and even
corrosion (certain biofilms can have a pH of about 1.0 - very acidic) of any
metal surface of the circulation system including heaters, filter parts, rails,
etc. Bio-films can even lead to the degradation of spa pillows, covers &
The same thing applies to jetted bathtubs & whirlpools!
films or large quantities of bacteria living as a vast colony in the
our "big" world, a coral reef could be considered "bio-film."
self-perpetuating & difficult to remove. Worst of all, bio-films grow on any
surface, especially wet or damp. Warning: even after drying out, the
bio-film is not dead but only dormant.
Bio-films form on any
surface. In your spa or hot tub that means the seats, walls, bottom, skimmer
baskets, filter cartridge and filter well, tank bodies, pump bodies and
impellers, jets, handles, lights, air holes, heater plumbing, and especially the
piping. There is a 5 steps process in the formation of bio-films as shown in the
diagram above. Let's look at them.
1. Attachment: the bacteria attaches to the surface. It wants to attach &
grow. Bacteria want to be in relationships, so they find
a surface, any surface, to attach & breed.
takes place as bacteria multiply and divide, therefore growing quickly & in
great numbers. According to
university studies, this is the crucial point where attachment is considered "irreversible." The
bacteria colony is staying unless removed. Colonization is accomplished in a
matter of minutes or hours at most!
3. Protection: the bacteria colony or bio-film protects
itself against invasion from environmental factors, "lethal" chemicals
(such as chlorine or bromine), predators, or anything that want to destroy it. Technically, the bacteria begins to excrete a protective coating called an
"exopolysaccharide" film. This film is sticky or slimy and very tough. Now
with this protection, the
biofilm experiences phenomenal growth.
4. Growth: like a coral reef, the bio-film gets bigger &
tougher. "Super colonies" of bio-film actually absorb certain chemicals (such as
were meant to destroy them.
as the bio-film becomes "too big," parts break off &begin to attach to other surfaces or different parts of
the same surface. And the bio-film cycle begins again.
Bio-films are everywhere: Pools, spas, bathrooms, kitchens, the funky
look to your patio furniture, on your teeth (plaque is a bio-film), wherever
there is a surface that is damp, there's a bio-film.
What do you do? Bio-films are resistant to chlorine & bromine. Bio-films bond with biguanides. Ionizers
have no effect. You have to remove it.
The picture to the left shows a brand new
spa having the bio-film removed over several hours. But how? Products such as
Natural Chemistry Spa Purge,
Spa System Flush or
can do the job.
Bio-film lifecycle image courtesy of: