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The Truth About Salt Water

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Salt water doesn't mean chemical-free. If you think saltwater is a solution for hot tub sanitizing, here are some things to know.

Some dealers are promoting salt water systems as the better way to keep hot tub water clean because allegedly:

  • They require less work because it’s automated and “hands-free”.
  • They don’t depend on harsh chemicals like chlorine, bromine, or spa shock
  • They use an inexpensive salt like table salt instead of expensive hot tub chemicals
  • They leave your skin feeling better because they don’t have harsh, traditional sanitizers
  • They are environmentally friendly because they use fewer chemicals
  • They use diamonds in the system to create powerful cleaners

Now, don’t get me wrong. Saltwater hot tub sanitization can be beneficial if you are willing to understand the reality of the system. So, let's peel back the “hype” and look at the reality by examining each of the above claims.

Claim 1: Less work

They require less work because it’s automated and hands-free. The simplest answer to this claim is to look at one major hot tub manufacturer’s saltwater sanitization manual.

The manual has 16 pages and includes 167 separate warnings, procedures, and descriptions. This means that there is a huge amount of work required to operate and maintain this system. That manual is also full of dozens of required actions, making it much less “hands-free” than traditional sanitizing. This includes fun things to do in maintaining a salt water system like removing the “cell” and cleaning it in an acid solution every three months, then reinstalling it.

Claim 2: No harsh chemicals

They don’t depend on harsh chemicals like chlorine. Well, they use salt and water to constantly produce five harsh chemicals in your hot tub water as you use the tub. Their main “powerful cleaner” is good old chlorine. Saltwater system manufacturers also recommend that you use normal spa chlorine and spa water shock any time that the tested chlorine level gets low…which can be frequently. So much for not using “harsh chemicals”.

Claim 3: Inexpensive to Use

Special hot tub salt is indeed a little less expensive than hot tub chlorine ($7 a month for hot tub salt vs. $15 a month for hot tub chlorine). But, the salt is a very small factor in the overall salt water system cost. Here are the real costs:

  1. Stand-alone salt water systems: $500 to $700 to purchase and only a one-year warranty.
  2. Built-in salt water systems: Up to $1500 and only a one-year warranty. Sometimes the salt system is thrown in for “free” with the purchase price of the hot tub. Nothing is “free”. Wouldn’t you prefer a $1500 cash discount instead?
  3. Cells have a 1.6-year average life and cost from $300 to $500 each time one is replaced.
  4. Saltwater system users also have to purchase:
  • Hot tub chlorine
  • Hot tub shock
  • Special calcium remover
  • PH up and PH down
  • Stain and scale defense
  • Defoamer
  • 5-way test strips

So, over five to 10 years, the salt water system users will save a little on the salt, but overall they will spend thousands of dollars more on water sanitization than traditional hot tub chlorine or bromine users.

Claim 4: Skin feels better: Indeed, a little salt in the water will not affect your skin. However, the saltwater system uses a special “cell” to generate elemental oxygen, chlorine, and several other “powerful” cleaners and oxidizers. Your skin reacts to these powerful cleaners and oxidizers just like it will react to hot tub chlorine. Whether it's salt water-generated oxidizers or hot tub chlorine, having too much of either will not be beneficial to your skin.

Claim 5: They’re Environmentally Beneficial Because of Less Chemicals

It’s true that when the 167 cautions and procedures for salt water sanitization are regularly and carefully followed, less harsh chemicals will be used. Similarly, if the simple procedures for using regular hot tub sanitizers are followed, much less harsh chemicals will be used. Oh by the way, the saltwater system constantly uses electricity and requires the manufacturing of non-environmentally friendly components that have to be thrown out regularly.

Claim 6: Diamonds are used in the “cell”

Not really. Just a diamond vapor is deposited in the “cell”. And, after the “cells” fail, they’re thrown in the trash. Not much diamond value after all. Apparently, diamonds are referred to as a way to make saltwater systems appear more valuable.

The Bottom Line: Sadly, salt water sanitation systems for hot tubs are over ”hyped”, making consumers confused. They are in fact, complicated to operate properly, expensive to purchase and maintain, create harsh oxidizers, and have no special environmental advantages. With all these problems brought about by Salt Water, why wouldn’t you consider a natural alternative, like ozone purification? This is a much better alternative to keep your hot tub chemical-free. Ozone is a very natural oxidation process, which is much more convenient and reliable than salt systems. It is also much healthier for both you and the environment.

Give us a call today and we’ll offer you some excellent alternatives to saltwater spas.