Bromine: The OTHER Hot Tub Sanitizer
This guide can answer the popular questions: “What is Bromine?” and “What sanitizer should I use in my hot tub?” It’s a perfect resource for new spa owners looking at all the sanitizer options. It’s also a guide for established hot tub users who want more information on bromine. I’ll go into detail on what it is plus why and how to use it.
What are sanitizers?
Sanitizers (a.k.a. disinfectant, cleaner, chemical, etc.) are spa purifier systems used to rid your hot tub of dirty microorganisms. There are several choices of sanitizers available. Properly maintained, sanitary hot tub water is free from any infection causing microbes like bacteria, viruses and yeasts. Learn more about sanitizers.
What is Bromine?
Bromine is a sanitizer that purifies your hot tub or pool water from microbes. It is very effective in attacking and killing bacteria. When bromine is used with an oxidizer such as Oxy-Spa, it can destroy impurities the filter can’t catch like perspiration, urine, sunscreen, dust and pollen (Gross, I know, but urine and other total dissolved solids makes its way off your body and into the spa water).
You want to oxidize or shock after each spa use to activate the bromide ion and turn it into the sanitizer. Shocking will also allow your sanitizer to perform at peak efficiency.
Keeping water healthy and sanitized is easy when a routine is established. Hot tubs that are used often can become unhealthy very quickly without proper testing, maintenance and adequate use of sanitizers.
Bromine is comparable to chlorine in the sanitizing family for hot tubs and pools. Chlorine is generally thought of to be used in hot tubs but is actually more common in pools. While chlorine can be used in hot tubs, it requires daily maintenance to balance and maintain.
Most spa owners find bromine easier to manage than chlorine since it is produced in a tablet form. Bromine is also more effective over a wider pH range than chlorine. You simply add a few bromine tabs to a floating brominator to provide continuous sanitization to the water.
Keeping your water balanced is an important part of being a spa owner. There are several factors that will vary the required treatment of bromine added such as: water temperature, bather load and usage, exposure to windblown debris, and length of filtration cycle to name a few.
Bromine is a member of the chemical family of halogens, which includes chlorine. When bromine is combined with water, the chemical reacts to kills microorganisms including infection causing bacteria by attacking their cell walls through oxidation. They destroy the enzymes inside these cells, which then renders them harmless.
The chemical name is Bromochloro-5, 5-dimethylhydantoin 98%. (We’ll leave it at Bromine.)
QUICK FACT: The odor bromine puts off is strong, yet less obtrusive than chlorine. In fact the pungent odor of bromine was inspired by the Greek word bromos for “stench”.
An effective bromine product should include at least a 96% active ingredient. Our Bromine Tablets have a 98% active ingredient.
Whether they realize it or not, hot tub owners are chemists! They must maintain a healthy spa by testing, monitoring and adjusting water to keep sanitizers and other chemicals balanced.
Switching to or Starting Bromine
We recommend flushing, draining and refilling your spa when switching from and to a different sanitizer. Doing so will prevent any possible chemical reaction that may skew test results and the potency of the new sanitizer.
Switching to Bromine: If you are switching to bromine from a previous sanitizer, we recommend using a Spa System Flush product to clean the plumbing lines. You don’t want to damage your spa with the chemical reaction that could be created by having any residue from another sanitizer. Even if you’re consistent in draining and maintaining your spa water, you’ll be amazed at the gunk that comes out of the hot tub plumbing!
Starting Bromine: With bromine hot tub start up, you will want to establish a reserve of bromide in the spa or hot tub water. Bromide Booster is not a disinfectant on its own but must be added prior to using brominating tablets for the first time. The bromide is converted to the bromine sanitizer upon addition of shock or oxidizer. Using a bromide booster product will ensure that the disinfection of the spa or hot tub water is completely bromine based and will eliminate the harsh chlorine odors. The same treatment is required whenever the spa is drained and refilled.
Bromine Quick-Start Guide
1. Start with a clean tub, and new or clean filter cartridge(s).
2. Fill spa with fresh water and operate circulating pump.
3. Test water with Bromine 4-in-1 test strips; adjust where necessary.
Total Alkalinity is one of the most important adjustments in water chemistry. Upon testing, Total Alkalinity (TA) should be balanced first (if needed) since it will help keep pH in line. If TA is low, pH will bounce, causing it to be impossible to control. If TA is high, pH drifts upward and is difficult to lower.
The amount of added treatment of your disinfectant is dependent on your pH levels. Adjust and keep pH between 7.2 and 7.6. Never allow it to fall below 7.0! A low pH level of 7.0 can cause many potential problems such as corrosion of equipment, metal staining and may irritate bathers’ skin and eyes.
– Water hardness: 150 – 300 ppm
– Bromine: 3.0 – 5.0 ppm
– Total Alkalinity: 80 – 120 ppm
– pH between 7.2 – 7.6
4. Add Chitosan Natural Clarifier at the rate of 1/2 oz. /500 gallons, weekly.
5. Add Metal Free stain/metal preventer per label instructions.
6. Shock water weekly and after each use with Oxy-Spa non-chlorine MPS shock at the rate of 1 ½ – 2 oz. per 500 gallons. (1 ½ tablespoons = approx. 2 oz.)
7. Add Granular Bromide Booster to establish an immediate bromide reserve or bank.
8. Add 3-4 Bromine Tablets to Float (brominator) and adjust release opening, more or less, as experience dictates over time. Submerge float in spa to release air bubbles then let it float to the surface. Maintain bromine at 3 – 5 ppm. Add tablets as depleted. (Or you can use the Spa Frog Floating System with a mineral and bromine cartridge to maintain lower levels of bromine.)
See how to use a floating bromine feeder:
9. Allow water to circulate to equilibrate spa chemicals for an hour or two (or overnight) then retest with test strips; readjust water balance if necessary.
10. Place and keep ZorbO in spa to absorb oil scum, replace every 3 – 6 months.
WAIT 5 – 10 MINUTES WHEN ADDING DIFFERENT CHEMICALS! Adding too many chemicals at once can create cloudy water.
You can water plants with used hot tub water that contains bromine. To be safe, you’ll want to test the spa water and make sure the bromine levels are lower than 3.0 ppm. Read about watering plants with used hot tub water.
Spa Water Cloudiness
Spa water has the tendency to foam and cloud; this is directly proportional to the amount of spa use. Cloudiness is due to the accumulation of body fats, oil and contaminates too small for the filtration equipment to remove, and is linked to rapid escalation of total dissolved solids (TDS) in the water. To a great extent, defoamers, clarifiers, as well as shock treatments, demineralizers, or sequestering agents can be used to clear the water. Read more about cloudy water.
Spa and Hot Tub Gallon Calculator
Square or Rectangular: Length x Width x Average Depth x 7.5 = Gallons of water
Round or Oval: Length x Width x Average Depth x 5.9 = Gallons of water
Bromine is corrosive and a strong oxidizer, and along with all other spa chemicals, they must be handled with care. These chemicals can burn exposed flesh. Wear chemical resistant gloves when transferring tablets to the float/brominator.
Contact between bromine tablets and or dust found in the container in its undissolved state against any vinyl liners, painted surfaces or other property will result in permanent bleaching of the color.
Reasons to NOT use Bromine
There are several concerns that can arise with bromine and could be why some spa manufacturers don’t recommend using bromine.
- If levels are too low, risk of transmitting infections and diseases or algae growth can become a problem.
- If bromine levels are too high it is an uneconomical use of the disinfectant.
- Bromine has no protection from UV degradation which is why when using this sanitizer, a spa cover is required.
- Some have found the chemical odor to be overwhelming compared to chlorine.
In excessive use, chlorine or bromine can bleach the underside of the spa cover, fade swim suits and even pit the hot tub shell.
- Bromine is used in hot tubs and spas as a sanitizer to purify and disinfect water from bacteria.
- Properly maintained, sanitary hot tub water is free from any infection causing microbes like bacteria, viruses and yeasts.
- Bromine is added to an adjustable floating dispenser that can be opened more or less to maintain the proper bromine level of 3 – 5 ppm.
- Water maintenance is simple once a routine is established.
- Spas should be drained and systems purged every 3 – 4 months, depending on usage and bather load.