The Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Your Hot Tub, Spa and Pool

The Canadian Government recently issued an updated and revised set of guidelines to help people understand the best methods of maintaining sanitary water conditions and cleanliness in their pools recently and we thought it was great advice so we want to pass it on directly to you all. Its important!

How do I sanitize my hot tub, swimming pool and spa?

Chlorine-based and bromine-based products are effective sanitizers that also control algae. When added to water, chlorine-based products release hypochlorous acid and bromine-based products produce hypobromous acid, the main chemical compounds responsible for sanitation in pools and spas. You can buy chlorine and bromine either as a chemical (pucks, tablets, or liquid) or as a device such as generators. Some types of chlorine or bromine chemicals can also be applied using a dispenser.

How much sanitizer should I use?

It is important to use swimming pool and spa chemicals according to the directions on the label. The label tells you how much of the product to use and how to handle the product safely. Always read the label before using the product.

Swimming pool and spa devices that generate or dispense a sanitizer have detailed instructions for use in the user’s manual, on the package and on the device itself. Always read the label and the user’s manual before installing and using a device.

Check with a pool and spa professional who can suggest the right treatment for your pool or spa.

Controlling Algae

Hot weather, sunlight and low sanitizer levels can encourage algae growth. Algae are not usually harmful to people, but can create a potential hazard by making pool and spa surfaces slippery and the water cloudy. Algae also make sanitizers less effective because more of the sanitizer is used up to control the algae instead of treating the possible harmful bacteria and viruses. A reduced sanitizer level makes it easier for bacteria and viruses to multiply.

Using a sanitizer regularly should prevent the excessive growth of algae. However, you may also need algicides like copper sulphate-based or quaternary ammonium chloride-based products to tackle big algae problems. Devices that release metal ions into pool or spa water can also be used to control algae.

How should I use copper sulphate algicides?

Copper sulphate-based swimming pool algicides can be used to:

  • control algae;
  • improve water clarity;
  • reduce the amount of chlorine- or bromine-based products needed

They do not:

  • control microorganisms like bacteria and viruses
  • eliminate the need for sanitizers like chlorine- or bromine-based pool products

Because copper sulphate-based products do not control bacteria and viruses in swimming pool water, they must be used along with chlorine- or bromine-based sanitizers to protect bathers.

Note: Though using a copper sulphate-based algicide will reduce the amount of chlorine- or bromine-based sanitizer needed in your pool, the actual amount will vary depending on the size of pool, the type of pool and its location.

Are copper sulphate algicides safe?

Health Canada has found that using copper sulphate-based algicides in swimming pools presents no significant danger to bathers. When used according to the label directions, copper sulphate algicide should not cause skin irritation for bathers. However, label directions should be carefully followed when handling undiluted copper sulphate-based products to reduce the potential for skin irritation.

Using Pool and Spa Devices

There are four types of devices used in swimming pools and spas:

  1. Chlorine and bromine generators use electrical energy to produce hypochlorous or hypobromous acid from salt, which in turn sanitizes the water.Chlorine and bromine generator devices must be registered.
  2. Chemical dispensing devices are designed to automatically release hypochlorous or hypobromous acid from chlorine or bromine chemicals into swimming pools. The user’s manual should be carefully followed. Chemical dispensing devices for swimming pool use do not have to be registered.
  3. Ionizers produce metal ions (e.g.: Cu2+) to control algae. You must still use chlorine-based or bromine-based products for sanitization. Ion and disinfectant levels should be checked frequently and electrodes replaced as needed. Ionizers must be registered.
  4. Ozone-generating devices can be used to reduce organic matter in pool and spa water. Although these devices can be a useful complement to chlorine-based or bromine-based products, they do not replace them. The main purpose of ozone-generating devices is to oxidize organic matter. Ozone-generating devices do not have to be registered unless claims for sanitation (control of microorganisms like bacteria and viruses) or for control of the growth of algae are made.

When using ionizers or ozone-generating devices, you must still use chlorine-based or bromine-based products for sanitization. A proper level of sanitizer must be maintained in order to prevent the spread of disease-causing microorganisms.

Always read the label and the user’s manual before installing and using a device.

Cleaning Saltwater Pools and Spas

Saltwater swimming pools and spas rely on chlorine- or bromine-generating devices to sanitize the water. They need the same basic care as traditional pools and spas to control disease-causing microorganisms, algae and organic matter. The main difference is that saltwater pools and spas rely on chlorine- or bromine-generating devices to sanitize the water, while traditional pools and spas can use chlorine or bromine chemical products.

As with traditional pools and spas, a proper level of sanitizer must be maintained in order to prevent the spread of disease-causing microorganisms.

Using Registered or Scheduled Products

All pool and spa products (chemicals and devices) used to control microorganisms and algae must be registered or scheduled under the Pest Control Products Act. Health Canada reviews applications for registration using scientific information to assess hazards to human health and the environment and determine how well the product works.

Registered or scheduled products carry labels with directions on how to use them, and precautions to minimize hazards to people using the products. Registered products are easily identified. Just look for the five-digit registration number on the front of the package:

  • Reg. No. 00000 PCPA

Scheduled product’s label will indicate “Scheduled under The Pest Control Product Act”.

Other pool and spa products, like pH adjusters, shock treatment, chlorine neutralizers and devices used only to dispense pool and spa chemicals, do not have to be registered. This is because they do not control disease-causing microorganisms or algae. If you are in doubt about whether a product you are considering is subject to the Pest Control Products Act, please contact the Health Canada Pest Management Information Service.

Avoid unidentified or inadequately labelled products. Use only registered or scheduled products and follow label directions.

Testing Your Water

Whether you choose chemical products or electrical devices to sanitize your pool or spa, a certain amount of sanitizer must be maintained to prevent disease-causing microorganisms from multiplying.

The exact amount of sanitizer you need depends on many changing factors, like the number of bathers, frequency of use, contamination of water like suntan lotions and oils, water temperature, and the amount of recent rain. Also, water balance (adequate sanitizer levels, pH, total alkalinity, and calcium hardness) and a proper concentration of copper-based algicide must be maintained to prevent staining of pool surfaces.

In addition to using the chemical or device according to label directions, you must test on a daily basis to figure out if the level of sanitizer in your pool or spa is enough to protect swimmers from disease-causing microorganisms. Water testing can be done using good quality test kits or by bringing water samples to your swimming pool or spa dealer.

Recommended Minimum Level of Sanitizer

The level of sanitizer in your pool or spa is referred to as “free available chlorine or bromine”.

The recommended minimums are:

  • Residential pools (includes kiddie pools and inflatable pools): 1-3 ppm
  • Residential spas and hot tubs: 3-5 ppm
  • Commercial pools: provincial and/or municipal regulations must be followed

Organic matter (like tree leaves and grass) in swimming pool water makes sanitizers less effective. In some cases, the label directions on swimming pool sanitizers and algicides may tell you to maintain a minimum chlorine level of 0.6 ppm. Reducing sanitizer levels from 1-3 ppm (as recommended above) to 0.6 ppm is possible only when you control the organic matter content in the water. Note that the 0.6 ppm chlorine level applies to pool water only. Spa water must be maintained at 3-5 ppm.

Check the directions on the product label.

General Safety Precautions

When Using Swimming Pool and Spa Chemicals

  • Carefully read all label instructions and precautions before using these products.
  • Do not smoke, drink, or eat while using chemicals.
  • Never mix with other chemicals.

After Using Swimming Pool and Spa Chemicals

  • Always thoroughly wash your hands after using chemicals.
  • Never handle these chemicals on or near food surfaces such as counters, tables and stovetops.
  • Always store chemicals out of reach of children and pets, and away from food and beverages.
  • Always read and follow storage instructions on the product labels.

Please note that these are general precautions only. You should check the product label for more specific instructions.

In Case of Accidental Poisoning

  • Get medical help or call a Poison Control Center right away.
  • In case of accidental poisoning of a pet, get veterinary help right away.


  • Do not reuse empty containers. Throw them out in your household garbage.
  • Throw out unused or partially used products at provincial or municipal household hazardous waste disposal sites.

Tips for Handling Pool and Spa Chemicals (Insert)



  • Read the label and follow instructions.
  • Keep all chemicals away from children and pets.
  • Keep containers closed and in the original containers when not in use. Store in a cool, dry, well ventilated place away from sunlight.
  • Wear proper protective equipment and clothing like gloves, goggles and footwear.
  • Use separate, clean metal or plastic measuring cups for each chemical when measuring.
  • Protect chemicals from moisture and water.
  • Add the chemical to the pool water (unless otherwise indicated on the label).
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after handling any chemical.
  • Report pesticide incidents to manufacturers (phone number on label). They are required to send them to Health Canada.


  • Use contents of unlabeled containers.
  • Mix different chemicals together or put spilled chemicals back into their containers.
  • Touch undiluted chemicals with your hands or smoke when handling chemicals.
  • Generate dust when cleaning up a powder or solid. The dust can react with moisture on your skin and cause injury.
  • Store liquids above powders or solids.
  • Stack containers or store materials or chemicals above your head.
  • Store pool chemicals near gasoline, fertilizers, pesticides, grease, paints, tile cleaners, turpentine, or other flammable materials, especially when pool chemicals are stored in sheds or small storage rooms.
  • Expose chemicals to heat or flame.
  • Use a “dry chemical” fire extinguisher if a fire breaks out. Only use large amounts of water. If you can’t extinguish the flame immediately, leave the area and call the fire department.

What do I do if someone needs first aid?

  • Have someone call for medical help.
  • Remove the victim from the source of contamination and quickly remove contaminated clothing, shoes and leather goods.
  • Quickly flush the contaminated area with lukewarm, gently flowing water for at least 15-20 minutes (longer for corrosives).

You can download The Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Your Hot Tub, Spa and Pool PDF right here! or visit the original article:

For further information or to obtain additional copies, please contact:

Health Canada
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0K9
Tel.: (613) 957-2991
Fax: (613) 941-5366 E-Mail: or
© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Health, 2011
HC Pub.: 100622
Cat.: H129-4/2011E ISBN: 978-1-100-17519-5
Cat.: H129-4/2011E-PDF ISBN: 978-1-100-18574-3

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