Home Air Quality Hotel Havens: A Guide to Pool & Spa Safety

Hotel Havens: A Guide to Pool & Spa Safety

Theresa Bellish

Many people look forward to dreamy hotel pools and spas to destress and relax while on vacation. In the winter, hot tubs and spas can be a great attractor for guests looking for a chilly weather escape; however, they can also be a risk to visitors and pool and spa managers if not properly handled.

These much-beloved amenities can be breeding grounds for bacteria like E. coli, giardia, and algae, making using pool and spa chemicals, including salt, imperative. If these chemicals are mishandled, they can cause respiratory problems, chemical burns, and eye irritation. Managers of these amenities must be well-versed in best practices to ensure guest and employee safety.

Saltwater vs. Chlorine Pools

The rise in popularity of saltwater pools means many maintenance teams may be considering switching from a chlorine amenity. While the decision between a saltwater system and a traditional chlorine one will likely come down to preference and what can be realistically maintained based on available resources or upfront investment in equipment, it is important to understand the pros and cons of both.

Many people choose to swim in a saltwater pool or hot tub as a healthier and gentler alternative to a chlorinated one, but most do not know that saltwater pools are not chlorine-free. Saltwater pools include a chemical generator that contains an electrolytically charged cell that separates chlorine and sodium from salt so that the chlorine can disinfect the pool. This reaction also creates caustic soda, increasing the pH of the water and necessitating pH correction with acidic products. This process means saltwater pools require electricity for the chlorination process. Also, saltwater is corrosive, meaning it can erode parts of the pool equipment, requiring more frequent replacement.

Chlorine pools tend to be less expensive up front than saltwater pools because they do not require additional equipment such as the electrolytical chemical generator. However, the gases released from the solid or liquid chlorine make them less eco-friendly than saltwater pools. Furthermore, for health and beauty-conscious guests, chlorinated pools are a less attractive option as the chemicals are harsher on the skin and hair, drying them out more easily. When determining whether a saltwater system or a chlorine system is a better choice for your hotel, be sure to weigh the pros and cons to make sure you are meeting your guests’ preferences while also choosing an option that can be properly maintained.

Water Chemical Testing

Naturally, water can easily grow algae and other bacteria, making water testing for hotel amenities not optional. To analyze the water, managers should test for key parameters like pH levels, acidic demand, chlorine residual and total alkalinity. Water quality testing kits are available for this type of testing and should be kept on hand. Common chemicals need to be tested frequently, with chlorine and pH levels being tested two to three times a week. Total alkalinity and acidic demand should be tested once a week to ensure they are at accurate levels. Take inventory of what specific chemicals your pool and spa are using and be sure to choose a water quality test that includes the chemicals you need to evaluate your entire pool ecosystem.

Pool Codes & Product Certification

Local pool codes provide guidance and requirements for permits, pool design, inspections, repairs, and maintenance. Managers need to check their relevant pool code to make sure their pools and spas are compliant with the regulations in their area. After determining what chemicals are required for amenities in the hotel’s location, be sure to follow the application methods and dosage rate directions provided by the manufacturer. It is important to note that directions will vary by brand, so if you decide to switch brands, continue to review the directions to ensure you are correctly utilizing the chemical, taking note that not all brands of chemicals can be interchanged with all brands of equipment. Follow manufacturer guidance in addition to not exceeding the maximum use levels to ensure optimum safety for both you and your guests.

Beyond local pool codes, verified product claims are imperative when prioritizing health and safety for maintenance staff and guests. NSF/ANSI/CAN 50 or NSF/ANSI/CAN 60 are identified in the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) as required product certifications for treatment chemicals and recreational water supplies. NSF/ANSI/CAN 50 evaluates the risks and potential health effects of oral, inhalation and dermal routes of exposure while NSF/ANSI/CAN 60 establishes minimum health effects requirements for drinking water treatment products. Both standards are widely accepted and respected by the water and pool industry. To get started and check if a product is NSF certified, utilize NSF’s product listings page to choose the best certified product for your amenities.

Proper Sanitization & Chemical Storage

Many maintenance staff may not realize that water treatment chemicals lose their effectiveness if they are not utilized or stored correctly. With pool and spa amenities supporting numerous activities including exercise and recreation, they must work as intended to help support the health and safety of patrons. When using water treatment chemicals like sodium hypochlorite and calcium hypochlorite, ensure the pool and spa is in the optimum pH range before using it. This can be checked during the water testing process. Be sure to check the expiration date, as expired chemicals will not work as effectively as fresh ones. Additionally, the feeder design needs to match the specific chemical type, brand and trade name being used. If there is a mismatch, this can cause a chemical explosion. While maintenance staff should always closely follow manufacturer recommendations for storing chemicals, they should generally be stored in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated place.

In short, water treatment chemicals are integral in maintaining amenities like pools and spas; however, they must be correctly used and stored to maintain a safe environment for guests and staff. Testing the water quality of the amenity, following local pool codes, utilizing certified water treatment chemicals, and properly storing chemicals are all best practices to achieve an optimum hotel pool and spa not only during popular wintertime months but year-round.

About the Author

Theresa Bellish has over two decades of experience in testing, auditing and certification services for drinking water treatment chemicals, distribution system components, recreational water products, onsite wastewater treatment systems and electrical safety services. She has been with NSF for over 23 years, holding leadership positions, including Business Unit Manager for water distribution system components and for recreational water products. 

About NSF

NSF is an independent, global services organization dedicated to improving human and planet health by facilitating standards development and providing world-class testing, inspection, certification, advisory services, and digital solutions to the food, water, health sciences, and consumer goods industries. NSF operates in 180 countries and is a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center on Food Safety, Water Quality, and Medical Device Safety.