Greetings Hot Tub enthusiasts. This post is about another purge product shoot-out, this time between a familiar product from Spa Marvel, known as Spa Marvel Cleanser, and a relatively new product called “Aqua Clarity”, from a the makers of Ahh-some and Hot Tub Serum Total Maintenance. This company, Unique Solutions, has apparently taken note of my work over the years as they sent me a package of this new product to put through the paces. Good timing, as I was just getting ready to test the Spa Marvel Cleanser against Ahh-some, so for this experiment I’ll test against Aqua Clarity instead.
Aqua Clarity is definately a non-traditional product, in that it is both a regular maintenance product AND a purge product, depending on the dosage used. This is an industry first. I’ll have more to say about this product later on — for now lets cover some background and housekeeping details for the present experiment:
- For this test I will follow my usual protocol: I will give the advantage to the “product under test”, by testing it first — I’ll dose my old (but still hot) water with the Spa Marvel Cleanser. and then drain and re-fill with cold water to purge again with Aqua Clarity. By the way, when I say “cold water” I mean it: My tap water is 55 degrees right now!
- My spa has been well maintaned, so there are no problems to solve. What ever bio-goo is released by either of the two purge products tested will have to come from unseen material attached to pipes and equipment.
- This particular test is unique because I have been using Spa Marvel’s enzyme product over the last four months. That means Spa Marvel’s claims for a reduction in biofilm — via reduction in their food supply– is on the line.
- I don’t mention this specifically in this post, but whenever I purge I always remove my filters per label directions; If the product works, significant amounts of goo could be released, which would clog them, potentially starving the pumps of water and harming them.
Let the games begin.
Spa Marvel Cleanser
Just to avoid mis-understanding, this post is about the cleanser product from Spa Marvel, not the enzyme-based “water treament and conditioner” product, which I covered in this post.
Spa Marvel Cleanser is a white crystaline powder, very similar a similar appearce to Borax — because it really does contain Borax! It also contains two other ingredients listed on the bottle:
- Sodium meticilicate (used in Soaps and Detergents)
- Sodium percarbonate (an oxidizer used in home laundry products such as Oxiclean and Tide)
So, right out of the gate we know this stuff is basically a small amount of laundry detergent in a $30 container. It’s likely to go after skin oils, dirt, scum and grime, but it won’t do much for biofilms (See “Hot Tub Home” in the left nav of this site for foundational materials describing biofilm). However, just in case there is a secret ingredient not not mentioned on the bottle, I’ll treat this product as if it will. Here’s the actual performance claim, printed on the bottle:
“Spa Marvel Cleanser is a fast acting proprietary cleanser that penetrates deep imside your spa’s plumbing and equipment , removing organic, mineral, and chemical contaminants.”
Ok then: So it goes after carbon-based stuff. So does Tide.
Due to its detergent-like appearance, I decided to dissolve the Spa Marvel Cleanser product in a 5-gallon bucket of water just to make sure it would all dissolve (in my previous work, another Borax-based purge product, Silk Balance “Clean Start”, didn’t dissolve all the way and I feared for the safety of my pumps!). It dissolved pretty well, just like ordinary laundry detgergent does, so I dumped the contents into my old, heated spa water (per label directions) and grabbed my camera as I always do
Only nothing happened. Wait: Not so fast — you have to wait 24 hours! so much for “fast acting”.
The photograph below shows the result after more than 25 hours of waiting, per label directions: One hour of “all jets on” scrubbing followed by 24 hours of soaking. I even did another 15 minutes of “all jets on” scrubbing just for good measure. After all of this, I saw essentially nothing along the waterline where I normally see biofilm deposits during a purge. However, I did get a very faint oil-based deposit just above the water line, which is visible in the below phototgraph. I wiped this up with a micro-fiber cloth.
Spa Marvel Cleanser didn’t do much, beyond depositing a tiny bit of oils along the waterline.
The next place to check for bio-goo is the filter compartment, and here you can see a little more material. It’s purly grease and oil, however – if there was any biofilm in my pipes I’m pretty sure its still there at this point.
Spa Marvel left this in my filter compartment. Its not biofilm but it is grease/oil/grime deposits.
With this result, one might be tempted to suggest that the enzymes had done their job, leaving no real biofilms (or their food supply) behind, but I’ll leave that question for Aqua Clarity to answer, later. Meanwhile, the Spa Marvel Cleanser left more deposits on my Spa’s external control panel than anywhere else, as shown in the photograph below:
This white residue is what Spa Marvel Cleanser left behind. It wipped off easily, but the intial appearance (after running my circ pump all night) was not that pleasing!
Enter Stage Left: Aqua Clarity
For the next test, rather than dosing the same water with Aqua Clarity (and noting any additional release) I drained my spa first, rinsed and wiped everything down, and filled it with cold water. This put Aqua Clarity at a disadvantage (due to the cold water) and removed any influence from tired 0ld water already treated with Spa Marvel Cleanser.
Aqua Clarity arrives as a 6 fl. oz. bottle of concentrate, which you mix with water to produce one gallon of usable product. For a 400-gallon hot tub, this lasts an entire year — including two purges — at a cost of approximately $90/year. That is quite reasonable, especially compared to Spa Marvel which costs about three times that much for a year’s worth of their products.
The Aqua Clarity strategy is brilliant, captured by the product notes themselves shipped in each package: Customers shouldn’t have to pay for the packaging and shipping costs of water (actually a couragous thing for the manufacturer of Hot Tub Serum Total Maintenance to say)! So, they deliver the concentrate to your door and and ask you to mix it yourself. Instant peace of mind: Just add water.
Below is a phototgraph of the 6-oz bottle Aqua Clarity concentrate (right hand side), with its informational pamphlet (center). In the back is an ordinary bottle of Clorox bleach that is empty — right after taking this photo I used it for mixing. Unfortunately, this blog site imposes some size restrictions which reduces photo image quality, so the below may appear a bit fuzzy.
Aqua Clarity – I used an old Clorox jug
The mixing part was trivial — per label directions I filled up the jug part way with water, then added the Aqua Clarity concentrate, then filled the rest of the way with water. The only surprise I encounted was that a Clorox jug isn’t exactly a 128-ounce gallon — its only 121 ouces, at least when purchased from Costco. However, I found that I could fit another four ounces in there, for a total of 125 ounces of liquid, instead of 128. The result is three ounces short of a full gallon, which results in a 2% higher concentration of Aqua Clarity, compared to the use of a full 128-ouce gallon jug. No biggie: thats within the margin of error for any kitchen measuring cup anyway, and nothing to worry about.
How can this product serve as both a regular maintenance and as a purge product? With its Ahh-some heritage, I’d suggest that the manufacturer has probably leveraged the well-known bio-busting properties of Ahh-some — the part that attacks the outer fat layer of biofilm molecules and makes them “let go” of the pipes and vessel walls. However, based on my experimental results (below) I’d also suggest they have dialed back the foaming/surfactant properties of Ahh-come while retaining the water clarifying properties of Hot Tub SerumTotal Maintenance. That way, in small doses (added weekly) you get little “mini purges” and great water clarifying properties without the creating foam. For large doses (when purging) you get a good scrubbing and bio-gunk release. Clever. So how does it work?
I added the prescribed amount of the final mixture for my purge — 15 ounces for a 500-gallon spa — and grabbed my camera. Unlike the Spa Marvel Cleanser product, I had a result this time in about 15 minutes: A small amount of material formed on my vessel wall just above the water line. Here’s the photo, slightly enhanced to make the biofilm more visible:
After 15 minutes, Aqua Clarity had produced a better result than Spa Marvel Cleanser had in 25 hours: a small amount of greenish-blue colored biofilm.
It turned out I was in a pretty big hurry for this experiment, so the correct label (Supplied by Aqua Clarify) didn’t make it into all of my photographs. Before applying the label, however, I marked my Clorox jug with a “Sharpie” pen. The below photograph shows the Aqua Clarity result at about the 30-minute mark: Greenish blue material deposited on surfaces, matching what I had seen many times before with Ahh-some purges. This stuff definately punches above its weight: 30 minutes with Aqua Clarity heavily outperformed a 25 hour treatment with Spa Marvel Cleanser.
After about 30 minutes, the Aqua Clarity purge produced easily 100 times (or more) the amount of material that 25 hours of Spa Marvel Cleanser had.
Here is a view of my filter compartment, at about the 40 minute mark. This is what Spa Marvel enzymes and Spa Marvel Cleanser had left behind.
Here’s the final result: “aqua clarity” has certainly occured, although this site’s restrictions on photo resolution doesn’t do it justice. The real test for water clarity will occur over the next 2-3 months as the spa is used.
Here is a close-up photograph of the Aqua Clarity label on my Clorox jug
What do these results mean? First and foremost: For Spas that are well-maintained, it means that Spa Marvel Cleanser is an expensive placebo — it just doesn’t do anything useful, and is certainly not worth $30. I’ll repeat that this conclusion applies to well-maintaned spas, however — almost any product (even straight Borax or laundry detergent) will produce an impressive result if the spa is not maintained properly. As for the performance of Aqua Clarity as a purge product: This stuff works just like Ahh-some does, in that I get the same type of result in the same amount of time. A little less foam, I would say, than Ahh-some.
I cannot conclude this experiement without commenting on the usefulness of Spa Marvel enzymes. Their operating principle is that the enzymes work on the food supply for biofilms, offering indirectly control over them. Did the Spa Marvel Enzymes reduce the amount of biofilm accumulation in my spa? Its possible, and this marketing technique does work when you are selling emotions and experiences as opposed to facts. I’m a nuts and bolts engineer type, however, and when the safety of my family is at stake I don’t buy into emotions I buy into facts. More particularily, I don’t care about making bad guys go on a diet — I care about getting rid of them! The Bottom line for me is this: In the purge strength appropriate for my spa, Aqua Clarity removed substantial amounts of material AFTER the other two Spa Marvel products had done their work.
- The claim that Spa Marvel (the enzyme) prevents biofilm growth by reducing their food supply is plausible, but this experiment revealed that both the food supply (grease and oils) and biofilms themselves (the green material) were still present in my enzyme-treated spa. The biofilms in my spa may have had less to eat I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter — they were still there.
- Spa Marvel Cleanser itself is worthless as a purge product, unless of course you don’t care about biofilms and you have a poorly maintained spa. Whether the result would be substantially better than orginary laundry detergent is another question — all of the ingredients mentioned on the Spa Marvel Cleanser bottle are also used in laundry detergent.
- Aqua Clarity is profoundly effective, and wins the purge contest in every performance category: It gets the bad guys that Spa Marvel won’t even touch, and it does so in 30 minutes as opposed to 24 hours.
I will be using Aqua Clarity as aweekly maintenance product to see what it brings to the table. For additional context, I am familiar with the Hot Tub Serum Total Maintenance product, and suspect that Aqua Clarity will yield similar if not identical benefits. Of particular interest to me is sanitizer decay rate and leaving the spa un-attended for long periods of time.