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Truth About Spa Enzymes

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If you've been buying pool or spa water care products, you're probably aware of the growing popularity of "natural" oil and scum-reducing products that contain enzymes. Many claims have been made about these products - some are even true.

To properly assess which claims are pure and which is pure hype, it's important to understand how these products are supposed to work and what they can do for your pool or hot tub when used properly.

Think back to high school chemistry and recall the term "catalyst". A catalyst is something that causes or accelerates a chemical reaction or change without undergoing a change itself. An enzyme is simply a catalyst of biological (not chemical) origin. Enzymes play a crucial role in the human digestive system because they break down food into nutrients our bodies can absorb. Without enzymes, we literally could not survive.

In pools and hot tubs, some of the most adversarial water quality contaminants are greases and oils that accumulate from bather waste. These materials build up on filters and form scum rings. When the build-up is allowed to accumulate, it can retard disinfection and lead to foaming or a dull, cloudy appearance in the water.

In the past, frequent use of surfactants (soaps) was the only way to clean scum lines, and filter gunk was almost unavoidable when water was subjected to excess bather waste. However, overuse of surfactants can lead to foaming and they require a lot of elbow grease in order to work.

Therefore, the pool industry set out to develop an alternative. That alternative - enzymes - is based on a simple concept: Add an enzyme to the water that breaks down oils and greases and prevents them from accumulating.

The Truth About EnzymesEarly attempts to apply this simple theory met with some difficulty. One problem was that the enzyme had to be in liquid form for easy pool and hot tub use, and the enzyme chosen for it's ability to breakdown oils and greases (called lipase or fat-splitting enzyme) was not always shelf-stable in liquid form. So the enzymes worked to break themselves down in the bottle before the product was ever used.

A second problem was that low doses of chlorine or bromine would destroy the enzymes. To overcome this obvious drawback, some manufactures blended enzymes with surfactants. Test showed that the surfactants - not the enzymes - were the only active ingredient. Therefore, some "enzyme" products offered no activity at all.

So Advantis Technologies developed a new generation of enzyme-based products. Unlike other formulations, the Advantis family of enzyme products - GLB Natural Clear, Robarb Scum Digester, Dissolve from Applied Biochemist, and Leisure Time Spa Scum Gone - are shelf stable and work in the presence of bromine or chlorine, in addition to biguanide, ozone, and non-chlorine shocks. In fact, laboratory test showed Advantis products to have more active enzymes than others on the market.

The benefit of these products is that they address a specific problem - scum and oily buildup - with a targeted approach. That is, the enzyme chosen - a specific form of lipase - breaks down body oils and lotions into glycerol's and amino acids, which are readily oxidized by common water treatment practices.

Therefore, regular use of Natural Clear, Scum Digester, Dissolve or Spa Scum Gon can eliminate scum lines at the water's edge and also prevent buildup in filters that would otherwise shorten the filters life span. Plus, these biodegradable products appeal to earth-conscious consumers because their active ingredient is truly natural.


Derived from Pool & Spa Magazine, July 2001

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