Even the bravest among us sometimes squirm and second-guess taking a dip in a public hot tub or pool. Ancient civilizations may not have been clued-in to the cause and effect of germs in their popular bathhouses—the original hydrotherapy circuits—but ignorance is not bliss, and today savvy spa-goers expect a clean, germ-free water journey at the spas they frequent. “Hydrotherapy circuits reinforce what we do as a spa,” says Jean Kolb, director of wellness for Kohler Co., which operates Kohler Waters Spas (multiple locations). “Kohler is about the water experience, which requires very stringent cleaning procedures along with daily tests of water and air.”
These days, many spas woo guests with hydrotherapy circuits, and it’s no surprise when you consider the many benefits they have to offer. “They are relaxing, but more so, they offer many therapeutic benefits, such as improving circulation, eliminating toxins, relieving pain, and reducing stress,” says Vanessa Lane, events manager and publicist for Norwegian Cruise Line, whose newest ship, the Norwegian Breakaway, features a host of hydrotherapy highlights. “A majority of guests comment that the Thermal Suite at Mandara Spa helps with stress relief and is a wonderful way to kick off their vacation in a relaxed state of mind.” From a series of hot and cold pools to saunas and steam rooms, the use of water can bring healing to an array of common ailments. However, it can only offer those healing benefits if provided in a clean and safe environment.
A thoughtful design is vital when it comes to reducing the risk your spa’s hydrotherapy areas have of harboring germs and spreading disease. “A spa should be designed to be easy to clean,” says Don Genders, managing director of Design for Leisure, a company specializing in custom concepts and prefabricated elements for wet areas of spa and health resorts. “Designers have an obligation to avoid fussy, intricate details.” Genders also discourages against building with gypsum and cement boards, which are prone to black mold.
Keeping it Clean
In general, it’s necessary to regularly monitor the temperature, chemicals, and pH levels in your spa’s pools, as well as clean them frequently. A true fan of hydrotherapy, Gaye Steinke, general manager of Allegria Spa at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek (Colorado), seeks to maintain clean pools at Allegria with minimal chlorine. Clients will appreciate the effort, as cutting back on chemicals helps reduce skin irritation. “Common sanitizing chemicals include the traditional chlorine-based sanitizers, chlorine generated from salt in saltwater pools, bromine-based disinfectant, copper and silver ions, and ozone gas,” she says. “We are investigating new sanitation opportunities, specifically copper ionization, ultraviolet pool sanitizers, and non-saline mineral purifiers.”
Though, the ideal temperatures for hydrothermal areas and hot tubs create the perfect environment to incubate bacteria and mold, there are innovative solutions available. “Mineral ionizers treat pools by releasing metals such as copper and silver, into the water,” says Steinke. “These metals are known to have germ-destroying properties, but they are slow acting and must be used in conjunction with low levels of chlorine.”
A recent study conducted by professors at the University of Southampton showed copper’s antimicrobial properties. Researchers discovered 10 million E. coli bacteria were eliminated within 10 minutes on a dry copper surface and completely killed within 45 minutes on a wet copper surface. Adding copper to pools enhances the health benefits for guests, as well. “Copper is as important as calcium and zinc for bone formation, red blood cell integrity, skin and immune functions, nervous system functions, propagation of oxygen through the bloodstream, and the conversion of beta-carotene into vitamin A,” says Steinke. Spa-goers can truly relax, knowing Allegria Spa’s soothing water features are clean and helping to enhance their wellbeing.
Guests can also contribute to the cleanliness of your spa’s hydrotherapy areas. Posting hygiene guidelines for visitors in a prominent spot also helps reduce contamination, as a quick shower beforehand can decrease the amount of dirt and oils introduced into water features. This practice draws attention to your spa’s commitment to cleanliness, which reassures spa-goers as to the hygiene of the facilities. Leticia Fernandez, spa manager of Spa Grand Velas Riviera Maya (Mexico), supplies pamphlets with safety suggestions, such as beginning with a cleansing shower and banning glass containers from the area, for the water journey. “Cleanliness and water-chemistry control are the keys to safe and sanitary water therapy,” says Paul Schmidt, spa director at Willow Stream Spa at The Fairmont Southampton (Bermuda). “All our areas are monitored, adjusted, and cleaned multiple times per day, and there is always a supply of fresh towels for all guests.”
With careful cleaning and evolving sanitation solutions, these healing waters are set to be a spa staple for generations to come. Says Steinke, “We see the interest in hydrotherapy continuing to grow as wellness takes center stage and the American public looks for more natural methods of self-care and healing.”