Service nightmares are the stuff of legend. Get a few veteran pool technicians talking, and the stories of pool disasters redeemed can go on for hours.

Figuring prominently in many of those stories are enzymes, which can be a real lifesaver when facing a difficult pool or spa cleanup. A perfect example is the nightmare oil spill Joe Koch of Blue Wave Pools (Audubon, N.J.) discovered a few years ago in a commercial customer's equipment room:

"There was an old chemical feed pump in there, and the diaphragm of the pump had an oil fill chamber that was leaking," he says. "Unfortunately the feed pump was mounted on top of the chlorine vat and no one realized the oil was dripping into the chlorine vat for some time…obviously not a great installation, and one which we did not do ourselves.

"Well, the facility called us when they opened the pool and discovered the oil — it was all around and on the surface of the water. We went in that evening and administered a lot of enzyme products and by morning, 95 percent of the oil had dissipated."

Oil spills such as this are classic enzyme problems — situations where a single treatment can produce fast results. But enzymes today have evolved handle to a wider range of applications, including spring openings.

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Tom Landi, owner of Landi Pools and Games (Millville, N. J.) gets lots of calls at the onset of summer from pool owners pulling off winter covers and discovering the murky mess you often find there. He uses enzymes to help deal with the problem.

"The swampy pool is typical for any customer that uses a mesh cover in the winter," he says. "It's also a typical situation for aboveground covers or water bag covers that fall into the pool in the winter — you can get a really nasty green pool. In these situations we do a superchlorination and then we add Pool First Aid, an enzyme cleanup product."

Landi says he didn't start out using enzymes for pool calamities; it took a black pool turning clear to win him over. "We were approached by a large commercial pool that came to us asking for help with opening their pool. It was past green — it was black. And it was a pool that had well over 100,000 gallons of water. We followed the dosages suggested, and put several bottles of the product into the pool and within a few days that pool had crystal clear water. That's what convinced us. We really needed prove it to ourselves, to see it with our own eyes."

That sort of pool rescue story is a common thread in discussions with pool service professionals. When Amy Rullo, residential division manager of Premier Pool Renovations in suburban Philadelphia, was faced with a pool mystery of her own, she decided to try enzymes to simply break down the unidentified non-living organic that was causing the problem.

"We recently dealt with an aquatic facility for seniors which had problematic water," she says. "It was cloudy all the time; we couldn't figure out what to do. So we put the pool on an enzyme-based water treatment program. It took about two weeks, but eventually the enzymes helped remove the byproducts in the pool water and pipes, and resolved the problem."

Regular Dose

Koch, Landi, and Rullo's stories of bad pools going straight after some enzyme love are common throughout the industry. What is less widely understood is the beneficial practice of using enzymes as part of a routine regimen to help prevent problems. This is an approach Koch uses — he adds enzymes regularly as a means of dealing with the steady influx of oily waste into his public pools.

"For our commercial accounts, we put the enzyme on a metered feed so the pool gets a small dose seven days a week," he says. "Not only does this keep the water clear, but because enzymes break down non-living organics, they don't turn into smelly byproducts."

"Enzymes can be particularly effective in large outdoor commercial pools that are infused with the sweat, body oils and sunscreen from thousands of bathers over the course of just days in summer," says Terry Arko, water specialist at NC Brands. "Ideally, enzymes should be used on an ongoing basis on top of the regular water care regimen.

"When moving to a schedule of regular dosing, it's important to remember that enzymes are naturally based products made of proteins, so they can work while swimmers are in the pool. Many pool professionals add enzymes into the pool on every service visit to help break down the non-living organics in the water so the filter doesn't need to work as hard."

Still, there are some restrictions to proper use, especially during superchlorination when high levels of chlorine can be destructive to the enzyme molecule chain. Chris Corney of Aqua-Don Pools in St. Catharines, Ontario, tells his customers that enzymes should be added at least six hours after shocking their pool. If they are added too soon, there is a risk the shock will reduce effectiveness. "We prescribe our customers a custom water maintenance formula in which we instruct them to shock on day one and introduce the enzymes on day two," he says.

Principal Benefits

As with all specialty chemicals, enzymes are added to the chlorine sanitizer foundation to fix a specific problem or make pool/hot tub maintenance easier. Some of the specific benefits that service techs expect include:

  • Increased filter run cycles

Essentially, with non-living organic waste being broken down by enzymatic action in the pool or spa before it has a chance to build up in the filter, service pros notice filters need to be cleaned less frequently and work more efficiently.

Corney says that using enzymes has reduced the frequency of his filter backwashes by 50 percent, "and customers really like the idea of backwashing less, because they realize they are saving water." This has translated into less work for his service team to keep the pool and water clear.

Arko explains the process: "By breaking down non-living organics before they get into the pipes, the filters do not have to work as hard to keep the water clear, thus the filter media stays cleaner longer."

  • Reduction of scum lines

Scum buildup at the waterline is a cleaning hassle for pool and spa professionals. Although this is a fairly common problem, that doesn't diminish the aversion most pool and spa owners feel toward this unsightly buildup. Enzymes work to remove existing scum lines and to help prevent them from coming back.

(Note: Although enzymes are effective in attacking scum lines in both pools and spas, it's important to not to mix up the products — spa enzyme products are designed for that warm spa environment and pool product for the pool environment.)

This is a particularly helpful benefit, says Koch. "Normally, it's a natural result of pool use to get 'ring around the pool' with organics accumulating at the water surface, but we never have that issue with enzyme use. And that means my service crews are more efficient because they don't have to work as hard and spend time removing the ring manually. Sometimes scum lines can be really tough to remove because organics can actually edge themselves into porous surfaces."

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Spas especially suffer this same problem due to the concentrated bather load of oils and lotions, so "spas really lend themselves to water maintenance with enzymes," Landi says. "A spa is filled with so much sweat and oils, which, combined with the hot water, can quickly turn everything cloudy and gross. We have all of our customers use an enzyme product weekly as a preventative. Not only does it keep the water clear, but it also helps the filter and extends the life of the water."

  • Cleaner, clearer water

Extending the life of water and keeping it clear are, in the end, the main directives for the pool and spa professional — and in addition to their role as a crisis manager, enzymes can be part of a proactive, regular program to maintain clarity in water. 

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