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Cold Plunge & Ice Bath Sanitization

Updated: Apr 5




Ensuring the cleanliness of your cold plunge or ice bath is crucial. There are diverse methods, ranging from mechanical filtration to chemical and non-chemical sanitization, that help maintain water quality. While some approaches prove highly effective for ice bath, others may fall short or pose risks in specific circumstances. In this discussion, I will explore a comprehensive range of options, sharing insights into my personal preferences and practices. Initially, I'll discuss the non-chemical filtration methods implemented in my chiller.


My Chiller Set Up

Within my chiller system, I have a 20-micron main filter, which I typically replace every month. A helpful indicator for knowing when to change the filter is observing its color or monitoring the pump flow rate. If the flow rate decreases by more than 3 or 4 liters per minute from the original rate, it signals that it's time to replace the filter.



Secondary Mechanical Filter

Additionally, the chiller incorporates a sizable metal mesh filter, which I remove and clean approximately every three months. In the past, older chillers had a smaller mesh filter at the water inlet that frequently experienced blockages. With the introduction of this larger filter, that particular issue has been effectively addressed.


Ozone Generators

Furthermore, the chiller features a built-in ozone generator that produces O3 from the air and injects it into the water every 15 minutes. Ozone is a potent oxidizing agent and a robust disinfectant, effectively eliminating bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms in the ice bath.

Unlike some traditional sanitizers, ozone does not produce any harmful disinfection byproducts, contributing to better water quality. Ozone can help eliminate unpleasant odors in the water, improving overall water quality in the ice bath. It can reduce the reliance on traditional chemical sanitizers, lowering the overall chemical load in the water.

Certainly, the inclusion of an ozone generator increases the cost of chillers. However, if you plan to change the water every 2 to 3 weeks, chemical sanitizers may not be necessary at all. In fact, some individuals successfully operate their cold plunge for several months solely relying on an ozone generator. In such cases, it's crucial to run the chiller 24 hours a day to ensure consistent water movement and ongoing sanitization. It's worth noting that ozone has a short half-life and does not offer a long-lasting residual effect in the water, necessitating continuous ozone generation for effective sanitization.



Typically, I operate my chiller for approximately 3 hours a day, and I opt to change the water every 3 months. Additionally, I make it a weekly routine to wipe the inside of the tub with a cloth to dislodge any algae from the walls and the floor. As an added precaution, I introduce some chemical sanitizers into the system.


Chemical Sanitizers

Now, delving into chemical sanitizers for ice bath, the primary options include Chlorine, Bromine, and Hydrogen Peroxide.


Chlorine

Chlorine is a highly effective sanitizer, capable of killing a wide range of bacteria, viruses, and algae in water. It is generally more cost-effective compared to the other two alternatives, that is why it is almost always used in pools. Chlorine is widely available in various forms. It works relatively quickly to disinfect water, providing rapid results when needed.

However, Chlorine can cause skin and eye irritation in some individuals, and the characteristic chlorine odor can be unpleasant. The reaction between chlorine and organic matter in the water can lead to the formation of disinfection byproducts, some of which may be harmful in high concentrations. Chlorine effectiveness is pH-dependent, and maintaining the proper pH level in your ice bath is crucial for its optimal performance. If the pH is too high or too low, chlorine may be less effective.

When utilizing Chlorine in an ice bath, it's essential to have a test kit for regular water testing, as it can lead to increased acidity. Consequently, pH adjustments may be necessary. Personally, I don't recommend Chlorine for cold plunge applications.



Bromine

Bromine is also a powerful sanitizer, similar to chlorine, and is effective against a broad spectrum of bacteria, viruses, and algae in water. However, Bromine is less pH-sensitive than chlorine, meaning it remains effective over a broader pH range. This can simplify water maintenance. Also unlike chlorine, bromine tends to produce fewer disinfection byproducts, which can be an advantage in terms of water quality. Bromine remains stable at higher temperatures, making it suitable for use in hot water environments, such as spas and hot tubs. It typically has a milder odor compared to chlorine, which can be preferable for individuals sensitive to strong chemical smells. Bromine is more stable than chlorine in the presence of sunlight, making it last longer in outdoor pools exposed to sunlight.

Bromine tablets or granules may take longer to dissolve and activate in water compared to chlorine, meaning it may take a bit more time to see results. I certainly prefer Bromine to Chlorine.


Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is an effective oxidizing agent that can help break down and eliminate organic contaminants in the ice bath. Hydrogen peroxide breaks down into water and oxygen, leaving no residual chemicals in the water. This can be preferable for those who want a chemical-free or low-impact sanitization method. Also it does not produce the chlorine smell, making it a good option for those who are sensitive to strong chemical odors. The decomposition of hydrogen peroxide is non-toxic, and it does not produce any harmful disinfection byproducts in the ice bath. It is generally pH neutral, reducing the need for frequent pH adjustments.

Now on the cons, Hydrogen peroxide is definitely more expensive than traditional sanitizers. Hydrogen peroxide does not provide a long-lasting residual effect in the water, so continuous dosing may be necessary for effective sanitization. The effectiveness of hydrogen peroxide can be temperature-dependent, and its activity may decrease at higher water temperatures. Also, Hydrogen peroxide may not be as effective in controlling algae as some other sanitizers.

In summary, while Hydrogen Peroxide may not be as potent as Bromine, it stands out as the most hassle-free and least harmful chemical option. I personally use a 30% concentration available on Amazon, adding around 40 milliliters to my plunge every week—that's all it takes. To ensure effectiveness, you can use test strips to monitor the Hydrogen Peroxide concentration in the ice bath. Typically, a concentration of 30 to 100 ppm is recommended for optimal results.




UV Lights

Some chillers opt for UV light instead of an ozone generator. While UV light is a chemical-free method, its effectiveness raises questions. First, it's crucial that the UV light emits UV-C, not A or B. Additionally, the quality of the lamp is a key factor, and determining which ones genuinely work can be challenging. UV light effectiveness is also impacted by water clarity and quality, potentially proving less effective in cloudy water. Most notably, UV light appears to be less effective at lower water temperatures, which may be a crucial consideration for ice bath applications. Personally, I find more confidence in sticking with ozone generators for their proven efficacy.


Here's a summary of the various cold plunge sanitization options and my personal preferences. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments section.





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