By Terry Arko
Water can dissolve just about anything—from sugar to cement. One thing it cannot dissolve, however, is oil… thus the old adage, “Water and oil don’t mix.” The electrons of the water molecule are similar to those of sugar or cement; therefore, the substance will become soluble at some point. On the other hand, the electrons in the molecules of hydrocarbons such as oil are not similar to water and, therefore, they repel one another.
For example, if oil is added to a bottle of water and shaken, one will notice the molecules of each substance separate from one another. Oil will float because hydrocarbons are lighter than water. In a pool or hot tub, oil can be introduced in a number of ways—suntan lotions, sunscreens, deodorants, makeup, and hair care products. Almost everything people apply to their skin contains oil. Further, natural body oils from bathers can also be drawn into the water as well.
Oil in pool water can cause numerous problems. It will combine with small particles of dirt and debris to form scum that will stick to the waterline and filter media, requiring additional work and maintenance. Oil in pools and spas/hot tubs have been an ongoing problem for more than 50 years. It becomes more prevalent, however, during the summer months with the increase in use of sunscreens and other sundry products.
In the last 30 years, two naturally based technologies have led the way in fighting and removing oils along with the problems they cause. One is chitosan and the other is enzymes. This article will look at these two technologies and discuss their similarities and differences, as well as how they can work together.
What are enzymes?
Biologically speaking, enzymes are catalysts or agents of change. Their purpose, on a cellular level, is to accelerate chemical reactions quickly. Enzymes are actually non-living proteins that speed up the break down process so that reactions, which would normally take much longer to accomplish, can be produced at a faster rate.
How do they work?
The main job of enzymes in living organisms is to reduce the level of toxins and enable the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the prime ingredient for energy and muscle growth in living animals.
Enzymes work in the digestive system to break down foods into absorbable units that can be better assimilated into the body. They have also been used for many years in water treatment systems, including pool and spa/hot tub water. In recreational aquatics, enzymes act like chemical knives cutting up and reducing oils, greases, and proteins to their elemental building blocks of carbon dioxide and water. A good broad-spectrum enzyme formula will include many types of enzymes to deal with numerous non-living organics that can lead to common pool maintenance issues.