Should chemicals be added to your cold plunge?

Should chemicals be added to your cold plunge?

Once a niche practice favored by athletes and wellness enthusiasts, cold plunging has gained mainstream attention for its purported health benefits. These invigorating dips into icy water are believed to stimulate a number of both physical and mental health benefits. However, a debate surrounds the practice of adding chemicals to cold plunges to extend the water's shelf life or rinse and repeat without the use of chemical agents. 

Whether cold plunging at home with ice, a water chiller, debris filtration, Ozone or UV sanitation, without the use of chemicals, the water will eventually need to be replaced. The time between draining and refilling the plunge ranges based on a number of factors addressed below.  

With Ice, the water should be replaced after each use. As there is no sediment filter or bacteria killing mechanism, the water should be drained and replaced most frequently under this setup.

A Chiller without Ozone or UV Sanitation should have water exchanged every 3-5 plunges. Although a sediment filter comes with any standard water chiller, eventually the water will begin to cloud which is an indication to refresh the water and clean out the plunge.

A Chiller with Ozone or UV Sanitation provides the longest period between water exchanges. With a debris filter and bacteria killing mechanism, one can plunge knowing the water is the cleanest amongst the three setups. Generally 2-4 weeks will pass before you may notice some film developing on the surface line or a slippery texture on the inside of the plunge. 

As all three setups listed above will eventually need water exchanged, many ask if it makes sense to add chemicals and increase the longevity of the water's shelf life or drain and refill the cold plunge more often without the use of chemicals. This decision is personal preference. 

Advocates of Chemical Additives

Those who prefer adding chemicals to water highlight the practical advantages. Preservatives and antimicrobial agents can prevent bacterial growth, ensuring the water remains clean, clear and safe for reoccurring plunges and multiple users over time. With solutions such as oxidizers and sanitizers, the need to drain and replace the water can be significantly reduced. This may be beneficial for those who prefer convenience or with cold plunge setups that cannot be frequently drained (e.g. live in a high rise condo or where an outflow drain may not be easily accessible).

Critics of Chemical Additives

Some individuals raise concerns about health and the environmental impact of adding chemicals to cold plunges. Some chemicals can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions. Furthermore, the accumulation of these chemicals in the water need to be properly disposed of, ideally down a drain as to not threaten the surrounding ecosystem. 

The debate over whether chemicals should be added to cold plunges revolves around balancing potential benefits such as convenience with longer water shelf life versus a cleaner, more natural plunging experience that requires frequent water exchange. While additives can increase the shelf life of the water, they also can pose risks to sensitive skin and the surrounding environment. 

As interest in cold plunging continues to grow, consider the best option based on your setup, environment, convenience, health and wellness factors. 

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