Q My bathtub is a whirlpool, but I rarely use it as such. When I use the tub for a regular bath, dark flecks come out of the jets. I have tried flushing the jets with water until no more debris drains from them, only to have it appear the next time I use the tub. I also tried filling the tub past the jets, along with a small amount of dish soap, and running the jets for 10 minutes. The flecks returned at the next use. What can I use to get rid of this aesthetic problem?

A It's more than just an aesthetic problem. The spa or jetted tub, commonly called a whirlpool, can be the perfect breeding ground for algae, mold and bacteria, especially in the dark, damp jet nozzle piping. With infrequent use, the algae, mold and bacteria can build up. When the jets are turned on, some of the buildup is knocked loose and it floats around in the water, appearing as black specks.

Jetted tubs have to be cleaned regularly. Commercial products are available. Check at stores selling hardware or plumbing supplies or dealers of hot tubs and spas. Or order them online from sites such as www.whirlpoolcleaners.com or sani-bath.com.

For a homemade cleaning solution, try a 50 percent solution of chlorine bleach and water. Pour it into the tub in enough quantity so that the jets are below the waterline. Run the pump for about 15 minutes. (Be sure the area is thoroughly ventilated.)

More frequent use of the spa would reduce buildup. Be aware, however, that chlorine bleach can affect rubber seals on some jets. Whenever possible, contact the manufacturer for cleaning and maintenance procedures before trying any product or method.

More on stimulus checks

A recent column on economic stimulus checks has some people confused. According to the IRS, one must have had at least $3,000 of qualifying income last year. Basically, that means earned income. Interest, dividends, capital gains and IRAs do not count, writes tax preparation volunteer Dennis Lieberg. Standard Social Security payments count, but not supplemental Social Security (SSI). The only disability income that qualifies is that received by veterans, whose pensions and survivors' benefits also count.

Complete information on stimulus checks is available on the IRS website: www.irs.gov.

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