A mossy solution for water clarity

Swapping tiny green plants for chlorine might not sound like the best way to clean up a hot tub or pool, but Fulton resident David Knighton has shown it’s possible. His company, Creative Water Solutions, has used sphagnum moss to condition pools and spas across the country.   

Knighton, a surgeon and self-described “expert in wound healing,” discovered filtering water through moss could leave water cleaner and softer than chlorine, while erasing some of the effects chlorine has on the human body.

His moss research started while flying back to the United States from Germany several years ago, when he happened upon an article about doctors using sphagnum moss to treat wounded soldiers in World War I.  

“I knew the only way that would be true is if moss could stop bacteria,” Knighton said. “I came back to the lab, and told [my fellow researchers] they were going to start looking up moss.”

Knighton also worked with a moss expert at the National Resources Institute in the U.K. while researching the new project. After they tested moss on various pathogens, the pathogens stopped growing.

“It won’t kill them, but it won’t let them grow,” he said.

The initial intent of the research was to determine how to use the moss for healing purposes. Meanwhile, Knighton was having trouble with a spa in his home. He could not keep the chemicals in the water stable, which caused bad smells and other problems.

During some time spent in the Boundary Waters in Northern Minnesota he noticed the rocks there were not slippery and moss bogs were prevalent.

“I thought maybe the lakes were so beautiful because the water is drained through the moss bogs,” he said.

These new insights led Knighton to place moss in his spa. A few days later, he said, he noticed the water was clearer.

 “That’s how the company was started. We have done a total of eight years of research on this now,” Knighton said. “We started out using moss from Northern Minnesota, [but] that moss had a lot of chlorophyll and made the water in the hot tubs turn light green. Then I started trying to test moss from all over the world.”

Knighton’s search resulted in the discovery of one other species of moss, which he found in New Zealand.

“I found the moss from New Zealand worked just as well as the moss from Northern Minnesota, but it had less chlorophyll and didn’t turn the water green,” he said. “There’s only two species in the whole world who work real well. One in Minnesota, one in New Zealand, so it’s real lucky I live here, or we wouldn’t have figured this out.”

Knighton said the discovery of penicillin after World War I caused people to forget about the uses of moss.

“I was just lucky enough to read the article [about sphagnum moss] or I wouldn’t have figured it out either,” Knighton said.

The result has been clear, clean and crisp water in pools, spas, hot tubs and now a home.

“I actually have the first home water treatment system using moss,” Knighton said. “All the water in [my] house is treated through the moss.”

 After Knighton and his business partner, Vance Fiegel, spent $3 million researching and developing, Knighton estimated they would finally break even at the end of this year.  

“We really have been out with active sales for two years, and things are starting to take off,” Knighton said. “We have pools and spas being treated all over the country now.”

Jim Burns, a Creative Water Solutions customer, said he typically had to use a lot of chemicals to keep his pool clean before he began to use moss.

“When you are the owner of a pool or spa, and you see yourself dumping in all these chemicals, it kind of gives you the willies,” Burns said. “You say ‘it looks really nice, but that’s what I have to do to keep it really clean? And then I’m going to jump in that thing?’”

Knighton has his own issues with cleaning pools and spas with chemicals.

“People love swimming and being in hot water, the headache is cleaning the water,” Knighton said. “This allows people to have the experience of a pristine lake in their home and their pools.”

Burns said since he began using moss, the water has looked clearer and he has not had to use as many chemicals.

“It feels really nice, it looks really good, and when you are the person that is using that pool or spa, you feel really good because it’s not like you’re putting your body into this big tank of chemicals,” Burns said.

Steve McFarland, founder and owner of Hopkins, Minn.-based McFarland Hotwater Technology Company and a 30-year veteran of the industry, discussed his own experience using moss in his hot tub.

“Sometimes at night the water in my hot tub is so clear, you have to touch it to make sure it’s there,” McFarland said.

Not bad for a tiny green plant.


Creative Water Solutions