How to Properly Clean a Hot Tub

One of the most important parts of hot tub maintenance is cleaning. While this might seem like a tedious task, it’s crucial because of how dirty your hot tub can get. Even if you’re the only person using it, lotion, cosmetics, sweat, oil, and other contaminants can make the water dirty. And this gets rather disgusting if you let it go for too long.

And to make matters worse, these contaminants will get into the plumbing and the filter as well. Although the filter is meant to catch a lot of bacteria, eventually the filter will get dirty, too, which will make everything go to the pipes. Then, the bacteria will build up a layer of biofilm. The bacteria starts to build up so much that even chlorine will not be able to kill it off. This will eventually lead to problems in making sure that your hot tub stays clean and works properly. This is why it’s so important that you clean your hot tub on a regular basis- not only so it doesn’t feel gross, but also so that it can work properly.

If you’re not totally sure how you can clean your hot tub, you’ve come to the right place. Yes, it might take some time, but it’s definitely easier than you might have expected. In this article, we will help you to get a better idea of how to clean your hot tub, as well as helpful tips and pointers so you can get the job done well.

Step 1: Add Plumbing Cleaner

This should be done before any other step, especially if there has been a build-up of biofilm in the pipes. It is generally recommended that you clean the plumbing every 12 months, but you can do it more often in order to prevent biofilm from building up too much.

Simply draining the hot tub and cleaning it as normal will not get rid of the bacteria and biofilm. The only way to do this is by using a special plumbing cleaner.

This may also be called a line flush product and it has been made specifically for getting rid of the biofilm. The way you will need to use it depends on the specific cleaner you purchased, so make sure that you read the instructions carefully and follow them accordingly. You should add the appropriate amount for the size of your tub, then let it circulate for at least 20 minutes or so. Leave the jets on for the cleaner to work properly.

However, if you haven’t used your hot tub in quite some time, or if you didn’t clean the pipes the last time you cleaned your hot tub, you should leave this cleaner circulating for longer. This might depend on how much biofilm has built up. Some people recommend leaving it for several hours, while others recommend leaving it for as long as overnight.

You’ll notice that a foam will start to form in your water that looks rather unpleasant. But this isn’t anything to worry about as it means that the plumbing cleaner is working as it is supposed to. All the biofilm is getting cleaned out of the pipes, which is what causes the foam to rise on the surface. This will all be drained and rinsed anyways, so you don’t have to worry about the effects that this nasty foam will potentially have on you.

Use a shop vac to suck up the foam, which you should continue to do until the foam has turned white. This is how you know that the biofilm has been completely removed.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to do this step every single time that you clean your hot tub. Once again, it’s recommended that you clean the plumbing every year or so unless you’ve had a lot of guests use your tub as of late. Just make sure that you don’t forget to clean it every year because that will cause the biofilm to build up and impact the performance of your hot tub.

What is biofilm?

We discussed the importance of cleaning the pipes in this step, but if you aren’t quite familiar with how hot tubs work, you might not be so sure about what biofilm is. Over time, bacteria will grow in your hot tub. And as you and other people use the hot tub, bacteria from your sweat, body oil, cosmetics, and even feces and urine will contaminate the water (no, this doesn’t mean that people have chosen to relieve themselves in your hot tub. However, no matter how clean people are, they will carry some of that bacteria on their bodies). All of these bacteria will pass through your tub and the filters. While the filters work to trap dirt and other contaminants, they will inevitably get dirty, too. This is when the dirt gets to the hot tub’s pipes. They will eventually build up a layer of biofilm. The bacteria particles will stick to the plumbing and build a barrier so that they can’t be easily killed off by chlorine. You also won’t be able to get rid of biofilm through a regular draining and cleaning of your hot tub, which is why it is imperative that you use a specialized plumbing cleaner every year. If you aren’t careful to clean the pipes, it will eventually cause the water to get dirty, affect how productively the filters work, prevent the water from flowing properly, and many other things that will have an effect on the operation of your hot tub. The only way that you can get rid of this biofilm is through using a special plumbing cleaner and letting it circulate.

Step 2: Drain the Tub

If you didn’t clean the pipes this time around, then draining the tub will be your first step. You will want to make sure that all the dirty water is removed from your tub.

The first thing that you will need to do is completely turn off the hot tub’s power. This is important so that you won’t have to face the risk of electric shock.

Next, make sure that you follow up with your city’s laws on where you will be able to drain the hot tub water. Some cities will not allow you to do so onto the street. You usually will be able to drain the water to your lawn, but some people might be concerned about how the quality of the water will affect their plants and soil. You can test the water to see if the chlorine or bromine is below a safe level for your plants. In other places, you will have to drain the hot tub’s water to the sewer system, and you will have special access to this on your property if that’s the case. Just make sure not to drain the water via the storm drain, as that water goes to places such as lakes, which can harm aquatic creatures. Regardless, make sure that you double-check with your city or township to see what the specific laws are on where you can dispose of the hot tub water before doing anything else.

Once you’ve gotten that cleared up, it’s time to actually drain the water. You can choose to do this in one of two ways. Of course, you can simply wait for the hot tub to completely drain itself, which might take some time. Connect the hose to the spa drain and wait for the water to completely drain out. This will also allow you to move the hose around if you’re letting the water drain into your yard as you don’t want the water to all pool up in one area.

But if you want this job to get done quickly, then you can get a sump pump to drain the water quickly. Open the spa drains and stay closeby because you will need to monitor the speed at which the tub is draining. This is due to the fact that the sump pump will continue to work when there’s no more water left in the hot tub, which will burn the motor. So, make sure that you turn off the sump pump once all the water is gone.

However, you may notice that a small bit of water has remained. This will be the case whether you use the sump pump or if you let the tub drain on its own. You can use a shop vac to get rid of all this water, as well as any water that has stayed in the jets, suctions, and other parts of the tub.

Now, it’s time for you to actually clean your hot tub.

Step 3: Clean the Filters

You can take the opportunity while your hot tub is draining to clean out the filters. It is recommended that you try to replace the filters every 18 months to 2 years. Make sure that you rinse them every month or so.

If you’re going to be rinsing them this time, make sure you have a filter cleaning spray on hand. You may also rinse the filters with a hose to get rid of all the dirt.

It is recommended that you give the filters an even deeper clean every 3 to 4 months or so. In this case, take a bucket and fill it with water. Then, take a hot tub filter soak and add the appropriate amount as listed in the product’s instructions. Dilute the cleaner and soak the filter for 24 hours. Before putting it back in the hot tub, make sure you completely rinse it off with clean water. Otherwise, it could cause your hot tub to foam because of the remaining cleaner, which means that you’d have to clean the tub all over again.

And again, make sure that you replace these filters every 18 to 24 months to ensure that the water quality stays at its highest and to avoid any problems with the hot tub’s pump. You want to make sure that your hot tub will last you for as long as possible.

Step 4: Clean the Tub

There are several ways in which you will be able to clean the shell of the hot tub. We will outline some of them for you below.

  1. Take a hot tub cleaner that does not produce any suds.
  2. Spray the shell using diluted white vinegar. 
  3. Spray it using diluted bleach.

No matter which of these methods you choose to use, make sure that you pay attention to all the small corners and crannies in your hot tub where bacteria, mildew, and other contaminants will be hiding. This will demand that you use some elbow grease, so make sure to spend as much time possible scrubbing and getting your hot tub clean. You will want to wear a pair of rubber gloves for this step.

Then, take a cloth, paper towel, nylon scrubber, or other material to remove all this residue. Once the tub has been completely cleaned, rinse it very well to prevent any foaming when you go to fill the hot tub again. Make sure that all the jets are open when you’re done rinsing the tub.

Another thing that is recommended is that you use a Magic Eraser to clean the part of the tub that is above the water level every couple of days or so. Using a Magic Eraser will prevent the cleaning material that you use from getting into the tub.

Step 5: Clean the Cover

You can technically do this as the last step, but it’s better to get all the cleaning done and over with at once. Make sure that you keep the cover of your hot tub cleaned regularly, especially the underside of it. This is because of the hot environment that is created with the cover being exposed to warm water. This, therefore, makes the hot tub cover the perfect environment for bacteria, mildew, and other substances.

You will want to first check out the cover to see if there are any mildew spots that will require extra attention. Spray the entire cover using either a hot tub cleaner (one that doesn’t produce suds), diluted white vinegar, or diluted bleach- whichever one you chose to use when cleaning the rest of your hot tub. Remove the cleaner using a cloth, paper towel, or other material and rinse it off well.

It is recommended that you aim to clean the hot tub cover every few weeks or so. You can also clean it whenever you clean your hot tub. Just make sure to inspect it every once in a while to make sure that there is no mildew growth. Mildew will contaminate the water, which means you will need to clean the tub, so avoiding it altogether will make things a lot easier for you. There isn’t really any set time when you need to clean the cover, just so long as you make sure it gets done every so often.

Step 6: Clean the Spa Cabinet

It is also important that you clean the spa cabinet during this time. Especially if you have your hot tub outside, it gets a lot of exposure to the sun, as well as humidity, splashout, and more. What you use for cleaning the spa cabinet will depend on the material. Usually, this will be wood, so get a mild wood cleaner and a cloth. You will want to also get a wood protectant, and look into getting one with a UV shield if your hot tub is located outside. Taking the time to complete this step will ensure that your spa cabinet will last you a lot longer.

Step 7: Refill Your Hot Tub

Before you do anything else, make sure that the hot tub’s breaker is still off so that you won’t face the risk of electric shock. Then, close all the drains and get your hose ready.

It is recommended that you use some kind of hose filter to make sure that any impurities are removed and to improve the overall chemistry of your water. Having filtered water will prevent mineral deposits from building up, as well as any potential staining.

You will need to insert the hose in the filter area, which will fill the pumps with water first to make sure that airlock is avoided. It will take some time for the hot tub to fill completely, but you don’t want to leave it unattended to prevent the tub from overfilling and, if your tub is inside, causing a flood.

Then, once the tub has been completely filled, turn on the spa breaker. Allow it to heat up to around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, which is when you should start adding hot tub chemicals, including sanitizer. Turn off the air valves so that the chemicals will be distributed evenly.

If you use well water or if you live in an area where there is a lot of metal in the water, it is also recommended that you use a metal sequestrant to make sure that your hot tub won’t stain. Then, make sure you conduct a test of the water for substances such as calcium hardness, pH, and alkalinity.

 And Finally: Let the Chemicals Circulate

You don’t want to let anyone use the hot tub for at least 24 hours after it has been completely cleaned. During this time, cover the hot tub and let the chemicals run their course. You will want to make sure that the temperature of the water is between 80 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit during this time.

When the tub is at the temperature you want it, test the water again to make sure that all the levels are where they need to be. Make any adjustments if needed before you get in the hot tub.

After this step is complete, you’re all set to use the hot tub as usual!

Frequently Asked Questions

Especially if you don’t have a lot of experience with hot tubs, we expect that you will have some questions. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding hot tub cleaning.

How often should I clean my hot tub?

This might depend on some other criteria, but it’s a good idea to make it a point to clean your hot tub every three months. You should do this even if your hot tub doesn’t look particularly dirty. You won’t be able to see the bacteria, and hopefully, you’re not going to let your hot tub get to a point where the dirt and grime become visible. If you try to clean your hot tub every three months, this will be the perfect way to guarantee that you won’t have to deal with biofilm and do a lot of extra cleaning.

How do I know when to clean my hot tub?

Once again, you should make it a point to clean the hot tub every three months or so, but there might be some conditions that will require you to clean it before that. Some people like to clean their hot tubs every time they have guests come over. You should also look to clean your hot tub when you’ve had more guests than usual come over. But there are some more obvious conditions, such as foul odors, dirty water, or not using the hot tub for a while that would lead you to clean it more frequently.

Do I have to clean the pumps and filters?

These need to be cleaned in order for your hot tub to function properly, yes, but whether or not you need to clean them every time will depend on when you clean the hot tub. It is recommended that you clean the pumps every year and give the filters a rinse every month. But you only need to replace the filters every 18 to 24 months. You should clean the filters every time you clean the hot tub, but you don’t need to do the same for the pumps.

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