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How to Clean a Hot Tub

Regularly cleaning your hot tub will keep your spa in tip-top shape. Read our guide to learn the best practices for cleaning and caring for your hot tub.

Hot tub on wood deck. iStock

A basic fact about hot tubs is the more you use them, the more you need to clean them. A hot tub is a closed-loop system, meaning the same water is circulated through the pipes and filtration system. When something gets introduced into the water, it’s going to flow through every part of the system again, and again, and again.

Why You Need to Clean Your Hot Tub

Thanks to its warm and moist environment, a hot tub is a hotbed for bacteria and mold growth. Microorganisms, algae, and fungi flourish in these conditions, and if it is not properly and regularly cleaned and disinfected, anyone who uses it runs the risk of getting sick. Potential ailments range from skin rashes to bacterial infections, including Legionnaires’ disease, which can be deadly.

To keep your spa running smoothly, efficiently, and safely for years to come, here’s everything you need to know for the best way to clean a hot tub (including one that has been sitting untouched for a long period of time), what to use to clean a hot tub, and how often you should clean a hot tub to maximize your use of it.

The Parts of a Hot Tub You Need to Know:

  • Spa Shell
  • Jets
  • Filters
  • Accessories: Removable Headrests and Pillows
  • Cover
  • Drain Plug
  • Power Source

How to Clean Your Hot Tub

  1. Remove the cover and any accessories, like pillows and headrests.
  2. While the unit is running, add a line cleaner to the water. While the water circulates, the cleaner will remove unwanted bacteria, algae, and possible biofilm from the pipes and water lines.
  3. Switch the power off, including the circuit breaker, and drain the hot tub through the drain plug or with a submersible pump. Before draining water onto the ground or into a drain, check local ordinances for the acceptable way to discard chemically treated water. Use a wet/dry vacuum to remove any residual water.
  4. Check the entire unit, inside and out, for wear and tear or any damage.
  5. Wearing rubber gloves, clean the shell with a non-abrasive sponge and specialty surface cleaner or a homemade solution like white vinegar and water. Thoroughly rinse the shell to eliminate any cleaning residue and dry with a towel. Clean the removable headrests and pillows and reinstall.
  6. Remove the filters and gently clean out any debris with your fingers, (For more soiled filters, soak in a cleaning solution overnight.) Rinse and reinstall.
  7. Remove the jets and soak them in a solution of vinegar and water, overnight if needed. Wipe down and rinse before reinstalling.
  8. Run the water through the filters to refill the tub.
  9. While the tub is being filled, clean the cover, per the directions under “Once a Month,” below.
  10. Turn the power on, treat the water with chemicals, and cover for 24 hours to let the water and chemicals circulate.

If the exterior of the cabinet is exposed, clean it in accordance with the manufacturer’s directions.

  1. To clean hot tubs that have been sitting for long periods of time, or for ones that are extremely soiled, repeat the above steps until the unit is clean.

How Often You Should Clean Your Hot Tub

In addition to sanitizing the water regularly with manufacturer-approved chemicals and cleaners, a spa should be drained at least four times a year for average use—say, if two people use it a couple of days each week. Plan to drain it more often if used more frequently and/or by more guests.

2-3 Times Per Week:

  • Check the water for clarity: Is it cloudy? Do you see any film or oil residue on the surface? Do you see any discoloration or experience an unpleasant smell or odor? If you notice anything unusual and it doesn’t go away with your weekly maintenance plan, you may need to drain and clean your spa.
  • Using a water test kit, make sure the chemicals in the water are in balance. If they are not within the manufacturer’s recommended guidelines, treat with sanitizer, shock, and any additional chemicals to restore the pH balance and proper chlorine and calcium levels.

Once a Month:

  • Remove and rinse the cover with a garden hose. Clean off any adhered sap or debris. Since the cover is exposed to the elements, use a combination cleaner and protectant to extend its longevity.
  • Remove and clean the filter. If the unit is used frequently, clean the filter every two weeks.

Every 4 to 6 Months:

  • Drain the hot tub and inspect it for visible signs of damage. Clean the interior and exterior.

Once a Year:

  • Replace filters.
  • Schedule a maintenance check with a manufacturer-approved technician.

Tools You’ll Need to Clean Your Hot Tub: