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How to clean a hot tub

How to clean a hot tub
(Image credit: Hot Springs)

As fall approaches, odds are your hot tub has had some heavy use this summer. That could mean that your hot tub filters are tired, your water is dirty, and your hot tub cover needs a good scrub before you continue to use it past winter. The best hot tubs have some great features to keep them low-maintenance and hygienic, but none of them are self-cleaning quite yet (we’re watching this space!) 

Although hot tubs will come with their own instructions, the basic principles remain the same. That being said, always check the manual before doing anything to your hot tub. Deep cleaning your hot tub is a long process which needs to be done more regularly than we might like to admit, but it’s essential to ensure the lifespan of your hot tub and the health of those who use it. 

Because hot tubs and the best swim spas are made of roughly the same materials, a lot of these tips on how to clean a hot tub can apply to those wondering how to clean a swim spa. For example, many hot tubs and swim spas have the same jets and filters, so they can likely be cleaned in the same way. The inner shell is also often made of the same materials (although your swim spa shell will be significantly larger, so rope in a family member to get the job done quicker) so you should take the same precautions when cleaning this as with a hot tub. For these steps and more, you can keep reading to find out how to clean your hot tub filter, cover, shell, and jets, as well as how often you need to do it.  

If you’re looking for something a little less high maintenance, you can also check out our guide to the best inflatable hot tubs

How to deep clean your hot tub

To do a complete deep clean, you should drain your hot tub. However, if you want to thoroughly clean as many component parts of your hot tub as possible in one go, try running some cleaning solution through your jets to degrease and clear the internal plumbing. Amazon sells some hot tub jet cleaners which you can run through your spa, but your hot tub brand may well sell hot tub cleaner or have suggestions of its own, so consult before choosing the right rinse for you. Once you’ve added this to your hot tub water, turn on all your jets and any waterfall elements. This will push your cleaning solution through jets and internal plumbing, and you should do this for at least 30 minutes, or up to two hours to do a really thorough purge of any oil or nasties your hot tub has built up. 

How to deep clean your hot tub

You should clean jets and waterfall features before draining your hot tub.  (Image credit: Master Spas)

Once this is done, it’s time to drain your hot tub. You certainly don’t want to go in your hot tub once you’ve added cleaner to the water, and this gives you the chance to get rid of any gunk that came out of your jets and waterfall elements for good. Refer to your owner’s manual for draining instructions, and make sure you’re able to do this safely. This may mean turning off your hot tub completely at the breaker.

When it’s empty, clean your hot tub shell with a gentle cleanser. It should be non-abrasive and non-sudsing, and the cloth you use to do this should be soft and gentle. You don’t want to damage the finish and shine of your hot tub interior. Sometimes, lines of particularly stubborn buildup emerge around the waterline of your hot tub, where oil and grime tends to sit. To clean this, and any other harsher areas, you can simply use a white vinegar and some water on a soft cloth. 

Before refilling your hot tub, give it a thorough rinse with a hose. You don’t want to be relaxing in your diluted cleaning products, and equally, they may cause bubbles which will throw off the chemistry of your hot tub water. Refill as your hot tub manufacturer instructs - this will include chemically treating your new water.

How to clean a hot tub filter

If you’re taking the time to do a deep clean on your hot tub, you should give your filter a clean too. This is easy to do when your hot tub is empty, although it can also be done every month by simply removing the filter from your full hot tub when switched off at the breaker. Most brands suggest cleaning your filter with a hose - rotating it while spraying with a powerful jet of water will rinse debris from filter pleats and scrubbing with a brush to remove any stubborn patches.

A woman relaxing in a hot tub at sunset

You should do a deep clean on your hot tub at least twice a year.  (Image credit: Getty / iStock)

Every hot tub filter is different, and each should come with cleaning instructions. PDC spas suggests leaving your filter in a five gallon bucket with hot water and a half cup of bleach for 12 to 24 hours before rinsing thoroughly and returning to your hot tub. Hot Spring suggests using a specific filter cleaner, and replacing filters every few years. Royal Spa even says you can run a filter through a dishwasher, cautioning that you ought not to use soap or heat dry if you choose to do this.  

How to clean a hot tub cover

If you own a hot tub, buying a cover is essential to keep it in top condition. A hot tub cover will help you to winterize your hot tub and protect it from debris such as leaves, twigs, and dirt. 

Master Spas has some great guidance on how to clean a hot tub cover in a handy YouTube video.

Make sure that when cleaning, you remove the cover from your hot tub and place it in a soft and non-abrasive surface. Rinse with a hose to loosen up any dirt, and clean with a soft cloth or sponge and some regular washing solution to shift dirt and dust. Repeat on the inside of your cover, and then dry both top and bottom of your hot tub cover thoroughly, to prevent any washing solution from entering your hot tub water. You should also treat your vinyl cover for longer use - Master Spas warns against using any products with petroleum, citrus, or silicon. 

How often should you clean your hot tub? 

Various component parts of your hot tub require specific, regular care. The filter, for example, should be cleaned as often as every month, according to hot tub retailer SunSpa. Skimmer baskets, which remove debris from your hot tub, should be emptied and cleaned every two weeks. 

Less regular cleaning is required for your hot tub cover - this should be done at least a few times a year according to PDC Spas. As for your hot tub itself, you should drain the hot tub seasonally at least. According to SunSpa, this takes only four hours each time you do it, but it’s essential to keep your hot tub clean and sanitary. Sanitizing and treating with chemicals should be done weekly, though. To clean hot tub jets, PDC Spas recommends you run them on full blast after shocking your hot tub water for at least 30 minutes, to clear out any debris.