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How to Clean Your Hot Tub Cover

Matt Giovanisci, Founder and CEO of Swim University By Matt Giovanisci | January 16, 2024

In this article, you’ll learn how to clean a hot tub cover to make it last longer. Plus, I’ll show you how to keep it dry and mildew-free. It’ll make it easier to lift on and off your hot tub without using a spa cover lifter.

NOTE: The following instructions are for vinyl hot tub covers only. I’ve tested all the cleaning products I recommend. If you click a link and make a purchase, I earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

I’ve cleaned the grime and mildew off thousands of hot tub (and swim spa) covers since 1993 (in both showrooms and in the field). And I’ve used every cleanser on the market. So here is my exact process for cleaning a hot tub cover.

4 Steps For Cleaning Your Hot Tub Cover

The better you treat it, the longer it will last, and the more money you’ll save. You’ll also prevent your cover from getting waterlogged and heavy. You can limit sun damage, prevent mold and mildew, and avoid premature chemical damage by sticking to some good cleaning and maintenance habits.

1. Daily Hot Tub Cover Care

As often as needed, brush debris off your hot tub cover with a soft-bristled brush. Outdoor covers are wedge-shaped, so rainwater should run right off.

However, you’ll probably still need to clear off leaves, sticks, bugs, and any snow accumulation. Just a quick swipe or two with a push broom works fine. Avoid using anything with sharp edges that could gouge the vinyl and void the cover warranty.

2. Monthly Cover Cleaning and Drying

Do a deeper cleaning at least every other week to prevent mold growth and other damage. Wait for a warm sunny day to perform this cleaning.

  1. Apply a vinyl cleaner. Spray the top of the hot tub cover with a cleaner made for vinyl. Use a soft cloth made of microfiber. Wipe or rinse it clean per the product instructions. Don’t forget the sides, top and bottom. If you use any other type of cleaner, avoid ones that contain alcohol, detergent, oil, and silicone.
  2. Wipe down the bottom of the hot tub cover with a cleaning solution of 1:10 parts distilled white vinegar or bleach to warm water. Add the solution to a spray bottle for easy use. Be forewarned that bleach may be harder on the vinyl than vinegar.
  3. Apply a vinyl protectant or conditioner to give your cover an extra dose of UV protection. These products keep the vinyl soft and help prevent cracking.
  4. Let it dry in a pyramid shape for at least 8 hours in direct sunlight (see image below 👇). Unzip the cover where you can. Doing this frequently will help dry out the foam inside and keep the cover light.

Hot Tub Cover Drying Technique

Our Top Pick
303 UV Protectant Spray For Hot Tub Covers

It protects against UV damage, and repels dirt and stains on your hot tub cover. Apply every 3-5 weeks. Last 5 years unopened, 2 years after opening. It is made in the USA.

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If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

3. How to Get Rid of Odor Problems

If you start to notice a funky smell coming from your cover, you may be growing a mold and mildew problem. As dirty hot spa water evaporates, it could infect the underside of your cover.

Surface mildew can be scrubbed off with hot tub cover cleaner. Then, treated with a diluted vinegar or bleach solution. I would dilute 1 part bleach into ten parts of water (1:10) to kill the mildew before it gets out of control.

Mildew on the underside of the cover may be subdued with a disinfectant spray. However, if the mold and mildew has made it through the vapor barrier into your foam, you’re probably past the point of no return, and you’ll need to replace your cover.

Our Top Pick
Disinfectant Spray

An EPA registered disinfectant that sanitizes surfaces, kills 99.9% of viruses in 60 seconds, and offers 24-hour protection, even with multiple touches. This unscented formula also deodorizes and prevents mold & mildew on hard non-porous surfaces.

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If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

4. Practice Basic Hot Tub Maintenance

In addition to cleaning, you can help prevent major issues by checking for and repairing any damage on a regular basis. Damaged vinyl should be patched immediately using a vinyl repair kit. Inoperable zippers may need to be repaired by a professional but must also be fixed as soon as possible. Both issues can allow water to infiltrate the foam core if left unaddressed.

Your hot tub cover must be allowed to dry out occasionally. If you never take it off your spa, you’ll shorten its lifespan. Pop it off monthly while you clean the shell and balance your water. Then, let it dry completely before replacing it.

Stay on top of your hot tub water chemistry with weekly testing and balancing (more frequently if your hot tub gets a lot of traffic). Balanced water keeps your spa from growing bacteria and algae, so your hot tub cover won’t be absorbing bacteria-filled moisture. Here are the hot tub chemicals you should be adding on a regular basis.

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8 Ways to Protect Your Hot Tub Cover

By protecting your cover, you help it protect your hot tub, and it’s not difficult. You just need to add a few steps to your maintenance routine.

1. Ensure the Cover is Secured

After a while, covering your hot tub will become routine. But make sure you always check to make sure the cover is on completely and correctly. If the wind is strong enough, it can rip the cover right off the hot tub if it’s not properly secured. You may even want to add cover locks to make sure it stays on tight.

Hot Tub Cover Clip Secure

2. Use a Cover Cap

A physical, protective layer for your hot tub cover, a cover cap provides more UV protection than vinyl conditioner alone and helps make cleaning even easier. These are especially useful if you don’t use your hot tub often.

3. Attach Wind Straps

Particularly useful if you live somewhere with high winds, the straps are anchored to your spa cabinet to keep your cover in place. Also known as hurricane straps, they have small clasps that make them simple to open when you want to use your spa, while still protecting your cover from becoming a projectile.

4. Remove Furniture, Plants, and Patio Items

When you see a storm is on its way, take a little time to put away your patio furniture, potted plants, and even large items like your barbecue grill. Especially the large items. If, up to now, you’ve considered your patio the storage area for these items, it may be time to consider investing in something a little more stable, like a storage shed.

5. Trim Bushes and Trees

While hot tub landscaping is definitely a nice addition to your backyard space, it also introduces potential dangers to your spa cover. If you have bushes or trees with long limbs around your hot tub, consider cutting them back to reduce the chance they could break and fall on your cover. And definitely never let a tree limb get long enough to reach your hot tub, where it can scratch or tear the cover or do other damage to your spa.

6. Install an Umbrella or Gazebo

Keep those ultraviolet rays from bleaching and weakening your hot tub cover by putting an umbrella over your spa. Or if you’re feeling really ambitious, you can even put a gazebo up in your yard. Not only will it protect your spa, it’ll take your backyard leisure game to a whole new level.

7. Use Cover Protectant

Using some type of protectant after every cover cleaning won’t just make it look nice. It’ll help protect it from the sun’s rays. After sitting under a hot sun day in and day out, your cover will fade, dry out, and crack. A good protectant will help prevent and keep your cover in good condition longer.

Our Top Pick
303 UV Protectant Spray For Hot Tub Covers

It protects against UV damage, and repels dirt and stains on your hot tub cover. Apply every 3-5 weeks. Last 5 years unopened, 2 years after opening. It is made in the USA.

Buy Now On Amazon
If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

8. Remove Water, Snow, and Ice From the Cover

While you’re out shoveling your sidewalk, take a few moments to brush snow and ice off your cover. Be sure not to let rainwater accumulate on it, either. The more water—in any form—that builds up on the cover, the heavier it becomes, putting strain on its connectors. Too much weight, and they can break, or tear the cover, or both. Small tears in the material can often be repaired. But a tear where the cover connects to the hot tub will usually mean you have to get a new one.

Cover Still Heavy? Invest in a Spa Cover Lifter

You can get a hot tub cover lifter to do the hard work for you. They’re available as hydraulic arms that bear all the weight or manual arms that lighten the load. They make it a one-person job to open and enjoy your hot tub. Here’s our guide on buying the best hot tub cover lifter.


When to Replace Your Hot Tub Cover

Maybe you made a significant investment in a high-quality cover, but several years have passed, and you’re unsure whether it’s time to replace it. Maybe you’re still using the low-quality cover that came with your spa when you bought it, but it suddenly seems to weigh as much as a car, and you don’t know if you’ll ever get into your hot tub again.

The ideal weight of a hot tub cover is 50 to 75 pounds. Over time, it will absorb water and grow much heavier. If it has a cheap or insufficient vapor barrier, or if you’re not maintaining it well, this process can happen much more quickly.

Once your cover is waterlogged, it’s time to start shopping for a new one.

Frequently Asked Questions About How to Clean a Hot Tub Cover

I asked and searched the web for questions hot tub owners have about taking care of their hot tub covers. Here are all your questions and our short answers to help you out.

What is the best thing to clean a hot tub cover?

Hands down, a blend of warm water and distilled white vinegar (10:1) works wonders. Gently apply with a spray bottle and wipe it down with a soft microfiber cloth. It’ll keep your cover looking its best. Will vinegar make the hot tub smell? Vinegar has its own strong scent, but it dissipates over time. If you use it, rinse well and air out.

Can I use dish soap (like Dawn) to clean my hot tub cover?

In theory, yes, but dilute it with water (20:1). And always rinse thoroughly. Specialized cleaners, though, are your best bet. They’re crafted for this specific task.

Can you use a Magic Eraser on a hot tub cover?

No. Magic erasers are abrasive. It’s made of melamine foam, which acts like a super-fine sandpaper. Avoid using this anywhere near your hot tub cover or surfaces.

How do I make my hot tub cover shine?

After cleaning, apply a good-quality protectant. Use a high-quality UV protectant. It’ll keep your cover looking and performing great.

How long should a hot tub cover last?

With the regular care you learned in this article, expect around 5-7 years. Treat it right, and it’ll serve you well.

What is the white film on my hot tub cover?

That’s likely a buildup of minerals or soap residue. Regular cleaning and proper water balance will sort it out.

Need More Hot Tub Maintenance Help?

Matt Giovanisci, Founder and CEO of Swim University
Matt Giovanisci is the founder of Swim University® and has been in the pool and spa industry since 1993. Since then, his mission is to make pool and hot tub care easy for everyone. And each year, he continues to help more people with water chemistry, cleaning, and troubleshooting.

Featured Hot Tub Products

Save Time and Money with Our FREE Hot Tub Cheat Sheet
Download this FREE printable cheat sheet to keep your hot tub clean and clear. You’ll never worry about your hot tub again with this easy-to-use guide.