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How to Clean Hot Tub Filters The Right Way

Matt Giovanisci, Founder and CEO of Swim University By Matt Giovanisci | January 15, 2024

As a hot tub owner, the longer you wait to clean your hot tub filters, the dirtier your hot tub water gets. Your filters help trap larger contaminants and keep your water clear of debris. And dirty filters pick up less dirt, debris, hair, and bacteria, leaving contaminated water to circulate throughout your hot tub or swim spa.

Spraying your filters with a garden hose or a filter cleaning solution once per week will keep your entire filtration system working properly.

Here’s a quick, step-by-step walkthrough on how to clean your hot tub filters, including the right way to do a quick rinse and an overnight soak in warm water. Watch the video below or keep reading for the complete tutorial. 👇

The Anatomy of a Hot Tub Filter

Before you clean your hot tub filter, it’s important to understand what exactly you’re cleaning. Your filter is made up of three main parts:

  1. Media: Made from white, pleated polyester, the media is the filter material that actually cleans the water. As the water passes through the hot tub filter pleats, the media catches the debris.
  2. Core: In order to stand up to the force of water flowing through it, the media needs something to reinforce it. That’s the core. It’s usually a piece of tough plastic.
  3. End Caps: Two plastic discs on either end of the filter keep the core and media in place. End caps also provide a way for hot tub filters to attach to the filter chambers.

The Anatomy of a Hot Tub Filter

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How to Clean Hot Tub Filters

Regular cleaning helps protect the lifespan of your filter, improve water flow, and keep your hot tub debris-free. Over time, filters get clogged up with debris, body lotions, oils, cosmetics and more.

Depending on how often you use your hot tub, plan to spray down your filter once a week and use a filter solution once per month. For supplies, you’ll need:

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Tip: Have two sets of filters on hand. While you’re cleaning one set, the other can be used in your hot tub.

Here’s how to clean your hot tub filters with a garden hose, filter cleaner spray, and a filter cleaner soak.

1. Weekly Hose Rinse (Quick Clean)

Remove the filters from your hot tub and give them a quick but thorough rinse with clean water. You can rinse them with a garden hose or in a large sink.

Be sure to spread apart each pleat and rinse well between them to get any dirt, hair, or debris out. Allow the filter to dry before putting it back into the filter well.

Rinsing your hot tub filter with a garden hose

A weekly rinse will help keep debris from building up, which means your sanitizer won’t have to work as hard (a.k.a. your chlorine or bromine).

2. Monthly Chemical Spray and Rinse (Medium Clean)

Once a month, you’ll want to clean your filters a bit more than usual. Spray your filters with a hot tub filter cleaner and let them sit for about 15 minutes to allow the cleaner to do its job. Then rinse thoroughly with clean water.

Spraying a hot tub filter with a filter cleaner

If the filter cleaner you have doesn’t already come in a spray bottle, you can transfer it to a clean spray bottle. Check to see whether it’s a concentrate that must be diluted. If it is, dilute it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

3. Quarterly Chemical Soak (Deep Clean)

Soak your filters in a cleaning solution every three to four months or whenever you’re draining your hot tub. If you need help draining and changing your spa water, check out our guide on How to Drain a Hot Tub.

In a large, clean bucket, dilute the hot tub filter cleaning chemical with warm water according to the directions on the bottle. Make sure you use enough water to submerge one hot tub filter completely. If you have room, you can add more filters to the solution. If not, use one bucket per filter.

Soaking a Hot Tub Filter in a Cleaning Solution

Place the filter in the bucket and let it rest in the solution for 24 hours or at least overnight. Then, thoroughly rinse the filter with a hose and allow it to air dry before placing it back in the hot tub.

Important: Whenever you use any kind of spa filter cleaner, make sure you rinse the filters completely before putting them back into the hot tub. Cleaning chemical residue can cause hot tub foam, and you’ll likely have to drain and refill your spa again.

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Hot Tub Filter Cleaning

Hot Tub Filter Cleaning Mistakes

Taking care of your filters helps them work more efficiently, but also helps them last longer so you don’t have to replace them as often. In addition to the correct cleaning process, you want to avoid a few things that could damage your hot tub filters.

1. Never Use Bleach

While bleach can be effective for your hot tub shell, do not use it on your filter. Bleach is a harsh chemical—even when diluted—and it may damage the media fibers, greatly reducing the life of your filter.

2. Avoid Household Cleaners

If you’re trying to save money or just clean your hot tub naturally, you can use household cleaners on nearly every part of your hot tub—except the filters. These cleaners can cause foaming issues in your water, no matter how well you think you’ve rinsed the filter. Use a hot tub filter cleaner that’s explicitly made for filter media.

3. Don’t Use the Dishwasher

Your hot tub filters may come out super clean if they’re placed in the dishwasher. But you’ll also find yourself replacing your filter much sooner than necessary.

Dishwashing detergent is made for hard surfaces like ceramics and plastics, not filter media. It can damage the polyester fibers, reducing the filter’s effectiveness. And never put a hot tub filter cleaning product in your dishwasher.

When to Replace Hot Tub Filters

Cleaning only does so much. After a while, your filters wear out and can no longer effectively clean your water. Plan to change your hot tub filters at least once a year, or more often if you use your spa often or have a high bather load.

You’ll know it’s time for a new filter if the media is ripped or bent, the end caps are brittle, cracked, or very discolored, or you just can’t get your filter clean anymore.

Frequently Asked Questions about Hot Tub Filters

Need more help cleaning your hot tub filters? Here are some common questions and answers.

How Often Should You Rinse Your Hot Tub Filter?

Rinse your filter by spraying it with a garden hose at least once a week. However, there are times you’ll need to do a deeper clean. Once a month, spray your filter with a hot tub filter-cleaning solution. Finally, plan to soak your filters in solution every 3 to 4 months (or whenever you drain your hot tub). This will deep-clean your filter and help it last longer. Replace your filter cartridges once a year or whenever you notice tears or rips.

What Should I Clean My Hot Tub Filters With?

Use a garden hose with a spray nozzle to rinse your filters at least once a week. Then once a month, use a filter-cleaning solution to soak and deep-clean your cartridges. Be sure to spray down your cartridge filter before returning it to your hot tub. Do not put your cartridge in the dishwasher.

Can I Soak my Hot Tub Filters in Vinegar?

Yes, you can use vinegar to soak your hot tub filters, but it’s not as effective as specially formulated filter cleaning solutions. As an acid, the vinegar will help remove scale and mineral deposits on your filter. And there’s no foam or residue left over. But it will not remove heavy buildup, grease, or oil.

Can I Use Bleach on a Hot Tub Filter?

Don’t use bleach to clean your hot tub filter. It can damage the filter fibers and reduce your filter’s lifespan.

Can I Use Dish Soap to Clean a Hot Tub Filter?

Don’t use dish soap on your hot tub filter. It will cause your hot tub water to foam, even if you think you’ve rinsed it all off of your filter media.

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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.
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.

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