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How to Clean a Hot Tub in Less Than 24 Hours

Matt Giovanisci, Founder and CEO of Swim University By Matt Giovanisci | November 9, 2023

Every hot tub eventually needs a deep clean. That means draining your hot tub, purging the inside of your hot tub plumbing, and cleaning the surfaces. But how often should you clean your hot tub? And when does the water need to be completely replaced?

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to clean your hot tub, including how to clean inside of your hot tub pipes. Watch the video below or keep reading for the complete tutorial.

How Often Should You Clean Your Hot Tub?

Every three to four months, plan to drain and deep clean your hot tub. That’s because contaminants build up over time inside your hot tub plumbing. And these contaminants form a layer of biofilm that makes it resistant to your normal hot tub chemicals. So whenever you’re draining your hot tub, plan to also flush your hot tub plumbing with a hot tub line flush.

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Besides regular quarterly cleaning, when else should you deep clean your hot tub? Here are some signs that it’s time to drain and clean:

If these symptoms are happening more and more often, it’s time to purge your plumbing, clean your surfaces, and replace your water.

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How to Deep Clean a Hot Tub

If you’re planning on a hot tub deep clean, start by purging your hot tub lines with a line flush cleaner. Then drain the water and wipe down the hot tub shell. Finally, refill your hot tub with fresh water and rebalance your hot tub chemicals.

Here’s the complete step-by-step walkthrough of that process:

1. Flush Your Hot Tub Plumbing

Before you drain out any water, you’ll want to purge your hot tub pipes. First, remove your cartridge filters. Then add a hot tub line flush product to the water. This will clear out any grime and biofilm buildup inside your pipes.

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Turn your jets on high, leave your hot tub cover off, and let the line flush circulate for at least 20 minutes (or whatever the manufacturer’s instructions suggest). If you’ve never used a line flush cleaner before, or your hot tub hasn’t been used for a while, you might have a lot of buildup in the pipes. So let the line flush circulate for a few hours, or even overnight.

You’ll notice nasty foam or scum forming on the surface of the water as the line flush cleaner circulates through your hot tub plumbing. That just means it’s working and pulling out all of the biofilm out of your hot tub pipes.

If excess foam starts to form and threatens to overflow, turn off your air valve (jets) and wait for the foam to resettle, or scoop some foam out with a skimmer net. Then restart the jets for another 20 minutes.

2. Drain the Hot Tub

Turn the jets off and shut off your hot tub circuit breaker. Then drain out your water using a hose or submersible pump (sump pump). If you’ve never drained your hot tub water before or you need help finding your drain valve, check out our guide on How to Drain a Hot Tub.

3. Clean the Filter

As your hot tub is draining, clean your hot tub filter. You can spray it with water using a high-powered garden hose nozzle. If your filter is very dirty, soak it in a hot tub filter cleaner solution. We recommend soaking it overnight in the solution. This will clean in between all the pleats, making your filter look and work like new. If you want more help cleaning your filter, check out our walk-through on How to Clean Hot Tub Filters.

If your filter is older than a year or it looks like it is in bad condition, replace it. It’s a good idea to keep a second, clean filter on hand to replace the cartridge while the other one soaks in the filter-cleaning solution.

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4. Clean the Hot Tub Surfaces

Once the water has completely drained, it’s time to clean the hot tub shell. Wipe down all of the surfaces with a soft cloth to avoid scratching the acrylic shell, and use diluted white vinegar. You can also use a hot tub cleaner (sometimes called a polish). But diluted white vinegar works great and won’t affect your water chemistry. A multi-purpose surface cleaning product will work as well.

Be sure to clean all of the nooks and crannies and the headrests. No matter what you use to scrub your hot tub, be sure to rinse it thoroughly before you start refilling, or you may end up with foam.

5. Refill the Hot Tub

Before refilling, double-check that all your jets are open. This reduces the risk of water pressure problems from trapped air.

Then, refill the tub with fresh, clean water. Use a hose filter to remove any impurities, like minerals and metals.

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Fill the hot tub by putting the hose inside the filter. The water will fill up the pipes inside the hot tub first, which will help prevent hot tub air locks. If you do end up with an air lock issue, check out our guide for more help. Your water level should be at least halfway up the skimmer opening.

6. Clean the Hot Tub Cover and Spa Cabinet

Wipe down the underside of your cover with a diluted solution of vinegar or bleach (10% bleach solution). If your hot tub is outside, you may also want to apply a cover protectant to help avoid sun damage. Then, clean your spa cabinet (the hot tub “frame”). Most cabinets are made from wood, so use a gentle wood cleaner and a soft cloth. We have a full guide on How to Clean a Hot Tub Cover if you need more help.

7. Rebalance the Water Chemistry

Once the hot tub is filled, test the water. Keep your jets on low and your air blower off when adding chemicals. You want the chemicals to circulate and dissipate, but too much air in the water can cause high pH and oxidization.

Start by balancing your total alkalinity and pH. Your alkalinity levels should be between 100 PPM and 150 PPM (80 PPM is okay), and your pH levels should be between 7.4 and 7.6. If you’re struggling to get your chemistry balanced, check out our Hot Tub Chemistry 101 guide.

Wait for the chemicals to circulate and dissipate (at least 20 minutes), then add your chlorine or bromine to sanitize the water. You don’t need to add shock since the water is new. Allow the water to circulate through the hot tub for at least 8 to 12 hours with the cover on. Warm water helps the chemicals dissolve, so be sure to heat up your water.

How to Keep Your Hot Tub Clean

The first step to keeping your hot tub clean is sticking to a simple, weekly cleaning schedule. This means wiping down the surfaces above the water line, rinsing your filters, and balancing your water chemistry.

Once a week, you’ll want to do the following hot tub care routine:

  1. Test your hot tub water. Check your alkalinity, pH, and chlorine or bromine levels once a week with test strips. Then rebalance your chemistry as needed. This will keep your water sanitized and bacteria and algae at bay.
  2. Shock your water. Regularly shocking your hot tub recharges your sanitizer and keeps your hot tub healthy. Use a non-chlorine shock weekly or a chlorine shock if you’ve had heavy hot tub usage. If you need more help with shocking, check out our guide on How to Shock a Hot Tub.
  3. Rinse your filter. A clean filter protects against cloudy water, funky smells, bacteria, and algae. Spray your filter cartridges with a hose once a week and spray them with a filter cleaning solution once a month. Then soak it in the filter cleaner whenever you’re draining your hot tub.
  4. Wipe down your hot tub cover. Cleaning the top of your cover and underneath it protects against mold, mildew, and nasty smells. Wipe it down with a 10% vinegar-to-water solution to keep mildew away.
  5. Wipe down the shell and scum line. Using a sponge (or a damp cloth) and diluted white vinegar, wipe away any debris and scum above the waterline. And don’t forget to wipe down the headrests.

Now that you know how to clean your hot tub the right way, you can avoid lots of issues like cloudy water and scummy water. And if you keep your water balanced and your filters clean, you should only have to do a full drain and clean every 3-4 months.

Frequently Asked Questions about Hot Tub Cleaning

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

Can I Use Vinegar to Clean a Hot Tub?

Diluted white vinegar is great for cleaning hot tub surfaces, but it’s not the best choice for trying to purge your hot tub plumbing. The sludge that builds up in the pipes responds much better to a hot tub line flush that’s powerful enough to break down any biofilm completely.

What Should I Use to Clean the Inside of My Hot Tub?

Because your hot tub shell is made of acrylic and can scratch easily, use a soft cloth or sponge to wipe down your surfaces. Use diluted white vinegar or a hot tub shell polish. Finally, a multi-surface cleaner that’s made to clean vinyl, fabric, and metal can be used to clean your hot tub cover.

How Do I Clean a New Hot Tub?

To clean a brand new hot tub, start by rinsing the jets, filter well, and shell with water. That’s because new hot tubs are usually shipped with antifreeze inside the fittings and plumbing. Then drain and remove the water with a sump pump, shop vac, or garden hose. Wipe down the surfaces with a soft cloth and diluted white vinegar, then fill the hot tub with filtered water.

When Should I Drain My Hot Tub?

While weekly cleaning will help with most hot tub issues, plan to drain your hot tub and change out the water every three to four months. This also includes purging your hot tub pipes.

Why do you need to drain and clean your plumbing? Every time you use your spa, contaminants like hair products, sweat, and body oils get into the water and pass through the filter and plumbing. And as those contaminants pass through the pipes, they start to build up and create a layer called biofilm. The only way to get rid of biofilm is to drain your hot tub and use a line flush cleaner.

Besides regularly draining it every three to four months, you’ll need to drain your hot tub if:

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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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