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How to Drain a Hot Tub and Clean It to Look Brand New

By Matt Giovanisci | Updated: April 17, 2023

Did you know you should drain and clean your hot tub every 3 to 4 months? That’s because contaminants and biofilm build up in your pipes and cause cloudy water, slime, and scum lines. And the only way to get rid of it is by flushing your pipes and draining the water.

So here’s a step-by-step guide on draining, cleaning, and refilling your hot tub. We’ll walk you through the fastest and easiest way to drain your hot tub, clean it, and refill it. You can also watch our full video below 👇

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If this is your first time, here are the supplies you’ll need to drain and clean your hot tub:

How to Drain a Hot Tub (in 7 Steps)

Whoa, not so fast! Don’t pull the drain plug just yet. You have some work to do before you drain water from your spa.

1. Add a Hot Tub Line Flush Cleaner

Adding a hot tub line flush will purge your plumbing lines of any gunk and build-up. So before you drain any water, add the line flush cleaner, turn your jets on high, and let it circulate for at least 20 minutes.

You might notice gross-looking foam on the surface of the water as the cleaner circulates through your spa plumbing. That means it’s working and pulling out all of that nasty biofilm that’s in your pipes. Before draining the hot tub, you can remove that gunk with a small surface skimmer.

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Biofilm ends up in your water, eating up chlorine and exposing you and other bathers to contaminants, such as Legionella, which causes Legionnaires’ Disease, Staphylococcus aureus, which commonly causes hot tub folliculitis, and E. coli. When this goo forms inside your lines, it can’t be removed through normal spa water circulation, filtration, or even by adding more sanitizer or shock.

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2. Drain Your Hot Tub

Before draining, shut off your hot tub at the circuit breaker. You don’t want your jets or pump to kick on without water.

There are two options for draining your spa:

  1. Connect a hose to the hot tub drain valve. Unscrew the drain plug and connect the hose. Then open your drain’s ball valve or turn the base of your drain to start the flow of the water. The water will drain out over the next few hours.
  2. Use a submersible pump (sump pump). This is a faster option. Attach a garden hose to your sump pump. Then place the pump inside the deepest part of the hot tub. Plug in the pump and turn it on. Just be sure to keep an eye on the water level. If the pump runs dry, it can burn up the motor.

Where is drain plug on hot tub?

Your hot tub has a drain valve near the cabinet’s bottom. Some models may have two drain spigots. The primary spigot drains the hot tub while the auxiliary spigot is meant for bleeding the internal lines.

Whichever method you choose, drain your water into a sewer cleanout port or a utility sink in your home. Do not empty the water into a storm drain. And be careful emptying it into your lawn or garden since the water has chemicals.

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Note: There will be a little water left in the center footwell of your spa. The best way to drain the remaining water is to use a wet/dry vacuum (shop vac). You can also use a siphon-powered spa vacuum (spa wand) if you have one.

3. Clean or Replace the Hot Tub Filter

While the water drains from your spa, you have plenty of time to clean your spa filter. You can soak them in our hot tub filter cleaner for a deep clean. Grab a 5-gallon (20-litre) bucket, and fill it nearly to the brim with water. Add the dose of hot tub filter cleaner indicated in the product instructions, give the water a swish to dilute the cleaner, and submerge the filter. Leave it to soak for 24 hours.

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Important: Anytime you clean your filter with a cleaning product, rinse it thoroughly with clean water before placing it back in your hot tub. Any residual cleaner might cause foaming when you restart your spa, and then you’ll have to repeat this entire process.

However, if you remove the filter and it’s extremely dirty or worn out, it’s time to replace it.

4. Clean the Hot Tub Shell

Once it’s empty and you have removed the sump pump, your spa is ready for surface cleaning.

Tip: Between quarterly draining and cleaning, you can clean the portion of the shell that’s above the waterline. Any cleaner you use may end up in the water, so we recommend using a melamine sponge (also called a Magic Eraser).

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5. Refill The Hot Tub With Fresh Water

Set aside some time for refilling the spa. You don’t want to leave it unattended and end up with a flooding situation, especially if your hot tub is indoors. And double-check to ensure the breaker is still off. Better safe than sorry.

Tip: When refilling your hot tub, use a hose filter to reduce impurities such as calcium and copper that may affect your water chemistry and overall spa health. You’ll start out with higher-quality water in your spa and reduce the risk of staining and mineral deposit buildup.

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6. Clean The Hot Tub Cover and Cabinet

As you wait for your hot tub to drain and refill, you can take on a few other tasks to get a fully clean hot tub.

If you’re using a hot tub cover, now is the perfect time to clean that, too. If your spa resides outside, you may also want to apply a protectant to the cover to help avoid sun damage.

Don’t get so focused on the inside of the hot tub that you forget the outside! Your spa cabinet puts up with a lot of abuse in the form of splashout, humidity, and sun if it’s outside. Take some time to care for it, and it’ll last much longer.

Depending on what your cabinet is made from, clean it with an appropriate product. Most cabinets are made from wood, so use a gentle wood cleaner and a soft cloth.

Apply a wood protectant as well, whether your hot tub is indoors or out. And if it’s outside, use a protectant with a UV shield.

7. Start Up Your Hot Tub

  1. First, be sure you’ve replaced your hot tub filter.
  2. Then, turn your spa’s main breaker back on.
  3. Turn off the air valves so they don’t disrupt chemical distribution.
  4. Then turn on your hot tub and let it run for 20 minutes.
  5. Next, test the water. Adjust pH, alkalinity, calcium hardness and your chlorine or bromine one at a time. If you’re not sure how to add chemicals or what order to add them, be sure to check out our Hot Tub Start Up guide.
  6. After adding your chemicals, allow the chemicals to circulate, and let the water heat up to at least 80°F (27°C) but no higher than 104°F (40°C).
  7. Then, retest the water to make sure your water’s balanced.

Frequently Asked Questions About How to Drain a Hot Tub

Now that you know how to drain your hot tub and how to clean your hot tub, there’s no excuse to let your spa descend into swamp territory. Keep the water balanced, test it regularly, and keep your filter clean, and you should only have to do a full drain and clean every quarter.

What’s the easiest way to drain a hot tub?

The easiest way is to hook up a hose to your hot tub’s drain valve somewhere around the outside perimeter under the cabinet. Remove the drain plug, and it should start draining. You may have to pull on a tab to get the water flowing. This is easy but slow. Using a sump pump would be faster.

How do you drain all the water out of a hot tub?

The best way is to use a submersible pump (sump pump) in the deepest part of your hot tub. You can use a shop vac or hot tub siphon vacuum for any water that your pump doesn’t remove.

When should you drain your hot tub?

How can you tell it’s time to drain and clean your hot tub? Look for a few clear signs and circumstances.

How often should you drain your hot tub?

It’s a good idea to drain and clean your hot tub every 3-4 months, whether it looks like it needs it or not. Prevention is always preferable to correction. Keep the biofilm from building up in the first place, and you’re protecting your filter and plumbing system. You’re also maintaining a cleaner, safer soaking environment. So it’s always a good idea to keep instructions for how to drain the hot tub nearby to ensure you follow all the steps every time.

Where should you drain hot tub water?

Many cities have laws requiring you to drain your hot tub water into the sewer system. Those cities typically provide sewer access through a special drain on your property. This is not to be confused with a storm drain, where you should never dispose of hot tub water because those drains lead to natural bodies of water. Drained spa water can harm fish and other wildlife.

If you don’t have direct sewer access, you can run a hose into the drain in a utility sink in your home, or water your lawn or gardens with the old spa water, provided you’ve allowed chemical levels to dissipate. Plants don’t exactly thrive on chlorine.

Important: Before you drain your hot tub, check your city’s ordinances to ensure you’re adhering to the law, and preventing any damage to the environment.

Need More Hot Tub Maintenance Help?

Matt Giovanisci is the founder of Swim University® and has been in the pool and spa industry since 1995. 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.

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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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