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How to Drain a Hot Tub Quickly (3 Simple Steps)

Matt Giovanisci, Founder and CEO of Swim University By Matt Giovanisci | January 31, 2024

Looking for the best way to drain your hot tub or swim spa? Use the drain valve located at the bottom of your hot tub AND a sump pump. Combining both of these draining methods will empty your hot tub in less than 30 minutes.

Before you drain a hot tub, use a line flush cleaner to deep-clean and purge your hot tub plumbing.

Here’s a quick guide on how to drain a hot tub to get it ready for deep cleaning and refill it with new, fresh water. Keep reading for the step-by-step walkthrough, or watch the full video tutorial below. 👇

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Do These 2 Things Before You Empty The Hot Tub

Before you physically drain out the water, plan to flush out your lines. Once the water is removed, make sure you give yourself time to wipe down the surfaces before refilling it.

1. Add a Line Flush Cleaner to Deep Clean Your Hot Tub Plumbing

Adding a hot tub line flush will purge your plumbing lines of any gunk and build-up as you use your hot tub. This gunk is called biofilm, which forms inside your lines. And it can’t be removed by your normal hot tub sanitizer like chlorine or bromine. So before you drain the water, add the line flush cleaner, turn your jets on high, and let it circulate for at least 20 minutes.

Adding Detox to the Hot Tub Water

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

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2. Clean or Replace the Hot Tub Filter

While the water drains from your hot tub, take a moment to clean your hot tub filter. Remove the cartridge and soak it in a hot tub filter cleaner. Grab a 5-gallon (20-liter) bucket and fill it nearly to the brim with water. Add the dose of hot tub filter cleaner to the bucket of water (according to 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.

Keep a second, clean filter cartridge on hand so you can restart your hot tub while the dirty filter cartridge soaks in solution overnight. And if you ever remove a filter cartridge and it’s extremely dirty or worn out, it’s time to replace it.

How to Drain a Hot Tub in 3 Steps

I’ll walk you through my exact process for draining (and cleaning) a hot tub really fast. Make sure you read everything before starting so you don’t miss any crucial elements.

1. 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. Then, decide how you want to remove the water. There are three options for draining your hot tub: a hose, a sump pump, or both.

How to Drain a Hot Tub with a Sump Pump
  1. Draining with a hose (slow). If you’re using a hose, start by finding and removing the cap on the hot tub drain valve. This is usually near the base of your hot tub so that water can drain from the lowest point of the spa. Once you’ve found the spa drain, unscrew the drain plug and connect the hose. 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. Draining with a submersible pump (fast). 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. Depending on the size of your hot tub, this could take an hour.
  3. Draining with both (fastest): The fastest option is to combine the first two methods. You can use your hot tub’s drain valve while using a sump pump. How long does it take to drain a hot tub? With this method it’s usually less than 30 minutes depending on the size of your spa.

Where is the drain plug on my hot tub?

Your hot tub has a drain valve near the bottom of your tub. 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. There may also be a panel hiding the drain valve.

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.

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.

2. Clean the Hot Tub Surfaces

Once your hot tub is empty, it’s time for some surface cleaning.

  1. Spray your hot tub shell with hot tub surface cleaner or diluted white vinegar. Pay special attention to nooks and crannies where contaminants like mildew, algae, or bacteria could be hiding.
  2. Use a soft cloth or non-scratch nylon scrubber to remove residue.
  3. Rinse all the surfaces well, and drain all the rinse water to prevent foaming when you refill your spa.
  4. Double-check that all your jets are open after cleaning and rinsing. This reduces the risk of water pressure problems from trapped air.

Tip: Between quarterly draining and cleaning, you can clean the portion of the shell that’s above the waterline.

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3. Refill with Fresh Water and Restart Hot Tub

As you refill your hot tub, don’t leave it unattended, as flooding can cause issues with your hot tub heater. Double-check to ensure the breaker is still off.

  1. Insert the hose into the filter compartment, and turn on the spigot. Filling through the filter well forces any trapped air out of your circulation system, preventing hot tub air lock.
  2. Once the hot tub is full, add your clean filter cartridge. Then, turn your spa breaker back on.
  3. Add your start-up chemicals. Keep your hot tub running with your jets on low. Turn off air valves if you have them so they don’t disrupt chemical distribution. Let chemicals circulate for at least 20 minutes before adding the next round, and test the water in between. If you need help with the right order to add chemicals, check out our Hot Tub Start-Up Guide.
  4. Cover your hot tub for 24 hours to allow the chemicals to circulate completely and the water to heat up to at least 80°F (27°C), but no higher than 104°F (40°C).

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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Now that you know how to drain your hot tub and how to clean it, 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.

Frequently Asked Questions About Draining a Hot Tub

Need more help draining a hot tub? Here are some common questions and answers.

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 and your drain valve. You can use a shop vac or hot tub siphon vacuum for any water that your pump doesn’t remove.

How often should you drain your hot tub?

Drain and clean your hot tub every 3-4 months to prevent biofilm buildup and maintain a cleaner, safer soaking environment. Keep instructions for draining the hot tub nearby and follow all steps properly.

Where should you drain hot tub water?

Many cities require draining hot tub water into the sewer system. Those cities typically provide sewer access through a special drain on your property. Do not confuse this with storm drains. They lead to natural bodies of water and 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 or bromine.

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.
It’s crucial for hot tub owners to regularly drain their tubs to maintain cleanliness and ensure optimal performance. By understanding why and when to drain, as well as employing effective deep cleaning methods, you can keep your hot tub in top shape. So, don’t skip this important hot tub maintenance step and enjoy a sparkling, relaxing soak every time!

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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.

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Save Time and Money with Our FREE Hot Tub Cheat Sheet
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