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How to Buy and Care for a Hot Tub Cover

By Matt Giovanisci | Updated: November 1, 2017

The price tag on a high-quality hot tub cover might make you wonder whether it’s really worth the investment. Spoiler alert: It is.

If you like keeping chemicals and heat in your hot tub while protecting it from debris and damage and extending its lifespan, then yes, a cover really is worth the money. The key is to choose the right one for your spa and your needs, and then to care for it so it lasts. In the end, that initial payout and the subsequent maintenance you perform will actually save you money.

Fight Water, Heat, and Chemical Loss

Evaporation is the enemy of all spa owners. Surely you know that some of your water ends up in the air, especially if the air where you live is very dry. Your water level drops, sometimes costing you a bit of money to top it off.

But that’s not the worst thing evaporation has in store for you. It will suck chemicals and heat out of your hot tub, too, throwing your sanitizer levels out of whack and forcing your spa to work harder to keep the water hot.

You can significantly reduce the effects of evaporation on your relaxation station by putting a lid on your hot tub. A cover that fits properly, without gapping, will keep your heat, chemicals, and water locked inside your spa.

Keep the Water in and the Nasties Out

A more obvious benefit to using a hot tub cover than keeping things in, is keeping them out. A cover will prevent all types and sizes of debris from winding up in your hot tub, such as sticks, leaves, and bugs. If your hot tub is indoors, a cover will keep dust and pet hair out too.

And regardless of where your hot tub is, a cover will also prevent technological disasters. Imagine walking by your uncovered hot tub and losing your grip on your smartphone or tablet. Bloop! Right into the water. Just the thought gives us the willies.

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Make Your Hot Tub Safe

A cover is also a physical barrier that will keep small children or animals finding their way into the water unnoticed. Because fewer drownings occur in spas than pools, they’re sometimes taken less seriously than the hazard they are. Don’t make that mistake.

ASTM International, one of the largest standards-developing organizations in the world, has established performance specifications for hot tub covers. An ASTM International-certified cover will help prevent tragic accidents from happening in your hot tub. Look for this certification when shopping for your cover.

hot tub cover Anatomy

Before you make such an important purchase, you should know what you’re getting for your money. What’s underneath that fancy vinyl cover, anyway? How exactly does it provide all those awesome benefits?

Hot tub covers have removable, vinyl shells, which zipper open and closed. Most are made up of two sections attached by a hinge between them. Each section contains a solid piece of dense foam.

Folded Hot Tub Cover

In outdoor covers, the foam is thicker in the middle (on either side of the hinge), then tapers down to the outer edges to help keep debris from accumulating on and causing damage to the cover. Buying a tapered cover is just one way to protect your spa cover from bad weather.

Before being slipped into the vinyl shell, the foam is wrapped in one or two protective layers of plastic. This is the vapor barrier, and its job is to keep the smaller water particles—the vapor—from reaching the foam.

High-quality covers are reinforced with steel bars near the middle, but some also have multiple bars spaced evenly throughout the foam, making for a sturdier cover. Generally, the cover includes handles and tie-down straps as well.

Anatomy of a Hot Tub Cover

Hot Tub Features the Pros Know

When you’re shopping around for an important (and expensive) item, you gotta know the lingo. Knowing what these terms mean for the quality, lifespan, and effectiveness of your hot tub cover can make a big difference in your purchase.

Measure Twice, Order Once

You can’t be sure a hot tub cover will fit without first measuring your hot tub. We’re all familiar with how rulers work, so figuring out the correct size hot tub cover to purchase should be a breeze, right? Well, maybe not.

Even if your spa is a perfect square, the corners are probably rounded, and not every spa has the same size curve on those rounded corners. Before you drive yourself crazy trying to remember high school math, let us help you.

Note: If you already own a hot tub cover, you may take these measurements with it on your spa, just don’t add extra inches where noted.

To measure the corners of your hot tub, you can use a framing square (an L-shaped ruler), two rulers held together at their zero ends, or a printable diagram offered by some retailers. The easiest, most accurate choice is the framing square.


Hot tubs with unusual shapes, water features, and built-in sound systems may require you to special order a custom hot tub cover. Sometimes custom covers require you to create and send a template to the manufacturer to ensure proper fit.

How to Clean and Maintain Your hot tub cover

Don’t be stingy about the tender, loving care you give your spa cover. The better you treat it, the longer it will last, and the more money you’ll save. You can limit sun damage, prevent mold, and avoid premature chemical damage by sticking to some good cleaning and maintenance habits.

Daily Cleaning: As often as needed, brush debris off your hot tub cover. 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.

Twice Monthly Cleaning: Do a deeper cleaning at least every other week to prevent mold growth and other damage.

  1. Remove the cover completely. Lay it flat on a non-abrasive surface. Spray it with a cleaner made for vinyl. Wipe or rinse it clean per the product instructions. Don’t forget the sides 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 solution of 1:10 parts distilled white vinegar or bleach to water. 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.
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Odor Problems: If you start to notice a funky smell coming from your cover, you may be growing a mold and mildew problem. Surface mildew can be scrubbed off with cleaner, then treated with a diluted vinegar or bleach solution.

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.

Basic 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, and let it dry completely before replacing it.

Stay on top of your hot tub 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.

Give Your Back a Break

Is there anything more you could possibly want once you have the perfect hot tub cover? Of course! For example, how are you planning to get that thing on and off your hot tub? You could do it by hand and keep a standing appointment with your chiropractor. Or you can get a lifter to do the hard work for you.

hot tub cover Lifter

This is available as hydraulic arms that bear all the weight of opening your hot tub, manual arms that lighten the load, or a simple shelf to slide your cover onto. Spa cover lifters make it a one-person job to open and enjoy your hot tub. It’s possible to survive without one, but why would you want to?

Protect Your Spa Cover from the Elements

Wind. Rain. Sun. They’re all necessary, and while they can do wonders for plants and animals, they can wreak absolute havoc on your hot tub cover.

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

Ensure the Cover is Secured

After a while, covering your hot tub will become routine. But make sure no matter how often you cover your spa, 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 good and tight.

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.

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.

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.

It may seem like a big grill is too heavy to be moved, but if a storm is serious enough, it can pick up a grill like it’s nothing, and then dump it right on top of your spa cover. Then you’ll have to buy a new cover and a new grill. No fun.

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.

Trim Bushes and Trees

While hot tub landscaping is definitely a nice addition to your back yard 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.

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 back yard leisure game to a whole new level.

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 that, keep your cover in good condition longer, which means you won’t have to replace it as often.

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.

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.

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 Volvo, 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.

Uncover More Hot Tub Happiness

Sure, a cover brings its own set of expenses and tasks. But we think you’ll agree it’s worth it. You’ve spent all that money on a spa. Spend just a little more to protect it, and you’ll be able to enjoy it for years to come.

Happy Soaking!

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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