FREE shipping on orders over $75. Shop now!
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.
Download Now

How to Winterize a Hot Tub in 11 Steps

By Matt Giovanisci | Updated: December 15, 2020

Soaking in a hot tub while snow falls softly all around you is a tremendously relaxing and magical experience. Getting out of the hot tub while snow falls on you will turn you into a sprinter in the Winter Olympics. But not everyone wants to go for that gold medal.

If that’s you, it’s likely you’d rather close things up and wait until the weather’s warm again before venturing into the spa. We get it. So you may be wondering how to winterize your hot tub to avoid all the upkeep while you’re keeping yourself snug inside. You came to the right place.

Why Learn How to Winterize a Hot Tub?

Because it can save you a lot of money in hot tub repairs and component replacements. Freezing temperatures can do significant damage to your spa, particularly the plumbing lines.

Winterizing your hot tub is protecting your investment. The small amount of time you spend on winterization is worth the savings and equipment longevity you’ll get in return.

Oh, did you see advice on the internet saying you don’t actually have to winterize your hot tub? All you need to do is keep it running? Theoretically, that’s true.

But that also means you’ll have to keep an eye on your hot tub all winter long, testing the water, adding chemicals, cleaning it, and paying for the electricity to run it when you’re not using it.

Doesn’t sound like the best use of your time and money, does it? We don’t think so either.

Location, Location, Location

Let’s be clear that when we talk about winterizing a hot tub, we mean outdoor hot tubs. Inside, in a temperature-controlled environment, the only time you’ll need to close your hot tub is if you’re going to be gone for an extended period of time. We’re talking more than a month.

Let’s also be clear that winterizing a hot tub located outdoors is essential in cold climates. If you live in, say, Arizona where the temperature in the winter seldom falls below the mid-40s, you can probably get away with running your hot tub all winter long—if you plan to use it all winter long.

But if you’re not using it, what’s the point of spending all that money and using up all those chemicals? Comfy winter temperatures or not, if you’re not going to use your spa for an extended period of time, close it.

Winterizing Your Hot Tub

Some of the tasks will be similar to what you do when you drain and clean your hot tub, so they shouldn’t be unfamiliar or difficult. Gather your supplies before you begin so you don’t have to stop halfway through to make any trips to the store.

You’ll need:

1. Let the Chemicals Dissipate

Before you drain all the water into your yard or other location, you need to allow the chemicals levels to drop.

This mostly applies to chlorine and other sanitizers, which can be toxic to plants and wildlife, but none of the chemicals you use in your spa are made to be released anywhere but into your hot tub.

Give it a few days, and test the water. Once the chlorine (or other sanitizer) level has dropped to zero, you can begin winterizing your hot tub.

2. Turn Off the Breaker

It’s not enough to just turn the hot tub off. Make sure there is absolutely no power getting to your hot tub. You can also simply unplug it if it’s not hard-wired.

Important: This cannot be stressed enough. Do not skip this step. Electricity and water do not mix, and failing to cut power to the hot tub will put you—and anyone who may be helping you—in danger during this process. Safety first, always.

3. Drain the Hot Tub

Remove the drain cap, and attach the garden hose to the drain spout. Make sure the other end of the hose is in an appropriate place to drain all the water. Remember, you’ll be releasing roughly 400 gallons of water. Make sure the drainage area can accommodate that amount. Allow the spa to drain.

If you want to drain the spa more quickly, you can pump the water out with a sump pump. Keep an eye on the hot tub so the pump doesn’t run dry. Also remember to remove the drain cap when you’re done using the pump.

Or, if you want to really speed the process up, you can do both.

An inch or two of water will remain at the bottom of the hot tub. Don’t worry about it right now. You’ll get to it later in the process.

Note Keep the drain cap somewhere safe so you’ll be able to find it easily when you’re ready to refill your hot tub. If you misplace the drain cap, don’t worry. You can get a replacement.

4. Drain The Blower

If your hot tub has an air blower you must drain the water from it before continuing.

  1. Turn off the heater. You must never run the heater when the hot tub is empty, so make sure the switch is in the off position.
  2. Cover the hot tub. Put the hard cover in place, just as you normally would.
  3. Turn the breaker on. Or plug the hot tub in, if you just unplugged it.
  4. Turn the hot tub on. This will run the blower. Let it run for about 30 seconds to remove any water from inside it.
  5. Turn the hot tub off.
  6. Turn the breaker off. Or unplug the hot tub.
  7. Remove the cover. Then get back to winterizing your hot tub.

5. Loosen the Unions on the Pumps and Heater

Open the access panel in the cabinet, and locate the pump(s) and heater. Loosen the unions to allow water to drain from the plumbing lines.

If the pump(s) has a drain plug, remove that as well, and allow any water inside the pump to drain out.

Tired of trying to keep your hot tub clean all the time and dealing with chemicals?

You'll save $100 right away with this easy-to-follow digital ebook and video course. This is the ultimate maintenance guide that hot tub manufacturer doesn’t provide you.

Get Instant Access
The Hot Tub Handbook and Video Course

6. Remove and Clean the Filters

You don’t want to leave the filters in place over the winter. You also don’t want to store dirty filters. Remove them, and take this opportunity to clean them.

You could use regular filter cleaner, but since you’ll be storing the filters for weeks, possibly months, we recommend going a little further and putting them in a chemical soak for 24 hours, or at least overnight.

If the filters are beyond cleaning, just dispose of them, and start with new filters when you open your hot tub next season.

Once you’ve removed the filter, remove any water left in the filter well. You can do this with the Shop-Vac, sponges, or towels.

Our Top Pick
Hot Tub Filter Cleanse: Deep-Cleaning Soak

Soak your hot tub filters in our deep-cleaning Filter Cleanse solution, rinse with water, and your filters will look brand new in 24 hours!

Hot Tub Filter Cleanse is a powerful, deep-cleaning solution that removes body oils, lotions, and other organic materials from your hot tub filter cartridges.

Buy Now From Swim University

7. Blow Out The Lines

When you think about how to winterize a hot tub, clearing the water from the lines is the key. If this isn’t done correctly or completely, you may as well not winterize at all.

Leaving water in the plumbing lines over the winter can cause the water to freeze and expand, which can cause the lines to crack or burst. You want your hot tub to be completely empty over the winter, and that means every part of it, not just the tub.

Turn the Shop-Vac’s setting to blow. Insert the hose into every drain, union, and jet, and the filter cavity. Blow into each spot for 10 to 15 seconds to force the water out of the lines and into the tub.

When you finish, repeat the process. Again, you don’t want any water in the lines.

Shop-Vac Stainless Steel Wet Dry Vacuum - 5 gal.
Buy Now
If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

8. Remove the Remaining Water

This is why we said not to worry about a little bit of water left in the tub when you drained it. Now you can remove all the remaining water at once. We’re all about efficiency!

Depending on how much water is now in the tub, you may want to use the sump pump again, and then use the Shop-Vac to pull out whatever the pump can’t get. If it’s just a little water, the Shop-Vac should be able to handle it all.

9. Clean The Shell

This will be the easiest clean you ever did on your hot tub. It’s easy when there’s no water in the way!

Use non-abrasive sponges and hot tub cleaner that doesn’t require rinsing to clean the shell. Wondering how to clean a hot tub without chemicals? You can absolutely use non-toxic products like vinegar and baking soda. Either way, make sure to get all the nooks and crannies.

If you find a ring of hot tub scum where the waterline was, you may need to soak it a bit with the hot tub cleaner before scrubbing it away. You may also want to use a little diluted bleach to kill any bacteria that may be hiding in it.

Don’t forget to remove the headrests and clean under them too. You may find a little water hiding under there, just waiting to grow mold over the winter.

10. Clean The Cover

You probably give your hot tub cover a good wipedown when you do your regular cleaning. But to winterize your hot tub and keep it closed for a few months, that cover needs to be clean.

If your hot tub is outside, use a good cover cleaner that’s also a protectant to shield the cover from the sun’s rays. Clean the underside, the top, and the sides, getting into the crevices created by seams.

Let it air dry, or wipe it dry with a towel. You don’t want to close up any moisture when you cover your hot tub. That’s an invitation to mold and mildew.

11. Secure the Cover

Once the cover’s dry, place it over your spa. If it locks, lock it to prevent anyone or anything from climbing into the hot tub during the winter. All kinds of little critters would love to find a cozy place to stay out of the snow and ice.

Even if your hot tub cover locks, it’s a good idea to further secure it with wind straps to ensure it stays put, even in the harshest winter weather.

Can You Put Antifreeze in a Hot Tub?

Sometimes it’s not a question of can, but a question of should. Sure, you can use hot tub antifreeze, but should you?

No. No, you shouldn’t.

To be more specific, you shouldn’t have to. Once you learn how to winterize a hot tub, you know it entails blowing out the lines and removing every last drop of water from every inch of the spa, inside and out. So there’s no need for antifreeze.

But what if you leave the water in it all winter? Well, then, sure. You could put antifreeze in it, but why would you want to do that?

Leaving the hot tub full all winter is just asking for the work of dealing with cloudy, mucky, gross water spring, which is a bigger job than just winterizing the hot tub.

Call In a Pro

Does all this sound like something you’d just rather not mess with? There’s no shame in calling a pro to do it for you. That way, you can be sure the lines are cleared properly, and that your hot tub will be in good condition when you’re ready to use it again.

The Gold Medal is Yours!

You’ve learned how to winterize a hot tub. Congrats! Now you can sit by the fire, drink hot cocoa, and not have to worry about algae, bacteria, or any spa-related chores for a while.

No sprinting for you. Time for a long winter’s nap.

Happy Winterizing!

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.

Featured Hot Tub Products

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.
Download Now