Cleaning, Swimming Pool

Cleaning a Hot Tub: Complete Step-by-Step Process

Cleaning a hot tub involves different methods depending on your hot tub type. Here are the recommended ways to clean a hot tub for acrylic, wooden, and inflatable hot tubs:

How to Clean a Hot Tub

How to clean acrylic hot tubs:

For acrylic hot tubs, using a non-abrasive cleaner that won’t damage the acrylic finish is important.

  1. A low-detergent, non-abrasive cleaner specifically formulated for spas is recommended. 
  2. You can also create a homemade solution by mixing one part of vinegar with two parts of water in a spray bottle. 
  3. Use a soft cloth, gentle scrubbing pad, or sponge when cleaning the acrylic surface, and avoid using abrasive materials or harsh chemicals like acetone or ammonia. 
  4. Apply a non-oil based surface protectant to protect the spa’s finish from chemicals and minerals.

How to clean wooden hot tubs:

  1. Wooden hot tubs should be cleaned with a brush or a high-pressure cleaner on the outside, and the inside should be cleaned with soap, soda supplements, or similar non-abrasive cleaning agents. 
  2. The wood must be able to absorb water, so avoid using wood cleaning agents on the inside. 
  3. Treat the outside of the hot tub with wood maintenance products like oil or wood glaze 1-2 times a year, but do not use paint or varnish. 
  4. For a deeper clean, drain the hot tub 2-3 times yearly and scrub it with a Scotch-Brite pad.

How to clean inflatable hot tubs:

  1. After draining, inflatable hot tubs should be cleaned with a soft cloth or sponge and warm, slightly soapy water. 
  2. Pay close attention to the water line where grease and grime can build up, and avoid using anything abrasive. 
  3. Rinse thoroughly to ensure no detergent residues are left behind. 
  4. When storing the hot tub, be sure it is completely dry to prevent mildew and mold growth. 
  5. For more stubborn stains or mold, you may need to use a specialist cleaning spray or a bleach and water solution but always follow up with a thorough rinse.
cleaning hot tub

Why Clean a Hot Tub?

You might be wondering why all this fuss about cleaning a hot tub. Well, there are three compelling reasons: your health, the longevity of your hot tub, and its efficiency and performance.

Health Implications

First and foremost, your health is at stake. A poorly maintained hot tub can become a breeding ground for bacteria and mold. These unwanted guests can lead to skin irritations, respiratory issues, and severe infections.

Regular hot tub sanitation and hot tub water care are essential to prevent these health risks. By learning how to clean dirty hot tub water, you’re not just cleaning your tub but safeguarding your health.

Longevity of the Hot Tub

Next, consider the lifespan of your hot tub. Just like any other investment, you want your hot tub to last.

Regular spa cleaning and maintenance can significantly extend the life of your hot tub. It prevents the buildup of grime and mineral deposits that can damage the tub’s surface and internal components.

By cleaning your hot tub deep, you’re ensuring that it will provide relaxation and enjoyment for years to come.

Efficiency and Performance

Finally, let’s talk about efficiency and performance. A clean hot tub works better. It heats faster, the jets function more effectively, and the water stays clear and inviting.

Regular tasks like hot tub filter cleaning, hot tub draining, and hot tub refilling can significantly improve the performance of your tub. A well-maintained hot tub is more energy-efficient, saving you money on your energy bills.

clean hot tub

When to Clean a Hot Tub?

Knowing when to clean a hot tub is just as important as knowing how to clean it. Regular maintenance and keen observation of your hot tub’s condition are vital to keeping it in top shape.

Regular Maintenance Schedule

Establishing a hot tub maintenance schedule is the first step. Regular cleaning prevents the buildup of bacteria, mold, and mineral deposits, ensuring your hot tub is always ready for a relaxing soak. Here’s a simple schedule to follow:

  • Hot tub surface cleaning: Once a week. This includes wiping down the shell and waterline to prevent scum buildup.
  • Hot tub filter cleaning: Every two weeks. A clean filter ensures efficient water circulation and filtration.
  • Hot tub draining and deep cleaning: Every three to four months. This includes hot tub line flushing, hot tub shell cleaning, and hot tub cover cleaning.

Signs That Your Hot Tub Needs Cleaning

In addition to your regular cleaning schedule, you should also be on the lookout for signs that your hot tub needs cleaning. Here are some indicators:

  • Cloudy or foamy water could indicate high mineral content, imbalanced chemical levels, or a dirty filter.
  • Unpleasant smell: A musty or chlorinated smell could indicate bacteria or algae buildup.
  • Slimy or sticky surfaces: This is often a sign of bacterial growth.
  • Poor water flow: This could mean your filter needs cleaning or replacement.

Keeping a regular hot tub cleaning schedule and paying attention to these signs ensures your hot tub stays clean, safe, and enjoyable. So, don’t wait for your hot tub to scream for help. Be proactive and keep it clean!

Materials Needed for Cleaning a Hot Tub

Before you roll up your sleeves and start cleaning a hot tub, gathering all the necessary supplies is essential. The right tools and products will make the process smoother and more efficient. Here’s a list of essential hot tub cleaning products and their purposes:

Cleaning Supplies

  • Hot Tub Cleaner: This specially formulated cleaner removes grime, oil, and scale from your hot tub’s surfaces. It’s essential for hot tub surface cleaning and hot tub shell cleaning.
  • Filter Cleaner: A filter cleaner is used for hot tub filter cleaning. It helps remove oils, scale, and other contaminants that can clog your filter and reduce its efficiency.
  • Soft Cloth or Sponge: You’ll need this for wiping down the surfaces of your hot tub. Always opt for non-abrasive materials to avoid scratching your hot tub’s finish.
  • Soft-Bristled Brush: This is useful for scrubbing stubborn grime or scale, especially in hard-to-reach areas.
  • Garden Hose: You’ll need this for hot tub draining and hot tub refilling.
  • Bucket: A bucket is handy for mixing your cleaning solutions and rinsing.
  • Water Test Kit: This is crucial for hot tub water testing. It helps you monitor the chemical balance of your hot tub water, ensuring it’s safe and comfortable for soaking.
  • Hot Tub Chemicals: These include sanitizers, shock treatments, pH balancers, and other chemicals necessary to maintain water quality in your hot tub.
  • Replacement Filter: It’s a good idea to have a replacement filter on hand, just in case your current filter is beyond cleaning and needs to be replaced.
hot tub cleaning

Step-by-Step Guide to Cleaning a Hot Tub

Cleaning a hot tub might seem daunting, but with the right approach, it’s a breeze. Here’s a detailed, step-by-step guide to cleaning a hot tub.

Flushing the Hot Tub Lines

The first step in deep cleaning a hot tub is flushing the lines. Over time, biofilm – a slimy substance that harbors bacteria – can accumulate in the plumbing lines.

  1. Start by adding a line flush product to your hot tub water. Follow the instructions on the product label for the correct amount.
  2. Turn on your hot tub and let the jets run for about 15-20 minutes. This allows the line flush product to circulate through the plumbing and dislodge any biofilm.
  3. After running the jets, turn off the hot tub and proceed to the next step: hot tub draining.

Draining the Hot Tub

Draining your hot tub is a straightforward process, but it’s important to do it correctly to avoid damaging your tub or the surrounding area.

  1. Locate the drain valve on your hot tub. It’s usually at the base of the tub.
  2. Attach a garden hose to the drain valve and run the other end of the hose to a suitable drainage area.
  3. Open the drain valve and let the water flow out. This may take some time, so be patient.
  4. Once the tub is empty, close the drain valve.

Cleaning the Hot Tub Shell

With the hot tub drained, it’s time to clean the shell. This is where your hot tub cleaner and non-abrasive cloth or sponge comes in handy.

  1. Apply the hot tub cleaner to the shell following the instructions on the product label.
  2. Use the cloth or sponge to wipe down the shell, paying extra attention to any areas with visible grime or scale.
  3. Rinse thoroughly with clean water to remove any residue from the cleaner.

Cleaning or Replacing the Hot Tub Filter

A clean filter is crucial for maintaining clean water in your hot tub. Here’s how to clean or replace your filter.

  1. Remove the filter from its housing. The location and removal process may vary depending on your hot tub model, so refer to your owner’s manual if needed.
  2. Rinse the filter with a garden hose to remove any loose debris.
  3. If your filter is heavily soiled or hasn’t been replaced in a while, consider replacing it with a new one. If not, you can deep clean it using a filter cleaner. Follow the instructions on the product label for the correct usage.
  4. Once the filter is clean or a new one is ready, reinstall it in the filter housing.

Refilling the Hot Tub

With the hot tub and filter clean, it’s time to refill the tub.

  1. Remove the filter and fill the tub with water using a garden hose. The water level should be about halfway up the skimmer opening or as recommended by your hot tub manufacturer.
  2. Reinstall the filter.

Starting Up the Hot Tub

Now that your hot tub is clean and filled with fresh water, it’s time to start it up and balance the water chemistry.

  1. Turn on the hot tub and let the water circulate.
  2. Use your water test kit to check the water’s pH, alkalinity, and sanitizer levels.
  3. Adjust the water chemistry as needed using your hot tub chemicals. Always follow the instructions on the product labels for the correct usage.

Cleaning the Hot Tub Cover and Cabinet

The final step in your hot tub cleaning process is cleaning the cover and cabinet. These parts of your hot tub are often overlooked but need care, too.

  1. Remove the cover and clean it with a mild soap and water solution or a product specifically designed for hot tub covers. Rinse thoroughly and let it dry.
  2. For the cabinet, wipe it down with a damp cloth. If your cabinet is made of wood, consider applying a wood cleaner or polish to keep it looking its best.
cleaning a hot tub

Hot Tub Maintenance Schedule

Maintaining a hot tub is all about consistency and simplicity. You can keep track of tasks without feeling overwhelmed by breaking down the process into manageable steps. This technique, known as chunking, is widely used to improve productivity. It’s just as effective for planning a personal project, like a year’s worth of hot tub maintenance.

Every hot tub is different, but all benefit from simple and consistent maintenance. Setting up a schedule to keep your hot tub in top condition is easier than you might think.

Daily Hot Tub Maintenance

Daily maintenance only requires a few moments. Your daily checklist should include:

  • Ensuring the spa cover is clean and secure
  • Checking the water temperature and adjusting as necessary
  • Checking for damage to the cover and spa

Weekly Hot Tub Maintenance

Adding these tasks to your list three times a week will help keep your hot tub in top condition:

  • Checking the water’s alkalinity
  • Checking and balancing the pH
  • Checking your sanitizer levels
  • Cleaning above the waterline

Weekly Tasks

These tasks need your attention only once a week:

  • Testing your hot tub water
  • Sanitizing and shocking the water
  • Rinsing your hot tub filter with water
  • Wiping down your spa cover

Monthly Tasks

Once a month, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty:

  • Giving your filter a chemical rinse
  • Checking your hot tub jets
  • Having your spa water checked by a professional

Quarterly Tasks (Every 4 Months)

Once every three or four months, you should:

  • Clean your hot tub cabinet
  • Give your filter a chemical soak
  • Drain, clean, and repair your hot tub

Yearly Tasks

While many tasks could, in theory, be done annually for optimal performance, we recommend them as monthly or quarterly tasks. However, these tasks should be tackled at least once a year:

  • Flushing the lines to remove bacteria and biofilm
  • Inspecting your hot tub’s hardware and wiring
  • Having a professional perform a tune-up
  • Inspecting your cover
  • Replacing or updating your hot tub maintenance calendar

Tips for Quick Hot Tub Cleaning

We get it – life is busy. Sometimes, you need a quick solution for cleaning a hot tub. While it’s important to perform a thorough cleaning regularly, there are times when a quick clean is all you can manage. Here are some tips for those moments.

Quick Cleaning Methods

  • Surface Wipe Down: If you’re short on time, a quick wipe down of your hot tub’s interior surfaces can help keep it clean. Use a non-abrasive cloth or sponge and a mild cleaner to wipe away any visible dirt or grime.
  • Filter Rinse: While a deep filter clean is ideal, a quick rinse can help remove surface debris and improve water flow. Simply remove the filter and rinse it with a garden hose.
  • Chemical Check and Balance: Regularly checking and balancing your hot tub’s water chemistry is crucial. Use a water test kit to quickly check the pH, alkalinity, and sanitizer levels, and adjust as necessary.
  • Shock Treatment: A shock treatment can quickly sanitize your hot tub water. It kills bacteria and breaks down contaminants, keeping your water fresh, clear, and safe.

Precautions to Take

Even when you’re in a hurry, safety should never be compromised. Here are some precautions to keep in mind:

  • Never Mix Chemicals: Mixing different harsh chemicals can lead to dangerous reactions. Always add chemicals separately and allow the water to circulate before adding another type of chemical.
  • Don’t Overdo It: More is not always better regarding hot tub chemicals. Adding too much can lead to imbalanced water, damaging your hot tub and irritating your skin and eyes.
  • Keep the Cover On: Keep the cover on when your hot tub is not in use. This prevents debris from entering the tub and reduces the required cleaning.

Remember, a quick clean is not a substitute for regular, thorough hot tub maintenance. But when you’re pressed for time, these tips can help keep your hot tub clean and enjoyable.


What’s the best thing to clean a hot tub with?

The best thing to clean a hot tub is a product specifically designed for hot tub cleaning. These cleaners are formulated to remove grime, oil, and scale effectively without damaging your hot tub’s surfaces. For hot tub filter cleaning, a hot tub filter cleaner is recommended. It’s also important to have a non-abrasive cloth or sponge for wiping down surfaces and a soft-bristled brush to scrub stubborn grime.

Should I use vinegar to clean my hot tub?

Vinegar can be used as a natural cleaning solution for certain hot tub parts. It’s great for hot tub cleaning vinegar methods, especially for descaling and cleaning the cover and shell of the hot tub. However, it’s not recommended for cleaning filters or balancing water chemistry. Always rinse thoroughly after using vinegar to avoid any potential damage to your hot tub’s components.

What is the easiest way to clean a hot tub?

The easiest way to clean a hot tub involves regular maintenance to prevent major issues from developing. This includes weekly surface cleaning, bi-weekly filter cleaning, and quarterly draining and deep cleaning. Using the right products and tools can also make the process easier. And remember, a clean hot tub is not only easier to maintain, but it also provides a more enjoyable soaking experience.

How do you deep clean a hot tub?

Deep cleaning a hot tub involves several steps. First, you’ll need to flush the lines to remove any biofilm. Then, drain the hot tub and clean the shell using a hot tub cleaner. The filter should also be cleaned or replaced at this time. Once the tub is clean, refill it with fresh water, restart the hot tub, and balance the water chemistry.

Related Reading: How Heavy is a Hot Tub? A Comprehensive Weight Guide


Hubert Miles | Licensed Home Inspector, CMI, CPI

Hubert Miles is a licensed home inspector (RBI# 2556) with more than two decades of experience in inspection and construction. Since 2008, he has been serving South Carolina through his company, Patriot Home Inspections LLC. As a Certified Master Inspector, Hubert is dedicated to providing his expertise in home inspections, repairs, maintenance, and DIY projects.