When you spend all that money on a hot tub, you’ll need to learn how to properly clean and maintain it. Maintaining a clean, bacteria-free hot tub shouldn’t be taken lightly. You’ll need to consider the chemicals to keep the water pH levels perfect, how to remove bacteria from the cover, and exactly how to keep the jets and pumps at peak performance. Whether you want to learn the right amount of chlorine, how to remove calcium hardness, or the total alkalinity, we cover everything you could possibly want to know in this complete guide to maintaining your hot tub.
Maintaining the pH in the Hot Tub
It’s important to maintain the right amount of chemicals in your hot tub. First, you’ll need to consider whether the tap water in your area is suitable for your hot tub. Some water is soft, some is hard, other water has a high pH, or high levels of chloramines.
One of the most important purchases you can make after the hot tub itself is a test kit. Water from the tap is almost always suitable with the right addition of chemicals and the use of spa filters. Between chemicals and filters, you’ll be able to use tap water from the faucet in your home, but it’s vital that you understand what’s needed before dumping chemicals.
The test kit will let you know what you need to add to the water before it enters the tub, but you’re not done after testing and treating the water. To maintain the water in the hot tub, you have to test it regularly to ensure there’s a perfect balance of chemicals in the water itself.
How to Keep it Clean with Chlorine
Whether you want to invite friends into the hot tub or enjoy it with your significant other, you have to keep the water clean. Bacteria can build up in water that isn’t drained every day unless that water is treated.
The testing you’ll do a few times a week will let you know if you need to “shock” the water of your hot tub. It’s the same process used for swimming pools. It’s not necessary to add chemicals each time you use the spa, but you’ll need to test frequently.
When using chlorine for your hot tub, it’ll react differently than it does for cool water. Chlorine has a short life in hot water, which is the essence of a hot tub. This means that you’ll add the chlorine to the spa. It’ll instantly kill bacteria, but almost as fast, the chlorine will be gone. This can be a benefit or disadvantage depending on your preferences.
Using Bromine for Your Hot Tub
Bromine is another chemical you may choose for your spa. This is a much more stable chemical to add to your hot tub since it reacts differently in hot water than chlorine does. Bromine will stay active in the water for a long time, which means that it’ll do its job long after chlorine would have disappeared.
The chemical will enter the water, kill germs and bacteria then essentially remains dormant until its woken back up to work on bacteria again. With bromine, you’re not worrying about shocking the water every few days. Initially, chlorine is less expensive, but it can become more expensive over time since it’ll have to be used more often.
What if You Don’t Want Chemicals?
It can be harder to maintain safe, bacteria-free water without using chemicals. When you want to have a more natural hot tub without the harsh chemicals, you could try using bromine instead of chlorine, too. It’s not as harsh and doesn’t act negatively against your skin and hair.
If you want to avoid chemicals completely and use a more natural method of maintaining your hot tub, it’ll take much more work on your part.
Natural Ways to Clean and Maintain the Tub
Replace the Filter Cartridge
When using a chemical in the hot tub, it’s important to change the spa filter every 12 to 24 months. When you don’t use chemicals to clear the germs and bacteria, you’ll want to change the filter more frequently. It should be replaced with a new one every 6 to 12 months instead. You can also choose one with more square footage of filtering power. When ordering a filter, you’ll see one that is more expensive. It’s one with more pleats, which will give you more surface to remove waste and bacteria.
You should drain your hot tub every few months when you’re not using chemicals to keep the water clean. A non-chlorine spa will end up with jets and hoses clogged with bacteria. Use a purge product made for cleaning the jets, pumps, and hoses of the hot tub to help remove the residue that might be left behind.
Instead of using chlorine or bromine for the bacteria, you can use a mineral purifier. An ozone sanitizer can be used on the hot tub without leaving behind harsh chemicals. Most bacteria that causes disease can be killed with a mineral cartridge and ozonator.
While shocking the water is normally associated with chlorine, it’s possible to shock the water by oxidizing it. The oxidization process doesn’t require chlorine and doesn’t alter the chemistry of the water itself. In fact, you can use the hot tub right after shocking.
Shower Before Use
Many people use their hot tub as a large soaker bathtub, which means they won’t shower before using it. When you don’t shower before using the hot tub, you’re bring in bacteria from your body as well as oils, skin cells, and perspiration. This will create a huge demand for sanitizing the water.
Water Levels in Your Outdoor Hot Tub
People often forget to add fill water to their hot tub to ensure that the levels are maintained. When the water is below level, the skimmer can suck in air, which can damage the pump. The water should be kept at the same level as much as possible.
Keep a garden hose nearby to make it easier to add water when you need it. If you don’t keep water available close to the hot tub, you’re likely to forget to add more water. The water level will fall, the skimmer will take in air, and the pump will break. This is one of the biggest parts of maintenance that many people seem to forget or ignore. Water will be lost to evaporation and splashing as people get in and out of the tub frequently.
How to Maintain Function in the Pumps and Jets
Without the pumps and jets, your hot tub is a tiny pool. The jets and pumps tell you a lot about how the hot tub is functioning, but they have to be maintained if you want to prolong the life of the hot tub. People tend to overlook the jets unless there’s a problem with one of them. That problem could involve dirt, debris, or calcium buildup.
Maintenance of the jets should be done when the tub is drained. Make it a part of your overall cleaning and maintenance routine. You’ll need to remove the jets to clean them properly, and you should look to your user manual to learn how to remove them properly.
Once the nozzles are removed, you can use a solution of water and vinegar to remove much of the dirt and debris. If you battle hard water deposits and calcium, you can use a solution specific for that kind of problem. It’s important to sanitize the jets before placing them back into the hot tub, too. Many people end up with a sickness due to dirty jets.
If you’re not comfortable removing and cleaning the jets yourself, you can always hire a professional spa technician to service and clean the hot tub once or twice a year. This should be done more often if you decide to go natural with no chemicals in your hot tub.
Clean the Spa and Filters
Along with keeping the water at the right level, temperature, and pH balance, you’ll need to ensure that the hot tub is clean, too. You should never use soap or household cleanser to clean the surfaces of the spa above the waterline or the shell of the tub below the waterline. To clean the surfaces of the hot tub, there are specific cleaners that will keep the shell in good shape while not impacting the balance of the water’s chemical makeup.
Debris floating in the hot tub can be removed with a skimmer net like those used for pools. While you should be using a spa cover, there are times when debris will fall into the water during use, or you might even forget to place the cover on the hot tub when you’re not using it.
The same treatment you would give to a pool can be used for a hot tub. Purchase a vacuum to scrub the surface of the tub to remove grit and grime from the surfaces below the waterline. It can be used for the grit in the corners of the tub, too.
Clean the Cover Frequently
Maintenance and cleaning should include the hot tub cover, too. Every few months, you’ll want to remove the cover and clean it properly. The cover is notorious for providing a place for dirt and debris to enter the hot tub. This is normally because owners don’t clean them as much as they should. They assume that the cover can get dirty on the outside and still do its job to keep the water clean on the inside. That just isn’t possible if the cover is allowed to become musty, cracked, or covered with mildew.
Every few weeks, the cover should be washed down thoroughly. The cover is made from a marine-grade material that can handle being exposed to the elements constantly, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t require cleaning. Use a solution of water and bleach to remove dirt and mildew from the cover. You might decide to use a professional cleaning product that ensures the cover won’t crack or wear before its time.
You can place a tarp over the hot tub cover to keep it from sitting out in the rain or snow every day. Covers can become heavy and waterlogged over time. If you remove the cover and lay it flat in the sun, that will allow it to dry completely and ensure it stays light for as long as possible.
The Alkalinity of Your Hot Tub Water
We mentioned testing the water previously. You definitely want to check for alkalinity of the water frequently. A balanced water level will be between 125 and 150 ppm or parts per million. When the alkalinity is allowed to rise or fall out of those levels, you can have a serious problem within the environment.
Low alkalinity can be a serious problem within the spa itself. It can lead to corrosion of the spa’s jets and other parts. It can cause eye and skin irritation as well. You’ll need to use an alkalinity increaser to bring the levels into the normal realm. When the alkalinity is low, the pH balance can be low, too. You’ll want to increase that before adding an increaser to the water.
High alkalinity can cause scale build up over time in the tub. The alkalinity level can be an indication regarding the pH being high, too. This is the opposite of low alkalinity, but it will still cause eye and skin irritation. You’ll need to add a decreaser to the water to bring the alkalinity back down to normal levels.
It’s important to keep the alkalinity balanced at all times. You’ll want to test the water every couple of days to ensure it stays in a balanced state. Over time, it can be harder to maintain the right amount of alkalinity versus the pH level. When this happens, it is probably time to drain and refill with new water.
Cost of Maintaining a Hot Tub
While many people realize that they’ll have to pay for water to fill the tub, they might not understand the other bills that can occur with the maintenance of the hot tub.
You’ll need to have the correct voltage plug near to the hot tub to run all the pumps and filters. It requires a 220 volt electric line that you might have to have installed. The added electricity each month will depend on how often you run the tub, but you can expect a minimum of $50 extra per month.
Each filter can cost approximately $20-$40 each. If you decide to go without chemicals in your hot tub, you’ll need to replace them more often and purchase bigger filters.
Chemicals and Testing
Each week, you’ll have to spend money on test kits and chemicals – unless you’re going chemical-free. You’ll need to monitor the pH levels as well as purchase chlorine or bromine. The test kits will need to be purchased frequently, can run approximately $100, and last a few months.
The water bill will vary based on when you have to fill the tub completely after having it drained. Each month, you’ll need to fill it slightly from people leaving the tub and dripping water or splashing water outside of the tub.
After the tub is out of warranty, you’ll need to pay for all the parts and repairs yourself. Even under warranty, there can be pumps that fail or pipes that leak, and you’ll need to cover the costs yourself. Each repair can cost hundreds of dollars.
What if There’s a Leak?
A leak in your hot tub can come from a few different sources. First, you’ll need to figure out where the leak is coming from before you can know how to fix it.
The Plumbing Leaks
A leak in the PVC pipe is a rare occurrence, but it can happen. Other leaks can come from the jet gaskets or loose nuts on the pipes. PVC pipe can actually shatter when the hot tub isn’t winterized properly. The glue holding the pipes together might be thin, which can cause leaking over time. You’ll have to find the leak and add glue to the pipe connections.
One of the first places you should check is around the pump. Bad seals are usually the logical culprit when there’s a leak.
A leak around the filter usually comes from a new filter housing, new gasket, or o-ring. These should be the first places you check with a filter leak.
It’s important to check with a flashlight to determine exactly where a leak originates. You could end up guessing and replacing parts that don’t need to be replaced.
Winterizing the Hot Tub
Most damage that can occur with your hot tub is often from improper winterization. It can be incredibly costly to make repairs to your spa when it’s been damaged from freezing. While you can contact a professional spa technician to winterize your hot tub, you can do it yourself if you’re willing to spend the time to do it correctly.
Locate the circuit breaker for your spa, turn it off or unplug the spa itself. Once it’s unplugged, you can pull the thermal cover and allow the spa to drain. You can allow the water to drain on its own, or pump the water out of the spa with a submersible pump.
The plug should be left off the spa even after it has drained. Next step is to turn off the hot tub’s heater. The unit can be plugged back in or the circuit breaker can be turned on at this point. You’ll want to turn on the spa’s air blower to get all the water out of the channel under the seats. Some hot tubs don’t have a blower, and if yours doesn’t, you’ll have to skip that step.
You’ll need to remove any other water inside the hot tub. If you leave any water in there over the winter, it’ll freeze and crack the hot tub’s shell. You can place a towel in the footwells or under the seats to soak up water that might drain in there from the pipes.
All the fittings and screws you can reach should be undone. Water will escape from these, and that’s the result you want. All water has to be removed from the spa or it’ll crack the heaters and pump housings.
Any residual water has to be removed from the jet piping. An air compressor, leaf blower, or shop vac can be used to blow the water out of the pipes. The jets should all be open as wide as they can possibly be opened.
Finally, you should have more than one cover for the hot tub. There should be a hard cover for the spa, but you can’t go wrong with a tarp to cover that, too. You’ll want to keep any water from entering the hot tub and freezing in there. There are winter spa covers created especially for covering the hot tub in the winter.
Keep the Water from Freezing
There are times when you might worry about a cold snap freezing the water in your hot tub. If you’re not ready to winterize your hot tub, you still need to protect it from freezing. Water will expand when it freezes and break the inner components of the hot tub. There are ways to avoid the water freezing during a cold snap.
Keeping the water level as high as possible means that it’ll stay warmer longer. You might not even be aware that there will be a cold snap overnight, so it’s important to have a good water level inside the hot tub.
You should be able to keep the water at a certain temperature at all times. The timer and thermostat should turn the heater on when it’s needed throughout the night. This will help avoid the pipes freezing overnight when it gets cool.
Using a Cover for the Hot Tub
A hard cover for the tub should keep it from freezing overnight. Make sure that when the tub isn’t being used that the tarp or cover is tight over the top of the tub.
When you don’t turn off the air jets after the tub has been shut down for the night, you’ll end up with a heater that is trying to warm cool water. It’ll put a strain on the heater and use extra energy when it’s not necessary.
When it’s cold outside, you could end up with a power outage. Your hot tub should be connected to an alternate power source in case of an outage.
Before purchasing your spa, you’ll want to know exactly what you’ll have to do to maintain it properly. It can cost a lot of money to provide routine maintenance and care, but ignoring that process can cost you thousands in repairs. This complete guide should have given you plenty of information on how to maintain your hot tub as well as how much it’ll cost to keep it running all year long. This type of purchase is an investment that requires the proper amount of care to last for many years.