Ok, so you’ve invested in a hot tub – but tempting as it is to immediately sink into a delicious tub of warm water and feel the stresses of the day melt away, firstly you need to get a handle on your hot tub maintenance.
Hot tub, spa, Jacuzzi – whatever you want to call it, there is a great deal of pleasure and relaxation to be had in owning one. But, it’s not all plain sailing, as with any pleasurable hobby, it requires a bit of work – mainly, a basic understanding of water chemistry and a simple schedule to keep on top of the cleaning schedule. Understanding some basic rules of hot tub maintenance means you can enjoy your hot tub for many years to come.
The first thing to do is read the instructions – knowing the specifics, including the make and model of your specific hot tub will help when you need to get parts and service. Know your spa’s ‘vitals’ including its water capacity and age or any other specifics such as whether it has automatic circulation.
Let us do the dirty work for you
Hot tub maintenance. Easy as 1-2-3
Your hot tub care can be boiled down into 3 simple elements
- Circulation – this is vital for keeping the water fresh
- Cleaning – must happen regularly to keep your tub healthy and stop you and your family from contracting nasty illnesses
- Chemistry – you need this to help ward off those nasty bugs that can accumulate in water
Now, let’s go through each of these elements in a little more detail…
1. Maintain good circulation
To keep your hot tub free of contaminants and material growth you need to keep the water circulating through its cartridge filters. Your particular model may have a built-in automatic circulation schedule that runs each day for a set amount of time to circulate all the water through the hot tub filters.
Otherwise, you’ll have to manually run the circulation at least twice each day to ensure the water is kept fresh and clean. Whatever you do, get those filters working because that’s what keeps the tub clean.
TIP: Add a scum sucker duck to your tub after you’ve been in it. This will suck up some of those nasties that you don’t want in your water, such as oils, lotions, and soap, which your filters won’t be able to remove completely. A really cost effective way to help keep the water clear.
2. Regular cleaning schedule
To keep your hot tub sparkling clean and inviting all year round, it’s important to keep up a regular cleaning schedule and understand how to keep your hot tub clean with a regular schedule. But this is not only to make it look clean – there can be hidden bacteria growth present in water, which grow as a result of all the soap, lotions, body bacteria, scum, leaves, bugs and all the other undesirables that can collect in your tub. These can all accumulate, making a dip at the end of a long day a rather less than favourable experience and can even cause tummy upsets and other ailments such as folliculitis – also known as hot tub rash.
Clean the hot tub weekly
A regular clean at least weekly will keep things hygienic. Use a microfibre cloth with an all purpose cleaner, or you can use white vinegar – an all-purpose cleaner, on the shell and the waterline to help maintain a sanitised spa.
Giving your hot tub a weekly clean is essential for keeping it in tiptop condition, and ready for those impromptu hot tub parties, but it will need a thorough clean every three to four months (or more often, depending on how frequently you use it), which involves emptying it completely.
Your hot tub’s filters also need a good clean out regularly. You’ll be shocked at the amount of dirt that can collect inside them, so keep them clean by rinsing the filters weekly with warm water or your garden hose, spraying them when needed with a hot tub filter cleaner and soaking them in chemical cleaner every time you drain/refill your hot tub. This will keep them working properly and will prolong their life. We would recommend that you have a spare filter and rotate them ensuring each one has dried fully before being used again. But you’ll know when it’s time to change your filters because they’ll get to the point that even a chemical soak doesn’t completely clean them. You can expect your filters to last between 6-12 months with average use.
Don’t forget the cover
The hot tub cover or lid is also an important part so don’t neglect it – not only does the spa not look too inviting when the cover is grubby with wind-blown leaves and debris, but some of this gunk could find its way into your tub. Make sure you include it in your cleaning schedule. Give it a regular wipe over with a bleach solution to keep it looking clean and mildew-free. If your tub is very exposed it may be worth investing in a protection bag/cover for your tub to minimise weathering.
Hot Tub detox
Give your hot tub a complete detox regularly. Gunk built up inside the pipes can be tough to remove – sunscreen lotions, body lotions, cosmetics can all cause problems in your pipes, making your hot tub experience rather unpleasant. This is why you must keep these pipes in tip top shape. Adding a flush before you drain it will help keep those pipes unsoiled and help to combat biofilm.
Contaminants easily build up in your hot tub, which can lead to Total Dissolved Solids (TDS). This means that the chemicals no longer work effectively. Combat this by replacing the water in the tub every 3 to 4 months for infrequent use, more often if you spend a lot of time in there. Give the tub a good clean whilst its empty.
3. Balanced Hot Tub water chemistry
The same way you’d need to have to balance your swimming pool’s water, so you need to apply the same principle to your hot tub. To do this you need a baseline reading on your water chemistry. When your tub is full to determine the pH and alkalinity levels.
You’ll need a good supply of essential chemicals to make sure you’re ready to tweak your water as it’s needed:
To maintain your hot tub’s pH balance, you’ll need:
- pH increaser and pH decreaser for adjusting your pH.
- Alkalinity increaser to balance the tubs alkalinity.
- Sanitiser (chlorine or bromine) to kill bacteria and other contaminants.
- Shock (non-chlorine or di-chlor) to give your sanitiser a boost by adding oxygen and removing chloramines and bacteria.
- Test strips to make sure all your chemical levels are in the correct range.
- Defoamer (optional) to avoid foamy hot tub water.
The right PH
When it comes to your hot tub’s pH level, you want to aim for a range between 7.4 to 7.6. If it falls below then it will be too acidic and will not only irritate your skin but will damage the hardware. Anything above this will reduce the effectiveness of the sanitiser.
For alkalinity, aim for 100 to 150 parts per million (ppm). Anything above that will cause scaling and cloudiness. Use alkalinity increaser to raise this should it be low or pH reducer will also reduce the alkalinity if needed.
Once you’ve added all the necessary chemicals, be sure to test your water with test strips, and adjust your water chemistry as needed. For a new tub owner we would suggest doing this daily for at least the first 10 days so you can understand the consequence of your use on the levels of your chemicals. Once you got a good understanding then weekly testing should be sufficient.
Add your sanitiser according to the directions on the package but be sure to test it again to ensure your pH and alkalinity are within optimal ranges. Your sanitiser (chlorine or bromine) can be in tablet or granular format. It is important to use the product that works best for you – if you leave your tub for many days at a time then a floating dispenser containing tablets will help make sure your levels don’t drop below a safe level and allow bacteria to breed.
If you have a saltwater system in your hot tub you can use salt to sanitise the water. Saltwater turns to chlorine by the system so you’re still adding chlorine to the water; it’s just in a different form.
Unfortunately, after heavy use or a period of inactivity with balancing levels a sanitiser isn’t always enough to keep the bugs at bay. Sometimes there are more contaminants than usual, in which case you need to do a hot tub shock.
Shocking your Hot tub
Giving your hot tub a shock treatment is an essential part of caring for it. After long periods of non-use, or adversely, you’ve been having lots of hot tub parties recently, your tub water is going to be none too sanitary so you’ll need to give your tub a good shock. Hot tub shocking does not involve electricity, it is simply the process that ensures that the tub is sanitised, removing organic contaminants, killing bacteria and removing chloramines or bromamines.
Think about it – water sits in your hot tub for week upon week, and every time you, your friends, family and the neighbour’s dog gets into it, you take all manner of contaminants in with you. Shampoo, lotions, makeup, sunscreen, hair, dead skin cells, and whatever else those bodies have come into contact with that day all add to the build-up of contaminants. This water is going to be none too pleasant. Giving it a large dose of oxidiser will ‘shock’ the water clean to be safe to use again.
You can demand that everyone takes a shower before they get in the tub, but that’s not always enough. Even then, contaminants will build up in the water and create problems like hot tub scum, cloudy hot tub water or worse. Contaminants left to fester will lead to the growth of nasty bacteria such as; Pseudomonas Dermatitis, which causes hot tub folliculitis; Legionella, which causes Legionnaires’ disease, a severe type of pneumonia; and non-tuberculous mycobacteria which causes hot tub lung, a granulomatous (chronically inflamed tissue) lung disease. Nasty! It is also important to shock your tub after a drain down and refill.
Before you panic just remember that if you keep your hot tub water balanced and sanitiser levels remain steady, and if you give the spa a shock during inactivity or busy use, you shouldn’t have any problems with these nasty bugs and their associated conditions.
Following these 3 simple elements; circulation, cleaning and chemistry will give you a firm foundation for caring for your hot tub. Keeping a consistent maintenance schedule will stop your delicious hot tub turning into a swirling swamp of sewerage that contaminates from 100 paces.
Hot tub maintenance schedule
As we’ve discussed, your hot tub needs regular maintenance to be at its best, so it’s important to keep on top of your cleaning. This is not only because leaving it too long will cause untold damage to your tub and but also, you want to be 100 per cent ready when those spontaneous hot tub party opportunities present themselves!
Every hot tub will have its own set of requirements to keep it healthy but they don’t have to be onerous if you keep on top of them. Once you’ve got the hang of it, a few moments a day is all you need.
Daily hot tub maintenance
Check and adjust the water temperature as necessary. Be on the lookout for drastic temperature changes, indicating a serious system issue. Then check the hot tub itself for signs of wear. Ensure the cover is clean and secure so that it keeps the heat, water and chemicals in, and keeps the debris, pets, and kids out.
Make time to check the water’s alkalinity, and check and balance the pH. Along with alkalinity, pH is one of the most important parts of hot tub chemistry. Check your sanitiser levels to ensure your water is clean and free from bacteria. Clean above the waterline. Wipe away the grime that could contaminate the water as this could throw off the chemical balance.
Weekly hot tub maintenance
Carry out the following checks
- Test your hot tub water for alkalinity, pH, and sanitiser levels, and if you adjust them, test them again afterwards
- Sanitise and shock the water to recharge your sanitiser and keep your hot tub healthy.
- Rinse your hot tub filter with water to protect against cloudy water, nasty smells, bacteria, and algae bloom.
- Wipe down your spa cover to protect it against mould, mildew, and the nasty smells.
- Keep track of your hot tub’s water chemistry
In addition to the above maintenance, check for grime accumulating in your jets and filters on a monthly basis. Give your filter a chemical rinse to clear out the grime that water just cannot reach.
Empty the hot tub. Give it a good clean and check over everything, including the hardware, to ensure all is in good working order, making repairs where necessary. Clean the cover and then replace the water in the tub with fresh.
- Give your filter a chemical soak; a super version of the chemical rinse which gives the filter a deep clean to keep your hot tub free of contaminants.
- Flush the system to free the chemical build-up and other gunk and goop that can cause performance issues.
You should tackle these tasks at least once a year, but more often if you have the time or if you use the tub frequently:
- Flush the lines to remove built-up bacteria and gunk. In fact, we recommend you use line flush each time you drain and refill the tub.
- Inspect the tub’s hardware and wiring. Keep an eye out for damage due to wear and tear, pests, and check for chemical imbalance.
- Inspect your cover for physical damage, moisture absorption, and mildew or mould infestations.
- Get a professional tune-up. They’ll check over all your hardware and wiring for potential problems. At the same time, or more often than yearly if you have concerns, have your spa water checked by a professional. They can help you identify and solve water quality issues before they turn problematic.
Holiday maintenance for your hot tub
So what do you do when you’re off on your annual holiday abroad? Should you let the tub sit idle, collecting all manner of debris in its depth to create a headache of a job for you when you return? No. With just a little bit of planning before you go, you can enjoy your holiday with the peace of mind that all will be well upon your return.
If you’re expecting warm weather at home, your tub might experience a rapid grown of algae. Give the tub an extra shock to increase chlorine levels and kill off any potential algae growth. Allow the jets to run for thirty minutes so that the shock can reach all the corners. Then, turn off the jets, heater and pump. It might be prudent to turn off the power at the source and lock it, if necessary, to keep it secure while you’re gone.
If, on the other hand, temperatures are likely to plummet, the water in your hot tub and the plumbing for your hot tub could freeze. So, before you go, turn the thermostat down about ten degrees. This will ensure the water is warm enough to not freeze.
Before you go, test the water to ensure you have the proper water balance. If not, add the appropriate chemicals to increase either the acidity or the alkalinity of your water chemistry.
Unless you’ve given your neighbours and their kids permission to use your tub while away (not advisable) you should always lock the cover.
And that’s it! Not too demanding a list, is it? Do these few checks and you’ll not only have peace of mind that your tub is fine, but you’ll have a lovely hot tub ready and waiting for you when you return home.
Keeping on top of your hot tub maintenance is essential for the safety of those who use it. If you don’t manage your circulation, cleaning and chemicals effectively then you, your family and friends are at risk of contamination – not something you want on your conscience. Having a maintenance schedule in place really will save you a ton of time and worry. Keep that hot tub in tip top condition and you’ll have the pleasure of a lovely dip whenever you want it.