How to clean a hot tub – professional advice on keeping it pristine

Good hot tub hygiene is essential. Follow these steps to ensure yours is sparkling fresh

large hot tub on a deck
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Using a hot tub is a great way to relax and unwind. But it won’t be a pleasure if it’s not a beautifully pristine environment and keeping it that way requires knowing exactly how to clean a hot tub and undertaking to do so regularly.

It might feel like a chore, but hot tub cleaning won’t be onerous if you do it on schedule, and it’s not difficult to carry out either. Cleaning will keep the water looking clear and inviting and feeling fresh and will ensure your hot tub stays hygienic.

To make the process easy, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide to cleaning a hot tub and keeping it in perfect condition.

How to clean a hot tub in 5 easy steps

A hot tub may be treated with sanitizing chemicals to control microorganisms and other pollutants but this doesn’t take the place of regular cleaning. Both sanitizing and cleaning are essential to keep a hot tub clean and a pleasure for everyone to use.

You’ll probably need to clean a backyard hot tub thoroughly three or four times a year. Its filters will likely need monthly cleaning, meanwhile, but always check and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. 

These are the steps to follow to clean a hot tub on your deck or patio.  

cleaning a hot tub with chemicals

(Image credit: Bill Oxford/Getty Images)

1. Flush the lines

Before you drain and clean the hot tub it’s important to flush the lines. ‘Flushing the lines of a hot tub before cleaning is essential because it helps to remove biofilm, scale, and other contaminants that can accumulate within the plumbing system over time,’ explains Hubert Miles, certified pool and spa inspector through NACHI. 

‘These buildup materials can harbor bacteria and reduce the overall efficiency of your hot tub. Flushing the lines with a specialized line flush product before draining and cleaning ensures that your hot tub’s internal components remain in optimal condition, providing users with a safer and more enjoyable experience.’

Use the hot tub line flush product as directed on the instructions, including the specified time. Typically, this will be while it is running to circulate the cleaner.

2. Drain the hot tub

To avoid damage to the hot tub, it is essential to turn the power off before cleaning it. Unplug it or turn it off at the circuit breaker. 

You can then drain the water from the hot tub. There are alternative ways to drain a hot tub so be sure to check the instructions from the manufacturer. Using a garden hose connected to the drain valve will empty it but be aware that this may take an hour or two.

The alternative method is to use a submersible pump. Plug in the pump and connect its drainage hose. Position it in the deepest part of the tub and switch on. If it isn’t equipped to switch off automatically be sure to keep an eye on progress so you can switch it off when it has drained the water. 

3. Clean the hot tub

Once the hot tub is empty, it can be cleaned. ‘It’s generally recommended to use a specialized hot tub cleaner,’ says Hubert Miles. ‘Hot tub cleaners are specifically designed for the materials and conditions in hot tubs, ensuring thorough cleaning and protection for your investment.’

Use the cleaner on the surface of the hot tub including around the jets according to product instructions. Always use a soft cloth to avoid damage to the tub. Rinse after cleaning, and then wipe the tub down with a towel.

4. Clean the filter

It is essential to clean the hot tub filter. ‘Cleaning the hot tub filter is crucial for maintaining water quality and ensuring the efficient operation of your hot tub,’ says Hubert Miles. ‘A dirty filter can restrict water flow, causing your hot tub’s circulation system to work harder than necessary, increasing energy consumption. 

‘Additionally, a clogged filter may not effectively trap contaminants, reducing water clarity and bringing potential health risks for users.’

The hot tub filter should be cleaned every four weeks by removing it and clearing it of any debris with a garden hose. However, it should also be deep cleaned as one of the steps of your hot tub cleaning routine.

To do so, first rinse it with a garden hose then soak it in a filter cleaning solution in a bucket according to pack instructions. Rinse afterwards and allow to dry before replacing it.

5. Refill the hot tub

Once the hot tub and its filter have been cleaned, the tub can be refilled, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The tub can then be powered up so you can get back to enjoying the many hot tub benefits in your yard. 

Treat the water with the required chemical combination and check levels meet recommendations in the manual before using it again.

How to clean a hot tub without draining it

A hot tub can be cleaned without draining it, but bear in mind that this should never replace regular draining and cleaning.

‘Cleaning without draining involves using a floating hot tub cleaner or a specialized vacuum, which can remove debris and contaminants from the water surface and floor,’ explains Hubert Miles.

‘While this method helps maintain water quality between full cleanings, it doesn’t eliminate the need for periodic draining and thorough cleaning to remove buildup in the plumbing and other hard-to-reach areas.’

skimming the water in a hot tub

(Image credit: Getty Images)


What’s the fastest way to clean a hot tub?

The fastest way to clean a hot tub is to first remove any debris from the water. Using a soft damp cloth clean any marks from the sides of the tub, and wipe the control panel and pillows. Wipe down the cover, too. 

You should also check the levels using test strips and add chemicals as necessary. Remove and rinse the filter with a garden hose to get rid of any debris and replace.

Bear in mind that speed cleaning should not replace deep cleaning which should be carried out every few months.

Just like maintaining the optimum hot tub temperature is key to using your outdoor spa safely, so too is implementing a good cleaning regime. 

Not keeping on top of cleaning (or not doing it correctly) can allow harmful bacteria to build up in your hot tub, potentially leading to skin irritations or bacterial infections, so make sure you have it on your backyard cleaning to-do list. 

Sarah Warwick
Contributing Editor

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor. Previously executive editor of Ideal Home, she’s specialized in interiors, property and gardens for over 20 years, and covers interior design, house design, gardens, and cleaning and organizing a home for H&G. She’s written for websites, including Houzz, Channel 4’s flagship website, 4Homes, and Future’s T3; national newspapers, including The Guardian; and magazines including Future’s Country Homes & Interiors, Homebuilding & Renovating, Period Living, and Style at Home, as well as House Beautiful, Good Homes, Grand Designs, Homes & Antiques, LandLove and The English Home among others. It’s no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house renovator.