How To Clean a Hot Tub

Updated: Jun. 08, 2023

From quick wipes to cleaning the pipes, here's how to clean a hot tub and keep algae, mold, mildew and bacteria at bay.

Next Project

1 to 3 hours






From quick wipes to cleaning the pipes, here's how to clean a hot tub and keep algae, mold, mildew and bacteria at bay.

Tools Required

  • Garden hose
  • Grounded extension cord (for shop vacuum)
  • Microfiber (or other non-abrasive) cleaning cloths
  • Shop vacuum
  • Standard 5-gallon bucket

Materials Required

  • Hot tub filter cleaner
  • Hot tub surface cleaner
  • Spa chemical test kit

Project step-by-step (6)

Step 1

Drain the hot tub

  • Turn off the power supply to the tub, either at the shutoff switch near the tub or the circuit breaker at the main service panel.
  • Attach a garden hose to the drain connection and place the other end of the hose where you want the water to drain. The draining water should not harm your grass or plants if bromine levels are below 10 parts per million (ppm) and chlorine is below five ppm.
  • Open your drain. Pro tip: A sump pump will drain a hot tub much faster than a gravity drain.
  • When the flow stops, use a shop vacuum in wet mode to remove the remaining water in the lowest parts of the tub. Also remove any water left in the jet openings.

Note: Many municipalities forbid emptying hot tub water into storm drains because the chemicals harm sensitive plants and aquatic animals, so make sure to direct your drain hose accordingly.

draining the hot tubKaruna Eberl for Family Handyman

Step 2

Clean the shell

  • Spray a hot tub surface cleaner onto the hot tub’s interior.
  • With a clean cleaning rag, wipe all surfaces. Make sure to wipe around the spa jets, retainer rings, filter case and control panel. (Do not spray cleaner directly onto the control panel.)

Note: Some people use white vinegar instead of a cleaner. Don’t. This can affect the pH level of the water once you refill the tub, and also may void your warranty.

cleaning the hot tub with spray cleaner and a ragKaruna Eberl for Family Handyman

Step 3

Clean the filter

Keeping your hot tub filter clean is key to maintaining your system.

  • Every three to four weeks, remove the filter and spray it with a garden hose to clean out any debris.
  • Every three to four months, treat it with a filter cleaning product. Take out the filter, soak it overnight in a bucket with water and cleaner, then rinse it out thoroughly before re-installing it into the filter housing.

removing the filter and using a hose to wash it offKaruna Eberl for Family Handyman

Step 4

Clean the cover

  • Spray all sides of the cover with hot tub surface cleaner and wipe with a cleaning rag.
  • Pay close attention to the underside of the cover where it folds. Creases are a prime place for mildew to grow in a warm and moist environment.

using spray cleaner to clean the hot tub coverKaruna Eberl for Family Handyman

Step 5

Refill the hot tub

  • Close the drain and place the fill hose into the tub. (Note: Some manufacturers require placing the fill hose in the filter housing to prevent hydro locking in the pump, so verify your manufacturer’s recommendation.)
  • When the water level rises above the jet nozzles, turn on the power.
  • Once the tub has reached at least 70 F, add your chemicals.
  • After you’ve filled the tub, confirm chemical levels are within range.

filling a hot tub with a hose after being cleanedKaruna Eberl for Family Handyman

Step 6

How to clean hot tub plumbing and jets

Bacteria, known as biofilm, accumulate on the interior surfaces of the hot tub plumbing, forming a slime that resists chlorine and bromine sanitizers. To eliminate this growth, clean the jets at least once a year. Do this before you clean the rest of the hot tub.

Here’s how:

  • With the tub full and jets running, add plumbing cleaner, per manufacturer instructions.
  • Allow the cleaner to circulate for 30 to 60 minutes.
  • Remove the brown foam that forms on the surface with a shop vacuum.
  • Once the foam turns white, proceed to drain and clean your hot tub as detailed above.

Here’s how to winterize a hot tub to make sure it’s ready when it’s time to start using it again.

using a shop vac to clean hot tub jetsKaruna Eberl for Family Handyman