Hot Tub Maintenance & Care Guide

man performing hot tub maintenance and checking filters
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Keeping up on hot tub care gives you a fun, safe place to entertain guests, soak away the stresses of the day, or get relief from the warm, agitated waters for minor physical pains.  Proper hot tub maintenance keeps your water healthy while making sure your spa is mechanically sound, so it’s ready to go when you’re ready to use it. It also means protecting your hot tub from becoming an accidental drowning hazard that leads to one of the often-preventable tragedies that take thousands of lives every year. Whether you’re new to owning a home spa or you just want to make sure you’re doing everything you can to be a responsible owner, we have the top hot tub safety, care, and maintenance tips you need to know.

Hot Tubs Vs. Pools

Many people think of hot tubs as small pools because both are popular backyard luxuries for entertaining and relaxing. While there are some similarities, they present different challenges to owners who want a safe, healthy environment for their families. 

  • Temperature – Organic contaminants, like bacteria and algae, proliferate in warmer temperatures. They find it easier to reproduce in warm water, gaining a foothold that can be hard to eliminate. They can only be stopped through diligent maintenance of the hot tub’s water.
  • Volume – Even the largest home hot tubs have a fraction of the volume found in a swimming pool. That means even if contaminants reproduce at the same rate they would in a pool, their concentration increases exponentially in the water.
  • Positioning – Pools require a lot of room to set up, while hot tubs are smaller, allowing them to be positioned closer to the house or in smaller spaces. This makes access for hot tub care and use more convenient but can also bring danger closer to your back door. 

The Three C’s

While there are differences, one primary way that pool and hot tub maintenance are similar is in their focus on the three C’s: Cleaning, Chemistry, and Circulation. Most of your hot tub care tasks will fall under one of these umbrellas, and the result of properly managing the three C’s is a hot tub that is ready when you need it to be. 

elderly man cleaning his empty hot tub

Cleaning

You want a hot tub that is inviting to guests and able to offer an invigorating or relaxing atmosphere, whatever the occasion. That starts with making sure the hot tub and its area are clean. Start by removing any trash, leaves, or other debris that has accumulated around your hot tub. Trash in the hot tub area can easily end up contaminating your water, leading to more frequent deep cleanings. 

All hot tubs will develop scum and need regular cleaning, whether they’re indoor or outdoor. While you should never use chemicals on your hot tub not specifically made for cleaning a spa, white vinegar on a sponge can be used to clean the shell and jets weekly. A net can be used to remove debris that’s blown in, the bottom and sides can be easily scrubbed with a soft-bristled brush, then a spa vacuum can be used to remove any dirt on the bottom of the spa. Wiping down outside surfaces with a 10% dilution of bleach is a great way to prevent mildew once you’ve cleaned it with vinegar and it’s dry. Every three months, you should drain your spa for a thorough cleaning of the tub inside and out, including any lines or fixtures. 

Circulation

water circulating in a hot tub

When water is moving, its temperature and chemical balance stay regulated, while contaminants like algae have a harder time adhering to a surface they can grow from. As part of your hot tub maintenance, you will want to make sure your pump is circulating the water while the tub is in use and for at least four hours twice a day. This circulates the water, keeping it moving and regulated in periodic intervals. Effective circulation is also part of keeping your hot tub clean.

Your hot tub pump moves the water through a filter medium, most often a filter cartridge that is easy to install and remove. As the water is forced through the cartridge, contaminants become trapped in the tight weave of the cloth. When enough contaminants become trapped, it’s harder for your pump to push water through the system, leading to a rise in pressure. Anytime your system’s pressure is 8-10 psi higher than normal, it’s time to pull the cartridge and clean it off by following the manufacturer’s directions–often a simple rinse with the garden hose. With proper hot tub care, these filters can last a full year before needing to be replaced.

Chemistry

Every pool or spa owner will quickly become an expert in amateur applied chemistry. In order to maintain healthy water, you have to check the concentration levels of specific chemicals and make adjustments to those concentrations by adding in concentrated solutions in set amounts. Your chemistry works against microscopic threats to your hot tub’s health, like bacteria, algae, and mold spores, stopping them before they have a chance to proliferate and take hold. While it may be intimidating for some of us who have been out of school so long, making sure your chemicals are properly managed makes your hot tub maintenance easier.

hot tub water quality check using chemical test strips
  • Sanitizer – There are several different chemicals you can use to sanitize your swimming pool, and each has its own target concentration. Make sure you’re familiar with the one you choose and that your test strips for sanitizer levels are made to test that sanitizer. Chlorine level strips won’t help you accurately gauge a non-chlorine sanitizer.
  • Alkalinity – Alkalinity helps stabilize your pH level, making it easier to “dial it in” without chasing it back and forth around the ideal target number with micro-adjustments. You want to maintain an alkalinity of 100-150 ppm to help keep your water from becoming too acidic or basic.
  • pH – The ideal pH range for your body and your hot tub is between 7.4 and 7.6. While pure water is a neutral 7, our bodies aren’t pure water. Too high or too low, and it will quickly become uncomfortable to sit in your hot tub, and the water actually can start to cause scaling, cloud the water, or damage the tub itself. 
  • Hardness – You’ll add calcium-based chemicals to the pool to adjust your water’s hardness. Soft water can be tough on your tub and its pipes or fixtures. You want enough hardness to protect the tub without having such high levels of calcium that it inhibits your other chemicals. A range of 175-250 is best and allows you to adjust for the mineral deposits already present in your municipal water supply.

While these levels are the ones you’ll check regularly, your hot tub care and maintenance can include other solutions meant to improve hot tub water safety. Enzymes can be added to break down organic compounds, clarifier helps keep the water from becoming cloudy, and periodic shock treatments add large doses of sanitizer to power through contaminants after big storms, large parties, or other high-risk situations.

Maintaining Your Safety

As part of your maintenance, hot tub safety should be front and center. While they may not be as large as a swimming pool, unsecured hot tubs still present a drowning risk to your friends and family–especially the young, the elderly, and pets. The National Drowning Prevention Alliance notes that a lack of safety barriers is a contributing factor in the majority of accidental drownings, so preventing unsupervised access to the hot tub is key for any responsible spa owner.

  • Mesh Pool Fence – Removable mesh pool fence is a low-maintenance, cost-effective way to keep your hot tub safe by barring access to the spa area. A strong mesh fabric is stretched between poles that are anchored into sleeves along your deck area. The entryway is secured by a self-closing, self-latching gate that can be augmented with an alarm for improved safety. If you’re entertaining guests and need more elbow room, the entire fence can be removed and set aside until it’s time to close the spa area down again.
  • Spa Safety Covers – Safety covers help keep out dirt, debris, and at-risk loved ones who may try to access the spa when a responsible party isn’t around to supervise. They sit above the water, anchored around the edge of your spa, and can prevent water entry as a second layer of protection.

Care of these hot tub safety accessories is easy. They’re made from durable materials and often require no more than a rinse or light scrubbing with a soft-bristled brush. This can easily be accomplished as needed during your regular hot tub maintenance.

Protecting your spa is easy, and there’s no cost or obligation to get started. Your local All-Safe Pool installer will take measurements, inspect your hot tub area for hazards that need to be mitigated, and design a plan to meet your needs. Then you’ll get a written estimate that lays out your protection options and how affordable peace-of-mind can be. Make sure your friends, family, and pets are safe. Schedule your free quote from an independent installer today.

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