How to clean a hot tub: simple tips to keep your outdoor spa sparkling

Want to know how to clean a hot tub? Our guide will help you keep yours crystal clear and algae-free

how to clean a hot tub on decking
(Image credit: Douglas Gibb/Future)

Looking for top tips on how to clean a hot tub? We're here to help. Put a little time aside to give yours a regular spruce and you'll be rewarded with clean and healthy water to enjoy.

Hot tubs are the perfect place to relax, where your worries can float away on the bubbles. Once solely reserved for luxury holidays or mini breaks, nowadays we can have these little pieces of paradise on our own patios. But even the best hot tubs need a good clean now and again.

Naturally, that inviting pool can turn a little cloudy with the combination of sun lotion, sweat, dirt and beauty products, plus any bits of garden detritus that might have blown in. And obviously, bathing in this doesn't lead to such a pleasant experience, and it's not great for your health either. But don't worry, once you know how to clean a hot tub, it's really quite straightforward.

How to clean a hot tub: simple steps to keep yours crystal clear

The method for how to clean a hot tub will to some extent depend on the type of tub you have in your garden and how often you use it. But whatever style you've gone for, to keep it ready for a dip and functioning at its best, you need to have a regular cleaning regime.

We've covered the best approaches for permanent and inflatable designs below, along with a simple cleaning schedule, to help you keep your hot tub bacteria-free. 

hot tub from HydroLife on paving with fence

Hot tub from HydroLife

(Image credit: HydroLife)

Daily hot tub cleaning jobs

To keep your hot tub ideas looking tip-top, there are a few quick tasks to do on the daily.

  1. After use, fish out any large leaves or bits of floral flotsam that might have been blown in.
  2. Wipe away any tidemarks that might be evident around the side of the tub with a clean damp cloth, or try using a hot tub cleaning pad.
  3. Check the levels of pH and sanitizer which kill off bacteria in the water, and make sure they're maintained. 'You can use either bromine or chlorine to sanitize your water, however bromine is a slightly softer chemical so is gentler on sensitive skin,' says Natalie Harrison of HydroLife. You can test the levels using a hot tub or pool testing kit. The pH should ideally be between 7.2 and 7.4. Too low and it will be acidic, which can cause corrosion, too high and it will be too alkaline, letting scale build up and making the water cloudy. Both can irritate eyes and skin and affect the efficiency of the sanitizer, which can affect the tub's function. Our guide on hot tub maintenance has more detailed tips.

hot tub on deck from HydroLife

A chic spa by HydroLife on top of decking

(Image credit: HydroLife)

Weekly hot tub cleaning jobs

Aim to tick off these cleaning tasks around once a week, depending on how much you use your tub.

  1. Clean your skimmer basket. To do this, turn off the spa, unscrew the basket, pull it out and clear out any debris it has captured.
  2. Similarly to pool maintenance, you'll need to shock dose the water of your tub using chlorine shock granules and non-chlorine shock granules. This breaks down chloramines, which are formed from the sanitizer reacting to things like dead skin and sweat and make the water cloudy. Shock dosing will also kill bacteria. You should also shock the tub if you haven't used it for a while, or if you've drained and then refilled it. If you've used a chlorine treatment, be sure to give it some time before jumping back in – this can be up to 24 hours but check the label of your chosen product and test the water beforehand to be sure it's safe.

hydrolife in-ground hot tub

A luxurious in-ground design by HydroLife

(Image credit: HydroLife)

Hot tub cleaning jobs to do every three to four months

  1. Every three to four months, it's good practice to completely drain the water from your tub. But before doing so, put in a pipe cleaning product to let it circulate and flush out the pipes and equipment. Then turn off the jets and leave the tub overnight.
  2. Next morning, unplug your hot tub and let all the water drain away. Once it's empty, check your filters to see if they need a clean (see below for steps on how to do this). 
  3. Wearing rubber gloves, and using a soft damp cloth or sponge, wipe down the inside of the tub to remove any scum. Avoid using an abrasive or harsh cleaning product that could scratch the surface of your hot tub – instead, invest in one that's specifically made for the job. If you want to use a natural cleaning product, try distilled vinegar, which is purer than white vinegar. Don't be tempted to use washing up liquid, unless you want your water extra foamy!
  4. Once your tub is all sparkling clean, it's time to fill it back up with fresh water. Turn the thermostat to cold or minimum until after the spa's filled and the pumps and jets are working properly, then turn your thermostat back to the setting you prefer.
  5. Take steps to balance the alkalinity and pH of your spa water as quickly as possible. This can take a few days. Put in appropriate start up chemicals (your spa's operating and care instructions should specify which ones).

wooden hot tub and bamboo outdoors

A simple yet stunning wooden design

(Image credit: Claire Lloyd Davies/Future)

How do you clean a hot tub filter?

'We recommend giving your hot tub filter a good clean 2–4 times per month, depending on how much you use it,' says Natalie Harrison of HydroLife. 'You can do this by popping some filter cleaning solution and water into a bucket, fully submerging your filters and letting them soak overnight.'

Carefully rinse them off the next day (avoiding the temptation to use the best pressure washer) and let them fully dry before putting them back into your hot tub. 

'We recommend having a spare set of filters so one set can be deep cleaning whilst the other is in use,' Natalie continues. That way, you can still enjoy your hot tub. 'Filters can last a couple of years with the correct care, depending on use,' she adds.

hot tub filters on decking

Keep your hot tub's filters clean

(Image credit: Karstu Photography/Alamy Stock Photo)

How do you clean an inflatable hot tub?

Introducing an inflatable hot tub to your patio ideas is a great alternative to more permanent designs as it'll provide all the de-stressing benefits but at a more affordable price. Keep yours squeaky clean with these steps:

  1. An inflatable hot tub needs draining more often than a permanent one – generally every three to four weeks.
  2. When it's empty, clean the inside with warm soapy water and a damp microfibre sponge. Don't use abrasive products or brushes that can damage the inside.
  3. Rinse thoroughly with a hose until there are no soap bubbles.
  4. Remember to clean the filters too – this should be done once a week and replaced after a month.

hot tub ideas: Lay-Z Spa palm springs inflatable hot tub on patio

The Lay-Z Spa Palm Springs inflatable hot tub

(Image credit: Lay-Z Spa)

More expert tips for cleaning a hot tub

Natalie Harrison from HydroLife shares more useful tips to bear in mind when learning how to clean a hot tub:

  • If you can, get your hands on a submersible pump – they'll save you a lot of time when you need to drain your tub.
  • Try to shower before and after using your hot tub.
  • Avoid getting in the tub when wearing fake tan or creams.
  • Treat yourself to 'hot tub only' bathing suits and rinse them in cold water only, rather than washing them in the machine.

Looking for more ways to bring water into your plot or fancy more space to swim? Our backyard pool ideas will have you inspired.

hot tub on deck

Maintain your hot tub's relaxing vibe by keeping it clean

(Image credit: Douglas Gibb/Future)
Alison Jones

Alison is Assistant Editor on Real Homes magazine. She previously worked on national newspapers, in later years as a film critic and has also written on property, fashion and lifestyle. Having recently purchased a Victorian property in severe need of some updating, she is currently chipping away at a back garden covered in crazy paving, ready to landscape it with a lawn and fruit and veg patch to sow and grow her own.