How To Clean A Hot Tub That Has Been Sitting

You’ve maybe got your own hot tub and not used it for some time and now you are wondering how to clean a sitting hot tub? Is it safe to use?

My water looks good, you say, and nothing obvious seems to be wrong, so does it hold any dangers?

So why does a hot tub need to be kept clean, you may ask.

Similar questions crossed my mind; after all, chemicals are added when it is filled up, so why is it needed?

Many more questions were asked before we bought our first inflatable hot tub as an inexpensive trial before we jumped in and bought a properly built one, although we’ve not actually gone ahead and replaced it so far as our inflatable’s been going for five years now and it’s working fine.

We found we liked our inflatable hot tub – it sort of grew on us, and didn’t see any sense in installing a permanently fixed one in our yard as it moves around easily when we drain and clean it three or four times per year.

But it stands to reason you’ve got to keep any hot tub clean when you hear of infection complaints some people moan about, but since owning our own we’ve had no problems health-wise, and it was easy to learn a routine since we’d made a point of keeping our hot tub clean.

On top of our small initial outlay and low maintenance cost, we don’t suffer from large dents in our budget so we appreciate any pleasure it gives. It is well worth it. In fact, we’d say it was our best buy ever when our whole family can join in, and often do, friends as well.



 Reducing stress generally
 Relieving pain in joints
 Easing aching backs and muscles
 Eliminating tension headaches
 Promoting a better sense of well-being
 Lowering blood pressure
 Helping get a good night’s sleep
 Promoting weight loss

All those benefits and having a fully relaxed body as well, you can see how beneficial having a personal hot tub can be, but one small down-side to owning a hot tub should be considered as was mentioned above – you need to clean an inflatable hot tub regularly.

Fine, inflatable hot tubs are simple to set up, economical to run (if you do it properly) and a joy to use, but most importantly, any water you want to soak in must be kept clean to limit any infections occurring.

Any negligence of hot tub maintenance can cause a variety of infections to develop, so using a regular cleaning routine is necessary, although it is by no means an onorous job.

Just think; when you lie in a hot tub or spa, in fact in any warm water, you shed skin cells, natural oils disguised as sweat,  makeup or lotions, even minute particles of dirt which get carried round in any hot tub water and you think, hopefully, it will get captured by your filters.

Trouble is, those filters only capture debris inside a column of water, but anything floating up generally settles as a surface layer and stays put.

That layer of ‘flotsam’ – sometimes called scum, is one heck of a feeding and breeding ground for all sorts of bacteria as they thrive in warm and damp conditions, but there’s a ‘BUT’ you need to consider.

Any bacteria that survive the existing chemicals in your water are carried through the filters first, more often than not simply passing through them because of their minute size and frequently can become lodged in the piping of the heating system.

Horizon HV-SB2PK Scumball Pool and Spa Scum Eliminating Ball (2 Packs of 2)

One of the best ways to help eliminate this bacteria is to capture the oils floating on the surface by using inexpensive scumball oil-absorbing sponges.

These sponges absorb most of the debris floating on top of your spa and can be easily cleaned with household detergent when the need arises, or like we do on a weekly basis, according to how much your hot tub gets used.

As mentioned above, two other places that gather these bacteria no end are in any filter(s) and piping attached to the system. Different hot tubs have different numbers of filters and piping systems, so this can be a big problem without regular maintenance, especially if your hot tub is left for some time without being used or with the pump not running.

Poolmaster 22212 Smart Test 6-Way Swimming Pool and Spa Water Chemistry Test Strips, 50 count Okay… For us, dilute chemicals are added when we fill any pool to condition our water to protect us from germs, but our main problem is because our water is warm it evaporates and as it evaporates, so do some chemicals, especially chlorine, in particular, if it’s windy or as outside temperatures fall. So these need to be checked and topped up as necessary to keep an even balance.


It only takes a few minutes doing a simple dip-check maybe every other day. If we don’t do it, any ‘flotsam’ expands, giving our dreaded bacteria lots more room to feed and develop.

It’s simply just dipping a test strip into a sample of water and waiting a few seconds for any color change before comparing it to the sample chart colors.

Poolmaster 22212 Smart Test 6-Way Swimming Pool and Spa Water Chemistry Test Strips, 50 count

When no testing happens, one of the most common infections, Folliculitis, a most unpleasant, but not so much a critical infection, can develop on bare skin roughly two days after pool usage. It especially develops if an owner neglects any routine maintenance and the cleaning side of things

Tell-tale signs show up as a development of severe acne, boils, red lumps or blisters which tend to burst if you rub them coz they itch like mad, which re-infects blistered skin again, although it is understood you can’t pass it on to others other than through direct contact.

CLn Physician-Developed Therapeutic Body Wash for Skin Prone to Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis), Rash, Folliculitis (Ingrown Hairs, Razor Bumps), Acne, and Infection, 8 oz. It can be cleared up using some soothing spray or lotion to stop any itching and a careful approach for perhaps another week, as your body will fight off infection on its own. We’ve found a great product to combat hot tub rash easily (shown to the side).

Cln also provides a whole range of other products specifically designed to combat folliculitis and other skin conditions.

On top of this, there are other bacteria who enjoy living in a hot tub as well and these can cause far more serious problems like toxic shock syndrome directly from any liquid in a hot tub into open cuts, through to Legionnaires’ disease by breathing in any vapor, which develops into flu-like symptoms and can be very severe, even deadly in certain circumstances.

So you will understand simple maintenance is a priority with any heated water system where you immerse yourself inside it…

And it’s not rocket science.

You will perhaps understand a little more clearly when you consider a pool of water, perhaps somewhere in a field or a roadside, where no flow of water occurs at all. Just standing in all weathers, it simply becomes stagnant over time, a breeding ground again for all sorts of bacteria.

So keeping your hot tub circulation pump running and turning your hot tub water over is a good thing, although a normal running temperature can be allowed to drop when not being used for some time.

Most people operate theirs in such a manner. They lower their temperature setting to reduce heating costs a little, at the same time keep the pump motor in use to diminish risks of any bacteria developing within their hot tub.

This sort of thing happens naturally in the wintertime when water temperature may drop a little as the heater struggles to keep it as a ‘hot’ tub.

All you need to let bacteria develop is to switch off your power for a week or so when your hot tub is not in use and just watch any bacteria grow like mad, especially in filters and piping, then when you come to switch it on and get it up to temperature, you jump into a bacteria-rich pool, even though it looks as clear as a bell.

However, normally it is recommended you change all water roughly three or four times per year – depending on how often you use it and also how many different people are soaking in it – don’t forget, more people means more possible infections to others.

When your hot tub water is changed it is best to clean a hot tub thoroughly – sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it, but it is quite easy to do when you’re emptying a pool and it will mean having no worries about infections developing.

Following these easy steps, you are assured of an infection-free hot tub as we have proven ourselves over five years.

As we are dealing with a combination of water and electricity, it is the most important point to switch off your power source and remove any plugs, just to be sure.

When your water is about to be drained you do not want your hot tub pump running as even the heated water generally cools the pump itself, so you will cause endless damage if you leave any power on and inadvertently switch the pump on.

Swimline 8051SL Leaf Skimmer with 48" Adjustable Aluminum Telescopic Pole Before draining any water, remove any floating debris or accessories you may have on top while you have easy access. This is very easy to do with a spa and hot tub skimmer as shown, and this one has a telescopic handle to allow you to scoop out any debris lying on the bottom.

Most manufacturers design their tubs offering a drain outlet in the lower sidewalls of the tub, so it is simply a matter of opening the drain and letting the water flow out.

I have seen some spas with a drain in the floor itself, which makes it very hard to get rid of the water unless the owner has a big bucket or maybe a submersible pump or uses a hose to siphon the water out, thereby taking the weight off the drain plug, as when the hot tub is sat directly on the ground there is very little space underneath for the water to drain away.

However, some manufacturers may use different arrangements where a drainage point is near the base of a pump body which would mean connecting a hose to an adapter, usually included in a hot tub kit when purchased, for disposal down a drain. 

Will Chlorine Water Kill Grass

There is generally no need to be worried about hot tub chemicals affecting the vegetation, unless you use a salt-water hot tub, as this dilute brine can kill off your grass and plants, but normally, if that’s the case, you will be aware of it because most pumps will not work too long with a saline solution.

One note of caution here – do make sure your pets and wildlife are kept away from the water flow as it can be detrimental to them owing to the dilute chemicals involved as they may be more sensitive than we humans are.

Once the water is drained, then you will need to disconnect the pump itself from your hot tub and this means following the instructions in the booklet or supplied cd to isolate the pump itself.

Next comes cleaning the filter(s)

Once you have the filters out, simply give them a good blast with your garden hose to remove any collected debris as this can cause a reduction in flow and stop your hot tub water from being filtered properly.

At a push, you can even purchase a hose attachment which gets out the debris deep inside the tightly packed fins, giving it a deep clean if you want to make sure.

Aquatix Pro Premium Pool & Spa Filter Cartridge Cleaner, Removes Debris & Dirt from Pool Filters in Seconds, Heavy Duty & Durable Pool Cartridge Filter Cleaner, for a Clean Flow of Water Today! (1)

This is the Aquatix Pro Filter Cleaner, but many people place their filters in their dishwashers or washing machines on their own using no detergent, which used to be a great way of killing bacteria, but now with the low-temperature washes it is not so effective, plus over a period of time this can destroy the fibers. If you decide to use this simple method, do not use any detergent.

As filters are not designed to last forever it, is advisable to clean the filters regularly, maybe weekly – depending on hot tub usage and renew them regularly, possibly on a monthly basis or according to your manufacturer’s instruction.

Cleaning your hot tub surfaces

Many people use household detergent to clean their hot tubs, but warm water and a soft cloth should be enough to combat most light problems like random marks, grime and stains both inside and out.

If you do use a detergent make sure to use a very dilute mild one and rinse thoroughly once complete as if any remains it will cause suds galore when you refill which you don’t want as they will infiltrate your air jets causing the water to foam all the more or possibly cause airlocks in the water system – depends a great deal on the design of the water system.

But then, who are we to say you can’t have a hot bubble-bath to get the kids washed?

There are three natural options you can use for cleaning:

• Baking soda
• Dilute white vinegar solution
• Lemon juice

There are bound to be others, but for us, we find these work very well although there are commercial cleaners available for hot tubs and spas. 

You may find that around the water line there may be stubborn residues built up, but you can buy specialist cleaners which are great for persistent stains in spas and hot tubs which leave very little residue, but it is still advisable to rinse off with clean warm water.

One really important point is not to use a scrubbing brush when the build-up is heavy as this will more than likely scour the surfaces, both inside and out, allowing more surface area because of minute scratches for bacteria to build up, plus this also weakens the walls of your inflatable hot tub and may cause collapse when in use.

For storage, after the season, do make sure after cleaning that it is dried thoroughly before deflating as you do not want mold or mildew developing when stored for some time. In the same manner, your pump/heater needs draining properly otherwise you will have stagnant water sitting in your pump over the winter, just ready to burst into bacterial life when you set it up in the Spring.

Clean a Hot Tub Cover With Vinegar

It is important not to forget your hot tub cover when cleaning your portable hot tub as grime and dust can build up on top just as underneath, so you have many of the same problems developing as those at the surface level.

Condensation keeps the underside damp and with the entrapped dirt and moisture all the flotsam becomes attached to the cover before dropping back into the water as condensate.

Because if this there is plenty of bacteria living within that condensate from underneath your hot tub lid, meaning your hot tub cover also needs to be cleaned regularly to stop infections.

There is a lot of hype regarding using vinegar to clean your hot tub whilst not draining it.

This is a total fallacy.

To achieve a thorough cleanse with white vinegar, your hot tub would need to be filled with the stuff as it is not strong enough to kill all bacteria. Even the 4% would barely do the job, so the best option is to ignore it all.

Fine, it would remove the grease, but either way you would need to drain your hot tub, so it seems pointless trying, plus it would be very expensive.

There are many spray-on protectants like Leisure Time Spa
but a quick rub over with a light detergent is possibly the best way to go to keep your inflatable hot tub cover in a hygenic condition.

Regarding storage, exactly the same applies in that it needs to be dry before being stored away for the winter.

Tree sap can seem to be a problem but using household detergent, boosted by loads of patience and elbow grease, will do the trick.

A further alternative is to use baking soda, cooking or olive oil, but you need to make sure the oil is removed once the sap has dissolved.

Don’t forget to clean those hot tub accessories

Amazon shows an endless variety of Hot Tub accessories available to you that will also need to be cleaned regularly, from individual floatable headrests, floating lights, and booster cushions, plus loads of others you may find useful.

The headrests particularly will be more heavily coated in gels, creams and hair oils, along with scalp flakes mixed in, so these will need special attention to remove any grease or build-up – we use baking soda on ours, rather than re-introducing it all later, the next time they are added to your pool.

Re-filling your Hot Tub

Once you have cleaned your hot tub properly you come to the point where you need to refill it.

This is a simple process, really.

It is just a matter of connecting your garden hose up and filling the hot tub through an easily connected external filter like the Pacific Sands Ecoone spa filter, then through the inbuilt filters to make sure no large particles get into your hot tub.

Once the flow begins, then you can close the drain to allow it to fill up to the low water mark before adding any chemical water treatments suggested in either these pages or your instruction manual or cd. You need to add the water as you are told in the instructions or cd supplied with your hot tub.

Finally, add more water, not forgetting to allow for bodies displacing any water when everyone climbs in and check the chemical levels again.

Switch the heat on and wait for the temperature to rise to suit what you want…

THEN JUMP IN and enjoy it.

how to clean a hot tub without draining it vinegar

Some Simple Ideas To Keep Your Hot Tub In First Class Condition

As a rule, keeping your hot tub clean doesn’t take too long if done regularly, but a few simple ideas won’t go amiss in extending those usage periods.

Entering the spa after a shower when no natural body oils, sweat or sun-screens have been used is keeping contaminants out of the water. In the same way, make-up should be reduced or removed first before entering, as being oil and powder-based these can cloud the water or add scum-forming oils.

Wearing light shoes and removing them before entering the water will reduce grit and dirt being transferred into your pool.

It is advisable to keep hair, either in a cap or band, so as little as possible contacts the sides or cushions, that way not depositing more oils on the sides of your pool.

Make a point of keeping your hot tub covered when not in use, to keep out any foreign bodies falling in, also to keep blowing dust out as well while keeping the temperature at the right level.

Clean your water filters regularly. We suggest every two weeks to provide a good filtration system. Also replace them annually.

Check your chemical balance every two days to make sure your water is sanitized thoroughly.

Be sure to use scumbags to keep the oil levels down in your pool and wash them weekly or fortnightly according to use.


As a result of this, we find having our own hot tub has been a great success and we really enjoy the benefits – sometimes can’t wait to get in, and having to do the maintenance is no problem at all.

In the same way, you can have the same pleasures with a little care and end up with a big smile on your face.

Why not check out our other informative blogs?

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