Beginner’s Hot Tub Care & Maintenance Guide

Posted by Nick Clamp in Maintaining a Hot Tub Guides on 14th September 2021

Sticking to a regular hot tub maintenance schedule is key to keeping your home spa clean and hygienic – as well as prolonging its lifespan.

There are only a small handful of things you need to keep an eye on to make sure your hot tub is always ready to use whenever you fancy a soak, too.

Read on to discover everything you need to know about maintaining your hot tub, including the simple maintenance schedule every hot tub owner should stick to for the best results.

What happens if you don’t maintain your hot tub?

Firstly, slipping into your home spa is a lot less luxurious if it isn’t clean. Fail to take care of your hot tub and it will lose its allure as a peaceful sanctuary.

Plus, an untreated tub of hot water is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Slip on sanitising your hot tub’s water and you’ll quickly run into serious problems, from cloudy water and hot tub foam to algae blooms and white water mould. These can be a huge pain to fix, but they’re easy to prevent if you just stick to a basic maintenance schedule.

Contaminants in dirty hot tub water will also build up in your spa’s filters, meaning your hot tub circulation pumps will have to work harder to pull the water through its filters. This added strain can seriously reduce the lifespan of your pumps, meaning you’ll have to go to the effort and expensive of replacing them sooner.

What you need to maintain

Photo © Merlin Pools

There are only a few things you need to look after to make sure your hot tub is always in good working order.

These are:

General cleanliness

Taking a few minutes each week to wipe your hot tub’s shell down with a sponge and spa surface cleaning solution will keep it clean and presentable, as well as help prevent the buildup of bacteria.

Circulation

Most modern hot tubs automatically circulate their water through their filters each day, helping to keep the water clean and bacteria-free.

If you have an older home spa, make sure to run it for fifteen minutes every day to make sure the water gets filtered and any contaminants get cleared.

Sanitiser

No matter how often you wipe your hot tub down and circulate its water, there’s no getting round the fact your wet, warm hot tub is the perfect place for bacteria and algae to flourish.

Luckily, controlling and preventing bacteria growth is as easy as keeping your spa topped up with enough sanitiser.

There are two main hot tub chemicals that kill bacteria: chlorine and bromine.

Chlorine

Chlorine is the most popular hot tub sanitiser.

When chlorine is added to water it creates hypochlorous acid, which kills bacteria. Once this hypochlorous acid has reacted with other elements, it deactivates and leaves behind chloramines, which create that distinctive chlorine smell.

Your need to maintain your hot tub’s chlorine levels between 3 and 5mg/l (milligrams per litre). Any lower than this and the concentration won’t be strong enough to effectively kill bacteria. Any higher and it can damage your hot tub’s components and irritate your skin, eyes, and lungs.

Chlorine comes in the form of granules and tablets. Chlorine tablets are placed in a a floating dispenser and dissolve gradually over time, while granules are added directly to the hot tub water every time you need to bring your chlorine levels up.

Bromine

Just like chlorine, bromine dissolves in water and kills any bacteria that’s present.

Bromine has a lower pH than chlorine, which means you need to add more each time you top it up –between 4 and 6mg/l (milligrams per litre). However, it also acts more slowly, meaning you don’t need to top it up as often. Plus, it doesn’t create chloramines, which means it doesn’t create that swimming pool smell.

And because it’s a bit softer on the skin, bromine is a good option for people with sensitive skin.

However, it’s a bit more expensive and not as readily available as chlorine, which you’ll find in any reputable hot tub dealership across the country

No matter which form of sanitiser you opt for, carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions to make sure it works as effectively as possible.

And never use chlorine and bromine at the same time, as this can cause a dangerous reaction. If you want to switch from one sanitiser to the other, drain and deep clean your hot tub, then use the new sanitiser in a fresh batch of hot tub water.

pH balance

If your hot tub’s pH levels aren’t right then your sanitiser won’t work properly. In extreme cases, the water won’t be safe to use and can erode your home spa’s components.

A safe pH range for a hot tub is between 7.2 and 7.6. This is very slightly alkaline, which helps chlorine and bromine work effectively.

If your hot tub’s water falls below 7.2 on the pH scale it will be too acidic. It will corrode your spa’s components and irritate your skin and eyes.

A pH above 7.6 will make your water too alkaline, which can lead to cloudy water and scaling of the spa’s parts. It can also drastically reduce how effectively your sanitiser works, with chlorine just 20% effective at a pH level of 8.

Everything that goes into your hot tub’s water affects its pH level. Our skin actually has a pH of 5.5, meaning we actually lower the pH of a hot tub every time we take a dip. so, check your hot tub’s pH level every day to make sure its always between 7.2 and 7.6. Add a pH increaser if it’s below this range and a pH decreaser if it’s above it.

Water change

No matter how fastidiously you stick to your hot tub water care routine, you spa will need emptying and refilling eventually.

That’s because your spa’s water absorbs minerals, chemicals, and contaminants and increase what’s known as the Total Dissolved Solids (TDS). The more TDS in your hot tub’s water, the less effectively your sanitiser will work.

Keep your spa water clean and bacteria-free by replacing it ever three months – or more often if you use your hot tub more than four times a week.

Cleaning and replacing the filters

Every time you use your spa, its filters do the heavy lifting of filtering out contaminants and keeping your the water clean.

To keep them working as effectively as possible, you should:

  • Remove them and rinse them off with a garden hose every week.
  • Clean them with hot tub filter cleaner every month.
  • Soak them in chemical cleaner every time you change your hot tub’s water.
  • Replace them when the when the filtration material starts to disintegrate (usually between one and two years).

Hot tub care schedule

Photo © Villeroy & Boch

Now you’ve got a handle on all the aspects of your hot tub that need maintaining, here’s a simple maintenance schedule that will help you stay on top of everything that needs looking after:

Daily checks

Every day:

  1. Use a pH test strip to check your hot tub’s pH level is between 7.2 and 7.6. Add a pH increaser if it’s below this range and a pH decreaser if it’s above it.
  2. If you use chlorine to sanitise your hot tub, use a chlorine test strip to check the chlorine level is between 3 and 5mg/l (milligrams per litre). If it’s below this, top it up.
  3. If you use bromine to sanitise your hot tub, use a bromine test strip to check the bromine level is between 4 and 6mg/l (milligrams per litre). If it’s below this, top it up.

Weekly checks

Once a week:

  1. Remove the filters rinse them off with a hose.
  2. Turn on all the hydrotherapy pumps, open any topside air controls, and ensure that any adjustable flow-control waterfalls or jets are turned on. If your hot tub is producing visible foam, add a touch of spa foam suppressant until the foam dissipates, then turn the air controls and waterfalls back off.
  3. Check the water for clarity. If it’s cloudy, use a combination of fast-acting oxidisers and clarifiers to clear it.
  4. If you’re in a hard water area, add a dose of anti-scale to your hot tub to prevent limescale building up on your components.
  5. Check for Total Alkalinity (TA). If TA is low, pH can easily fluctuate, making it difficult to control and maintain the ideal level for the rest of the week. Ideally aim for a TA level of between 125 – 150mg/l – but a minimum 80mg/l.
  6. Clear any leaves, debris, and grit from the footwell by hand and from inside your hot tub with a skimmer net or spa vacuum.
  7. Give the topside and waterline of your spa’s acrylic shell a quick wipe down with a damp cloth and a spa surface cleaning solution.

Monthly checks

Every month:

  1. Remove your spa’s filters and thoroughly clean them with hot tub filter cleaner.
  2. Give the inside of your spa a deep clean with a damp cloth and a spa surface cleaner solution.

Quarterly checks

Every three months:

  1. ‘Zap’ the water with a fast-acting plumbing cleaner to remove any residue or greasy body oils from the inside of the plumbing system, then drain your hot tub’s water.
  2. Once empty, throughly clean the inside of your hot tub with a damp cloth and a spa surface cleaner solution.
  3. Remove your hot tub’s filters and soak them in chemical cleaner, then rinse them off.
  4. Remove your hot tub’s headrests and thoroughly clean them (and the acrylic area behind them) to remove any potential contaminants. Once dry, use a vinyl protectant such as 303 Protectant to help preserve their lifespan.
  5. Start refilling your hot tub, then add some fast-acting chlorine or bromine granules to start the sanitisation process. Remember that you’re aiming for Free Chlorine level of 2 – 5mg/l or a Total Bromine level of 3 – 6mg/l once the spa is refilled, so don’t go overboard at this stage with your chemical levels.
  6. Once your spa is full, check and adjust pH to 7.2 – 7.6 and Total Alkalinity (TA) to 125 – 150mg/l.
  7. If your hot tub cover is made of vinyl, wash it with warm soapy water, leave it to dry, then use 303 Protectant to protect it from UV damage and prolong its lifespan.

Annual checks

Every year:

  1. Hire a specialist to conduct a full hot tub service to ensure it lasts as long as possible.
  2. Replace your hot tub filters.

So, there you have it: everything you need to know to keep your hot tub clean and hygienic, prevent the most common problems, and ensure your home spa lasts as long as possible.

Stick to this hot tub maintenance schedule and you’re bound to get decades of use out of a hot tub from a reliable and reputable brand.

And be sure to pick up your free copy of WhatSpa? magazine for help narrowing down a shortlist of best buys and quickly finding the right hot tub for you.



About the author

Nick Clamp

I am the Editor-in-Chief at WhatSpa? Media Group and my job is to keep you informed about the very latest hot tubs on the UK market... the best job in the world! When I'm not being deluged with press releases and hot tub brochures I enjoy keeping fit and participating in endurance events including triathlons and distance running.

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