How To Drain And Clean Your Hot Tub (In 7 Easy Steps)

Hot tubs are a little different than swimming pools in that they need to be drained and refilled occasionally.

Draining and refilling a pool is a huge task that wastes way too much water to be practical, but hot tubs are small enough that it is feasible to drain them every few months and start over with fresh water.

Why You Need To Drain Your Hot Tub

It’s necessary to drain hot tubs because the temperature they are operated at make them an even bigger breeding ground than pools for bacteria and all kinds of other gunk.

That’s right, your unclean hot tub can be a breeding ground for E-cole, legionella, and a whole slew of other foul-sounding germs!

But I’m here to show you how to get rid of all that!

Draining and cleaning your hot tub is a fairly easy process that anyone can do.

So, let’s get started!

Step #1: Flush The Lines

Bob Vila says (and who doesn’t trust Bob Vila?) that you need to flush your hot tub lines BEFORE you drain your tub.

That’s because the product needs to be added while the hot tub is operating so that it sends it through all the lines. 

Why do you need to flush the lines?

Because that’s where most of that disgusting bacteria is being harbored.

Right there in that sticky, slimy layer of biofilm that is lining the inside of your plumbing lines.

For this step, you just choose a line flush product, turn your hot tub jets on, and add it according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Allow the chemical to circulate through the plumbing system for the specified amount of time before you drain the water.

Step #2: Turn Off The Power

Not only is it dangerous to work with this amount of water while connected to a power source, it is also bad for your hot tub if the system powers on while its empty.

Turn it off and completely disconnect anything electrical before you start to drain the tub.

Step #3: Drain The Hot Tub

Check with your hot tub manufacturer for specific directions to drain the water from your unit.

You’ll have a drain plug somewhere in the tub that needs to be removed in order to allow all the water to drain out.

You can also use a submersible pump to remove the water if you prefer a faster method; these can usually be rented from your local pool supply store.

Step #4: Clean The Filters

You can technically remove the filters while your hot tub is draining or even before.

While you’re waiting for the water to drain out is a good time to start cleaning them.

Use a good hot tub cleaning agent to spray them down and then hose off.

Some of the line flush cleaners are also good for general hot tub cleaning; just check the label to see. 

If your filters look particularly dirty, but you don’t think it’s been long enough to need to replace them, you can try soaking them in a vinegar and water solution or a dry dishwasher detergent and water solution.

Just soak them overnight and then rinse clean.

Your filters should be replaced about once a year, so if it has been that long or if your filters seem to be really gunked up, go ahead and toss them out and replace them with fresh ones.

Step #5: Clean The Hot Tub Interior

Once the pool is empty, spray it down well with your hot tub cleaner. Then wipe it away with an absorbent towel.

It’s also a good idea to go ahead and rinse the cleaner off with a hose, then give it another wipe with a towel just to make sure you remove all the solution.

Any residue or cleaner leftover will cause your hot tub to foam excessively. 


Other household cleaners like windex or a vinegar and water solution can also be used, depending on how long you’ve waited between cleanings and how much buildup there is in the tub.

The amount of gunk that comes out with the drained water after flushing the lines will probably give you a good idea of just how dirty your hot tub is.

Clean your hot tub cover with the same solution, spray it down, rinse it off and wipe down with a towel. (Read: how to choose the best hot tub cover).

Step #6: Refill The Hot Tub

Ah, now you have a fresh clean hot tub that you won’t be afraid to soak in.

This is another step you might want to consult your owner’s manual for, but basically, you just need to fill it up with a hose. 

It’s a good idea to go ahead and filter the water while it’s going in with a hose filter that fits the end of your garden hose.

Some hot tub models even have a filter well where they recommend placing the hose to fill it up: this is just to remove any residue or contaminants that are already in your water but might mess up your hot tub chemistry.

Step #7: Turn The Power Back On And Add Your Pool Chemicals

Finally, reconnect your power source and turn the hot tub back on to begin circulating the water. 

Make sure you have your pH, alkalinity and calcium hardness levels balanced, then shock your hot tub with either chlorine or bromine shock. 

Keep the hot tub covered for 24 hours, then balance the chemistry again.

5 Tips For Keeping Your Hot Tub Clean

Now that you’re living it up in a nice, clean, germ-free hot tub, wouldn’t it be nice to keep it that way as long as possible?

While you still need to properly drain and refill your hot tub every 3-4 months, it’s still possible to keep it safe and clean in the meantime.

Tip #1: Keep The Chemistry In Balance

You should be checking your chemistry levels 1-2 times a week.

Levels that are out of whack either way can wreak havoc on your plumbing system and the water you’re soaking in.

You can buy test kits or strips online or from your local pool supply store; they’re pretty easy to use and will save you a lot of time and work.

Proper hot tub chemistry levels:

  • Alkalinity: 80-120 ppm
  • pH: 7.4-7.6
  • Sanitizer: 1.0-3.0 ppm
  • Calcium Hardness: 150-250 ppm

Tip #2: Shock Your Hot Tub Regularly

Most experts recommend shocking your hot tub about once a week …

Pool Care Guy Tip

But you can typically get away with doing it only twice a month during winter months or when it isn’t getting much use. 

The shock treatment you use is the same stuff you would buy for a pool and you can get it in either chlorine or non-chlorine form.

Just read the manufacturer’s instructions to find out how much to add for your particular size hot tub, and be sure to leave the pump running during the process and for a few hours after to keep the water circulating.

Tip #3: Keep Your Filter Clean

Be sure to clean your filter cartridge out every 4-6 weeks and replace it about once a year.

(It’s located underneath the skimmer basket and can usually be cleaned with a good hosing off).

Tip #4: Keep Your Hot Tub Full

As long as your hot tub is turned on, it is best to make sure you keep it full.

If the water gets below the skimmer line, it will start sucking air and potentially damage the pump and heater.

Tip #5: Keep The Cover On

Your hot tub cover will help reduce evaporation and keep debris and contaminants out of the water, so keep it on any time the hot tub is not in use.

Wrapping Up

Draining and cleaning your hot tub really is that simple, and not much harder than cleaning out your bathroom tub.

Just keep on top of checking the chemistry levels regularly and clean it out as often as needed, and you should be able to enjoy all its bubbly coziness for many years to come!

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