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End-to-End Guide: How to Drain a Hot Tub Properly

Thought draining your hot tub was difficult? In this guide, we provide you with the best steps to ensure that you can drain your hot tub easily and safely.

A hot tub’s water needs regular maintenance to ensure that it is clean and safe to use. This makes draining an essential part of your hot tub cleaning routine. Draining the water may seem challenging at first and you may have many questions in your mind like how do I know it’s time to drain the water?, how do I drain the water?, how to winterize a hot tub correctly?, what is the difference between a sump pump and Shop-Vac (Wet-Vac)? or where do I drain the water? In this guide, we’ll give you all the information that you need on draining your hot tub’s water and we’ll also cover typical draining mistakes and problems that you may face to help simplify the draining process for you.

Why and when to drain the water?

Replacing the water in your hot tub is important since it allows you to get rid of the “old”, saturated water. You cannot maintain a hot tub without the use of chemicals, however regular use of chemicals contributes to water saturation — over time, the chemicals lose their ability to balance the water and that is when you need to drain the water and replace it with fresh water.

Draining the water gives you a chance to clean out the shell of the hot tub as well as the filters, along with the front ends of the hot tub jets. Cleaning the shell will ensure that water is sanitized and clean to use. 

You should also drain your hot tub’s water to prepare it for winterization. In the winter season, this prevents you from the risk of frozen water in the pipes that can lead to damages. 

You need to make sure that you clean the hot tub, drain it and refill it with fresh water as well as prepare it for winterization. We’ve created a list of some of the best products that will help with the process.

ProductFor cleaningFor winterizationWhy do I need it?
Flush line product✔️✔️To get rid of the dirt accumulated on the pipes
Garden hose✔️✔️To drain the water; good for small hot tubs
Sump pump (optional)✔️✔️If you need to drain the water very quickly (let’s say 10 minutes)
Shop-Vac (optional)✔️It works like a vacuum cleaner and helps remove excess water and debris
Filter soak product✔️✔️Used to deep clean filters and prolong their life
Shell cleaning spray✔️✔️Used to remove dirt and organic contaminants from the hot tub’s shell
Cover cleaner✔️✔️Gets rid of dirt accumulated on the hot tub’s cover and protects it from harmful UV rays
Pre-filter✔️Essential for areas with hard water (full of minerals) or for those customers that want the purest form of water
Test strips✔️Used to check water indicators (pH, Total Alkalinity, Chlorine/Bromine levels) and ensure that the hot tub is ready to use
Chlorine or Bromine sanitizer✔️To make the water safe by keeping it bacteria-free
Propylene Glycol antifreeze solution✔️Protects pipes from freezing even in the coldest weather; is safe and non-toxic

What about the frequency of draining? You should drain the water every three months to prevent the water from saturating. However, some instances demand immediate drainage. Let’s take a look at some of the things that you need to look out for: 

Difficult to balance the water. You may notice that you cannot achieve an adequate pH (7.2 – 7.8) or Total Alkalinity (80 – 150 ppm) level. You add a pH decreaser /pH increaser or Total Alkalinity Increaser and nothing helps. Some water indicators (pH, Total Alkalinity) are like a roller coaster, fluctuating time, and again. It is recommended to replace the water as it is a sign that the hot tub water is saturated.

A difference in the color of the water (green, yellow, brown, white). The color of the water may change for various reasons but the most common one is excessive mineral content, algae, and insufficient rinsing with water after cleaning the filter.

Foul odors. This is a common problem that can arise if you don’t use the hot tub for a long time or use it often but don’t clean it properly.

Foaming.Foaming water can result due to soap residues or the use of cosmetics. It can also occur due to low calcium hardness or imbalanced water.

Draining a hot tub – step by step:

Below we will provide you with an easy step-by-step procedure on how to drain a hot tub.

1. Flush the lines

SeaKlear Spa System Flush

This cleaning procedure is required before you drain your hot tub. Even if your sanitizer level is perfect, your hot tub can still develop a biofilm: a bacteria that isolates itself from the chlorine and starts exposing other contaminants like legionnaires or Staphylococcus. These bacteria can pose serious health concerns like intense stomach illness, skin rashes, eye, and ear irritation. Due to dirty pipes, your hot tub water can turn a red-yellow color and can cause a foul odor over time.

The line flush product will help you deal with the dirt accumulated on the pipes. This is a special hot tub cleaner formulated to break down the biofilm. 

Extremely easy-to-use, just add the required amount of flush product (relative to your hot tub’s volume) into the hot tub water and let it circulate for 30 minutes at high speed or leave it overnight at low speed.

Note: Don’t worry if a gross-looking foam appears, this indicates that the pipes are really dirty. The flush line product will remove the germs and the biofilm.

2. Turn the power off

Before draining your hot tub, it is important to turn off the power connection. The combination of electricity and water is dangerous and it can damage your hot tub. The pump motor may also break down if it is running in an empty hot tub. 

3. Drain the water

There are two ways to drain the water — with a garden hose (the most popular method) and using a sump pump (to drain a hot tub fast).

Another thing you have to keep in mind is that storm drains are not a good place to drain as it has a negative impact on the environment. Many people drain onto the grass; however, if you opt to do this, you will need to continually move the hose to prevent flooding.

How to drain a hot tub with a garden hose?

Draining the water with a garden hose is the most popular and the cheapest way to drain a hot tub. This method will be perfect for owners of small hot tubs or for those who don’t mind taking their time.

The only disadvantage of this method is that some water will remain in hard-to-reach places (seats and footwell). However, if you noticed that the hot tub is really dirty in hard-to-reach places, you need to use Shop-Vac (also called Wet Vac). It deals with this task perfectly. Shop-Vac will be helpful for winterization in areas where the temperature falls below 32°F (0°C) since it removes the water even from the plumbing system.

Note: The Shop-Vac works like a vacuum cleaner and cannot be used to drain all the water from the hot tub. It is good for removing excess water. To drain the water quickly, use a sump pump.

Stanley Shop-Vac

Price range: $$$

– Get every last bit of water out of the tub
– Wet and Dry Vacuum perfect for household application
– Large capacity (6 gallons)

Follow 5 easy steps to drain water with a garden hose:

  1. Find the main hot tub drain plug. It is located at the bottom or at the corner of a hot tub.
  2. Attach a garden hose. Make sure it is securely tight. The hose should be empty before draining.
  3. Check whether your hot tub has an auxiliary plug. Use the main plug to drain most of the water. If you have an auxiliary plug, use it to get rid of water from plumbing.
  4. Run the hose to the place you drain the water.
  5. Open the ball valve and start draining.
  6. After draining, use the Shop-Vac if needed.

Using a sump pump

You can use a sump pump if you find it difficult to drain all of the water or if it is taking much longer than you wish. This product is amazingly designed to pump the water efficiently, there will be no water left in your hot tub. The sump pump will streamline the draining process.

Using a sump pump is ideal for owners of big hot tubs or entrepreneurs who have a business connected with spas.

Keep an eye on the pump while it is draining the water. The pump should not be on when there is no water in the hot tub, as it can burn the motor.

To drain the water with a sump pump, follow the steps:

  1. Attach a garden hose to the sump pump.
  2. Place the pump at the deepest point of your hot tub.
  3. Run the hose’s open end to the draining place.
  4. Turn the sump pump on and start draining.
  5. When the hot tub is empty, turn the sump pump off and detach the hose.

Professional EZ
Drain Pump

Check this 3 Best Sump Pumps tested & approved by a hot tub designer and an engineer

4. Clean filters and shells

Having drained the water from your hot tub, you have an opportunity to clean the shell and soak the filter in chemicals.

The hot tub shell may look clean but once the water is drained, you can be surprised how much dirt is accumulated in hard-to-reach places such as the footwell and the jets. The hot tub shell has moisture which makes it a perfect breeding spot for bacteria.

The filter ensures that pure water fills into your hot tub and prevents the pump from getting gunked up. It filters out all the dirt and contaminants, therefore it requires a deep cleaning at least once every three months after draining the water. This will prevent germs, contaminations, health risks, and will prolong the filter’s lifespan. 

SpaDepot Filter cleaner

Price range: $

– Deep filter cleaning
– Works with all sanitizers
– Removes organic contaminants (cosmetics residues, dirt)
– Economical to us

EcoOne
Shell Cleaner

Price range: $

– Maintains, and increases the longevity of the hot tub
– Breaks down organic buildups (scale, dirt, oil)
– Compatible with all surfaces

5. Clean the hot tub’s cover

The hot tub’s cover accumulates a lot of dirt from the environment; it needs to be cleaned every three months to prevent the bacteria from getting into the water. 

A common mistake is to skip cleaning the underside of the hot tub cover. The bacteria at this part of the cover will grow and may create mold over time.

Before using a cover cleaner, wash off the dirt and leaves from the surface of the cover with a garden hose. You can then apply a cover cleaner on the surface to clean the cover properly. Then flip over the cover and clean the other side.

Leisure Time Cover Care and Conditioner

Price range: $

– Works with all sanitizers
– Protects from UV rays
– Repels water and dirt

6. Start refilling your hot tub

Once you have worked through all the draining and cleaning processes, you can fill the hot tub with fresh water. Before refiling make sure the breaker is still off and the jets are opened. Now you can stick the end of the hose into the filter compartment and turn on the spigot. Once the hot tub is filled with water, you can detach the hose.

If you live in an area with hard water (water contains a number of minerals) or you want to get the purest water in your hot tub, we highly recommend using a pre-filter. You just need to connect it to the hose before refilling. A pre-filter will prevent metals and contaminants from getting into your hot tub. In the long run, it will prolong the lifespan of the filter.

Guardian Hot Tub Pre Filter

Price range: $

– Removes minerals/contaminants
– Provides the purest water
– Prolongs the hot tub filter’s lifespan

7. Turn on the power

Now you can turn on the breaker which will allow the system to start up. The water can circulate and start to slowly heat up.

8. Balance the water

Just one more step before enjoying your time in your hot tub.

It is important to achieve a balance with pH, Total Alkalinity, and chlorine or bromine after refilling the tub, as you do in your regular hot tub maintenance

You will need two products: test strips and a sanitizer (chlorine or bromine). With test strips, you can check the pH (should be 7.2 – 7.8), Total Alkalinity (should be 80 – 150 ppm), and chlorine/bromine levels — the most important indicators of safe water. The sanitizer will help to keep your hot tub bacteria-free.

Adjust these indicators if needed.

Leisure Time Chlorine Granules

– Destroys organic contaminants

– Controls algae growth

AquaChek Test strips

– Shows pH, Total Alkalinity, chlorine and bromine levels
– Helps to ensure clear and safe water

Leisure Time Bromine Tablets

– Easy to use bromine tablets

– Keeps water clean and odor-free

Where to drain the hot tub water?

Drained hot tub

The most common places to drain a hot tub’s water include the lawn, garden, or a sewer system. Provided that the water is balanced you can safely pour the water on grass and plants protecting them from damage. 

You can also use a garden hose by connecting it to the sink in your home.

NEVER drain the water in a storm drain as it can be harmful to the ecosystem. 

Typical mistakes

Speed up the draining process by using a hot tub pump

Draining the water with the garden hose takes time, but don’t try to accelerate the process with the help of a hot tub pump. If the spa pump runs without any water, it can damage the pump.

Not rinsing the filter and shell with water properly

Once you’ve got rid of dirt on the filter and the shell, you should carefully rinse these parts with water to eliminate residues of chemicals. This will prevent the formation of foamy water.

Not using the pre-filter

A pre-filter is essential if you have hard water in your area. It helps the hot tub filter to remove contaminants from the water and ensures that you have clean and pure water in your hot tub.

Problems you may face

The jets don’t work

Having refilled your hot tub, it may seem that the jets have stopped working. The reason might be due to air trapped inside the plumbing. To prevent trapped air problems, place a garden hose in the filter compartment rather than in the hot tub shell.

Noises after turning on the hot tub

The reason can be in a wrongly installed filter or improperly secured connecting points (catches). Try addressing the problem, making sure the power is switched off before you do anything. 

Clean your hot tub to avoid diseases

Did you know that there are certain cleaning routines that you need to perform on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, or yearly basis?

According to the investigations of the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, hot tub contamination might cause severe diseases like pneumonia and even STDs, and what’s worse is the fact that contaminations and health risks of hot tubs are usually invisible to the naked eye.

Make sure you know and do what it takes to keep your hot tub clean to stay healthy and safe. Some extra effort and time during the cleaning and maintenance will always be worth it.

How to winterize a hot tub

A properly winterized hot tub

Winterizing hot tub is essential for people who live in a chilly climate and need to ensure that their spa is well looked after during the winter season.

To winterize hot tubs correctly, you will need:

Note: Use only Propylene Glycol as an antifreeze solution for your hot tub since it is not toxic and will not damage your hot tub. Never use automobile antifreeze (Ethylene Glycol).

Once you’ve got everything, follow our guide:

  1. Flush the lines. Get rid of any contaminants in the lines before winterizing hottub;
  2. Turn the power off. Due to safety reasons, don’t ignore this step;
  3. Drain out all the water. Don’t worry if some water remains in the hot tub, you can easily remove the excess with a Shop-Vac in step 6 of our guide;
  4. Loosen the unions. Locate the pump and heater and then loosen the unions to drain water from the plumbing system;
  5. Remove and soak the filter in chemicals. Once you’ve done it, store the filter cartridges in a dry place;
  6. Remove the excess water from the pipes with a Shop-Vac. It works like a vacuum cleaner and will be perfect for removing excess water. If water is left in the pipes, it can freeze and cause the pipes to crack. A Shop-Vac will blow out all the water from every union, jet, and filter cavity. You can also use it to remove the water from hard-to-reach places like the footwell. This step will be obligatory for the areas where the temperature falls below 32°F (0°C);
  7. Clean the shell. A lot of dirt may accumulate at its walls, get rid of the dirt so you are not welcomed with an unpleasant surprise when you use the hot tub after winterization;
  8. Pour antifreeze solution in all the standpipes, filter suction fittings and jet orifices. In many cases, some liquid may remain in the orifices, the antifreeze will ensure adequate protection. Don’t forget to remove antifreeze when you decide to use the hot tub again — just add a double dose of chlorine, circulate the water then drain it and refill;
  9. Clean the cover and secure it. To prevent bacterial growth over time, you should clean the cover. Clean the cover and ensure that it is secured before winterizing to prevent living creatures from getting into your hot tub.

Summing it all up

Draining your hot tub is not difficult provided that you follow the step-by-step guide on how to do it correctly. The draining process takes time and is not limited to replacing the water. You also need a quarterly cleaning process which includes flushing the lines, cleaning the filter, shell, and the cover.

Provided you take your time and clean and drain your hot tub safely, you can ensure that you will have a clean and safe hot tub to use.

FAQs

⏳ How often should I drain the water?

Hot tub water should be drained every three months. You need to drain the water immediately if it is hard to balance, turns a different color, or has a foul odor.

🌱 Is it safe to drain the water on grass?

You can drain water on grass if it is balanced, otherwise, the lawn may suffer and turn yellow.

⚡ How can I drain a hot tub quickly?

The quickest way to drain the water is by using a sump pump. It will help you to drain water in just 10 minutes (on average).

🧽 How to clean a hot tub without draining it?

You can use a hot tub vacuum cleaner. However, you shouldn’t miss the draining part since it allows deep cleaning — flushing the lines, cleaning the filter, shell, and the cover.

❄ Can I drain hot tub water in winter?

We would not recommend draining water in winter since some water may be left in the pipes and may freeze; frozen water in pipes leads to damage.

💧 What’s partial water change?

It’s draining half of the water and refilling it. This may help if you have problems with water balancing. Partial water change cannot be an alternative to draining.

☄ How to drain hot tub water completely?

The quickest and most efficient method to drain hot tub water is using a sump pump. Once you have drained the water, we recommend using a Shop-Vac to remove all the water from hard-to-reach places such as the footwell, jets, and pipes.

Sources

1. Investigation of Spa Pools Associated with Lung Disorders Caused by Mycobacterium avium Complex in Immunocompetent Adults
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC492441/

2. Guide to Ship Sanitation. 3rd edition. Recreational water environments
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK310818/

3. Legionellosis Associated with Recreational Waters: A Systematic Review of Cases and Outbreaks in Swimming Pools, Spa Pools, and Similar Environments
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6121464/

4. Hot-Tub–Associated Mycobacterial Infections in Immunosuppressed Persons
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2730339/

5. Outbreaks Associated with Treated Recreational Water — United States, 2000–2014
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6048947/

6. Swimmer, Protect Thyself: Cleaning Up the Pool Environment
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2974719/

7. Center for Disease Contol and Prevention: Hot Tub/Spa User Information
https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/swimmers/hot-tub-user-information.html

8. Cruickshank, H. (2018, June 6). CDC Finds Pools and Hot Tubs Cause One-Third of Waterborne Disease Outbreaks. Retrieved from Health Line: https://www.healthline.com/health-news/cdc-finds-pools-hot-tubs-cause-waterborne-disease-outbreaks#1

9. Gardner, M. (2010, October 13). Maintaining spa water quality is easier than you think. Retrieved from Water Tech Online: https://www.watertechonline.com/maintaining-spa-water-quality-is-easier-than-you-think/

10. Lee, B. Y. (2016, May 30). The Dirt On Swimming Pools And Hot Tubs. Retrieved from Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucelee/2016/05/30/how-to-recognize-a-dirty-and-dangerous-swimming-pool/#59e0df4842f5

11. Rabin, R. C. (2018, May 18). Sparkling Pool Water May Hold Disease-Causing Parasites. Retrieved from The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/18/well/live/swimming-pools-bacteria-parasites-diarrhea-hot-tubs.html

12. Reynolds, K., Canales, R. A., Suppes, L. M., & Gerba, C. (2016). Cryptosporidium risk from swimming pool exposures. International journal of hygiene and environmental health.

13. Rossi, P. (2019, February 10). Hot tub health benefits. Retrieved from By Rossi: https://byrossi.com/all-hot-tub-health-benefits/

14. Stuever, H. (2003, January 31). Getting down and dirty in the hot tub. Retrieved from The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/2003/01/31/getting-down-and-dirty-in-the-hot-tub/bc07dcad-bc16-4b84-8d80-8e851fa6f69c/

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