How to Drain a Hot Tub: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Drain a Hot Tub: A Step-by-Step Guide

As a hot tub owner, you'll know that regular maintenance is key to keeping your inflatable hot tub in top-notch condition. Part of this upkeep involves draining and refilling your hot tub every three to four months. This ensures the water remains clean and safe for use, and it also helps prolong the lifespan of your tub.

Whether you're a seasoned spa owner or a newbie, draining your hot tub can seem like a daunting task. But don't fret! We've got you covered with our easy-to-follow guide on how to drain a hot tub, with or without a pump.

Why Drain Your Hot Tub?

First things first, why do we need to drain our hot tubs? Well, over time, the water in your hot tub can accumulate bacteria, algae, and other unwanted substances. This not only affects the water quality but can also damage your hot tub's components.

Buildup of Contaminants

When water sits stagnant in a hot tub for weeks or months, contaminants start to build up:

  • Bacteria - Bacteria like pseudomonas can start to grow, creating a biofilm on surfaces. This bacteria can cause infections and skin rashes.

  • Algae - Green, black, or mustard algae will bloom when conditions are right, making the water murky and difficult to disinfect.

  • Scale - Minerals in the water precipitate out forming hard calcium or lime scale deposits on surfaces. This can damage equipment.

  • Oils/Cosmetics - Body oils, cosmetics, and other organic matter accumulate over time. This feeds more bacteria growth.

  • Chloramines - Chlorine binds with ammonia from sweat and urine to form irritating chloramines that cause eye redness.

Improved Water Quality

Draining and replacing the water improves water quality in several ways:

  • Removes contaminants and buildup from the system
  • Resets the pH and alkalinity to proper levels
  • Provides fresh water with lower TDS (total dissolved solids)
  • Improves the effectiveness of sanitizers like chlorine
  • Removes disinfection byproducts which can irritate skin and eyes
  • Provides better smelling and clearer water

Reduced Strain on Equipment

Draining the hot tub also reduces strain on equipment like pumps and heaters which have to work harder to keep contaminated water clean.

Fresh water will heat more efficiently and allow components to run smoother. Scale buildup inside plumbing and heaters can slowly damage equipment over time.

Longer Hot Tub Lifespan

Taking good care of your hot tub through regular draining and maintenance will directly translate to a longer lifespan.

Replacing the water extends the life of all components that come in contact with water. Catching leaks early when the tub is empty also reduces long term damage.

Following the manufacturer's recommendations for draining every 3-4 months will help maximize your hot tub's working life. Don't take shortcuts here.

Tools You'll Need

Before we dive into the steps, let's gather all the tools you'll need:

  • Garden hose - You'll need a standard garden hose long enough to reach from your hot tub to a suitable drainage area. Avoid drinking water hoses.

  • Submersible pump (optional) - A small submersible pump will speed up draining significantly, but isn't mandatory.

  • Clean towels - Have some clean dry towels on hand to wipe down the empty hot tub. Paper towels also work.

  • A bucket - A bucket is useful for bailing out the last bit of residual water.

  • Screwdriver - A flat head screwdriver can help remove jets or other fittings if needed.

  • Gloves - Waterproof gloves are useful for handling dirty filters or debris in the tub.

  • Eye protection - Safety glasses or goggles are a good idea when working around chemicals.

  • Sanitizer - Have some fresh chlorine or bromine on hand to sanitize after cleaning.

  • Replacement filters - Fresh filters are recommended after draining the tub.

  • Test strips - Test strips for chlorine, pH, alkalinity, and hardness help get water chemistry right.

Draining Your Hot Tub Without a Pump

If you don't have a submersible pump handy, no worries! You can still drain your hot tub using good old gravity. Here's how:

1. Turn Off Power

Safety first! Always turn off the power supply to your hot tub before starting any maintenance work. There should be a dedicated GFCI breaker for the hot tub in the electrical panel.

2. Locate the Drain

Most inflatable hot tubs come with a built-in drain valve or stopcock. You'll usually find this at the lowest point in the bottom of the tub. Consult the owner's manual if you can't locate it.

For acrylic or plastic hard shell hot tubs, there will often be a threaded plastic drain fitting near the foot well.

3. Remove Cover and Access Panel

Take off the hot tub cover completely and set it aside. Remove any access panels on the sides of the hot tub to expose plumbing lines and equipment.

This allows you to keep an eye out for leaks and to clean accumulated debris from the void spaces around pipes.

4. Attach Garden Hose

Connect one end of your garden hose securely to the drain valve or fitting. Use Teflon plumber's tape if needed to get a tight seal.

Make sure the hose is pushed on all the way and won't come loose from water pressure. A loose connection could spray water and make a mess.

5. Run Hose to Drainage Area

The other end of your hose should be placed where you want the water to drain. This might be a lawn, garden, or street gutter.

Position the hose so it slopes downhill without any kinks that could obstruct water flow. Elevate the hose if needed to promote drainage by gravity.

Keep the hose away from any home foundations or plants that could be damaged by the chemicals in hot tub water. Avoid draining onto septic systems.

6. Open Air Controls

Before draining, open up any air control valves on your hot tub pumps. Opening air controls helps the pumps run dry without burning out.

Newer hot tub models may have electronic air control systems that open automatically when the tub drains. Check your manual.

7. Open Drain and Start Draining

Once everything is prepped and the hose is in place, slowly open the drain valve/stopcock. This will start the hot tub water flowing out through the hose.

Let the hose drain vertically down without any loops or kinks that could slow drainage or trap water inside.

8. Drain Until Pump Runs Dry

On most hot tubs, a small amount of water will remain below the drain fitting or Jets even when fully drained. Allow the tub's circulation pump to run until it turns air and runs dry. This will ensure as much water is removed as possible.

Never operate your hot tub heater without water flowing through it to avoid damage. Shut it off before pumps run dry.

9. Remove and Clean Filter Cartridges

With the hot tub drained, carefully remove filter cartridges or screens one at a time. Spray them off with a hose and inspect for any tears or breakdown of the media.

For heavier soiling, cartridges can be soaked in filter cleaner according to package directions. Rinse thoroughly before reinstalling.

Replace filter cartridges annually, more often if they appear worn. Never operate the hot tub without filters installed.

10. Wipe Out Interior With Clean Towels

Once all the water has drained, use the towels you gathered to wipe down the interior shell. Soak up any standing water in seats or on the floor.

Pay special attention to scum lines and areas where bathers contact the surfaces. A mild non-abrasive cleaner can be used for more stubborn residue.

Make sure the entire interior is dried completely to prevent mildew growth. Allow fresh air to circulate for 20-30 minutes with the cover off.

11. Check For Leaks

With the hot tub emptied, this is a prime opportunity to carefully check for any leaks around plumbing unions, seals, jets, or fittings.

Leaks may appear as mineral deposit streaks, pooling water, or even mildew marks outside the tub shell. Make note of any potential leak points for later inspection.

Catching minor leaks early makes repairs much easier before major damage occurs. Ignore leaks and water damage can quickly compound.

12. Reinstall Access Panels and Cover

Once fully dried out inside, replace any access panels and secure them in place with fresh seals if needed.

Put your insulating hot tub cover back on and lock the safety straps to protect the empty interior from debris and keep out rainwater. Keep the cover on until ready to refill.

Keep children away from the empty hot tub to avoid accidents. Refill as soon as possible to get your spa operational again.

Draining Your Hot Tub With a Pump

If you have a submersible utility pump, you can significantly speed up drain time compared to gravity alone. Here's how:

1. Turn Off Power

As always, start by shutting off electrical power to the hot tub at the breaker panel. No pump or equipment should be operating.

2. Position Pump in Hot Tub

Place your submersible pump inside the hot tub, positioning it at the lowest point possible. Often this is a recessed seat or foot well.

Bungee cord or weight down the pump if needed so it stays submerged to prime properly and doesn't float up.

3. Attach Discharge Hose to Pump

Connect your drain hose to the outlet side of the submersible pump. Secure it tightly with a hose clamp if available.

Make sure the pump end of the hose is completely sealed and watertight under pressure.

4. Run Drain Hose to Disposal Area

Route the drain hose to your planned drainage area just as you would for gravity draining.

Keep the hose as short and free of kinks as possible for optimal flow. Position it downhill.

Make sure the hose terminal end empties where you want the discharged water to go and not onto any surfaces that could be damaged.

5. Plug in and Start Pump

Once your pump is primed with water intake inside the hot tub, go ahead and plug it into a GFCI protected outlet.

Turn the pump on and it will begin pumping water out through the hose much faster than gravity flow.

Monitor pump function and hose flow until you are sure the system is draining properly without leaks or issues.

6. Allow Hot Tub to Drain Completely

It will still take some time to drain a full hot tub with a pump, but the process is much faster - typically 30 minutes to a few hours versus 6-8 hours by gravity.

Let the pump run unsupervised until the hot tub water level gets very low. Then you may need to reposition it to drain out remaining water from seats and foot wells.

7. Remove and Rinse Filter Cartridges

Follow the same steps above to remove and rinse out filter cartridges. Inspect them closely and replace if needed.

Having clean filters ready will make refilling the hot tub faster and easier after draining is complete.

8. Wipe Out Hot Tub Interior

Once drained, do a thorough wipe down of the empty hot tub shell, seats, floor, and all plumbing lines with clean dry towels just as before.

Pay extra attention to areas where moisture could be trapped around equipment and fittings. Leave no standing water.

9. Inspect For Leaks

Do a full inspection for any leaks, drips, or wet spots around plumbing and equipment while accessible. Catch issues now before refilling.

Look closely at jet o-rings, pump seals, unions, and heater input/output for signs of leaks. Repair as needed before refilling.

10. Reinstall Access Panels and Cover

With the interior dried out, replace any access panels and insulation covers. Then put the locking hot tub cover back on to protect it while empty.

Stow your pump safely away after draining so it's ready for the next time. With a pump, draining your hot tub becomes a much simpler maintenance task.

Refilling Your Hot Tub

Once your hot tub is fully drained, cleaned, and dried out inside, follow this process to refill it:

1. Close Drain and Remove Hose

Make sure the hot tub drain valve or cap is completely closed and watertight before refilling.

Disconnect and store your drain hose safely away. Consider replacing seals if there are any drips or leaks evident after draining.

2. Fill Through Filter Compartment

Most hot tubs are designed to be refilled directly through the filter compartment using a standard garden hose.

Remove filter cartridges first and fill water 1-2 inches above the highest jets before turning on pumps. Never run pumps dry!

3. Check For Leaks During Filling

Carefully monitor your hot tub during refilling for any drips or leaks around plumbing connections. Stop to tighten or repair as needed.

It's much easier to spot issues like leaky unions while the water is low rather than when completely full. Take your time.

4. Balance Water Chemistry

Before fully powering up the hot tub, test and adjust chemical levels including pH, alkalinity, calcium hardness, and sanitizer.

Quality test strips make this easy. Get the water balanced to avoid damage and ensure proper disinfection.

5. Power Up Hot Tub

Once levels are balanced and the tub is full, go ahead and turn on the hot tub breaker to restore power. Switch on jets pumps, air blowers etc.

Let the hot tub circulate and heat up overnight before using. This ensures chemicals are fully dispersed.

6. Enjoy Your Clean Hot Tub!

After draining, cleaning, refilling, and balancing your hot tub it's now ready to be enjoyed again!

Settle in for nice soak. Make sure to test and adjust chemical levels, filter times, and temperature regularly as part of your hot tub maintenance routine.

Draining your hot tub every 3-4 months will go a long way towards keeping water fresh and your spa in tip-top shape for years of hot tubbing pleasure!

Final Thoughts

Draining your hot tub might seem like a chore, but it's an essential part of hot tub maintenance. Whether you're using a pump or relying on gravity, following these detailed steps will ensure you drain your hot tub safely and efficiently.

Regular draining removes buildup and contaminants, improves water quality, reduces strain on equipment, and ultimately prolongs your hot tub's lifespan. Don't take shortcuts here - you'll be glad you didn't down the road.

Happy soaking in fresh clean water! Be sure to refer back to this guide before your next drain and refill. Here's to many more years of hot tub enjoyment.

drain hot tub hot tub maintenance Inflatable Hot Tub Maintenance

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