How To Winterize a Hot Tub

If you must put the lid on your hot tub for the winter, follow these steps for winterizing it the right way.

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A relaxing soak in a bubbly hot tub sounds like the perfect way to shake off the winter chill. But many hot tub owners close down their private spa while buttoning up their summer cabin or vacation home for the winter. Just like its larger cousin, the swimming pool, a hot tub needs to be properly winterized.

If you do plan to use your hot tub in the winter, it’s still important to protect it from the harsh elements. Here’s how to winterize a hot tub, with some tips and tricks to help you do it right.

Why Do You Need to Winterize Your Hot Tub?

Hot tubs require winterization to protect them from the damaging effects of cold temperatures. “Like a pool, water in hot tub pipes can freeze and crack the pipes, the heater, or the pump,” says John Bodden, operations support advisor for America’s Swimming Pool Company (ASP).

Doing it right involves more than just pulling the plug and letting the water out. If you don’t properly winterize a hot tub, it may not be ready when it’s time to start using it again.

How to Winterize a Hot Tub

“If you do not plan on using your standalone outdoor hot tub, draining and removing all the water in the systems is a good start,” says Bodden, also an ASP franchise owner in Shreveport, Louisiana. “However, adding a few more steps now will save you a lot of time when filling it back up.”

These steps include:

  • Check local requirements: Before you start, ask your local municipality if you’re allowed to send chemically treated water into the main drain. If not, you’ll need to drain the hot tub water into your lawn (see more on that process below).
  • Remove filters: This prevents clogging during the next steps.
  • Add hot tub cleaner: Before draining, add a cleaner to the water and let it circulate for one hour. Bodden recommends Oh Yuk Healthy Hot Tub Cleaner, because, as its name suggests, “it will remove the ‘yuk’ from your tub lines, equipment, and crooks and crannies.” (Browse more hot tub cleaner options.)
  • Open all closed valves: Once the cleaner cycles through the system, open all the valves and let the water drain out. Bodden says a pool and spa professional might find more “hidden” water in the system. “One pump may have freeze plugs on the pump housing that may be hard to locate,” he says. “Another may have a drain petcock at the lowest drain point that is meant to evacuate every last ounce of water.” Service techs, he says, will know the ins and outs of different makes and models. If you drain the water into your lawn, leave the cover off the hot tub for at least three days to let the chlorine dissipate.
  • Clean the body of the hot tub: Once you’ve drained the tub, wipe off grease and grime with any non-foaming, all-purpose cleaner and a soft towel or sponge. Bodden likes Clean and Perfect Surface Cleaner by Natural Chemistry, an all-natural enzyme and citrus-based degreaser that also works on patio furniture and grills.
  • Dry the hot tub. Once clean, completely dry the tub with a microfiber cloth.
  • Cover the hot tub. Install the hard-top cover unless you’re letting the chlorine disperse, as noted above.
  • Clean or replace filters: If your filters are grungy, now is the time to clean or replace them. If you let them sit dirty for the winter, they’ll be even harder to clean in spring. Allow filters to dry completely before you store them for the winter. And if they need replacing, buy them now so that you can install them without delay in the spring.

What If You Still Want to Use Your Hot Tub in the Winter?

Bodden says there are still a few cold-weather maintenance steps to follow.

If you don’t already have one, he recommends buying a hard-top cover to retain heat. Keep the heater on all the time, maintaining a temperature about five degrees lower than its setting for typical use. This way it’ll consume less energy and heat up faster when it’s time for a soak.

How Much Does Hot Tub Winterization Cost?

If you DIY your winterization, your expenses will be just the cost of cleaning materials, assuming you already have a hot tub cover. If you leave it to professionals, expect to pay what you would for a standard pool or spa service call. Bodden says his company charges about $115 per hour and the job takes 60 to 90 minutes.

Elizabeth Heath
Elizabeth Heath is a travel, lifestyle and home improvement writer based in rural Umbria, Italy. Her work appears in The Washington Post, Travel + Leisure, Reader's Digest, TripSavvy and many other publications, and she is the author of several guidebooks. Liz's husband is a stonemason and together, they are passionate about the great outdoors, endless home improvement projects, their tween daughter and their dogs. She covers a variety of topics for Family Handyman and is always ready to test out a new pizza oven or fire pit.