How to Prep Your Hot Tub before Vacation

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You test and balance your hot tub water routinely, so what happens when you’re on vacation and no one is around to care for your spa? In this article we will walk you through the simple steps to properly prep your hot tub before you leave.

HotTub

Drain & Refill

If your water has been in the spa for 3-4 months or more, you’ll want to drain and refill before leaving on vacation, if you wish to use this water upon your return.

Water older than 3-4 months has a high level of TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) and becomes very difficult to adequately sanitize and balance and will not keep quality while you are away.

Draining and refilling prior to leaving on vacation also allows you to start your hot tub with cleaner, more pure water. Here’s how:

  1. Before draining, use a Spa System Flush to remove oily buildup in the plumbing. Drain, and wipe down the spa shell with a damp cloth.
  2. Fill your clean empty hot tub using a Pre-Filter that attaches to your garden hose. This device will filter out impurities such as odor-causing organics, heavy metals, scale and other contaminants.
  3. Thoroughly clean and re-insert your filter cartridge.
  4. Test, sanitize and balance your water as usual.

ClearHotTubWater

Maintaining Water Quality

If you do not plan to drain and refill your water, here’s what you need to do to maintain water quality:

 

For Bromine Systems

BromineTablets

 

Bromine systems require tablets to maintain sufficient levels of sanitizer in the spa. Because hot tub grade chlorine* does not come in tablet form, and the granules dissipate too quickly to be effective, chlorine is not a suitable stand-alone sanitizer for spas. Here’s what chlorine/bromine users should do before leaving on vacation:

  1. Test and balance your pH, Alkalinity and Hardness level.
  2. Clean filter thoroughly.
  3. Bromine and chlorine will continually off-gas** so it is very important to ensure that you have a bromine/chlorine feeder, and that it is full of bromine tablets.
  4. Because your hot tub will not have a bather load, and therefore will not have new bacteria introduced to the water, you should set your feeder opening to 1 (or the smallest notch) to decrease water flow to the tablets. This will help to prevent over-brominating.
  5. If you will be away more than 1 week, turn down the hot tub temperature to the lowest setting. This will decrease your electricity costs, saving you money.
  6. Shock water just prior to leaving.

*Trichlor (pool chlorine tablets) should never be used in hot tubs. It is far too potent and will cause damage to spa equipment.

**IMPORTANT NOTE: Using a ThermoFloat Blanket will help to greatly reduce bromine and chlorine off-gassing by trapping the sanitizer in the water. This will also increase the longevity of your hot tub cover. These blankets are recommended for all hot tub users for energy savings, but they are especially beneficial for bromine/chlorine users and hot tubs with ozone systems (Ozonators).

 

For Cleanwater Blue Systems

Maintaining water quality is easier with Cleanwater Blue than with most systems because it does not off-gas, so congrats! CWB users should follow these steps:
CleanwaterBlue2

  1. Test and balance your water on the normal bi-weekly schedule.
  2. Thoroughly clean your hot tub filter.
  3. If you will be away more than 1 week, turn down the hot tub temperature to the lowest setting. This will decrease your electricity costs, saving you money.
  4. Shock water just prior to leaving.

 

For Nature 2 Systems

Nature 2 is a silver mineral sanitizer; hot tub owners using this system should follow these steps:
Nature2

  1. Test and balance your water like normal.
  2. Thoroughly clean your hot tub filter.
  3. If you will be away more than 1 week, turn down the hot tub temperature to the lowest setting. This will decrease your electricity costs, saving you money.
  4. Shock water just prior to leaving.

 

For Salt Systems

Salt Systems convert salt to natural chlorine, which sanitizes your hot tub water. While the salinity level is too low to cause corrosion, over-chlorination is cause for concern if you don’t prep the spa properly before leaving. Salt System users should follow these important steps:

  1. Test and balance your pH, Alkalinity and Hardness level.
  2. Clean filter thoroughly.
  3. Since there is reduced demand on the chlorine, you should reduce the run time of your salt generator by about half. This will help to prevent over-chlorination, which could cause damage to your heater.
  4. Chlorine will continuously off-gas so it is equally important to use a ThermoFloat Blanket if you will be away for an extended period. The blanket will trap the sanitizer in the water, helping to maintain water quality.
  5. If you will be away more than 1 week, turn down the hot tub temperature to the lowest setting. This will decrease your electricity costs, saving you money.
  6. Shock water just prior to leaving.

 

Other Hot Tub Maintenance

Filter Cleaning

Cleaning the filter prior to being away for an extended period is very important. If the filter is older than one year, replace it with a new filter cartridge.

A dirty or worn-out filter will wreak havoc on your hot tub water by spreading bacteria.

 

Cloggedfilter

 

Spa Cover Maintenance

Now is a good time to clean and treat your hot tub cover.
CoverCleaning

  1. Rinse cover with a garden hose to loosen dirt and debris.
  2. Using a non-abrasive cleaner and a damp rag, thoroughly wipe cover. Repeat as necessary until clean.
  3. Treat cover with 303 Vinyl Protectant.

Read more about How to Properly Clean your Hot Tub Cover.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Ensure that all of your hot tub cover straps are latched and locked to prevent uninvited guests and neighborhood children from entering your hot tub.
HotTubCoverLocking

Once You Return

When you get back home, you’ll want to get back into your hot tub care routine by testing and balancing the water before use. If you are experiencing any problems, here’s what to do:

Cloudy Water

This is likely due to dead organic material in the water, use Oxy Spa Oxidizing Shock.

If problem persists, see our comprehensive guide on How to Fix Cloudy Water.

Foamy Water

Shock with Oxy Spa, wait 15 minutes and test your pH and Hardness level, adjust as necessary.

If problem persists, see our recommendations for Getting Rid of Hot Tub Foam.

Stinky Water

Test sanitizer level and adjust according to test strip readings.

If problem persists, follow these instructions to Decontaminate Your Hot Tub.

 

Happy Vacationing!

VacationSpaPrep

Post your questions or comments below to receive free expert hot tub advice!

15 comments

  1. How long does a heater last in a Hot Tub? I have a 7 year old Thermo Spa hot tub, is this a good time to replace the heater? It is still working OK I am just wondering if it was time to do some preventative maintenance?

    Like

  2. Hi Ronald,
    Thank you for posting your questions.
    Heaters normally last about 5-10 years. Balanced water chemistry will help preserve the longevity of your heater element. It is always a good idea to have a spare on hand for immediate replacement.
    Also, if you have harsh winters you should take into consideration the risk of the heater element burning out during this time, when it is crucially needed. Some folks opt to replace an older element before the harsh weather to prevent this risk.
    If you need any assistance finding the correct replacement element or have any additional questions at all, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us: Support@SpaDepot.com or 1-800-823-3638.
    Thank you,
    Kaisa
    SpaDepot.com

    Like

  3. Good advice about draining the tub before you go away for a long time; much easier to start afresh, so to speak, rather than dealing with a tub full of stale water! And I think your idea about having a spare heater on hand is also great, particularly if the existing one is more than a few years old.

    Like

  4. Really great tips in this blog post. Maintaining clean water can be hard even when you’re home. When you come home from vacation filling your tub with fresh water is the best start you can make.

    Like

  5. If I am leaving for a month what should I do with my hot tub? Will these tips work for that length of time?

    Like

  6. Hi Layne,
    Thanks for your question! Yes, these tips should work if you are leaving for a month. The important thing will be to turn down your spa temperature. Cooler water does not grow bacteria as quickly.
    If you use a sanitizing system that requires a lot of maintenance like granular chlorine, you may want to drain the spa before you leave. Chlorine dissipates quickly and may not keep the spa clean over such an extended period of time.
    I hope this helps!
    Thank you,
    Sarah
    SpaDepot.com

    Like

  7. I am leaving for about 6 weeks. Should I drain my hottub and if yes should I keep the lid closed while I am gone or just a crack open.

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  8. Hi Nancye,
    Whether or not you should drain and refill your spa depends on how long your water has been in your spa. If you changed your water 2 months ago or more, then definitely drain and refill. Just make sure you have adequate sanitizer and balanced pH and Alkalinity in your spa, and turn the heat down before you leave.
    Let me know if you have any other questions.
    Thank you,
    Sarah
    SpaDepot.com

    Like

  9. We are going on vacation for 3 months, can I leave fresh water in the tub for this amount of time, as there will not be anybody around to check the water during this period. Or should I just drain it, if I drain it will the heater element get damaged I have heard this can happen. Thank you

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  10. Hi Terry,
    For that length of time, you should definitely drain the spa. Water left stagnant and untreated in the spa for 3 months can grow mold and bacteria inside the plumbing and attract insects and pests.
    If you are in an area where temperatures may drop below freezing while you are away, follow our winterizing procedure:
    http://www.spadepot.com/spacyclopedia/winter.htm
    Properly winterizing the spa prevents freeze damage to the plumbing, which is the biggest issue that can occur with a drained spa. As for the heater, as long as you don’t turn the spa on when there is no water in it, you will be in good shape.
    Let me know if you have any further questions.
    Thanks,
    Sarah
    SpaDepot.com

    Like

  11. I found out by draining the tub, upon returning the water dries out. When filling the tub and starting the pumps the dried contaminated white scum comes out. It makes a mess.

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  12. I really like the point made about draining and refilling the hot tub before leaving for vacation. Doing so allows the new water to stay relatively new while you are away. I will be sharing these hot tub maintenance tips with my sister since she’ll be leaving for vacation soon and needs to keep up with her jacuzzi.

    Like

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