how to clean a hot tub without draining it

In order to fully enjoy your inflatable hot tub, it’s important you keep the water as clean as possible.

This will keep you and your family safe and healthy when you use your spa. It also it helps prolong the life of your hot tub, and it ensures you get the maximum, trouble-free enjoyment out of your portable hot tub.

In this article, we’re looking at all the ways you can keep the water clean in your portable hot tub – ranging from the chemicals you need to add to sanitize the water, right through to some simple everyday tips.

The First Time You Use Your Inflatable Hot Tub

The first time you use your inflatable hot tub, fill it up to the maximum level with clean water from your household supply. The maximum level is shown on the inside of the tub. Then put the cover on and turn on the water heater to heat up the water. Once it has reached your desired temperature, up to a maximum of 104F, turn on the air jets to get the water bubbling.

You should now add a sanitizer to the water. This is the key component to keeping the water in your hot tub clean and healthy. That’s because bacteria can grow rapidly in hot water if the water is left untreated. Therefore adding a sanitizer kills any bacteria which might enter the water, and it purifies the water.

There are two main types of sanitizer you can use: chlorine or bromine. There are often debates on inflatable hot tub websites and forums as to which one is best. But to be honest, it all comes down to personal preference as to which one you use.

We prefer to use chlorine, as it’s more readily available, and it’s cheaper in the long run than bromine. It is also the one most widely recommended by inflatable hot tub manufacturers, such as Lay Z Spa, MSpa, Intex, and so on.

A lot of people get nervous or concerned about using and adding chemicals to their inflatable hot tub, as this is a whole new area for them. But if you’re one of those people, please don’t worry! It really is much simpler than you think, and as long as you follow some basic and very easy-to-follow guidelines, it’s perfectly safe.

We have a useful and popular article which looks at using chemicals in your portable spa, one that covers literally everything you need to know about all types of chemicals. So if you are interested – or you’re just unsure and want to learn more – why not check it out here: Your Guide To Inflatable Hot Tub Chemicals, which opens in a new tab.

But while you’re here, let’s have a look first at the differences between chlorine and bromine sanitizers.

The  Advantages and Disadvantages of Chlorine and Bromine


☑ cheaper than bromine

☑ faster acting

☑ low maintenance

⚠ can smell a little

⚠ can irritate sensitive skin

⚠ slightly high pH value, so pH levels of the water need regular monitoring


☑ doesn’t smell

☑ low pH, so less monitoring of pH levels required

☑ good choice for anyone with sensitive skin

⚠ more expensive than chlorine

⚠ slower acting, especially in hard water areas

⚠ breaks down in sunlight


If you choose to use chlorine as your sanitizer, you have a choice between:

  • chlorine tablets
  • chlorine granules

Although they are both equally good at keeping your hot tub water clean, the way you use them is very different.

Chlorine tablets

Your inflatable hot tub will most certainly come with what’s known as a chemical floating dispenser. This looks like a small plastic mushroom. The way it works is that you put your sanitizer into the chemical floater, drop it into your hot tub water, and the chlorine slowly disperses through the water.

It’s important that you always use chlorine tablets and not chlorine granules in your dispenser, as the tablets are slow-dissolving and disperse the correct amount of chlorine throughout the water. If you used chlorine granules, however, these would dissolve immediately and the water would have too much chlorine in it, meaning you wouldn’t be able to use your hot tub!

To use chlorine tablets, you simply pop between 2-6 tablets into the chemical floater and drop it into your hot tub. The exact number depends on how big the floater is, and how much water your hot tub holds. To check how many tablets you need to add, always consult your owner’s manual or instructions.

The tablets then slowly dissolve over 3-5 days, and the chlorine disperses through the water, keeping it clean and hygienic. The best chemical floaters have a collar on the stem which allows you to control how quickly or slowly the tablets dissolve. This is especially useful if you are going away for a few days or maybe for a vacation, and want to keep the water in your hot tub clean and fresh. In that case, fill the chemical floater with tablets, turn the collar to the lowest setting, and the tablets will dissolve slowly through the water while you’re away, ensuring the water is hygienic and clean when you return.

There are many different brands of chlorine tablets available, which you can buy from any hot tub supplier or online. However, as you will need to add fresh tablets to the dispenser every few days, we recommend you buy a large tub of them, which works out more economical in the long run. An 8lb tub of RX Clear Slow Dissolving Chlorine Tablets is always great value over on Amazon. They’re individually wrapped, so they last a long time without spoiling, and you only need on average 1-2 tablets a week.

Chlorine granules

You might do what a number of inflatable hot tub owners do, and that’s use chlorine granules instead of tablets. 

To use the granules, you don’t need a chemical floater. Instead, you add the chlorine granules directly into the hot tub water.

You can simply sprinkle the granules directly into your inflatable hot tub and rely on the hot water to dissolve them, and the air jets to swirl them around. But we prefer a different method.

Put between three-quarters of a teaspoon to a level teaspoon of chlorine granules into a small pitcher, depending on the size of your hot tub, and scoop some of the hot tub water into the pitcher. Stir the water round to dissolve the chlorine, and then pour it into the hot tub water. In this way, you know the chlorine granules have fully dissolved.

Whichever way you decide to add the granules to your hot tub water, you will need to wait about 2 hours after putting them in before you can use your hot tub.

An alternative – and what some inflatable hot tub owners do – is to add the chlorine granules when you finish in your hot tub. In that way, the granules sanitize the water, and the hot tub is ready to go the next time you want to use it.

Again, you’ll see a wide variety of chlorine granules for sale in local stores and online. However, we think the best deal is over on Amazon, with Leisure Time Spa 56 Chlorinating Granules. Apart from the good discount deals they offer, these are a good buy because the granules are super concentrated, so you don’t need to use as many granules as with other brands.


If you decide to use bromine to sanitize your inflatable hot tub water, the methods and procedure for using it are quite similar to using chlorine. You’ll see that bromine can be up to 30% more expensive than chlorine, but don’t let that factor necessarily put you off. Again, you can choose between:

  • bromine tablets
  • bromine granules

Bromine tablets

Just the same as you do with chlorine tablets, you put bromine tablets into a chemical floater. Then you drop the floater into the hot tub, and the tablets slowly dissolve and spread out through the water.

Because it is a little slower to work, you’ll need to wait longer before you can get into your hot tub after you’ve put the chemical floater in – at the very least, we recommend 4-8 hours, depending on the size of your hot tub.

There are many different brands of bromine tablets out there, but as they are more expensive than chlorine, it’s always worth looking for a discount bargain – or definitely think about buying a large supply. One of the best deals is Spa Choice Brominating Tabs, which come in a 5lb tub.

Bromine granules

If you prefer to use bromine granules to sanitize your portable hot tub, there are a couple of pointers you need to keep in mind.

Firstly, if you want to add the granules directly to your hot tub, so the water dissolves them and the bubble jets disperse them through the water, it’s best to add them to the water after you have finished in your hot tub and leave them to go to work overnight. That way, you’ll know that they are working efficiently and doing their job in keeping the water sanitized.

Also, if you spend any amount of time in your hot tub, you’ll find it’s harder to wash the bromine residue off your body when you shower. The residue is harmless, but it does tend to cling to your body more than chlorine.

As with the tablets, bromine granules are more expensive than chlorine granules. However, if you head over to Amazon and check out their Spa Essential Brominating Granules, you’ll see they offer a variety of package deals.

Chlorine or Bromine – the choice is yours

As you can see, both chlorine and bromine are excellent sanitizers, and both will keep your water sparkling clean. Whichever one you choose, of course, is up to you. Be here are some useful pointers you might find help you with your decision:

♨ if you want a low-maintenance sanitizer, or you tend to forget routines, then go with chlorine

♨ if your inflatable hot tub is in direct sunlight, go with chlorine

♨ if you can’t stand the chlorinated smell of the water in public swimming pools, then go with bromine

♨ if you’re looking to save money, go with chlorine

♨ if you have sensitive skin, choose bromine

Whatever you do, NEVER mix the two. This can lead to a dangerous chemical reaction! Therefore if you decide to switch from one to the other, you need to drain your hot tub and give it a thorough clean before you refill and add your new sanitizer.

Mineral sanitizer

There is a third option you can use to sanitize the water in your inflatable hot tub, and that’s a mineral sanitizer.

This uses silver and copper ions to keep the water clean. On the face of it, this eco-friendly, non-chlorine and non-bromine sanitizer sounds great! However, there are two important features you need to be aware of before you decide to start using the mineral option.

Mineral sanitizer comes in a self-contained plastic stick.

Firstly, the mineral sanitizer doesn’t work 100% effectively on its own, so you will need to also use a small amount of chlorine or bromine granules to make it efficient. You will also need to add an oxidizer to the water. Having to buy three separate products makes using a mineral sanitizer far less economical than simply using chlorine or bromine.

Secondly, the mineral sanitizer is really designed for traditional rigid hot tubs. It comes in a plastic stick which you put inside the hot tub’s filtration system. However, the filter system of an inflatable hot tub works differently from rigid hot tubs, so you’ll need to adapt how the mineral sanitizer works. In effect, you need to tie the stick onto the filter in your inflatable hot tub with a piece of nylon string or a zip tie, or even wedge it so it fits outside the filter housing.

To be honest, although using a mineral sanitizer is a great idea, the practicalities make it a non-starter for us. If you’re still interested, though, then you might want to have a look at the Nature 2 Spa Mineral Stick. Remember that you’ll need to buy some chlorine or bromine granules or an oxidizer as well, to supplement the minerals and make them work efficiently.

Whichever sanitizer you decide to use, keep the container away from sunlight, in a dark cupboard, a storeroom, or a garage. This will stop it losing its potency, and will help prolong its life. And most importantly, make sure it is always stored safely away from children.

Easy Ways To Keep The Water Clean In Your Inflatable Hot Tub

Now that your inflatable hot tub is ready to use, there are some basic rules to follow in order to keep the water as clean and hygienic as possible.  Make sure that other users are aware of these rules as well, and they follow them every time.

Clean The Water Filters Regularly

The job of the water filters in your inflatable hot tub is to catch anything that shouldn’t be there. Therefore, you need to give them a helping hand by cleaning them out regularly.  Luckily, this is very easy to do, and doesn’t take very long.

You can buy specialist water filter cleaning chemicals and brushes which are designed for this purpose. However we find that running the filters under cold water from the faucet is just as efficient. You can put them in the dishwasher, without any detergent, to give them a thorough clean.

It is also advisable to replace the water filters in your inflatable hot tub every month or so, depending on how hard the water is in your area and how often you use the hot tub. We have an article on everything you need to know about cleaning your filters, which you can read here: How To Clean Your Inflatable Hot Tub Filters (opens in a new tab).

Shower Before You Get In

Always shower before using your inflatable hot tub. Every time.

This is important, as the shower washes off your natural body oils, which will otherwise be washed off by the water in your inflatable hot tub.  The shower will also remove any chemicals on your body, such as deodorant, after shave, perfume, as well as any traces of make up.

Make Sure Children Use The Bathroom Before They Get In

We all know what can happen with young children in swimming pools.  Well, the same can happen in your inflatable hot tub.

Therefore, make sure that any children who are going to use your inflatable hot tub go to the bathroom before they get in.  And get them to get out and visit the bathroom if they are going to be in the hot tub for any length of time.

Keep The Lid On

When you are not using your inflatable hot tub, always remember to put the lid on, as well as the hot tub cover if you have one.  This is a simple yet vital way to make sure nothing falls into the water. And, of course, it keeps young children safe by not letting them get into the hot tub unattended.

Replace The Water

At some point you will need to empty out your inflatable hot tub and re-fill it with clean water.  The key is to know when to do this.

If you leave the water in for too long, it will start to look cloudy, it can build up a film on the surface, and it might even begin to smell. Obviously, you want to replace the water before any of these things happen. But how do you know when is the right time to replace the water? A simple trick is to do this quick calculation.  

Take the number of gallons your inflatable hot tub holds when it’s full. Divide that number by the number of people who regularly use the hot tub. Then divide that number by three. This will tell you how often you should change the water.

For example, if you own the best-selling Coleman Lay Z Spa, it holds 254 gallons.  If 2 people regularly use the hot tub, then 254 divided by 2 gives you 127. Now divide 127 by 3, and you get 42.  That means you’ll need to replace the water every 42 days.

Cleaning Your Inflatable Hot Tub

It’s important to keep your hot tub clean as well. Putting fresh water into a hot tub and adding sanitizer, will not solve the problems of a less than clean hot tub. It will just mean you have to keep adding more and more sanitizer – and end up draining and cleaning your hot tub anyway.

We have written a guide on How To Clean Your Inflatable Hot Tub, which is full of useful advice and tips. But briefly, you need to regularly wipe down the interior surfaces of your inflatable hot tub.  You can do this with a simple unbleached cloth or sponge. 

When you empty out your hot tub, to replace the water, you should always give your inflatable hot tub a good clean.  You can do this with a sponge or cloth and warm water, or for more stubborn stains – such as at the water-line – you might need a specialist inflatable hot tub surface cleaner to do this.  

When you have thoroughly cleaned your inflatable hot tub, including the lid, rinse it down thoroughly with cold water, and then drain that water away. Then your hot tub is ready to be filled with fresh water.

Check The Chemical Levels Regularly

In the early days, we were over-concerned about keeping the water clean, and not letting any bacteria or harmful chemicals build up. After our years of experience, however, we now realise it is simply a matter of using our common sense and following some simple guidelines.

One key rule to follow that will quickly become a habit, as a hot tub owner, is to check the chemical levels of the water in your inflatable hot tub regularly. This shows you that your hot tub is working at maximum efficiency.  

It also gives you the knowledge and peace of mind that all is well with the water and it is safe for you and your family to use.

To find out all about this topic, check out our article How To Test The Water In Your Inflatable Hot Tub.

The reason you buy an inflatable hot tub is for enjoyment and relaxation. So keep this in mind, and don’t over-worry about the water.  Just follow the simple steps we have outlined above and you and your family will have a great time in your tub.

If you have any questions, please first check out our FAQs page. Thanks for reading!

Recommended Reading

How To Shock Your Inflatable Hot Tub

Why You Mustn’t Pee In Your Inflatable Hot Tub

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