how to get rid of hot tub bacteria

As a new hot tub owner, one of the things you’ve got to stay on top of is ensuring that the hot tub is not only clean but safe. But sometimes there are dangers in the water we can’t see like bacteria. So, how do I get rid of bacteria in my hot tub?

Here’s what I know, having owned 4 of them:

To get rid of the bacteria in a hot tub, maintain water chemistry weekly, clean and replace the filters on a set schedule, and use a biofilm cleaner before changing the water about every 3 months.

Don’t worry. I’ll get into all of the details of those steps below.

Even when a hot tub is being sanitized and shocked regularly, there are instances where it can be infected with bacteria!

Why? That and similar issues, such as how to even know your hot tub has bacteria, the kind of rash one could get from a hot tub…are some of what we’ll explore in the article.

Let’s get started…

Ready to Spend Less Time On Maintenance and More Time Enjoying Your Hot Tub?

Let’s face it. Balancing the water, cleaning filters, dealing with rashes, and trying to figure out which chemicals to buy and add can make you feel more like a chemist than someone who just wants to relax after a long hard day!

That’s exactly why The Hot Tub Handbook and Video Course is so valuable!

This is from Matt over at Swim University and he developed it for people looking to save money, time, and frustration. His tips on chemicals can save you $100/year just by making sure you buy only what you need.

So if you’re ready to stop being confused or frustrated with your hot tub and start spending more time in it, check out The Hot Tub Handbook and Video Course.

Just click that link to learn more on their website.

Local hot tub bacteria could help treat cancer.

— NewsChannel 5 (@NC5) August 4, 2016

How do I know if my hot tub has bacteria?

Slime, cloudy water, discolored water, and foul smells are some of the signs that bacteria could be in your hot tub. But the other way to notice is by having to add sanitizer or shock more often than before to maintain normal levels of chlorine or bromine.

In fact, most of the time, you won’t physically see bacteria in your hot tub.

This is because warm and moist environments are the kind of places where they thrive. And the plumbing and equipment are favorite places for biofilm to build up.

So as I mentioned, if you’ve been applying chlorine or bromine as you normally do, but to get normal readings on a test strip, you find yourself having to add it more often and/or in larger quantities, you have a biofilm problem.

So how do you get rid of biofilm buildup?

This is what I explored in a recent article of mine where I explained what’s happening and how to fix it. Luckily it’s quick and easy to get rid of, and I do a simple preventative measure every 3 months that keeps it from happening.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Have a pool or hot tub? Never drain the water from these into your septic tank, as the chlorine can break bacteria down in the system.

— Parks Sewer Service (@parksewer) January 29, 2018

Does chlorine kill bacteria in hot tubs?

Chlorine is effective at killing bacteria found in hot tubs. However, chlorine does break down both from the heat of the water, and as it kills bacteria, the result turns into chloramines reducing its effectiveness.

So, why is that?

Chloramines are the by-product of chlorine attacking contaminants. That’s what produces a strong chlorine smell. If you smell that, it means your chlorine has been pretty much used up.

So not only is it time to add more, but we need to get rid of the chloramines. That’s why we add hot tub shock once a week. It converts those chloramines back into chlorine.

But how does it kill bacteria?

It kills off some pathogens in seconds, while it takes minutes, even days, before some are exterminated.

It kills E. coli in about a minute, Hepatitis A in 16 minutes, Giardia is resolved in 45 minutes, and it takes 10.6 days for cryptosporidium to die after exposure to chlorine.

Getting your hot tub ready for summer? Don’t forget the disinfectant! When hot tubs aren’t maintained properly bacteria like Legionella can grow and cause serious illness. Learn three steps for hot tub water testing here:

— NH Public Health (@NHPubHealth) June 17, 2021

How do I clean and disinfect my hot tub?

To completely clean a hot tub, take the following steps:

  • Turn off the power.
  • Remove the filters and rinse them thoroughly.
  • Drain the water with a hose or submersible pump
  • Use a wet/dry vac to remove any remaining standing water
  • Wipe down the hot tub shell with a 50/50 mix of water and white vinegar
  • Briefly rinse the water & vinegar mixture off
  • Use a wet/dry vac to remove the rinse water
  • Refill the water with a garden hose
  • Turn the power back on once the water level is above the jets.
  • Test and add chemicals to the water as needed
  • Test it again before use

After you’re sure, the power has been turned off and removed the filters, add Oh Yuk Healthy Hot Tub Cleaner from Amazon before you drain the water.

That will get rid of any biofilm present in the water or plumbing.

Just add about 8 oz and allow it to circulate with the jets on for 1 hour before draining. Thoroughly wipe down the hot tub to remove all the residue of Oh Yuk.

CLICK HERE to check out Oh Yuk Hot Tub Cleaner. It’s got over 320 ratings on Amazon, and most are 5-star.

Replace the filter and refill the hot tub with water. Test its pH and alkalinity, then add the right level of sanitizer. Test the water again and always make sure the levels are good before getting in.

Can you soak in a hot tub if the chlorine level is high?

In a recent article of mine, I explained that it is not safe and that one should not!

Red, itchy skin and eyes, and respiratory issues are some of the side effects. But there’s 1 sure fire way to add sanitizer (chlorine or bromine) and be able to get in immediately!

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Avoid “hot tub folliculitis” by immediately showering and washing your bathing suit after a soak session in the #HotTub. #bacteria #hygiene #dermatology #CLnSkinTip

— CLn Skin Care (@CLnSkinCare) November 14, 2017

What kind of rash can you get from a hot tub?

Pseudomonas Folliculitis is the most common rash one can get from a hot tub. It is caused by a germ, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, that’s commonly found in water or soil. Folliculitis thrives in warm and wet environments but is more commonly found in wooden tubs.

It’s an infection of the hair follicles (Folliculitis). (source)

Fortunately, it can’t be transmitted from person to person. It thrives in moist and warm environments, especially hot tubs that are not sanitized regularly.

The following are folks that are more susceptible to it:

  • Those whose immune systems are not strong enough or have been compromised
  • Those with dermatitis or acne, which makes it easy for bacteria to penetrate the skin
  • Those that have waxed or shaved recently

Its symptoms include itchy skin, and this may change to a bumpy red rash that may also be tender. Pus-filled blisters also surround the hair follicles.

The symptoms may vary depending on the individual. Some folks may also experience headaches, earaches, sore throat, and nausea.

It might be worse if you wore a swimsuit for a long time.

Water contained in it and contact with your skin may have bacteria in it. Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a strong bacteria that is often resistant to chlorine.

The fact that you apply chlorine often does not mean it’s been exterminated!

So, how can you get Folliculitis out of your hot tub?

Luckily, I explained how in a recent article of mine. You could get rid of the biofilm, drain the water, thoroughly wipe down the tub with a mixture of water and white vinegar, refill with water, balance for pH and alkalinity, and add a sanitizer.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

It’s was that kind of morning. Hot tub water change, and spring BBQ clean up.. #bbqspringclean

— Frozen Toque BBQ (@FrozenToqueBBQ) April 28, 2017

How often should you change the water in your hot tub?

As a general rule, hot tub water should be changed every 3-4 months. However, with proper water chemistry constantly maintained and less frequent usage, up to 6 months between changes can be acceptable.

But I change my water every 3 months. And I use that Oh Yuk! I mentioned to keep biofilm at bay every time I drain mine.

That just ensures my water stays crystal clear, bacteria-free, and always good to go.

What happens when the chlorine level in your tub is too low?

That’s what I explored in a recent article of mine. In it, I explained that the tub could become a host to bacteria if chlorine or bromine levels are low. As you know, that makes it gross and unsafe.

Just click the link to read it on my site.


A hot tub that’s sanitized and shocked regularly can still be infected with bacteria.

In this article, we looked at how to know if a hot tub is infested with bacteria and whether chlorine kills bacteria. We also checked out how to clean and disinfect a hot tub and what kind of rash one could get from a hot tub.

Lastly, we looked at how often hot tub water should be changed.

Ready to Spend Less Time On Maintenance and More Time Enjoying Your Hot Tub?

Let’s face it. Balancing the water, cleaning filters, dealing with rashes, and trying to figure out which chemicals to buy and add can make you feel more like a chemist than someone who just wants to relax after a long hard day!

That’s exactly why The Hot Tub Handbook and Video Course is so valuable!

This is from Matt over at Swim University and he developed it for people looking to save money, time, and frustration. His tips on chemicals can save you $100/year just by making sure you buy only what you need.

So if you’re ready to stop being confused or frustrated with your hot tub and start spending more time in it, check out The Hot Tub Handbook and Video Course.

Just click that link to learn more on their website.


If you or one of your family has developed a rash after using your hot tub, while that could just be a high pH level, it could also be folliculitis, and if that is the case, you will want to know how to get folliculitis out of your hot tub.

Here’s what I know from owning 4 hot tubs for almost 2 decades:

Get rid of hot tub folliculitis by performing a biofilm cleaning of the water, draining the hot tub completely, wiping it down with a mixture of water and white vinegar, and then refilling with fresh water, and balancing the alkalinity, pH, and sanitizer levels before entering.

But that’s just a quick answer.

Folliculitis is an infection of the hair follicles, which can be brought on by bathing in a hot tub that hasn’t been properly maintained, but before you treat it as such, you need to be certain that this is the cause of the rash.

There are a number of things that can cause itchiness and a rash.

So in this article, we’ll fully explore folliculitis, but we’ll also look at other possible causes of hot tub rash too. That way you’re covered no matter what the cause.

Let’s get into it!

If you ever had an itchy, bumpy rash after using a hot tub, you may have had hot tub folliculitis #dermatology

— Nakatsui DermaSurgery (@NakatsuiDerm) October 26, 2016

How do you test for folliculitis in a hot tub?

There is no simple test for folliculitis, but it usually presents as red skin, tenderness, and puss-filled sores. The blister-like sores are normally what distinguishes folliculitis from other types of hot tub rashes.

The symptoms can be quite severe and usually appear within 72 hours of exposure.

Hot tub folliculitis – or pseudomonas folliculitis to give it its scientific name – is a type of bacteria that thrives in the warm water of a hot tub that isn’t properly sanitized.

Several forms of folliculitis fall into these four categories: 

  • Acute – where the condition lasts just a few days
  • Chronic – where the symptoms persist for several weeks
  • Superficial – hot tub folliculitis falls into this category
  • Deep – usually associated with people who have underlying health issues

Although it is not life-threatening, complications can arise, such as boils, permanent hair loss, and in more serious cases, cellulitis.

It is crucial, therefore, to seek medical advice if the symptoms persist for more than a day or two where folliculitis is thought to be the cause.

There are things you can do yourself to ease the itching. Try soaking a clean cloth in warm water, wringing out the excess water, and applying it to the affected skin for 20 minutes. Some say adding salt to the water helps too.

You can also wash the affected area with your hands – not a cloth – using a mild soap and dry off by dabbing with a clean towel. Hygiene is paramount as you don’t want to risk spreading the infection.

Using antibacterial cream is also known to help ease the itchiness, most beneficial after washing. If you want to read more on this, check out this article in the Medical News Today newsletter.

Hot tub folliculitis is a thing and it’s N A S T Y. Steer clear by showering and cleaning your swimsuit after using the tub. #themoreyouknow

— Queen Bee Salon Spa (@QueenBeeSalon) July 18, 2017

What else can cause a hot tub rash aside from folliculitis?

Other causes for a rash after exiting a hot tub can include too much chlorine or bromine in the water. But itchy skin and burning eyes can also result from high pH levels.

You should make sure the amount of chlorine or bromine you put in your hot tub doesn’t exceed the correct levels on your test strip. And if you have to keep topping it up, it could indicate that you have a biofilm problem.

Biofilm is a thin layer of bacteria and other organic material such as dead cells.

When this builds up in the pipework surfaces, it reduces the sanitizer’s efficiency, causing it to disappear quickly. You keep adding more, but it doesn’t seem to make any difference.

The best way to clear this is to flush out the jets using a cleaner such as Oh Yuk! on Amazon. Add this to the water and run the jets for 1 hour, then drain the hot tub and refill as normal.

But aside from chlorine or biofilm, the biggest culprit for hot tub rash is simply pH levels that are too high.

When your pH is high – above 7.8 ppm – it may be that your total alkalinity is off. This should be between 80 and 120 ppm, and if it falls outside of this range, it means that the pH is harder to control, so start off by correcting this.

High pH signifies low acidity, so to lower alkalinity and pH, you should add an acid such as sodium bisulfate or even vinegar (acetic acid). If alkalinity is fine, you just need to focus on the pH, and the best product for that is SpaChoice pH Decreaser (click to check the current price on Amazon).

You can read more on pH in a recent article. I go a lot deeper into the pH issues, and especially what to do if pH needs to go one direction and alkalinity needs to go the other way.

Just click on the link to read it on my site.

Jacuzzi time is greatest without Pseudomonas bacteria – drain frequently and use chlorine in the water instead of having to resort to antibiotics against Hot Tub Folliculitis later! Let’s learn #dermatology

— Prof Alex Navarini (@AlexNavarini) January 10, 2018

Why do I keep getting hot tub folliculitis?

If folliculitis recurs frequently in your hot tub, that is a sign that something continuing to allow bacteria to grow in the water. The best practice would be to perform a biofilm cleanout, drain the tub, wipe down with a mixture of water and white vinegar, refill, and treat with chemicals.

There are things you can do yourself to prevent rashes from appearing, like showering before AND after using the hot tub.

Showering before getting in gets rid of the oils, deodorants, make-up, and other things that can clog up your filter and lead to biofilm development. It also helps prevent the skin from absorbing chlorine.

Showering afterward will wash off the chlorine from your skin and help rehydrate it. The use of a moisturizer will also help in this respect.

Remove your bathing costume as soon as you can, certainly before showering, and set this aside for washing along with your towel after drying off to eliminate any bacteria.

If you keep getting a build-up of foam on the surface of the water, this is a sure sign of chemical imbalance that leads to folliculitis.

You can read about the causes of hot tub foam in this recent article, but the likely cause is your pH level may be too high. However, there is 1 other possibility that no one thinks of.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Ahh we are such special kids 😉 #goodtimes xx although after we all got hot tub rash #lifelessonlearnt!

— mads🌻 (@MaddySparkes) September 24, 2012

Can hot tub folliculitis go away on its own?

Hot tub folliculitis symptoms in a person will go away on their own. But it is always a good idea to seek medical attention. The bacteria in the water of your hot tub, however, will require treatment to remove it and will not go away on its own.

Hot tub folliculitis can refer to the infection in a person as well as the bacteria that causes it, so in this case, yes, it can clear up on its own, but that depends on how bad the infection is.

Folliculitis is an infection of the hair follicles, so it can easily spread across the body as we have hair everywhere.

There is no actual cure for folliculitis; all you can do is treat the symptoms, and eventually, it will clear up. Mild symptoms should disappear within five days and in more serious cases ten to fourteen days.

If symptoms persist, it is important that you get medical advice.

This is because some of the complications can be dangerous. If you start to feel feverish and achy, or the discoloration seems to be spreading, this could be a sign of cellulitis, and that will need a good dose of antibiotics and probably hospitalization for a short spell.

Biofilm build-up in the plumbing and jets could result in depleted chlorine levels.

I discussed why this happens in a recent article. Preventing biofilm from building up in your hot tub can help you avoid dangerous complications because of folliculitis. After all, biofilm is, at least in part, a buildup of bacteria in your hot tub’s plumbing and equipment.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Indiana Mom of 2 Nearly Loses Her Leg from Hot Tub Rash While on Vacation: ‘I Couldn’t Walk’

— Zara Watson (@zarawatson010) July 26, 2019

How do you prevent hot tub folliculitis in a hot tub?

Prevent hot tub folliculitis by ensuring the sanitizer and pH levels are balanced perfectly before every use. Then ensure the water is changed completely every 3 months and that the filters are cleaned regularly too. It is very unlikely to get folliculitis in a well-maintained, clean, and chemically-balanced hot tub.

Hot tub folliculitis is a form of bacteria (pseudomonas), and like all bacteria, it reacts badly to clean, sanitized conditions.

So, if you have had an outbreak of folliculitis, you need to empty the tub and give it a thorough cleaning.

Purge the pipes and jets before completely emptying the tub. I recommend Oh Yuk Healthy Hot Tub Cleaner for this purpose (click to see the current price on Amazon).

You should clean your filter at least every 3-4 weeks, with a kitchen sprayer or garden hose. A great product to help thoroughly clean your filter is the Filter Flosser (click to see it on Amazon), which connects to your garden hose and gets jets of water right where you need them – inside the pleats.

Then, every 3 to 4 months, you should give your filter a deep clean by removing it and soaking it in a 5-gallon bucket with a good quality cleaning agent.

There are lots of products on Amazon, but one I use and recommend is Power Soak by Spa Depot.

And the best part about Power Soak is that by using hot water, you only have to soak your filters for 1 hour. Other brands require overnight soaking!

But ultimately changing the water in your hot tub regularly is the best prevention for hot tub folliculitis. But how often can vary a little bit by use, and HOW to do it can be a little tricky.

Luckily, I have a recent article that covers you completely on both of those, including a cool tip on how I drain my hot tub in just 15 minutes.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Did I cover everything you wanted to know about how to get folliculitis out of your hot tub?

Hot tub folliculitis is not a common ailment for hot tub users and the bacteria that causes it is easily destroyed if you keep your hot tub water clean and healthy.

More often than not, a rash following a hot tub session is caused by a chemical imbalance in the water, which is easy to resolve, and apart from a little discomfort, isn’t serious.

However, it is important to know that more serious conditions can result from dirty or badly maintained water. I hope this article has helped you to distinguish the difference, but if there is anything more you would like to know, just drop me a line.

Don’t forget to click on the links to read associated articles on my website.

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