How to Winterize a Hot Tub: Follow These Steps!

Michael Keenan


Hot Tub Maintenance

Winterizing your hot tub is an important step to protect it from damage during the cold winter months. It’s a simple process that can help you save money and energy, while ensuring your hot tub is in good condition when you’re ready to use it again.

This article outlines the main steps of the winterizing process, including what equipment you will need and how to clean the filters.

For those living in warm climates, I discuss whether or not winterizing is necessary and why having your hot tub running all winter might not be such a good idea.

get your hot tub ready for winter

Quick Answer:

Winterizing your hot tub is essential if you want to protect it from the winter elements and save yourself a lot of money. It isn’t necessary for indoor hot tubs, but those in areas with cold winters should definitely take the time to winterize their outdoor tubs.

Winterizing involves draining and cleaning your hot tub, removing filters and blowing out lines with a Shop Vac, cleaning the shell and cover of your hot tub, locking it up for winter and ensuring all water has been drained—no antifreeze needed! If this all seems like too much effort, simply call in a pro to do it for you.

Why You Should Winterize Your Hot Tub

Winterizing is the first and last line of defense you’ll need for your hot tub or spa in the winter. The freezing cold can damage your spa or hot tub quite severely, especially the plumbing lines and getting these repaired can place quite a severe stress on your savings.

Therefore, winterization is a measure that keeps your tub protected and your wallet, too! Winterizing is also recommended for pools – see my guide on how to winterize an intex pool.

Replacing components or repairing your tub can create some serious damage in your savings. But by spending much less on winterizing your tub, you’ll be protecting your investment, savings and your equipment, prolonging the latter’s life for a long time to come.

What if you just choose not to winterize your hot tub at all? After all, keeping your tub running should do the job, right?

Well, yes, it may. But this means you’ll be spending your precious winter monitoring your tub the entire time. From testing the water to adding and balancing chemicals to keeping it clean to probably spending a ton on your electricity bill when you’re not even using your tub.

I don’t know about you, but these seem like pretty convincing reasons to winterize a hot tub!

Need to clean a hot tub that has been sitting for a long time? See my guide on how to fix that up now.

indoor hot tub / spa

Do Indoor Tubs Have to Be Winterized?

If it hasn’t been so obvious so far no, you don’t need to winterize an indoor hot tub.

Indoor tubs are lucky enough to be in temperature controlled environments and the only time you’ll need to shut your hot tub show is if you’re not going to be using it for longer than a month.

You need to winterize your outdoor tub only if your area experiences relatively cold winters. If you’ve got an outdoor tub in sunny Florida, you won’t need to winterize it at all.

If you’re living somewhere like Arizona, where the winter temperatures rarely fall below the mid 40 range, just running your hot tub through the winter will also work.

However, we’ve said it once and we’ll say it again – what’s the point of spending money keeping your tub running if you don’t intend to use it?

Whatever the winter temperature outside, if you’re not going to be using your tub but are going to keep it running through the winter, you’re better off just closing it.

Travel Story!

We lived in S.E. Asia for a couple of years. There was no need to winterize! Minimum temperatures rarely went below 20 C. However they still practice a kind of winterizing process. Hot tubs are completely drained and cleaned every 3 to 4 months. Pools are drained every 12 months.

Obviously this wasn’t to protect from cold but more for a good hygiene program.

friends around hot tub in winter

How to Winterize Your Hot Tub

A lot of the steps in winterization are similar to draining and cleaning your tub, which reduces some of the difficulty involved in the process.

The following is a list of equipment you’ll need to winterize your tub:

  • A garden hose
  • A sump pump (optional)
  • A spa filter soak
  • Shop-Vac or sponges (non-abrasive to prevent scratches on your tub) or towels or soft cloth (all-purpose cleaning cloth is a great idea!)
  • A cleaner for your hot tub, its cover and filter
  • Sponges (non-abrasive to prevent scratches on your tub)

Once you have these, the following steps will help you winterize your tub like a pro!

Step 1: Letting the Chemicals Disappear

Your pool/tub/spa is full of chemicals. While these are necessary to keep your tub clean and healthy, they’re not so necessary for the flora and fauna around you. These chemicals are designed for your pool/tub/spa only and shouldn’t be released carelessly.

Therefore, it’s considerate to let the chemicals in your water disappear before you drain it. It’s as simple as waiting a few days and letting Mother Nature do her job.

Test the water after you’ve given it a few days and the minute your chlorine levels hit zero, you can start the winterizing process.

Step 2: Turn Off the Electricity Completely

It isn’t just sufficient to turn your tub or spa off—you’ll also need to turn the breaker off. This way, you’re absolutely cutting off all power flow to your tub. If your tub isn’t hard wired, just unplugging it will also do.

While this seems like a seemingly obvious step, many folks skip it or forget about it. If you paid attention in 5th-grade science class, you know that water and electricity together are a huge “no-no”. If you disagree, you’re putting a lot of lives, including yours, at risk.

Step 3: Draining the Hot Tub

To drain your tub, remove the drain cap and attach your garden hose to the tub’s drain spout. Ensure that the open end of the hose is in a suitable drainage area where all the water can go. We’re talking at least 400 gallons of water, so choose wisely!

To speed up the draining process, you can use a sump pump and pump out the water. Just ensure that your pump doesn’t run dry in the process and don’t forget to remove the drain cap, once you’re done using the pump.

If you want ‘A-Train-on-compound-V’ level draining speed, use the hose and the sump. Even then, it’s normal for a couple of inches of water to remain in the tub, but don’t let this worry you – we’ll get to this in a bit.

(Did you know you can clean your hot tub without draining it? Check my guide)

Step 4: Draining the Blower

In case your hot tub comes with an air blower, this must also be completely drained before winterizing. To do so, turn off the heater, cover the hot tub and put the hard cover in place, as normal.

After this, turn the breaker on (or plug the tub in, as the case may be).

Following this, turn the hot tub on and run the blower, for about 30 seconds, to get rid of all the water inside. Once the water is drained, turn the tub off, followed by the breaker. Remove the cover.

After this elaborate ritual, you can go back to winterizing your hot tub.

Step 5: Loosen the Pump and Heater’s Unions

To do this, you need to open the access panel in the cabinet and find the pumps and heater. Loosening the unions on this allows the water to drain from the plumbing lines.

Step 6: Clean the Filters

Leaving your filters in the tub through the winter isn’t the smartest idea, nor is storing dirty filters. Winterizing presents the perfect opportunity to remove and clean the filters!

A regular filter cleaner will work, but since you could possibly be storing your filter for months, a deep chemical soak overnight (if not 24 hours), is highly recommended.

Of course, your filters could be way beyond salvaging, regardless of how many chemical soaks you do. In this case, winterizing presents the perfect opportunity to get new filters!

After removing the filter, soak out the remaining water using your Shop-Vac, or the sponges and towels.

Step 7: Blowing out the Lines

It isn’t enough to clear the water from your tub; you also need to clear it from the lines. If you don’t do this, or do it incorrectly, there’s no point winterizing your tub, as the leftover water in the lines could freeze and expand, leading to cracks and even bursting, in the lines.

You’ll need your Shop Vac for this, turn the setting to ‘blow’, insert the hose into every nook and cranny (the drains, jets, unions and filter cavities). Give each spot 10-15 seconds, so that the water is forced out of the lines and into the tub.

To be sure and on the safe side, you can repeat draining the process.

hot tub jets flushing

Step 8: Removing the Leftover Water

Remember when we told you not to worry about leftover water in step 3? Well, we’ve finally gotten to the part about draining this bit!

Depending on the amount of water left in the tub, you can use the sump pump again, followed by a Shop-Vac session to get what the pump couldn’t. If it’s only a small bit of water left behind, the Shop-Vac will suffice.

Step 9: Shell-Cleaning

Using your non-abrasive sponges and hot-tub cleaner, clean the shell out. Using a hot-tub cleaner that doesn’t require rinsing is wise.

If you want to au naturale and stay away from chemicals, you can use baking soda and vinegar for a non-toxic cleanse. Whichever cleanser you use, ensure that you get every spot. Particularly tough spots become easier with a bit of a hot tub cleaner soak!

Diluted bleach is also super efficient in getting rid of bacteria. Additionally, don’t forget the areas under the headrests – these are mold hotspots, come winter.

Step 10: Cover Cleaning

Don’t neglect your hot tub cover a good wipedown is sufficient in normal conditions, but a deep clean is necessary before winterizing. Ensure that you get all spots on your cover, using a good cleaner plus protectant.

Allow your cover to air dry, or use a towel to wipe it dry – this is important, as no moisture should be left over, creating a hotbed for mildew and mold.

Step 11: Close the Tub!

Once the cover has completely dried, secure it over your spa. Lock it, if possible, to prevent any unwanted entries into the pool over the winter. You can even go one step further and use wind straps to keep the cover in place.

What About Using Antifreeze in a Hot Tub?

Absolutely not. Not that you can’t, but more that you shouldn’t have to—that’s how efficient your winterizing draining and cleaning must be. If you achieve the goal of getting out every last bit of water in the tub and its system, you won’t need an antifreeze.

Of course, if you’re leaving the water in your tub, the answer’s different, but why would you want to open your hot tub 3 months later to cloudy, murky, smelly water?

If you think it’s to save yourself the effort that winterizing involves, you’re just setting yourself up for a bigger job in the spring!

Common Questions?

How often should a hot tub be winterized?

It is recommended to winterize your hot tub at least once a year before cold weather sets in.

How long does it take to winterize a hot tub?

Depending on your experience and the size of your spa, it should take a few hours to complete the winterizing process to a good standard.

Are there any risks associated with not properly winterizing a hot tub?

If you don’t winterize your hot tub properly there is risk of freezing pipes that can cause damage to the equipment and costly repairs to fix them.

Is it recommended to hire a professional for winterizing a hot tub?

It really depends on how lazy you are! Getting your your own hot tub ready for winter is easy enough but does take some effort. You can hire a professional and they will have more experience and ensure everything is done correctly and efficiently.

The Final Word

And that’s a wrap, folks! Now you know how to winterize a hot tub. Winterizing your hot tub is a great way to protect your investment and save money. Remember, you don’t need to winterize an indoor hot tub, but outdoor tubs should be winterized if the area experiences extreme cold temperatures.

There are several steps involved in winterizing a hot tub, including draining the water, cleaning the filters, and blowing out the lines. If done correctly you won’t need antifreeze.

Of course, this may seem like too much effort for some of us, or feel like something we should just leave to the experts. The good news is that you can. Calling in a pro is a foolproof way to get the lines properly cleaned and keep your tub in good condition until it’s ready to be used again.

With your winterizing now taken care of, you’ve earned yourself some hibernating, so enjoy it!

michael keenan author

Author - Michael Keenan

I'm Michael Keenan the owner and creator of the Outdoor Care Guide. I'm a trained horticulturist with over 30 years of experience in pool care, plant care, and landscape care! Seemed like a good idea to share - I think I can make your life easier and save you some time and money!