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How To Clean a Hot Tub Filter (Step by Step)

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hot tub filter

Hot tubs are a luxury item that lots of people want to own, but they require maintenance to keep running properly. Maintenance is also essential so that they remain worth their investment.

When learning to clean your hot tub’s filter, you have to first properly know your hot tub. What kind of hot tub do you own? What type of filter does it use? How often does the filter need to be cleaned? When do I change my filter?

These questions and more should be answered before tackling the process of cleaning your filter. After all, you want your hot tub to be in its best shape for all who enjoy it. Don’t worry, by the end of this article, you’ll be well-verse in hot tub filter care.

What Kind of Hot Tub Do You Own?

Knowing the kind of hot tub you own is the first question that must be answered before you can clean your hot tub filter. Some brands of hot tubs have to use the same brand of filter to function properly. Some people choose different filtration symptoms for their hot tubs that require specific filters.

Common Hot Tub Filter Types

how to clean hot tub filters

There are 4 different types of filters that can be used in hot tubs. Those filters are cartridge filters, ceramic filters, sand filters, and diatomaceous earth filters. All of these filters offer features that appeal to different hot tub owners, and some of them work better than others.

Cartridge Filters

These are the most common hot tub filters and are used most often. They are made of either paper, fabric, or plastic. These are made with a pleated material housed between two plastic, circular ends that just slide into the filter space in the hot tub. They are very easy to clean and usually house the entire filtration system in the one cartridge.

Ceramic Filters

These filters are designed similarly to cartridge filters, but they last considerably longer. If a ceramic filter is well-made and well-maintained, it can last for years before needing to be replaced. These filters are known to have layers of activated charcoal that add even more filtering protection.

Sand Filters

Sand filters have become a more popular option for hot tub users that want a less chemical way to refresh their water. Typically, these filters are spherical and use sand to filter the water. They sit outside the hot tub and need to be cleaned very frequently. These filters, while popular for those who desire less chemicals in their hot tub, are not as effective at removing dirt as the other filters.

Diatomaceous Earth Filters

These filters are, surprisingly, almost as commonly used as cartridge filters. They are similar to cartridge filters with the way that they are set up, but the filtering device that is used is diatomaceous earth. Diatomaceous earth is the remains of fossilize diatoms that is ground into white powder and used as the filtration particle in this type of filter. Water is sent through the particles to remove bacteria and dirt.

What Type of Filter Does My Hot Tub Use?

Unless your hot tub is one that has to use a brand-specific filter, you are able to choose the filter you’d like for your hot tub – as long as that type of filter is available in the size you need.

There are many different types of hot tubs – in-ground, portable, wooden, etc. There are many kinds of hot tub features – LED lights, special massaging water jets, speakers, and more. Because all hot tubs are different, they all require special attention paid to proper maintenance.

As with any new thing you purchase, it is wise to take the time to get to know your hot tub. Memorize the filter it needs. Research the best filter type for your personal needs. See if that filter is sold in the size that your hot tub needs.

How Do I Know My Filter Needs to be Cleaned?

If you aren’t sure that your hot tub filter needs to be cleaned, just ask your water or even your hot tub! There are many ways that your water and your tub can tell you when you should clean your filter. Some of the ways are:

  • Look to see if your water is dirty. Is it cloudy or discolored in any way? Is there debris floating in the water? Has dirt settled on the bottom of your hot tub?
  • Notice how the water feels on your skin. If a filter isn’t filtering properly, then the water can become too soft or too hard. Does the water feel slippery on your skin? Does it feel flaky? Dirty?
  • Notice if your jets are working properly. Are they pushing with the same force? Are they making odd noises? If they are not working properly, they could be clogged with dirty water.
  • Remove the filter and look at it. Is the filter dirty? Has it changed colors or grown slimy? If the filter is obviously dirty, then that is the clearest sign that your filter needs maintenance.

The time that has passed since your last filter cleaning can also tell you if your filter needs to be cleaned, or even if it needs to be changed.

If it’s been about two weeks since your last cleaning, then you probably should clean your filter. At this time, your filter probably isn’t majorly dirty and can typically be cleaned by spraying it with a water hose.

If it’s been a month or more since your last cleaning, then your filter most definitely needs to be cleaned. Some filters may need to be replaced at this time; others simply need a chemical cleaning to remove built-up residue. Make sure that during this chemical cleaning you completely rinse the filter and let it dry thoroughly before using it again.

If it’s been a year or more since your last cleaning, then you almost definitely need to change your filter. If you have a ceramic filter, then you may be able to give it a chemical cleanse and use it again. However, most filters do not work properly for this long. Changing the filter is your best bet at this point and the hot tub itself will need a thorough cleaning

How Do I Properly Clean My Hot Tub Filter?

There are three different cleanings that you will perform on your hot tub filter throughout each year. There are weekly quick cleanups, monthly chemical cleanups, and quarterly chemical soakings that you will use to keep your filter working properly.

For the cleaning tips and steps, a cartridge filter is used for the example filter since it is the most commonly used filter.

Weekly Quick Cleanups

Each week, you should remove your filter and rinse it completely with a water hose to get it as clean as possible.

Follow these steps:

  • Remove the hot tub filter.
  • Run your water hose.
  • Spread the pleats out with your hands and make sure to spray inside all of the crevices in the filter.
  • Remove any large clumps of debris with your hand.
  • Continue to rinse until all visible signs of residue are gone.
  • Allow to completely dry before use.

Monthly Chemical Cleanups

Once a month, your hot tub filter needs a chemical cleanse. You will use a water hose and a hot tub filter cleaner to clean your filter at this time. There are chemical cleaners for filters that you can purchase, and you can make your own.

Follow these steps:

  • Remove the hot tub filter.
  • Spray the filter completely with the chemical cleaner or your own cleaner mixture. 
  • Take care to spread the pleats open and spray the cleaner in the crevices.
  • Allow the filter to sit and soak with the cleaner on it for at least 15 minutes.
  • After it has sat for sufficient time, rinse it off completely with the water hose.
  • Make sure that all visible debris and dirt is removed from the filter.
  • Finish rinsing.
  • Allow the filter to dry completely before using it.

Quarterly Chemical Soakings

Every 3 to 4 months during the year, you will need to give your hot tub filter a chemical soak. This is usually done at the same time that you change your hot tub’s water because it’s convenient to do the most time-consuming maintenances simultaneously. Note that this is an overnight process.

Follow these steps:

  • Remove the hot tub filter.
  • Rinse the filter with fresh water.
  • Completely submerge the hot tub filter in a diluted chemical cleaning solution. Make sure to follow the instructions on the chemical cleaning solution packaging or, if you make your own solution, make sure the measurements are correct.
  • Allow the filter to sit submerged in this solution overnight. Place something over the filter to weigh it down if needed.
  • The next day, remove the filter and rinse with a water hose.
  • Make sure that all debris and visible dirt is completely gone.
  • Finish rinsing. Make sure that all chemical solution has been rinsed from the filter.
  • Allow the filter to dry completely before replacing it.

These three cleaning methods are vital for maintaining a clean filter and a healthy hot tub environment. Be sure to note if the type of hot tub that you use requires a different filter cleaning and replacement schedule.

The entire point of having a hot tub is to be able to relax in comfort, knowing that you are sitting in clean, filtered water. Without a properly maintained hot tub filter, you cannot enjoy this comfort because you are not sure exactly what you are sitting in.

How Do I Make My Own Chemical Cleaning Solution?

Whether you want as little chemicals as possible to clean your hot tub or just love DIY projects, making your own cleaning solution is very simple. There are many cleaning solutions that you can create yourself for cleaning your hot tub filters.

TSP Solution 

Mix 1 cup of TSP (Trisodium Phosphate) with 5 gallons of hot water.

White Vinegar Solution

Mix 3 cups white vinegar with 5 gallons of water.

Dry Dish Detergent

Mix 1 cup of dry dish detergent with 5 gallons of hot water.

Muriatic Acid (for heavy calcium deposits)

Mix 1 cup muriatic acid with 1 gallon of cool water.

Bleach Solution

Mix ¼ cup of bleach with 5 gallons of hot water.

Sea Salt Solution (organic option)

Mix 1 entire bag of sea salt with 5 gallons of hot water.

Do Not:

  • Clean hot tub filters in the dishwasher
  • Clean hot tub filters with a pressure washer
  • Use laundry detergent to clean a hot tub filter
  • Use diatomaceous earth to clean a hot tub filter

Tips and Tricks for Getting a Super Clean Filter

There are lots of factors that create a dirty filter. Not only does the actual dirt from wind and bodies get filtered through the hot tub, but the water type – whether it is soft or hard – can even affect how often a filter should be cleaned. 

These tips and tricks can help guarantee the cleanest filter possible:

  • Take special care to make sure that your filters are completely dry before putting them back in your hot tub. Filters that are still wet can leak residue into your hot tub, especially those that have been cleaned with chemical solutions. It can cause the water in your hot tub to foam and can cause skin irritation.
  • To save time and make sure you have a properly clean filter always installed in your hot tub, you can work with two filters. Rotate the filters, placing the clean one in when you take out the dirty one to clean it. This allows more time to clean your filter and makes sure that the filters are absolutely dried when replaced in the hot tub.
  • Very hard water will cause calcium deposits to build up on your filter very quickly. There is a chance that cleaning filters with water like this will be very difficult. You may need to actually change your filter out more often or treat your water with a water softener to help lessen the calcium that deposits.
  • It’s a good rule to replace your hot tub filters at least once a year. Some filters may last more than one year if the hot tub is not used very often.
  • Look over the entire filter each time you clean it. If you notice any cracks or damage on the filter, then you may want to actually change it.
  • Go ahead and clean the unit that houses your hot tub filter each time you clean the filter. This is important because a clean house will help keep the filter cleaner for longer.
  • Perform water tests every so often to see if your water quality has changed. Water tests can show problem areas within your hot tub. For instance, a presence of too many chemicals could mean that you haven’t been rinsing your filters thoroughly.
  • Regularly skim your hot tub to collect bigger pieces of debris that could travel to the filter and create issues.

The Best Places to Purchase Filter Parts

If you’re ever in need of purchasing parts for your filter or hot tubs, there are specific companies that produce the best of the best in specific hot tub parts and appliances.

Try out these companies for these products:

  • Jacuzzi for name brand products and quality cleaners
  • Hayward for cleaning canisters, filter nozzles and hoses, and pipes
  • Tork for replacement filter nozzles, temperature gauges, plugs, and pipes
  • Unicel for traditional filter cartridges and replacement filter covers
  • Filber for filter cartridge replacements and filter cleaning solution
  • Aqua Kleen for filter cartridge replacements
  • Pleatco for filter cartridge replacements
  • Sundance Spas for filter cartridge replacements, ceramic filters, sanitizers, and jet replacements

The Bottom Line of Hot Tub Filtration Systems

Hot tub filtration systems can seem difficult to understand, but, at their core, they are just a series of items working together to pump your water safely and regularly.

There are two different types of filter systems – suction type and pressure type. Suction types are more commonly used and easier to maintain. Pressure types are often found in older hot tubs and don’t require maintenance as often. However, their maintenance can be rather difficult.

Filtration cycle is the term given to the cycle of the water as it pumps through the filter. You want to have a strong circulation pump in order to keep the cleanest water. There is a control system that governs the entire hot tub, and some give control of the filtration cycle. This is good to have because you can adjust the filtration cycles depending on how many people are in the hot tub.

In Conclusion…

Cleaning a hot tub filter is very simple. There are many ways to customize your cleaning techniques, and there are multiple options for hot tub filters. This allows those that are eco-friendlier and those with sensitive skin to enjoy a pleasurable hot tub experience.

Hot tubs do require steady maintenance to make sure that they last. Whether you have a built-in hot tub or a soft-side inflatable portable hot tub, the filter maintenance remains the same.

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Jena Slocum Co-Founder

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