The Dirty Truth: Public Hot Tubs Revealed

hot-tub-rashHot tubs can be great places for relaxation, visiting with friends and family, de-stressing, and healing the body. People love hot tubs for different reasons, but almost everyone will agree that when they see a hot tub they want to get in. You’ll see communal hot tubs in places like gyms, health facilities, apartment complexes, cruise ships, and hotels. If everyone knew exactly how filthy most hot tubs are, they would probably never touch the water. So whats the dirty truth?

  1. Hot Tub Rash: This type of folliculitis you can catch from dirty hot tub water may change your perception of hot tubs forever. This rash first resembles an itchy rash that looks like red spots, then develops into red bumps all over, and can even cause red pus filled blisters around hair follicles.
  2. Legionnaires Disease: This bacteria multiplies in water systems like hot tubs and can be caught when steam is breathed in. The disease can resemble the flu and for certain people, this disease can cause fatal, and hospitalizing issues.
  3. Urine in the Hot Tub: Who knows who’s been using the public hot tub? Kids are more likely to do this, but since 1 in 4 people admit to peeing in a pool, you can imagine that a hot tub might have similar probability.
  4. Sweat, Dead Skin and Hair, Lotions, and Makeup: These are common things that end up in hot tub water from hot tub users. The more hot tub users, the worse the concentration of these things. Not to mention, the dead organic material like this in the hot tub can reduce the efficiency of sanitizer chemicals.
  5. Feces: Each person who uses the hot tub brings in a peanut sized amount of fecal matter on their body. Thats just disgusting. Need I say more?

The bacteria found in hot tubs thrives in the warmth and moisture associated with hot tubs. Sometimes even sanitizer can’t do enough to kill all the bacteria in public hot tubs. Because the bather load of public hot tubs is much higher, public hot tubs have a much higher probability of being a pool of bacteria and disease. The moral of this story? Don’t use public hot tubs!

It’s a good thing that most, if more likely all, of Hot Tub Things customers are shopping for personal hot tubs. Only you have control over how frequently the water is tested, cleaned, maintained, and changed. You can control who goes in your hot tub and how frequently. You can set the rules, and this makes the hot tub a lot more sanitary. A simple rule we like to follow is: always rinse off in the shower before getting in the hot tub. This will  remove the dirt, sweat, lotions, and even fecal matter from your skin so you don’t contaminate the hot tub water. Simple rules like this can make a big difference.

Other tips to follow so your hot tub doesn’t end up like the filth that most public hot tubs are:

  1. Chemical Maintenance: make sure you are testing the hot tub water at least twice a week! Make the appropriate additions of chemicals to the hot tub each time and  you should be pretty bacteria free.
  2. Change the filter: At least once per year, the filter should be replaced. The filter should also be cleaned at least once per month to ensure it continues working in peak condition. When the filter gets too clogged, it can’t collect all the organics in the water and the water can get dirty.
  3. Drain and Refill: This process should be done every 4 months, approximately. This number depends on hot tub use, but the 4 month rule tends to work for most people.
  4. Invest in Other Sanitizers: Mineral purifiers are constantly purifying the water, so when you aren’t using your hot tub it stays clean. This is the cheapest additional sanitizer you can use in your hot tub. More expensive water sanitizers are Ozone and UV Sanitation. The ozone system can be retrofitted in your hot tub if it doesn’t already include one, and this ozone will sanitize water every day for a portion of the day. UV sanitation has a similar effect. Usually water is filtered through a UV section which has a UV light on so that all the water that passes through the system leaves completely bacteria free.

For all your needs to keep your hot tub sanitary, check out out website Hot Tub Things! It’s your one stop shop for everything hot tub. Contact us if you have any questions or concerns about hot tub sanitation.


2 Responses to “The Dirty Truth: Public Hot Tubs Revealed”

  1. Priscilla Moffett says:

    1. Recently purchased a used (2 yrs) Clearwater spa and having difficulty understanding chemicals.
    I took a water sample to a spa dealer and he tested and said I needed to spa up for ph….my test strips kept showing the ph was within normal limits…he tested with a test tube instead of strips…should I buy that kind of testing device instead of strips? – he acts perturbed that I didn’t buy a new spa from him (bought it from the person to whom he sold it) so I am not comfortable with his advice.
    2. Also the calcium test showed that it isn’t high enough and I have added calcium twice now over three days…strip still reads greenish blue instead of true blue (normal range indication)
    3. Does it matter if my spa is not heated right now? It is way too hot here in Austin right now…I just want a nice cool relaxation (it heats up pretty well with the cover on anyway) I see that some of the chemicals say they are made for use in “hot water” are they no performing as they should?
    4. There are oily deposits along the side, probably from not showering before entering (I am primarily the only user) What solution is safe for cleaning? and I will shower from now on.

    As you can see, I need help to insure I am maintaining my spa correctly and seem to be unable to get straight head on advice….I would be thankful for any help!

    • hottubthings says:

      It is always best to go to your nearest dealer for help, but we understand that he or she may not always be very helpful. In regard to your first question, the test strips you are using should be fine. The test tube version is an older method of testing and the strips work perfectly fine. Check the expiration date on the test strips (yes, they do expire). Also check to make sure that you are using bromine strips for a bromine system and chlorine strips if you are using a chlorine sanitation system, etc. The reading should come out accurately if the spa water was recently added (within the last week or two). Adjust your chemicals accordingly.

      You are correct that spa chemicals may not be dissolving properly. There is a real difference between the way hot tub chemicals work and pool chemicals work, and that difference is the temperature. If you are using the spa as a pool currently then maybe try pool chemicals. Before going ahead with this, always consult your manufacturer or local dealer.

      The temperature issue could also be affecting your calcium readings, but we cannot say for certain as we are not personally testing your tub. Make sure you are only dealing with hot tub water that is NEW when first adding chemicals. Look through our learning center to find more information about start up and maintenance. The level of one chemical can affect the way the other chemicals work and interact so making sure ALL levels are accurate is important.

      Our bodies always shed oils, sweat, skin and other things like lotions and hair products when we get in the spa. The buildup is inevitable, but showering will help minimize. The Leisure Time Dirty Duck, or Scumballs is a special sponge that helps collect those oils and buildup and it is fairly reasonable. You can also use an Ultra Mitt to clean the ring around your hot tub. Otherwise, try to clean the ring with a non abrasive cloth or sponge and a surface cleaner made for hot tubs.

      How old is your hot tub filter? If it is older than 10-12 months old then it needs to be replaced, regardless of how much the hot tub was used! An old filter can cause false readings and can even contaminate clean water.

      One last thing you may want to try…
      There is a product called Jet Line Cleaner (by HotTubThings) that clears out the plumbing of your hot tub. There is no way to know how the previous owners maintained their hot tub and fully clearing the plumbing would be a helpful addition to starting fresh. You use this product by adding it to the hot tub (probably at a hot temperature), letting the hot tub circulate and run the jets a couple times, then you drain the spa entirely. Clean the inside of the tub while it is drained, rinse it down with a hose and then refill the hot tub. From here you can start from scratch again.

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