How to Clean a Whirlpool Tub

Whirlpool tubs are a great way to get rid of aches and pains and release stress. That's why they're such popular additions to bathrooms and why many people make sure they add the cost of the tubs into their bathroom remodeling budgets. But whirlpool or even basic jetted tubs can also be a health hazard and a bacteria breeding area if the tub, especially the jets, aren't properly cleaned.

Illness-causing Bacteria

A researcher from the Department of Biology at the A&M University in Texas completed a study of public and private whirlpool baths by taking random sampling from 43 baths and came to a startling conclusion. The water quality of the whirlpools was so poor that it contained pathogens not found even on public toilets that caused at least ten serious illnesses. The pathogens the researcher found were responsible for Pontiac fever, pneumonia, intestinal infections, urinary tract infections, Legionnaire's disease, folliculitis, toxic shock syndrome, septic arthritis, gastroenterisits, bacteremia, infections of the respiratory tract and endocarditis.

Design and Bacteria

Researchers suspect that the reason why many whirlpool tubs contain so many dangerous pathogens is because most whirlpool tubs are designed so that the bath water doesn't completely drain from the jetting system pipes. Used water often contains dirt, dead skin, hair, soap film, body oil and often traces of feces. This dirty water remains in the pipe and becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. The bacteria are then spewed into your bath water the next time you use your jetted tub, and the cycle starts all over again.

Not only does the build-up of dirty water become a bacteria breeding ground, but the body oils, hair and soap scum can build up in the pumps, fittings and pipes of your tub and will eventually cause problems with the jetted circulation system of your whirlpool.

Daily Cleaning

Many manufacturers of jetted tubs recommend that you fill your bath with fresh water after every use and run the fresh water through the jets for ten to 15 minutes. This is an effective way to reduce or prevent build-up in the pipes, but it won't get rid of the bacteria.


It's important to regularly complete in-depth cleaning of your jetted tub to create as inhospitable environment as possible for bacteria. There are a variety of special whirlpool cleaners on the market you can buy, but effective cleaning of the jets can be done with a few items you already have around the house.

First begin by filling your tub with lukewarm water so there's enough water for at least three inches above the jets. Allow the water to settle so there are no bubbles. Then slowly add half a cup of concentrated household bleach to the water being careful not to splash on your clothes, the bathroom mat or the shower curtain. Then add two teaspoons of low-foaming dishwater detergent. It's important that you choose low foaming detergent because standard detergents will create enough bubbles to fill your entire bathroom once the tub's whirling action is activated.

Turn on the jets and allow them to run for ten to 15 minutes. There will be some water spray, so make sure there is no fabric (towels, clothes, bath mats) around that could get damaged by the bleach in the water. Do not lean over the tub as the jets are running or you could get bleach water sprayed in your eyes. Drain the tub.

Use an old toothbrush or several cotton swabs moistened with bleach to clean around the outside surfaces of the jets. Refill the tub with cold water and run the whirlpool tub for another ten to 15 minutes. Drain the water.