Can a Hot Tub Cover Be Dried Out? (Yes, here’s how to do it)

Over time, a worn hot tub cover can become waterlogged. This happens when tears in the vinyl cover allow water to get in. Sure you can just buy a new one. But for those on a budget, it’s not uncommon to wonder can a hot tub cover be dried out?

Having dealt with this at my last house, this is what I learned:

Yes, a waterlogged hot tub cover can be dried out. First, remove the foam inserts and allow them to dry fully, cleaning them if necessary. Then allow the vinyl cover to fully dry out. Lastly, any tears or holes in the vinyl need to be patched to prevent water from entering the cover again.

But that’s just a quick overview.

First of all, how badly is it damaged? Is the cover sagging in the middle? Is there a moldy smell coming off it? If this is the case, you should probably have attended to it a long time ago. Covers that are too far gone will most likely need to be replaced.

But, if it is not so bad, it may be it is worth saving. Let’s dive in and figure out if that’s possible!

Why do spa covers get waterlogged?

Spa covers are usually made up of thick pieces of insulation foam—often encased in polythene (plastic sheeting). The foam then gets sandwiched between two layers of vinyl, with the joints zipped or stitched and sealed.

Over time, exposure to the elements will cause the vinyl to break down. This, together with the constant lifting puts stress on the material and cracks will start to appear.

This is especially true when hot tub owners don’t use a hot tub cover lifter. Remember, hot tub covers are upwards of 75 lbs. It can be very hard to gently set them on the ground when you open it.

When they repeatedly get dumped on the ground, the weight of the cover can cause tiny rips and tears at the seams of the cover. But the plastic sheeting encasing the foam inserts can also get torn.

Water can get in through these tears, or it can enter through the underside due to water vapor from the warm water in the tub.

How waterlogged the cover gets depends on the kind of foam used for the inserts.

Expanded polystyrene (EPS) will easily become waterlogged as the air in the foam expands, allowing water vapor to enter and condense as it meets the cooler outside air.

Styrofoam is a closed-cell extruded polystyrene foam (XPS}, which in itself is not as prone to saturation but water vapor can still get trapped between the core and the polythene covering.

If the Styrofoam is damaged through wear and tear, it is also possible for water to enter cracks.

Not only does saturation make the top heavier and more difficult to handle, but the thermal properties become seriously compromised, making them far less efficient and increasing the running cost of your hot tub.

Will waterlogged Styrofoam dry out?

In a recent article, I discussed the ways to deal with this. But the cover and inserts will dry out once removed from the hot tub and set aside for a while. Just click that link to read more on that process on my site.

This is usually a good time to drain your hot tub and clean the tub.

Remove the Styrofoam core and turn the vinyl inside-out so it can dry on the inside first—this is the most important step. Otherwise, you will trap moisture inside the cover once you’re done.

Dry both the foam core and the cover in full sun if you can, otherwise, an indoor space like a garage can work as well.

This will work but it will take longer. Inside a garage, space heaters may be used to speed up the process but don’t place them too close as it could damage the vinyl or even set fire to the foam!

How do you fix a waterlogged spa cover?

First off, you will have to dry out the foam insulation. This usually involves removing the core and allowing it to dry naturally (see above).

Then you need to find out why the cover became waterlogged and address that. In a recent article, I explained how to fix holes and small tears in a spa cover using a repair kit. This is a simple DIY job that could save hundreds of dollars.

Just click that link to read how to do it on my site. But here is a quick overview:

Patching up torn vinyl is an easy job. You just need the right materials and the right technique. The key to success is the adhesive.

Don’t just use any old adhesive. Vinyl contains oils that combine with most glues to make it gooey and lose its bond, so you need something with a built-in inhibitor, which is why I recommend Tear-Aid (click to see the current price on Amazon).

The Tear-Aid repair kit contains everything you need to repair to your hot tub cover perfectly.

The clear patch conforms to any shape so it works on corners. And it is flexible so it is great along the hinged areas. It is also see-thru, so it works with any color vinyl, and UV resistant so it won’t crack under constant sunlight.

Take these steps once the cover has dried out and the foam reinstated:

  • Thoroughly clean the vinyl cover
  • Roughen up the area on each side of the tear or around the hole using light grade sandpaper
  • Wipe away any residue with a dry cloth
  • Cut the patch to shape or size. Always do a dry run first to make sure you’ve got the right fit
  • Use the alcohol preparation pads supplied with the kit to apply a thin film around the tear or hole
  • Apply the patch using firm pressure. It will bond within seconds so make sure you position it right first time—you don’t get a second chance!

And that’s it, you’re good to go. It is always best to leave it a few hours until the patch has fully cured, so use this time to prepare your hot tub for the next session.

Can I replace the foam in my hot tub cover?

If the foam is damaged, it is possible to replace it.

Most hot tub covers have a zipper, which allows the foam to be removed, but if not, you are probably looking at a replacement.

The foam must be precisely the same size and thickness as the original, and always use a material that is suitable for hot tub use such as Styrofoam.

It is not worth skimping on cost, because inch for inch this is the most efficient in terms of energy and strength.

Most companies, however, want to sell you the whole cover. After all, that’s a bigger sale for them. And they don’t have to mess with returns from people who don’t measure their inserts correctly.

So you may have to Google around for a while to find a company that will sell just the inserts. You can start your journey, however, at Beyond Nice (not an affiliate link)as they do sell custom inserts. 

Checking with your dealer or hot tub manufacturer is also a good idea.

I mentioned at the top that not using a hot tub cover lifter was the 2nd biggest cause of damage to hot tub covers (following sun damage).

In this recent article, I looked at some great hot tub cover lifters to suit all situations and most budgets.

They can be free-standing or attached to your hot tub, manual, or automatic. They are quick and simple to install and will save you so much trouble as well as help increase the life span of the cover through reduced strain.

Just click that link to read more on my site.

How often should you replace your hot tub cover?

Hot tub covers don’t last forever, but you should get between 5 and 7 years out of one if you look after it. In a recent article, I discussed this in more detail.

I even get into 2 crucial tips to extend the life of your cover by about 3 years. Just click that link to read it on my site.

Exposure to the sun’s UV rays and constant manual lifting is the main causes of damage. And if you can reduce these in some way, your cover should last another 3 years.

The best way to protect from the sun is to provide shelter of some kind.

But if you like to sit out and look at the stars while you’re soaking up the bubbles, then you should consider coating the vinyl with 303 UV Protectant (click to see the current price on Amazon).

There are other products out there, but this is, in my opinion, the best as it will also work on the acrylic shell of the hot tub too.

A monthly treatment is all you need to keep the vinyl supple.

Regular cleaning to remove dirt and leaves is always a good idea. Dead leaves will trap moisture and increase mold growth. They can also harbor insects that could damage the surface of the cover.

Also, clean off large amounts of snow in winter. That weight can easily cause the foam inserts to become permanently warped inwards.

Did I cover all you wanted to know about waterlogged covers?

Well, to answer the original question, yes, waterlogged hot tub covers can be dried out and be given a new lease of life, but prevention is better than any cure.

Regular cleaning of your cover and treating with a UV protectant will extend the life of your hot tub cover by at least 3 years, so it is well worth the effort.

Avoiding damage in the first place is the best way of preventing a waterlogged cover. As I said earlier, most of the strain on the cover is caused by constant lifting. And this can be reduced by investing in a cover lifter.

If all else fails and the damage is too great to be repaired, then it is probably time to bite the bullet and go for a new cover, but if this is the case, think about the points made above to get the most out of it.

Just click on the links to see previous posts on my site.


Photos which require attribution:

Ice in Phoenix by Adam is licensed under CC2.0

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a husband, father, martial artist, budget-master, Disney-addict, musician, hot tub lover, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market.

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