Can You Leave a Hot Tub Empty? (Ideally not, but you . . . )

I love my hot tub. But there are times such as winter or vacation where it might make sense to shut it down. In those cases, it’s natural to wonder can you leave your hot tub empty?

As a general rule, it is not ideal to drain a hot tub and leave it empty. For starters, any remaining water in the plumbing and equipment can breed bacteria. For another, rubber gaskets and seals can dry out, shrink or crack, creating leak issues when the hot tub resumes use.

However, there are situations where leaving it could be necessary.

These include if you leave your home for the winter and will be gone for 3 or more months. Also, if you live somewhere that regularly gets below freezing in winter AND you have frequent and lengthy power outages.

So, if you are absolutely needing to leave it empty, take the following steps:

Make sure to turn off the power first & then fully drain the tub, including using a wet/dry vacuum to remove any standing water and to suck the excess water out of each jet. Remove the filter & store it in a cool dry place.

Wipe down the tub thoroughly and keep the lid firmly in place.

So whether you want to definitely leave it empty, or want some solutions to some of the scenarios I mentioned, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.

So read on and find out what they are.

Can I leave my hot tub empty in winter?

Ideally, do not leave a hot tub empty in winter as it can be very enjoyable in wintertime. But leaving it empty can create issues with frozen and cracked pipes that may have residual water left in them.

Winter can be pretty harsh in certain parts of the country and the globe.

Luckily, it’s not where I live in Texas. So I use my hot tub all year. It’s even more fun for me in winter, soaking in the warm water while it’s chilly outside.

If you aren’t sure you want to use yours in winter, I highly recommend you read this recent article first.

In it, I get into how I use mine, how I alter the settings, and a few precautions I take to avoid any damage to the hot tub from freezing weather. Just click that link to read it on my site.

But I might feel differently in Chicago or Montana.

What about pipes freezing and breaking? If you are not home during the winter and not using your hot tub, why would you want to keep it full of water?

These are all very good questions you may have. The main thing to remember is that any water that is in the hot tub during the winter has the potential to freeze if the power is off. Especially in the pipes, which can cause them to crack.

You do not want this to happen, as it would not be cheap to fix. So, what do you do?

You need to winterize your hot tub. What this means is, make sure you get rid of all the water in your hot tub before winter hits.

Follow the steps below to winterize your hot tub:

  • Turn off the power to your hot tub
  • Drain the water by either:
    • Getting a drain plug and using it with your garden hose or
    • Getting a sump pump, which is usually recommended due to it being faster.
  • Once you have removed the water, you need to use a vacuum, such as a shop vac, to get all the water up. This should help get rid of any left behind drops of water
  • Next, you need to use the hot tub’s air blower if it has one by:
    • Turning off the heater
    • Turning the power back on
    • Letting the air blower run for 30 seconds to 1 minute
    • Shutting the power back off when done
  • Then you need to remove the filter(s) that your hot tub has
  • Finally, clean the filter with a deep chemical soak before you pack it up
    • Make sure the water is completely dried
    • Use the shop vac again if needed
  • Afterward, you need to remove the drain plug from your hot tub.
    • You can find these in the cabinet of your hot tub
    • Shop-vac out any water that may be inside
  • Lastly, clean your hot tub out well and cover it securely
    • Use a lockable cover to reduce the chances of it blowing off or being broken into

It may take a lot of work to fully winterize your hot tub, but it is very important to do. Take those steps and do them one by one, and your hot tub will be ready for winter in no time.

Want a more step-by-step guide to completely winterizing your hot tub?

I go into greater detail on that in this recent article, including how to know if it’s a good idea to use antifreeze or not.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

How do you completely empty a hot tub?

Now you may be wondering, how do you drain your hot tub? Well, the following steps will walk you through the process and help you get a nice and empty hot tub.

  • If you use a submersible pump (click to see the one I got on Amazon)
    • Turn off the power
    • Put the pump inside the hot tub
    • Connect to water hose if the pump’s hose is too short
    • Drain the hot tub by turning on the pump
    • When the hot tub is drained, turn the pump off, remove it and the hose, and your hot tub has been drained
  • If you use a spigot
    • Turn off the power
    • Locate the spigot drainage
      • A hot tub may have two, so you want to use the primary one first, then the auxiliary one afterward
    • Take your hose from the garden and attach it to the spigot
      • Make sure you have the hose going down and not uphill
        • This is due to the water not draining out if it is going up
      • Also, you need to have the hose running to a drain elsewhere, or water will get everywhere
    • Lastly, you will want to open the ball valve to allow the spigot to drain the water out

Now, these two ways are great ways to drain your hot tub. Now you are all done with it, right? Wait a minute, you need to do the following next after draining your hot tub!

  • Clean your hot tub’s filters after removing them from the hot tub
  • Use my favorite 1-hour chemical soak product called Power Soak (click to see on Amazon) to help clean the filters out all the way
  • Also, wash the inside of the hot tub and its walls with a cloth and gentle cleanser

Now it is safe to refill the hot tub when you are ready!

You need to clean the filters at least once a month to keep them running well. Also, check the manufacturer’s manual to see what cleaners you can and cannot use on your hot tub. Each hot tub may be different, and certain cleaners can damage it.

When you are done cleaning it, make sure you rinse it out with clean water.

Even just a little bit of residue can react with the chemicals the next time you fill it up. When that happens it can leave a crusty film on the acrylic shell.

That film will eventually come off. But it’s easier if you clean it off thoroughly, to begin with.

Can you turn off a hot tub when it is not in use?

Do not turn a hot tub off when not in use unless fully draining it, using a wet/dry vac to suck out excess water from jets, and opening the union fittings to allow excess water near the heater and pump to drain out.

Leaving standing water in a hot tub that is powered off can lead to harmful bacteria build-up.

And even if you just power it down for a day two and then back on, this can cause issues with the electric bill spiking. This is because it uses less energy to maintain a set temperature than it does to reheat cooled water.

However, if you are not using it for a long time, it is best to drain your hot tub’s water out.

Leaving the power off but water still in the hot tub can cause quite the mess with the water. That’s just an open invitation for bacteria, viruses, or algae to grow. Once that happens, even if you treat the water, you’ll still likely have that biofilm build-up of bacteria in your plumbing and equipment.

It is best to just drain it completely, as mentioned above if you are not using it for long periods.

Also keep in mind, turning off the power in the winter and leaving it full of water is a disaster waiting to happen.

Frozen water can lead to frozen pipes, which leads to expensive repairs.

So, you need to make sure you are draining your hot tub completely if you will not be using it for a long time, especially in the winter.

And if you decide to not use your hot tub, do not leave the power on and have it full of water.

That water needs to be maintained, and if you are not going to do it, the water will turn murky and gross. It would be a pain to clean and disinfect it, so try to remember to drain it and leave the power off.

What do you do with a hot tub when you go on vacation?

When going on vacation, take the following steps with your hot tub:

  1. If going for more than 4 weeks, turn off your hot tub, drain it completely, remove and rinse, and air dry the filters
  2. If going for 1-2 weeks, balance the water completely before going and then again upon returning
  3. If going for 3-4 weeks, hyper chlorinate the water before leaving by adding a triple dose of chlorine-based shock. Test and adjust the levels as needed upon returning

Of course, one easy to way to maintain the hot tub sanitation while you’re gone is to use a hot tub floater with chlorine or bromine tablets inside.

I normally use bromine tablets and put 4-6 in mine which lasts about a week.

But there’s no reason you couldn’t add more and maybe close the fins to allow less water inside which will slow the release of the sanitizer.

That way your hot tub will naturally be sanitizing itself while you are gone.

And if you check and adjust the alkalinity and pH before you go, with no one using the hot tub, those won’t really change much while you’re gone.

CLICK HERE to see my favorite hot tub floater on Amazon

and CLICK HERE to see my favorite bromine tablets for the floater on Amazon

But if you use chlorine sanitizer, these 1” chlorine tablets from Clorox on Amazon work great too.

Wondering where you should drain your hot tub water?

Hot tub water is not only warm but full of chemicals. So it’s not a great idea to drain it on your lawn (or your neighbor’s). But also avoid flowers, plants, and trees too. The ideal spot is well away from your house and to an inconspicuous part of the yard.

Check out my recent article which lets you know all the dos and don’ts of draining your hot tub, including how I drain mine in only 15 minutes!

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Should I leave my hot tub on all the time?

Yes, it is better to leave a hot tub on all the time rather than frequently turning it off and then back on. This helps ensure no bacteria buildup as the filtration cycles will continue. Plus it will use less electricity to maintain a constant temperature than if it is frequently reheating the water.

So your electric bill will be smaller.

AND, more importantly, your hot tub will be ready to go when you are. Remember, it takes hot tubs anywhere from 3 hours to 8 hours or more to fully heat up from scratch.

Why does heating a hot tub have such a large window?

Several factors affect how long a hot tub takes to heat up. Luckily, in a recent article, I break down all those factors and all the things you can do to speed that up.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

You only need to turn the hot tub off (and drain it) when you are going to be gone for more than 2 weeks. So leave it on when at home; even if you’re only using it once or twice a week. It will be ready when you are and your electric bill will be cheaper.

But if you’re leaving a vacation home for the season, or going on a 4-week backpacking trip in Europe, it is safe to turn it off and drain it.

Final thoughts

Draining your hot tub and turning it off is an important step to do when you are cleaning out your hot tub.

If your hot tub will not be in use for more than 2 weeks, you may want to turn it off, drain it, and clean it. If you are using your hot tub somewhat regularly, it is totally safe to leave it on. It will be cheaper on your electric bill too rather than constantly turning it off and back on.

Keep in mind proper maintenance will keep the hot tub running for a long time to come. So, while it is off, clean the hot tub itself and its filters to ensure a long hot tub life.

Photos which require attribution:

an empty hot tub by bekassine… is licensed under CC2.0

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Jeff Campbell