Can You Use Liquid Bleach in a Hot Tub?

I work pretty hard to maintain the water balance in my hot tub. But since chlorine and bromine can be a little expensive, I’ve wondered can you use liquid bleach in a hot tub?

Here’s what I found out in researching that:

You never want to use bleach in place or regular chlorine or bromine sanitizing, but you can use bleach to occasionally shock your hot tub water and use diluted bleach to clean the shell of an empty hot tub. Just avoid using liquid chlorine designed for swimming pools.

But there’s more to know about using bleach in a hot tub, including whether it’s OK to use it to clean yours. Then there are questions about using swimming pool liquid chlorine in a hot tub since it’s often cheaper. We’ll also get into whether chlorine or bromine is better too.

So let’s take the plunge! (sorry, Dad joke)

Can you use liquid chlorine in a hot tub?

It’s easy to confuse liquid chlorine (like you might buy for a swimming pool), powdered chlorine, and actual bleach. So let’s review the key differences, as ultimately each is very different from one another.

Liquid chlorine is often sold for pools, whereas hot tub chemicals are typically powdered.

The biggest downside to using swimming pool liquid chlorine in a hot tub has to do with how much smaller the hot tub is.  When pool owners dump a bunch of liquid chlorine into a pool, it has tens of thousands of gallons of water to mix into.

Hot tubs, by comparison, are usually under 500 gallons. So that liquid chlorine, even in smaller amounts, can easily over-chlorinate a hot tub.

But an even better reason to not use liquid chlorine in your hot tub, and this is true for powdered chlorine too, is that chlorine can’t deal with high temps the same efficient way that bromine does.

And with liquid chlorine in particular, the heat of a hot tub often disperses the chlorine unevenly. So certain parts of your hot tub could be way more chlorinated (and potentially dangerous) than others.

Also, swimming pool liquid chlorine usually has stabilizers in it and those are designed for pools, not hot tubs. They will mess with the alkalinity and pH of your hot tub and can make getting everything balanced a real challenge.

Lastly, liquid chlorine can cause extra wear and tear on certain parts of your hot tub including the acrylic shell. Rubber parts in particular, like those in the inner workings of your pump, blower, and jets, can also be adversely affected.

So in general, and we’ll get more into this below, chlorine in any form isn’t the best choice for hot tubs.

Can you shock a hot tub with bleach?

It’s easy to confuse hot tub sanitizers like chlorine or bromine, with hot tub shock, which is an oxidizer.

Typically you might shock your hot tub once a week if using it regularly or at least a few times a month. The shock helps get rid of any nasty stuff that the regular treatment with chlorine or bromine doesn’t get rid of; algae, viruses, bacteria, etc.

But shocking also gets rid of bromides which are a compound created when bromine degrades. Bromides are bad for a few reasons but most importantly because they show up on your test strips as bromine does, but they don’t protect you from contaminants like bromine does.

While the powdered shock I buy is fairly inexpensive, a lot of people ask whether you can just shock your hot tub with bleach (which can be cheaper). The answer is surprisingly yes.

Unlike using liquid chlorine to balance you tub multiple times throughout the week, shocking a few times a month with 1 cup of liquid bleach does do the trick.  You will just need to allow some time after using it before anyone gets in (and of course, check it with a test strip first).

1 cup of bleach as a shock will likely give you a ppm of chlorine of about 10 and the ideal ppm for use is only about 1-3 ppm. But if you use way less bleach, it may not shock the tub as it needs to be shocked.

Also, be aware that liquid bleach can raise the pH considerably. So make sure to test and adjust the pH as necessary after shocking yours with bleach.

So while it may be the cheapest way to shock your hot tub, it’s probably not the best.

Which is better for hot tubs bromine or chlorine?

This one is easy. Bromine is far superior for hot tubs than chlorine.

While chlorine is cheaper, dissolves faster and kills algae better than bromine, bromine is much better at remaining stable is the high heat. That’s the reason more pool owners use chlorine and more hot tub owners use bromine.

Here is a basic breakdown of the two.

CHLORINE

  • More popular and used more often
  • Available in liquid, powder, or for a feeder
  • Cheaper than bromine
  • You have to shock your tub more often
  • Disperses into the water faster than bromine
  • Better at killing algae

BROMINE

  • Dissolves much more slowly than chlorine
  • Much more stable than chlorine for high temperatures
  • Kills viruses and bacteria better than chlorine
  • Far less irritating to the skin than chlorine
  • Remains in the water longer
  • Can create cloudier water than using chlorine

So as you can tell, despite their similarities, bromine is the better AND safer choice for hot tubs unless you have a big algae problem (but there are products specifically for that if you need them).

So go with bromine for your hot tub.

But I go into much greater detail on this subject as well as all the chemicals you need for your hot tub in this article on my site. You’ll be amazed at how simple treating your water really is and all the stuff people sell that you really don’t need.

How do you sanitize a hot tub?

The most common ways to sanitize a hot tub are either with bromine or chlorine.

As we got into above, bromine works better for hot tubs than chlorine does. There are a number of different ways to add your sanitizer to your hot tub, such as:

  • Tablets (which dissolve)
  • Powdered granules
  • Floating feeders

Personally, I don’t like the feeders for a hot tub since they bobble around the relatively small space and bump into you while you’re trying to relax. But the benefit of the feeder is that it automatically releases the correct amount and keeps your tub ready to go at all times which is definitely handy.

The feeders are designed to hold the tablets, not powder.

I also would not just toss in a whole tablet into the water since it could be hard to control the bromine or chlorine levels that way.

So what I do, and have always done with all my hot tubs, is simply use granulated powdered bromine. I use a test strip first to see how the bromine/chlorine levels are and then add an educated guess amount of the powder. I run the jets the whole time to disperse the sanitizer.

Then I check again with another test strip a few minutes later and adjust if necessary.

The test strips are designed to be simple and easy to read and you simply match the color of your test strip to the recommended colors on the container the strips come in.  Bromine and chlorine are always combined on those strips, so no matter which one you’re using, you’ll look at the same category.

How is shocking a hot tub different than sanitizing?

Bear in mind, sanitizing is something you might do weekly or even a few times a week as ongoing maintenance of your hot tub. Then a few times a month, in addition to adjusting the bromine or chlorine levels, you would apply a shock.

Hot tub and pool shock simply take the sanitizing of the water to the next level, killing any remaining algae, bacteria, or viruses your regular sanitizing didn’t kill.

If, however, your water has gotten too bad off and has a foul smell, slime on the shell of the hot tub, or obvious signs of a film on the water, you’ll want to completely drain your hot tub, clean the shell thoroughly, and refill with fresh water and adjust the chemicals as needed.

I change the water in my hot tub every 3-5 months depending on how often we’re using it.

Can you use bleach to clean a hot tub?

The short answer here is yes.

That’s not the only way to clean your hot tub, as you can also use:

  • White vinegar (great for general cleaning and sanitizing)
  • Water and baking soda paste (a mildly abrasive cleanser for scrubbing)
  • Simple Green cleaner (great all-purpose cleaner for the shell and cover)
  • Rubbing alcohol (great for shining surfaces)
  • Mr. Clean Magic Erasers (for removing tough stains on the shell)

But sometimes you just want to be sure you kill any bacteria that might be living on the surface of the hot tub shell. This is going to be abundantly clear if anyone who uses it continues to get a rash after a soak.

That rash, not uncommon with hot tubs, is called hot tub folliculitis, and it’s a sign of contaminated water.  If the contamination is really bad, just changing the water may not do the trick. So to be sure it’s gone, let’s walk through how to clean your hot tub with bleach:

  1. Start by rinsing the hot tub shell (once completely drained) with your garden hose
  2. Don’t use bleach in conjunction with ANY other cleaners. Bleach combined with some chemicals like ammonia or vinegar can create hazardous fumes and reactions.
  3. Mix 1 part water to 1 part bleach in a mop bucket (5 gallon buckets work well too)
  4. With a long-handled scrub brush or mop, coat the surface of your hot tub with the bleach mixture. Remember this can still stain your clothes, even diluted, so use caution. Avoid pouring it in as we don’t want large amounts of puddles
  5. Allow it to sit 15-20 minutes
  6. Gently scrub the hot tub shell with your long-handled scrub brush, but be careful not to apply too much pressure unless needed to remove tough grime or stains; we don’t want to scratch the surface of the shell.
  7. Completely rinse your hot tub with your garden hose thoroughly. Make sure no puddle of the bleach mixture remain

How to get rid of all the water when draining a hot tub

Because of how hot tub shells are shaped, it can often be hard to get all the water out of the pockets at the bottom, so a wet-dry vac is essential to help remove all water (or water & bleach mixtures).

Don’t have a wet-dry vacuum? The wet-dry vac I have is the Vacmaster.

It’s has a 6-gallon tank, wheels so it rolls anywhere you move, has 1000’s of great reviews, free shipping, and is an Amazon’s Choice product.

Check it out on Amazon.

Did I cover all your questions about whether you can use liquid bleach in a hot tub?

In this article, we took a look at sanitizing hot tubs and what role, if any, bleach could play in that.

We talked about liquid chlorine like you might use in a swimming pool, and compared that to both bleach and also bromine to see which product might be best for your hot tub.

Ultimately we answered the question of can you use liquid bleach in a hot tub with a resounding yes, as an occasional shock, but not for ongoing water treatment. That’s due to both the corrosive effect it can have on some components, but also the fact that chlorine, in general, is not great for the high temperatures found in hot tubs.

For regular sanitizing of your water, bromine is the way to go! Do you use chlorine or bromine for your hot tub?

When you drain your hot tub, while you can just hook a garden hose up to the spigot under your paneling, one thing I found that was a HUGE time saver was to get a something called a sump pump.

A sump pump speeds up the process and drains the hot tub QUICK!

After a lot of research, I think the best one to get that won’t break the bank is the EZ Hot Tub and Pool Submersible Drain Pump.

It has great reviews on Amazon and is an Amazon’s Choice product.

It drains at a rate of 2000 gallons an hour. The average tub holds around 400 gallons. The EZ Pump also comes with a 25-foot drain hose. That way you can drain it well away from the house and hot tub area (remember treated water can harm plants and grass, so find a nice inconspicuous spot).

Check it out on Amazon.

No matter how you drain it, cut the power at the breaker panel to ensure the pump or heater don’t come on during draining as it could damage the equipment.

 

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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