How Do I Get my Hot Tub Water Clear Again?

hot tub clear again lg

It’s a sad sight to get home to a cloudy hot tub water at the end of a hard day. Or maybe it’s been that way for a while? So how do I get my hot tub water clear again?

I have dealt with this issue before. Here’s what to do:

To clear up cloudy hot tub water, check and adjust the pH, and add 1/8 cup of hot tub shock, adding chemicals with the jets running. In areas prone to hard water, adding a calcium reducer can also help. Hard water, low sanitizer levels, or a high pH are some of the main reasons for cloudy hot tub water.

But the above is just scratching the surface…

In this article, we’ll do a deep dive into why your hot tub water turns cloudy and how to make the water clear again.  And be aware that non-chlorine shock will always produce cloudier water than chlorine-based shock.

What I’ll be sharing is based on my experience of having owned 4 hot tubs for over 15 years.

How do I make my hot tub water crystal clear?

Crystal clear hot tub water is best obtained by changing the water every 3 months and checking and adjusting the chemical levels every week. Also, a chlorine shock will produce clearer water than a non-chlorine shock.

The following are some effective additional steps to take:

1. Clean or replace the filter

Residues of soap, sweat, detergent, and algae could clog and dirty filters. 

So, ideally, you want to rinse them regularly, about every 3 weeks. You can do this with your garden hose to keep them clean or at the kitchen sink if you have a sprayer.

Then you want to do a deep clean of the filters about every 3 months. 

To deep clean, I like to add some of Spa Depot’s Power Soak from Amazon to a 5-gallon bucket. Then I simply soak my filters for 1 hour in hot water.

You can also do a cold soak which is a little gentler, for 24 hours. But you should use a set of backup filters if you do that.

But even if you’re taking good care of your filters, there will come a time when they’ll need to be replaced. When you are really on top of filter maintenance, you can probably get away with replacing them every 2 years.

But otherwise, about once a year is probably best.

2. Check and adjust sanitizer

Sanitizer is the most important factor in having a healthy hot tub. It helps purify and kill bacteria. Sanitizers come in two main types: chlorine or bromine. 

That being said, there are also some enzyme-based alternative ones for those sensitive or allergic to chlorine or bromine.

Chlorine is the most widely used sanitizer for pools (it’s also used for tubs). However, because it doesn’t hold up to heat well, I’m not much fond of it for hot tubs.

Bromine is the most widely used sanitizer for hot tubs. It comes in tablets, powder, or liquid. I prefer tablets in a floater as I can set it and forget it.

If an appropriate level of sanitizer is not added, bacteria and contaminants can grow in the water. Not only can this lead to cloudy water, but it can also be unsafe to soak in.

A helpful hint: Make sure you add sanitizer a few times a week, depending on how often you use the tub.

Curious about what happens if the level of chlorine is too low? 

That’s what I explored in some depth in a recent article of mine. I explained that bacteria and contaminants grow in the hot tub water when the level of chlorine is too low. 

Just click the link to read it on my site.

3. Balance the water

Cloudy water is also triggered by high pH. 

So, you’ll need to balance your pH and alkalinity levels. Use test strips and aim for a balanced pH between 7.2 – 7.8 parts per million. You never want to go above 7.8. If you do, the water will turn cloudy.

4. Shock the tub

Shocking a hot tub involves using a large dose of oxidizer to the water.

An oxidizer is a chemical that acts on impurities such that they lose their electrons and hence break down more easily.  

Often the shock will be chlorine, which is fine even if your sanitizer is bromine. But non-chlorine shock is available too.

But the water will always be less cloudy if you use chlorine shock.

Shocking the water helps reactivate the sanitizer and removes bromamines or chloramines, which happens when the sanitizer breaks down. 

This has the end result of making the water clear again.

Why does my hot tub get cloudy?

Hot tub water can become cloudy because of high levels of contaminants, TDS (total dissolved solids), bacteria, low sanitizer level, high pH and dirty or clogged filters.

Let’s check out some of these causes in some detail.

1. The presence of contaminants

As people use the tub, they unwittingly leave residues of make-up, lotion, sweat, shampoo, body oil, urine…

Since hot tub water is often used for about 3-4 months before being changed, it’s not surprising that contaminants (and I only mentioned a few) make the water cloudy. 

You might be wondering why the sanitizers, alone, couldn’t prevent the cloudiness. At times, contaminants bind with the sanitizers, reducing their efficacy. They are simply too much for the sanitizers.  

2. Unbalanced water

Besides adding appropriate levels of sanitizers and shocking the tub, ensuring that the tub water is balanced is vital to keeping it clear and clean. 

So, when the water becomes unbalanced, it’d turn cloudy. Balancing the water is vital because it also affects how effective sanitizers are. 

If the water is not balanced, the sanitizers do not work well, and the water becomes cloudy.

3. Low sanitizer level

Ensuring adequate sanitizer levels is one of the pillars of having a hot tub that’s clean, clear, and safe. Sanitizers are arguably the most vital factor in having pleasant soaking experiences. So, when their level is too low, the water turns cloudy. 

4. Dirty or clogged filters

Over time, your filters can become dirty or clogged with debris, such as the remnants of soap, oils, and lotion. These could consequently reduce water flow and put a strain on your pumps resulting in cloudy water.

Proper circulation helps maintain the health and color of your water. When it’s moving freely, it can easily be filtered, and the sanitizers can also do their work. 

When this is not the case, the water becomes cloudy.

5. High level of Total Dissolved Solids

If the water is old, it can accumulate Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), making the water cloudy. What are they? 

TDS are a measure of all the matter (such as minerals and chemicals) that are present in the water. A keyword to understanding TDS is “dissolved.”

So, it refers to substances added to the water that has dissolved in it. Residues of oil that can still be seen do not constitute TDS.

I also devoted a recent article of mine to explore the causes of cloudy and smelly water. And how to fix it. Ironically there’s one thing we almost all do in our hot tubs that can lead to stinky water.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

How do you fix a cloudy hot tub?

Cloudy hot tub water that hasn’t been changed in over 8 weeks should be drained and refilled after cleaning. Ensure that the water alkalinity and pH levels are correct, clean or replace the filters, and add sanitizer to the water.

The filters are one of the parts of the tub that helps in making it clean. But, if it’s clogged with debris, it won’t function as well as it should. 

There’s a need to wash it thoroughly, if it’s relatively new, and replace it if worn out.

When the water chemistry is off, it makes the water cloudy, even smelly. So, it’s vital to ensure that the right ph, alkalinity levels, and sanitizers are applied.

When the contaminants are a lot, they reduce the effectiveness of the sanitizers. In addition to applying sanitizers, you’ll need to shock the tub regularly.

Stagnant water, such as the case with hot tubs, would eventually age no matter how well taken cared of. 

The best thing to do when you’ve used the water for over 2 months or you’ve been using the tub too frequently in a row is to drain the water, clean the tub, and refill.

You’ll have to balance the pH and alkalinity, apply sanitizer, and check and clean the filters… It’s a cycle that has to be maintained for best soaking.

But you can also use a hot tub clarifier!

This simply causes all the tiny particles of dirt, debris, and oils to be combined so they are large enough to get caught in the filters. Left alone, they are often so small they pass right through the filters.

Add up to 8 oz. to clear the water now, and then add a small amount each week to maintain it.

CLICK HERE to see my favorite clarifier on Amazon.

Can I use my hot tub if the water is cloudy?

It is not advisable to use a hot tub if the water is cloudy. The cloudiness indicates that the tub is in an unsanitary condition with possible high pH and/or bacteria build-up, neither of which are safe.

When tub water is in good condition, it is crystal clear. But once it becomes hazy and difficult to see through, there’s a problem that needs to be fixed asap.

Apart from being unsanitary, cloudy water can be a great place to pick up some nasty infections. Would you consider jumping into a swimming pool with murky water?

I thought so.

In a previous section of the article, we checked out what to do when the tub water is cloudy. Shocking the water is one of the things you can do if you don’t want to drain and refill.

But how often should it be done? 

Can you over-shock your tub water? Find out the ideal number of times in a recent article of mine. I get into how and when to shock, what kind is best and whether or not its needed right after a refill.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Is draining and refilling my hot tub the best way to get clear water?

Draining and refilling a hot tub will eliminate most issues with high levels of TDS and calcium, bacteria, or unbalanced pH. However, it should not be necessary to do this more frequently than every 12 weeks. And draining alone won’t eliminate biofilm.

Sometimes bacteria build-up known as biofilm can accumulate inside the plumbing. And it will still be there after you refill.

For that reason, I do a biofilm clean out every time I drain and refill my hot tub.

I just get some of this Oh Yuk! Healthy Hot Tub Cleaner on Amazon, and pour it in and let it circulate for an hour before draining.

That eliminates the biofilm and ensures that new water is really crystal clear and free of contaminants. We’ve looked at various steps that can be taken to make water clear, and when executed properly, they are effective.

But, if the water is old, it’s best to simply drain the tub, wash it thoroughly, and refill it. 

It would have to be balanced, tested, and sanitizers would have to be applied. If you’ve been using the water for a long time or a high number of people have been using the tub more frequently, it is probably better to simply go for the drain and refill option.

Still not quite sure about chlorine usage? 

Can you use it every day? In a recent article of mine, I explored the “best practice” with regard to using chlorine. Chlorine does need to be added more often than bromine. But in most cases, daily will be too much. However, there’s 1 exception to that.

Just click the link to read it on my site.


We looked at the causes of cloudy water and how to fix it. 

We learned that the presence of contaminants, unbalanced water, low sanitizer levels, and clogged or dirty filters are some of the reasons.

We addressed how dirty water can be made clear again.  

We also looked at whether it’s okay to use the tub if the water is cloudy. No. It’s not only gross; it’s a great way to pick up some infections.

We wrapped things up by considering the best way to clear up cloudy water: Drain the tub, wash it thoroughly, and refill.

Photo which requires attribution:

Sunsetting on the hot tub by Nick Webb is licensed under CC2.0 and was cropped, edited, color-adjusted and had a text overlay added.

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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