How Often Should You Change Your Hot Tub Filter?

My hot tub’s filter is something I don’t think about very often since I can’t see it. And while I treat the water in my hot tub regularly, I’ve wondered how often should you change your hot tub filter?

Here’s what I’ve found out after years of owning hot tubs:

As a general rule, plan to change a hot tub’s filter every 1-2 years depending on the frequency of use and frequency of cleaning. The less a hot tub is used and/or the more regularly the filters are cleaned, the longer they will last.

The filter should also get regular rinsing with a garden hose every 3 weeks, and a chemical soak about every 3 months to extend its life and ensure clean water.

But there’s more to know about hot tub filters!

So in this article, we’ll get into how you can clean them, should you toss ’em in the dishwasher, and how long they last in general.

So, let’s dive in!

What is a hot tub filter?

Hot tub filters are basically pleated cloth-like polyester paper housed in a plastic holder and the paper is designed to catch the following types of contaminants in your water:

  • Dirt
  • Body oils
  • Hair
  • Leaves

I’m not talking about the intake suction drains at the bottom of the inside of the tub. Your tub may have 1 or more of those (mine has 3) and that’s where the water is pulled into the heating and pump system. There is a fine mesh cover over those preventing debris from getting into the pipes and creating clogs.

Those you just clean manually with your hand while you’re sitting in the tub, tossing excess hair or leaves over the side.

The filter is out of sight (and often out of mind) and is usually about a foot long with a blue plastic top and bottom. They screw into place and the water goes through the paper combs as it gets sucked into the hot tub.

You just gently turn the whole thing counter-clockwise a few turns to remove and clockwise to replace.

How long should a spa filter last?

A spa filter’s lifespan is approximately 1 year with regular hot tub use and inconsistent filter cleaning. However, a hot tub that is used less frequently but with regular water and filter maintenance can extend the filter lifespan up to 2 years.

The lifespan of a hot tub filter lasts depends on a couple of things, such as:

  • How well you keep the water chemistry balanced
  • The frequency that you remove the filter and clean it

Generally speaking, if you do a decent job of those things, your filter will last between 1-2 years.  But some places on the internet will tell you 2-5 years.

Why the big range? Mostly that depends on how often you use it.

For me, with a family of 5, while we don’t use it a ton in the blazing summer heat in Texas, we do use it a fair amount the rest of the year. So I air on the lower side of that; somewhere around once a year.

Of course, the quality of the brand of filter you buy also affects how long a filter will last.

I wish I could tell you exactly what filter to buy, but hot tub filters are like cell phone chargers in 2005; each one is different and there are over 5,000 results on Amazon.

But I spent some time looking at all the brands on Amazon, reading reviews across multiple sizes, and there is a clear winner.

The best brand of hot tub filter on Amazon, with the most consistently great reviews (and free shipping), is POOLPURE. Just click the link to see all the sizes on Amazon to find yours and see the current prices.

Also, it’s a GREAT idea to have an extra filter on hand to use while you go through the regular cleaning and drying process with your main filter. And if you only use the spare for that, when it’s time to toss your main one, you already have a new(ish) one ready to go.

How to make your hot tub filter last longer

The key here is regular cleaning.

Depending on how often you use your hot tub, once or twice a month, take the filter out for basic cleaning. What is basic cleaning of a hot tub filter?

Essentially, we’re just talking about hosing it off to get the debris out of the paper pleats.

Make sure you AVOID cleaning your filter with:

  • A pressure washer
  • Chemical cleaners or soaps
  • Rough scrub brushes

While you can just use your garden hose, one thing I’ve found that was a life-saver is screwing on a cleaning attachment onto the end of your hose which makes it incredibly easy to remove hair, leaves, and other junk that gets caught up in the hot tub filter.

That product is called a Filter Flosser and it’s the best-rated product of that type on Amazon. It just screws onto the end of your hose, and it’s curved like your filter and has individual jets to get in-between the folds.

Just click that link to see the current price on Amazon.

If you’re doing a lot of Googling, you’ll likely see a thing called a Blaster automatic filter cleaner.

While there is more than one brand of those, I’ve yet to see one with good reviews. Most have upwards of 20% of their reviews on Amazon at the 1-star level. And since they cost over 100 bucks, I’d steer clear of those.

The 3-6 month hot tub filter deep clean process

Beyond your 1-2 time a month hosing off, you should do a more thorough cleaning every 3-6 months. The range will be based on how often you use it and if you do a good job of the regular cleanings.

This involves hosing it off like I just described, and then soaking it to get rid of oils and mineral deposits.

In the soak, you’ll want to use a cleaning agent designed for hot tub filters.

The best one I’ve found is from SpaDepot. Just put 1 quart in a 5-gallon bucket and add enough water to cover the filter completely. Soak overnight and then rinse thoroughly the next day.

Double concentrated so just use 1/2 cup per cleaning, so buying this 2-pack for about 20 bucks, you should get at least 4 cleanings out of 1 order.

Check it out on Amazon.

After soaking, make sure to rinse the filter cartridge well and allow to dry before putting back in the hot tub.

Can you run a hot tub without a filter?

A hot tub should not run for more than 24 hours without a filter as otherwise debris can enter the pump and heater and causes blockages that could damage the equipment.

For starters, if you were using a leak-stop product like Marlig Fix-a-Leak (which works great, by the way), you always want to remove your filter for that.

You can also do that for troubleshooting heating or suction problems.

If, however, you only have 1 filter and it’s incredibly dirty beyond what cleaning could do, it would be better to run the hot tub without a filter while you wait for your new filter to arrive.

A heavily clogged filter puts a lot of strain on the hot tub pump, and can definitely shorten the lifespan of the pump, so don’t use a filter that’s heavily clogged.

On an ongoing basis, however, the filter is there to stop hair, leaves, and other larger contaminants (yes, that includes bugs too) from getting into the pump, heater, jets, and pipes. Those things can easily cause clogs which can either break your equipment or require extensive work to clear the clogs.

So always have a filter in when using your hot tub, and ideally, keep a spare on hand too.

Can you put hot tub filters in the dishwasher (or washing machine)?

Never put hot tub filters in a dishwasher or washing machine. The high pressure of a dishwasher or the jarring motion of a washing machine could easily tear the paper pleats or damage the plastic housing.

Hot tub filters are basically polyester paper.

That paper has been folded into pleated pockets. Then the pump that circulates the water forces larger particles of debris into the paper folds.

It’s still paper though, so it requires a gentle cleaning.

A washing machine, even on a delicate cycle would still be spinning around, knocking your filter all over the place.

A dishwasher is designed to get baked on grease, grime, and food debris off of ceramic plates, pots, pans, and glasses. In other words, that too is way too harsh for a hot tub filter.

So while it’s tempting to want to use a device like those to help keep your filter clean, don’t do it!

Can you clean hot tub filters with bleach?

Never use bleach to clean hot tub filters. While it will make paper pleats look perfectly white and look like new, the harshness of the bleach can also damage the folds, shortening both the life of the filter cartridge and its effectiveness.

There are, however, some ways that bleach can be used to keep a hot tub clean. I recently talked about those ways in a recent article on my site, so definitely check that out.

I cover all the do’s and don’ts of bleach and hot tubs, including the 1 thing that can absolutely ruin your hot tub.

Can you clean hot tub filters with vinegar?

You can do a 50/50 mix of water and white vinegar for your filter soaking that you do every 3-6 months. Soak the filter in that for about 2 hours. Then rinse off and allow to dry before replacing in the hot tub.

This works great when you otherwise keep your filter clean and it doesn’t have too much grime built up on it.

If it’s super grimy, the vinegar solution won’t work very well, so you’ll want to use Spa Depot’s Power Soak from Amazon I mentioned above.

What happens if you don’t clean your hot tub filter?

If a hot tub filter is never cleaned, it will eventually become clogged with debris such as hair, dead skin cells, and other contaminants. A clogged filter will reduce the flow of water to the pump and heater which could cause damage or trip the breaker if the flow is significantly reduced.

So cleaning is a must!

Luckily, cleaning your hot tub filters isn’t hard. I take my filters out every 3 weeks and rinse them off at my kitchen sink with the sprayer and hot water.

I use my fingers to gently pull back the pleats of the paper folds and make sure to rinse away any debris that may be lodged in there.  For 2 filters, I can do this in under 10 minutes including taking the filters out and putting them back in.

Then about every 3 months, I do a deep chemical soak in a 5-gallon bucket.

My 2 filters both fit in a 5-gallon bucked. So I just add a cup of Spa Depot’s Power Soak from Amazon to hot water and soak them for an hour.

You can use cold water, which is a tad gentler, but let them soak for 24 hours if you do that. And going that route, I recommend having a backup set of filters you pop in so your hot tub doesn’t go that long without filters.

Then rinse them off thoroughly before putting them back in the hot tub.

What should I soak my hot tub filter in?

Do a deep chemical soak of hot tub filters using hot water and Spa Depot’s Power Soak every 3 months. Using hot water, the soak only needs to last 1 hour.

If you opt for cold water, soak them for 24 hours to ensure they get cleaned.

Just take the filters out and place them in a 5-gallon bucket. If you have a filter like one of mine that nests inside of an outer shell, take it out so that each piece gets a good cleaning.

Then take the bucket into the house and fill with hot water at the kitchen sink.

Simply add 1 cup of Power Soak to the hot water and mix well. Let the filters sit undisturbed, for 1 hour. Then rinse them off thoroughly before putting them back in the hot tub.

CLICK HERE to see Power Soak on Amazon.

Final thoughts

In this article, we took an in-depth look into the world of hot tub filters.

We explored how often to change them, how often you should clean them (and if you should). But we also looked at whether cleaning with bleach or vinegar is a good idea.

But ultimately, we answered the question of how often should you change your hot tub filter with the answer of about once a year, but with regular cleaning throughout the year.

Photo credits that require attribution:

Day 25/365 – Beach House by Ricardo Velasquez is licensed under CC2.0

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a 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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