Can I Use Dish Soap to Clean My Hot Tub?

Hot tubs sometimes get grime around the pillow headrests, and draining a hot tub often reveals even more dirt and residue. This has led many people to wonder can I use dish soap to clean my hot tub.

Here is what I know from owning 4 hot tubs over the years:

Dish Soap can be used to clean a hot tub, though it may not be able to remove tough stains. At the same time, it’s important to rinse it off completely, or it may leave a film on the tub surface which can lead to hot tub foam when you refill it. Hot water & vinegar is a great way to completely remove the residue.

A clean hot tub is what we all want. However, certain cleaners may be harsh on your hot tub surface and lead to corrosion. Yet others interact with chlorine to leave a rough residue that can take months to wear off.

But, there’s also a good possibility you may already have all the materials around your home to maintain and clean your hot tub.

And I will help you understand all of these in addition to tips on cleaning your hot tub and what products will work effectively for stain removal.

What’s best to clean an empty hot tub?

There’s a lot more to cleaning an empty hot tub than what meets the eye. Thus, knowing why or how particular cleaning products work makes it a lot easier to understand when and how to use them.

The general household products include laundry detergent and dishwashing soaps or liquids. Cleansers help remove sticky stains by neutralizing the oils that bind the dirt to the surface. The acidic group of cleaning products breaks down corrosion, rust, and hard water staining. 

The group of sanitizers, as the name suggests, disinfect and removes stains and odors. These are typically the harshest chemicals such as chlorine bleach, drain cleaners, oven cleaners, and toilet bowl cleaners.

All-purpose cleaners usually remove dirt, fat, and grease as well.

Finally, be careful with abrasive type cleaners because, as their name suggests, they can scratch whatever surface you’re cleaning. Steel wool and scouring powders such as Comet and AJAX are common examples.

However, one of the best and inexpensive cleaner for your empty hot tub is the mixture of white vinegar and water. Transfer this mix to a spray bottle, give it a really good shake to ensure the liquids are evenly distributed. And finally, spray the hot tub shell and cover thoroughly for cleaning.

Does dish soap leave residue?

When using dish soap to clean a hot tub, it naturally tends to leave a residue if not thoroughly rinsed off.

The best way to remove the soapy residue is with warm water and white vinegar. The vinegar will break down any grease and soap residue as well as any other lingering grime.

The best water/vinegar mix to remove tub residue is to add a half cup of white vinegar in half-gallon of warm water.

Spray the entire surface of your hot tub, preferably early in the morning or late in the afternoon. But do not spray it on a hot day in direct sun, as it may dry out or react.

Soak for over an hour, and then rub with a solution soaked soft cloth over the areas of buildup. Once the soap scum dissolves, rinse with clean water and dry with a soft cloth. For stubborn areas, increase the vinegar-to-water solution up to half water and half white vinegar. 

How to clean a hot tub that has been sitting

Assuming it’s been quite some time since you last used your hot tub, some things need to be checked out before you get back to enjoy a soak. Firstly, you might want to read a recent article on our website on the causes of cloudy and smelly water.

If the tub has been sitting unused for an extended period and is still full of water, the first thing you need to do is drain it. For more information on this subject, please check out our website.

Firstly, it’s essential to ensure you have turned off the power to your hot tub or to disconnect it entirely from its power source – to be safe. It’s also a good idea to drain, rinse, refill, and rinse again.

The first time you drain the water, it is just going to get rid of the water that’s been sitting in the hot tub while it was unused. This water is likely filled with bacteria. Refill the tub with new water and then flush the jets with the clean water.

It’s the best way to make sure all of the bacteria that grow when water sits for a long time are entirely purged.

Pour a high-quality jet and drain cleaner into the new water and run the jets for a while to make sure the cleaner has a real chance to do its job. For this job, I LOVE Oh Yuk! Healthy Hot Tub Cleaner, which I buy on Amazon (click the link to see the current price on Amazon).

Then drain the tub again.

Is dish liquid a good hot tub stain remover?

Liquid dish soap is not so good to remove stains from a hot tub shell.

It will not harm the tub surface but might not be sufficient for a tough stain and may also leave a slight residue. However, to attempt to remove light stains with dish liquid, drop a small amount onto a soft damp cloth, rub it into the stain and let it sit for a while.

Rinse it off with the water and white vinegar mix. If you have a concern about dish liquid and hot tubs, you might want to read a recent article I published on our website on what causes hot tubs to foam.

If a stain persists, you might want to try the following:

Baking soda is an inexpensive alternative stain remover for hot tubs stains. It is a mild abrasive and does not create excessive suds; therefore, it is perfect for the hot tub environment.

  1. Take a moistened cloth and dip it into powdered baking soda
  2. Gently rub it into the stain using circular motions
  3. Rinse the area where the stain is and then wipe away again with a clean cloth

Remember to rinse away all traces of baking soda; otherwise, it could leave white spots on the tub surface.

Will dish liquid clean mold from tubs?

Mold and mildew don’t grow in a clean and properly maintained hot tub.

If your tub is showing signs of mold, it might be treatable simply by adjusting the PH levels to bring the water back to the proper balance, then using a sanitizer product to shock the water.

If you aren’t familiar with this, check our recent article on our website on the need to shake your hot tub water.

However, to remove the problem for good, it might be better to drain your tub and start fresh. After draining the tub, clean the shell with a gentle cleanser, such as the vinegar or baking soda mixtures, or a product specifically designed for use on hot tub shells.

Make sure you clean the jet nozzles as well, and clean or replace the filters before refilling.

If you plan to drain the tub and begin again, then yes, dish liquid can be used in a pinch to clean mold. However, if the mold has left stains on the hot tub surface, then you may have to use something a little stronger and a few more abrasive to remove this stain, such as the baking soda mix.

Hopefully, I cover all you wanted to know about cleaning a hot tub with dish soap.

A sparkling clean hot tub is an enjoyable home entertainment center. A not so clean hot tub – less so. The key to a clean tub is regular maintenance.

If your tub is going to be unused for an extended period, then draining and a good clean is almost mandatory before using it again.

There’s no need to spend on high priced specialty cleaners for your tub. As this article has shown, every day, home cleaning products can be just as effective, such as good old baking soda, white vinegar, and plain liquid dish soap.

All these products do the job provided the tub does not sustain very harsh stains. Remember, algae, mold, and mildew can be tough to remove if left to grow over some time.

The trick with keeping a well maintained hot tub is to do regular maintenance. There’s a proverb – “a stitch in time saves nine.” Therefore, it’s better to fix a problem when it is small than waiting for it to become more prominent.

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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