Why Does my Hot Tub Smell Like Pee?

Why Does my Hot Tub Smell Like Pee lg

All of us have had that funny feeling at the pool when we see a bunch of little kids in the water. But we don’t expect that at home in our hot tubs. So why does my hot tub smell like pee?

Here’s what I discovered:

A pee smell in hot tub water is due to a mix of chlorine and urine. Chlorine doesn’t fully kill the pee smell, which is why public pools often over-chlorinate. But small amounts of urine entering the hot tub water, even unintentionally, is common.

Pee in hot tubs? Yes, there are remnants in a lot of hot tubs.

It’s probably never deliberate in most cases, but lab tests reveal that it’s a common occurrence. In fact, a study conducted by some researchers on a sample of 31 pools and hot tubs found remnants of pee in all!

Sweat, oil, poop, sanitizers, and urine invariably mix with the hot tub water.

And over time, the pee smell becomes noticeable. In this article, I’ll share more details about what causes this and how you can get rid of the odor, based on my experience as a hot tub owner and independent research.

Read on to discover more…

Do hot tub chemicals sometimes smell like urine?

Hot tub sanitizers such as bromine or chlorine smell like bleach and do not smell like urine. But a pee smell can be created when chlorine combines with waste products in the hot tub, which can be but don’t have to be urine exclusively.

A hot tub, especially when it’s not been properly maintained, may contain algae, mold, fecal matter, sweat, urine, oil.

They naturally affect the quality of the water and its smell.

As chlorine breaks down while it’s sanitizing the tub, it forms a bond with ammonia, and this combo known as chloramine (a disinfection product) is what gives off the smell.

So, what you’re perceiving is the odor of chlorine (in a changed form) and ammonia. Urine may naturally smell like ammonia. After all, ammonia, in this context, is a mix of sweat and urine.

Apart from the smell, there are times when a hot tub is cloudy, right?

What causes it? In a recent article of mine, an in-depth expose, I examined all the possible causes and how you can fix the cloudy and smelly tub.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Does bromine cause a urine smell in a hot tub?

Bromine does not interact with contaminants and causes a urine smell the same way chlorine does. That smell is caused by chloramines, which are chlorine molecules that have degraded, and those are not present with bromine.

Chloramines are effectively chlorine’s waste products. Bromine is an alternative sanitizer that I use and prefer to chlorine.

Why? Chlorine and heat do not play nice together.

Chlorine is great for swimming pools, where the temperature is not high. But, in a hot tub, it breaks down faster and combines with the residues of urine. It also has a drying, stingy, and of course, stinky character.

If you have sensitive eyes, skin, and nose, you want to be careful with how you use chlorine.

When chlorine mixes with urine, it creates a toxic chemical called cyanogen chloride, which is released when chlorine reacts with the nitrogen in urine. Cyanogen chloride is so lethal it’s classified as a chemical warfare agent!

Now, bromines also produce a waste product, bromamines, but these are not as noxious as chloramines.

Bromine is a more stable sanitizer, even when applied in water that’s high in temperature.

It’s gentler on the skin, and its effect on your hut tub water lasts longer. But, both bromine and chlorine sanitizer should never be used together! You have to choose.

But it is OK to use bromine sanitizer and chlorine shock.

Should I avoid my hot tub if it smells like urine?

Never get in a hot tub that smells like urine. A urine smell is a sign that something is not right with the water chemistry, and that should be corrected before soaking.

So that smell is a reaction of chlorine and urine. And some other waste products from the bathers and sanitizers.

It’s gross, and at the same time, it reduces the pleasurable experience you’re hoping for.

The smell is due to chloramines which we looked at in an earlier section. They are chlorine molecules that have “spoilt.” The effectiveness of the chlorine or bromine used is reduced. It’s the reaction that gives off the awful odor.

You don’t want to sit in that.

We’ll look at how to get rid of the smell in a bit. You might also be curious about how often you should change your hot tub water.

A recent article of mine offers tips. In it, I explained that 3-6 months is ideal, depending on the frequency of use.

And that you should ensure proper water chemistry through testing and adjusting. The filters should be cleaned regularly and replaced as needed.

Just click that link to read the article on my site.

How do I get rid of the pee smell in my hot tub?

The best way to remove a urine smell in hot tub water, short of a complete draining and refilling, is to hyper-chlorinate the water with a double dose of chlorine shock.

Do this even if your test strips show chlorine levels.

As I mentioned, chlorine gets turned into chloramines, and while it can no longer sanitize the water, it will still show (inaccurately) on a test strip.

Ultimately, that’s why we shock our hot tubs once a week; to convert those chloramines back into chlorine.

You have to break that bond by super-chlorinating the water: you’ll have to add more chlorine.

You have to add more chlorine to break the chlorine away from the chloramine (remember chloramine is a mix of chlorine and ammonia).

If you add chlorine of about 10 ppm (parts per million), it should be enough to break the bond.

Run your jets afterward to let it gas off with the cover open. Then, balance your water chemistry again. The smell should be gone. But if it’s not, you could simply drain the water and replace it.

Then, balance the water chemistry again.

How do I stop my hot tub from smelling?

To stop a hot tub from smelling, rinse the filters, shock the water, or, if it has been over 3 months since the last drain and refill of the hot tub, perform a biofilm cleanout, drain the hot tub, wipe down, and refill.

Not sure what I mean by biofilm cleanout?

Check out this recent article where I walk you through it. It’s a simple procedure I do every time I drain and refill my hot tub, which is every 3 months. Just click that link to read it on my site.

Never use a scented product to cover a bad-smelling hot tub.

That is an indicator the water needs to be sanitized or changed. You can use spa scent packs instead, which are an easy way to infuse spa-like scents into your water for an enhanced experience.

There are spa scents that give off a pleasant, subtle fragrance.

Some come with skin moisturizing emollients. And, they’re safe to use because they do not affect the water’s chemistry, foam, cloud, or leave an oily residue.

An awesome one I love is InSPAration on Amazon. It’s got over 450 reviews on Amazon, and almost all are 5 stars. This multi-pack gives you 50 individual packets with multiple scents to choose from!

You just twist the tip of a pillow packet and squeeze it into the tub. It promotes total relaxation while leaving your skin soft. And it’s free from chemical odors.

In addition to spa scents, you might be wondering if it’s okay to use bath salts in your tub.

In a recent article, I explained that bath salts, especially Epsom salts, are not ideal for hot tubs because if the salt is magnesium-based, it can cause flash burns when mixed with chlorine. I also suggested what to do instead.

Just click that link to read it on my site.


It’s shocking, but pee residues in hot tubs are more common than we’d like to believe.

Apart from being gross, this could lead to dangerous illnesses when mixed with disinfection products such as chloramines, which are by-products of the sanitation process.

We looked at how hot tub chemicals smell.

No, they don’t smell like urine. They smell like bleach. We looked at whether bromine, an alternative to chlorine, causes a pee smell. We saw that it’s best not to use the tub when we sense the smell. It should be treated at once.

We looked at how to treat the tub to get rid of the smell, and we wrapped up by considering how to make your hot tub fragrant.

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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