Sparkly Clean Spa

The Ultimate Spa Cleaning Guide [Step-By-Step]

Welcome to our spa cleaning guide! We’ve created a comprehensive step-by-step guide to help take care of 95% of your spa owner duties. With an easy-to-digest spa cleaning schedule, we’ll help you get it right from the start by following our recommended cleaning and maintenance duties for your tub.

If you’re not new to spas but feeling a bit lost, this guide will give you some tips, answer any questions you have, and help get you on the right track. We’ll also dive into water chemistry, spa chemicals, spa filters and pipe cleaners, quick fixes for common problems, and maintenance advice.

In this spa cleaning guide, we'll cover:

Spa vacuum cleaners? Homemade vinegar solutions? Never fear, New Zealand.

Let us break it all down for you.

Why You Should Clean Your Spa

Whether you call it a spa pool, hot tub, or jacuzzi… it’s going to need cleaning!

Cleaning and maintaining your spa ultimately prevents filters from becoming clogged, chemicals from losing balance, and water quality from suffering.

Removing invasive body oils, hair products, lotions and sweat will keep your spa running at peak performance, and also reduce bacteria.

Best of all, your BBQ guests will happily jump in, no questions asked!

Time for Cleaning, or Maintenance?

First of all, it’s never a bad time to clean your spa. However, we need to differentiate between cleaning your spa and maintaining your spa, because in reality, you should be giving it a little TLC every day.

“Cleaning” means rolling up your sleeves, getting the right products and diving in with some elbow grease. “Maintaining” means sleeves are firmly down and you just need ten minutes or so to adjust something.

The Ultimate Spa Cleaning Schedule: a Guide

Daily Spa Maintenance (5-10 mins)

  1. Check the spa cover is secure (keeping debris out, and chemicals in).
  2. Check and balance pH and sanitiser levels.
  3. Circulate the water with an automatic schedule, or manually by switching it on for 30-40 minutes three or four times a day to circulate the water through the filters and the heater.
  4. Give the waterline a quick wipe, if grease is starting to collect there.

Weekly Spa Maintenance (10-15 mins)

  1. Wipe down your spa cover inside and out, and leave it to air before replacing (prevents mildew and mould).
  2. Test the spa water with a testing strip (for alkalinity, pH levels and sanitiser levels).
  3. Add sanitiser and shock to the spa water as necessary.
  4. Rinse the spa filter with a garden hose. Spraying now makes cleaning easier later!
  5. Perform normal daily maintenance duties.

Monthly Spa Cleaning (20-30 mins)

  1. Check your spa jets for any problems or blockages. You’ll probably know if you have issues, but it’s good to give them the once-over with some spa jet cleaner  and run jets for 30 mins just to make sure.
  2. Perform the normal weekly maintenance duties.
  3. Clean your filter with a chemical soak (see the ‘spa filter’ section below for details).
  4. Add water if needed, to keep the spa full.

Note: If you are concerned or suspicious about anything, now’s a good time to call for help before it gets ugly.

Quarterly Spa Cleaning (a half-day or so every 3-4 months)

  1. Clean and flush the pipes (see details in ‘spa pipes’ section below).
  2. Drain your spa, because it’s time to replace the water. Need tips? Have a look here
  3. Inspect hardware and wiring, check for damage on the cover, outside etc.
  4. Clean the inside of the spa tub while it’s empty. 
  5. Clean your filter with a chemical soak (see ‘spa filter’ section below for details).
  6. Refill the spa. Depending on your source water, you might want to use a pre-filter attachment on your garden hose, but check with your supplier first.
  7. Create water chemistry magic again! Simply refilling is not enough.

What happens if I don’t follow the schedule?

The water, filter, and pipes are basically the blood, heart, and arteries of the spa, so not looking after them effectively risks a spa heart attack at some point. Prevention is always better than cure.

Tip: If you’re looking for an emergency deep clean, use the Quarterly Cleaning section as a guide.

If your spa pool has been through a storm or harsh weather, make sure you’re aware of how this changes the cleaning approach (contact your supplier if necessary) before you get started on that much-needed TLC.


Chemicals for your spa (cleaning and maintenance)

What is water chemistry?

Balancing chemicals in the correct quantity for optimum spa pool performance and comfort is an art referred to as “water chemistry”. Maintaining this involves:


Chlorine or bromine to kill bacteria and keep you safe. Some spas are fitted with Ozone units that work alongside the chlorine or bromine added to the pool to reduce chlorine usage and extend water life in the spa. Check our spa sanitiser guide for deeper information. 

Balanced pH levels

Aim for a pH of 7.4-7.6 by using a pH reducer and pH and Alkalinity increaser. Low pH irritates your skin, and high pH causes scaling and clouding. Calcium hardness levels will need to be adjusted when the spa is freshly filled or when a water test from your local pool shop recommends adding to the spa.

A product we call ‘shock’

Shock effectively adds oxygen and reactivates your spa.

Anti-foamer (optional).

An anti-foamer gives you quick relief when your spa starts to foam on the surface.

A monthly water test from your local pool shop (it’s normally free for regular customers) is a good idea to back up your own testing. You’ll also need chemicals for cleaning, which we’ve included in the relevant sections. 

Spa chemicals safety tips

  • Don’t mix chemicals. Add them separately, with two hour breaks in between.
  • Measure chemicals properly. Never estimate an amount.
  • Store chemicals according to their instructions.
  • Never heat your spa above 40°C.

Quick fixes for common spa problems

Cloudy water

This might be because of dirty filters or poor filtration. Is there any obvious debris causing this impurity? Check your water chemistry. Is the alkalinity too high? When did you last empty your spa and change the water? If the water is cloudy, today could be a good day to do it.

Smells bad/like Chlorine

Check the pH level, it might be too low or too high. It could be a bacteria or algae growth issue! Shock the water with a shock treatment, and adjust your sanitiser and pH level if necessary.

Scum around the waterline and/or foaming

This is caused by excess body oils and is common in the busy seasons of spa use. Use a multi-purpose spa pool cleaner (or an alternative like 1 part water, 1 part white vinegar) and gently rub the scum line with a soft sponge. A small amount of pH & TA Up on a damp cloth also works well for stubborn marks and won’t affect the pool water chemistry. For foaming, add anti-foam and check/adjust your water chemistry.

Tip: don’t use household cleaners as these can affect water chemistry and cause issues with the water!

Irritated skin after use

Water might be unsanitary, or have too much chlorine. Shock the spa water, allow chlorine levels to drop below 5 PPM, and test the pH level with a test strip before re-adjusting.

How to clean spa pool pipes (step-by-step)

Note: This is part of the quarterly clean.

Cleaning your spa pipes is also called a “spa purge” or “purging your hot tub”. It’s all about getting rid of biofilm in the plumbing which tends to be immune to other spa cleaning products. 

This is the first step of your quarterly clean for a reason: the spa needs to be drained afterwards to remove the cleaning fluid. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Add your spa pipe cleaner product into the filter housing.
  2. Turn the jets on high and circulate water for 20-30 minutes. Any trapped gunk or biofilm will flow into the spa pool and likely cling to your filters. (This is okay! We’ll clean them next!)
  3. Replace the spa pool cover and let it sit for at least 5 hours or overnight. 
  4. Drain your spa and follow the rest of the guidelines for your quarterly clean.

How to clean spa pool filter (step-by-step)

Spa Filter Graphic Clean vs Dirty

Note: This is part of the monthly and quarterly clean.

Besides regular weekly rinsing, you need to clean the filter once a month. Here’s how:

  1. Prepare the cleaning solution. Fill a bucket with water and add your chosen spa pool filter cleaner, following the instructions on the product.
  2. Check your owner’s manual for where to locate the filter on your spa, if needed.
  3. Check the filter for damage or other problems, and rinse briefly with water.
  4. Turn your spa pool power off. Never run the spa without the filter in it.
  5. Put the filter in the cleaning solution bucket, fully submerged, and soak it overnight. This will break down any stubborn clinging residues.
  6. The next day: rinse the filter with water again to remove residue. Let it dry completely before putting it back in the spa tub.

Important to note: your spa filter needs replacing every 1-2 years, or every 10-15 cleanings (it’s handy to put a reminder in your calendar).

You might have heard that some household products can substitute commercial chemical cleaners. Just make sure you research the pros and cons of alternative DIY spa filter cleaner options before making a decision.

Keeping spa water clean

By now, you know this involves two factors: water circulation and water chemistry.

Let’s recap what keeps your spa pool water clean:

  1. The water chemistry, and your daily/weekly attention to it
  2. Regular water circulation and use: the more you use it, the cleaner it is!
  3. Showering before use to reduce invasive body oils.

Of course, perfect behaviour doesn’t keep the water fresh forever. Your spa pool needs completely emptying and refilling every 3-4 months, during the quarterly clean.

Spa maintenance tips

Well, here’s a cheeky secret to a good, healthy spa pool: simply follow our guide!

But if you’re striving for perfection, here are a few extra tips…

  • Buy yourself a second filter. This means that while one is being cleaned the spa pool is not off-limits: simply chuck a second one in your pool and continue the fun.
  • Wash your swimsuits without detergent on a rinse cycle. No extra soapy residue in the spa means less foaming and water chemistry is better balanced.

Leave your spa pool ‘ready’ before going away. If you’re heading on holiday, make sure it’s all set before leaving it unused.

Happy Spa-ing!

We’re all about making poolcare simple and providing Kiwis and retailers with the best products and advice for their backyard pools.

See our full range of spa pool products here, or get in touch if you need a hand.

About the author
Adrian Hill
Adrian Hill

Hey! I'm Adrian, founder and pool expert here at Dolphin Pacific. I love spending time with family, fishing, and have been known to brew my own beer.

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