Is cloudy hot tub water safe?

By Jon Filson

Hydropool Hot Tubs and Swim Spas

After your hot tub has been used for a while or perhaps after a hot tub party, you may notice that the water looks cloudy. While some people may wonder if cloudy hot tub water is safe and if they can skip cleaning for another day, the answer is no.

The water in your hot tub should always be sanitary and crystal clear. If it isn’t, it means that there is a problem.

At Hydropool, we typically hear about this from customers who are still getting used to their hot tub maintenance.  Once you see cloudy water, people typically work to solve it, and that often means reaching out to a hot tub dealer like our team.

There are two reasons why cloudy water is bad:

  • Cloudy water is typically the result of either a chemical imbalance
  • Bacterial growth

In the article below, we will explain:

  • what causes cloudy water in your hot tub
  • why it isn’t safe
  • what steps you can take to eliminate it

Hopefully, by the end, you’ll have a strong idea of what to do (and why) if your water goes cloudy on you.



What causes cloudy hot tub water?

There are a number of factors which can contribute to cloudy water in your hot tub. The most common culprits are:

  • Bathers: Although it can be unpleasant to think about what exactly causes cloudy hot tub water, it often is a result of bathers. As people use plenty of skin or hair products such as lotions, shampoo, sunscreens and more, these will transfer into the water over time. Our skin also gets a buildup of dead skin cells which also get into the water as well as hair. It can’t be helped, as some of what’s on you will end up in your hot tub to be filtered out.
  • Missed maintenance: If you have a large number of bathers use the hot tub and you miss maintenance that week, your chances are good that you will end up having a cloudy hot tub soon after. Bacteria will form and once it’s there it can develop into cloudy water.
  • Air Contaminants: In addition to the human factor, air contaminants can also contribute to cloudy water. Pollen, algae, and seeds are often in the air and can fall into an uncovered hot tub. Over time, these particles can build up and be a cause of cloudy water.
  • Bacteria Growth: It is well known that microorganisms and bacteria love moisture and even more so when heat is involved. If not regularly cleaned, hot tubs offer the perfect environment for certain bacteria to thrive such as biofilm (or something similar like algae). This is a slimy substance that will form and cause the water to appear cloudy. Bacteria is most often the reason why hot tubs become cloudy.
  • Filter Problems: Your hot tub filter may be partly to blame. If not properly installed in your hot tub or has not been well maintained it will not be adequate filtering your water and keeping it clean. If your filtration isn’t working properly, one of the first signs can be that your water becomes cloudy, as bacteria will begin to develop.
  • Water Chemistry: The water in your hot tub needs a certain mix of chemicals to stay clean and clear. The pH level of the water is what measures how alkaline or acidic the water is, and the ideal pH level is around 7.8 percent. Calcium and other minerals form what is called scale and when the amount of scale accumulates, the water becomes more alkaline and as a result, it can become cloudy. Also, if your water chemistry is off, it can lead to cloudy water as bacteria can form.

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

No. We do not recommend it at all. Use only water that is well-balanced and clear. Cloudy water can lead to rashes and itching, as well as damage to your equipment. We recommend fixing cloudy water as soon as you realize it’s an issue.

How to eliminate cloudy water

If you have discovered that your hot tub water is cloudy, it is time to take action:

  • Your first step should be testing the water with proper water test strips. This will determine the pH and alkalinity balance levels and guide you on what steps to take next
  • If the pH is relatively normal, add shock to your hot tub water to correct
  • If it doesn’t correct after the initial shock, keep shocking the hot tub, at least three more times. Leave longer intervals in-between to give the shock time to work.
  • If repeated shocks don’t work, take your water to a retailer and have them assess it
  • If nothing works, then drain, clean and refill your hot tub

How to keep your hot tub water clean

Your best defense against cloudy water is trying to keep it as clean as possible in the first place. Always follow the recommended cleaning and maintenance schedule that your dealer advises. Use water test strips regularly and drain and refill your tub and least every 60-90 days.

If you consistently use a fitted cover when the hot tub is not in use, use the right water chemicals and sanitizers and keep your water filters clean, your water should stay clean and clear.

If it doesn’t, and this article doesn’t help either (although we hope it did!) please don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our local dealers for assistance. You can find them here.

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