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Bacteria Alert: How To Clean A Jetted Tub Or Bathroom Soaking Tub With Air Jets [DIY Methods + Jetted Tub Cleaners]

Do you know how to clean a jetted tub properly?

A jetted tub is a bathtub, usually installed in the master bath, which has several jets around the tub. These are connected to small flexible pipes around the tub fitted to a circulation pump and often an air blower … The main difference between a jetted tub and a spa or hot tub is that it is drained after each use, and for that reason they usually have no spa filter and no need for a spa cover.

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You'll be shocked the first time you see all the gunk, bacteria, and biofilm in your spa jets!

We all know what a dirty bathtub ring looks like. Now imagine what that soap scum buildup is doing inside the plumbing of your bathroom jetted tub!

Sure, you can clean the surface of the tub itself — but once you start up the air jets, all kinds of nasty looking black flakes will come floating to the surface if you don’t properly clean the jets themselves and the interior plumbing system. (I know because it happened to me.)

That’s right, the spa jets and all the pipes behind the scenes in your soaking tub can quickly become contaminated with all sorts of infectious bacteria — some you can see, and some you can’t see! It’s called biofilm. More on that in a minute.

This video shows how the plumbing works in air jet tubs, and why you need to know how to clean a jetted tub — the right way:

Fortunately, cleaning the inside of your air tub’s elaborate collection of pipes, jets, and nozzles is really straightforward and easy!

Here’s how to clean a jetted tub yourself (and sanitize it by removing the biofilm with a jetted tub cleaner) in just a few quick steps…

How To Clean A Jetted Tub

#1 – Check your soaking tub’s manual to see what the manufacturer specifically recommends for your make and model.

They typically specify which jetted tub cleaner works best for each make & model, as well as the cleaners you should avoid. Each air tub is different.

Can’t find your original owner’s manual? Here are the manuals for all brands of air jet tubs.

#2 – Depending on the make & model of your soaking tub, you’ll either OPEN or CLOSE all of the air controls on the individual jets:

Using a jetted tub cleaner to clean air jets

Some jetted tub manufacturers call for the air controls to be fully opened, while others recommend closing them — so it’s best to read the manual first to confirm which method is best for your specific bathtub.

#3 – Fill the tub until all of the spa jets are submerged by 2 to 3 inches of water.

If it has been awhile since you last cleaned tub, then it’s best to fill the tub with hot water.

#4 – Make your own jetted tub cleaner using common household products — or use use a jetted tub cleaner made specifically for cleaning air tub jets, like Oh Yuk.

To make your own, add 3 tablespoons of a low-sudsing dishwasher detergent — such as powdered Cascade or Calgonite — and 3/4 cup of bleach. (Some recommend adding these both to the water in one step. Others make it a 2-step process, where you clean the tub once with the detergent then clean it again afterwards with the bleach. It’s up to you.)

Bleach is an effective disinfectant. However, some manufacturers may advise avoiding bleach — as it could dry out internal gaskets. If bleach is not recommended, use 1 cup of white vinegar instead.

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#5 – Run the tub jets for 15 minutes.

#6 – Drain the tub.

#7 – Refill the tub with water (2 to 3 inches above the jets) and run the spa jets again for 10 minutes — to ensure that all of the jets are rinsed thoroughly.

Here, the water level is above the tub jets.

#8 – Drain the tub again.

#9 – Wipe down the tub and nozzles.

  • Use a soft cloth (like a cloth baby diaper) for the larger areas.
  • Use a Q-tip to get into the cracks and crevices around the tub jets and nozzles.
  • Occasionally, you should remove the jets themselves and clean behind those plastic nozzles. Here’s how to remove bathtub jet covers. Plus, a good visual of how much bacteria and biofilm builds up behind there:

#10 – Finally, sanitize everything by removing the unseen biofilm — a residue that forms around bacteria in your plumbing lines. (<– Don’t skip that video. It’s a must-see!)

A jetted tub cleaner will remove the biofilm and bacteria that's lurking behind your air tub jets - petri dish

In order to prevent health problems associated with biofilm, it’s important to end your jet tub cleaning routine with one of the many products designed to remove biofilm.

Here’s why (if the above video link alone didn’t convince you):

Jetted tubs have about 15 to 20 feet of plumbing lines that run underneath the tub. These lines are full of warm stagnant water after each bath. This nasty water forms a residue called biofilm. Biofilm houses and protects bacteria from standard cleaning products like bleach, detergents, vinegar, etc. Just like the cooling tower industry that has to deal with biofilm, it takes specialized chemicals to safely clean jetted tubs … If the jetted tubs are cleaned properly they are perfectly safe to use. I attached efficacy testing on the product we make. As you can see we effectively kill bacteria commonly found in jetted tubs, including legionella. There are other good products on the market as well.

— Bill Soukup, President of Scientific Biofilm Solutions

A Few Things You Should Know About Cleaning Jet Tubs…

Over time, air tub jets and nozzles may start to yellow or become discolored. This is a normal and natural process that occurs as plastic ages. In most cases, there is little that can be done to rectify this condition. Painting them is an option, though not a very good one — because with continual use in water, the paint is not likely to hold up very well and the peeling or bubbling that results will look worse than the natural discoloration of the plastic.

Without a doubt, proper cleaning of your jetted tub is very important and cannot be overlooked. Since moisture is always present in the jets and pipes of your air tub, bacteria can easily build up — and mold, mildew, and other health risks can quickly become an issue.

How often you need to deep clean the jets in your air tub depends on how often you use it:

  • For the everyday user, it may be necessary to clean and sanitize once a month.
  • If you only use your soaking tub occasionally, then you can probably get by with cleaning and sanitizing it once every 3 to 4 months.

Proper jet tub cleaning isn’t a hard task, it’s just one that cannot be forgotten. If you don’t stay on top of it, then you may have to pay to have your jetted tub professionally cleaned — which comes with a price tag of about $180, as described in this video:

More Tips For Cleaning Air Jet Tubs

In addition to the links I’ve included above, here are some other resources that also describe how to clean a jetted tub and remove unseen bacteria from the jets, nozzles, and pipes:

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bacteria alert - DIY jetted tub cleaner & biofilm remover