Can You Test a Hot Tub Without Water? Dry Testing vs Wet Testing

Jennifer Rhodes

By Jennifer Rhodes · Updated

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Are you wondering how to test out a hot tub before you buy? You might have considered trying one at a local showroom, but you’re uncertain what that entails—and if it is worth your time.

In this blog post, I'm going to discuss the pros and cons of dry testing vs wet testing hot tubs so you know which is best and why. I’ll explain when it is appropriate to test a hot tub without water, and why wet testing is (usually) the better option.

Common methods for testing hot tubs

It's always a good idea to test a hot tub before you buy it, if possible. It's a large purchase, after all, and you want to make sure it's going to be comfortable for you and all your family members. Getting a spa that nobody enjoys because it doesn't fit everyone's needs is an expensive mistake.

So, there are two main ways people test hot tubs: dry and wet.

Dry testing

Dry testing is probably the most common method for trying a hot tub. This involves, as you might have guessed, simply sitting in the spa without actually filling it with water.

This is usually pretty easy because showrooms typically have more models on display that are empty (rather than filled) and you can just sit in them fully clothed to see how they feel.

Seeing a spa in person—even empty—will also allow you to get a sense of scale for how it will fit in your backyard, as well as check out the various controls and see the look of the spa in general.

Wet testing

Wet testing is the process of getting into a hot tub with water and then testing the seats while you are submerged—as you actually would once it's installed at home. This allows full immersion of your body and gives you an accurate feel of each seat’s comfort level as well as its size.

Of course, this does require you to have access to a filled spa. Dealers will usually have some display models set up for this reason, but there's no guarantee they will have the specific one you're interested in.

If you can find an available hot tub to wet test, though, this method has several advantages over a dry test.

The benefits of wet testing a hot tub

Wet testing a hot tub before purchasing it is a smart move for several reasons:

1. Hot tub seats will fit you differently when submerged

By wet testing a hot tub seat, you can get a true sense of how it fits you and how much pressure it will provide. This is especially true if you plan on sitting in any seats in a reclined position (like loungers, for example).

The buoyancy of the water gives you a different feeling than when sitting dry on a hard surface, allowing you a realistic idea of how it will be once you're soaking in the hot tub.

Loungers in particular can be notoriously difficult for smaller people to sit in without floating, so a wet test is the only true way to know if they will work for you ahead of time.

In addition, wet testing can identify any areas where the seats may be too big, small, deep, or shallow, by feeling how and where your body sinks into them. A seat that feels perfect without water may not work for you at all if you find it's too deep for you once the tub is filled.

2. Wet testing is the only way to test jet strength and placement

Another benefit of wet testing a hot tub is that it helps to ensure that the water pressure delivered by the jets is going to provide a thorough massage experience.

You can also play around with adjusting the pressure of the jets, if needed, to make sure you can get the precise massage pressure for an enjoyable and therapeutic session in the hot tub. Jet position matters too; power is irrelevant if the jets aren't laid out in a way that feels good for you.

Additionally, this process gives you the opportunity to move around the hot tub and make sure each seat is able to provide a massage that fits your body contours.

3. You can check a second-hand spa for leaks

If you're not buying new, you definitely want to know that a spa is functioning properly before you buy it. Wet testing allows you to run the pump and heater to make sure they are working correctly.

You can also inspect the insulation inside the cabinet for leaks, so you won't experience any nasty surprises down the road. Problems are much easier to conceal with a dry spa.

How to wet test a hot tub locally

To wet test a hot tub at a local dealer, here are the basic steps to follow:

  1. Contact the dealer to schedule a wet test. Many dealers will allow you to test out a hot tub before you make a purchase, but it's worth asking ahead of time, especially if you want to test a specific model.
  2. Dress appropriately for the wet test. You should take a swimsuit or other suitable clothing that you don't mind getting wet. It's also a good idea to bring a towel.
  3. Follow any instructions provided by the dealer before entering the hot tub. This may include showering, using provided sanitizer, or following specific rules for getting in and out of the tub.
  4. Sit in the hot tub and get a feel for the water temperature, jets, and overall comfort level. Pay attention to how the jets feel on your skin and any features that are particularly appealing, or not to your liking.
  5. Ask any questions you have about the hot tub's features, maintenance requirements, or anything else that's on your mind. The dealer should be able to provide you with helpful information and answer any questions you have.

It's important to keep in mind that a wet test is just one factor to consider when purchasing a hot tub. You should also consider the size and layout of the tub, the material it is made of, and the overall cost and maintenance requirements.

What to do if you can’t wet test the model you want

If you're not able to wet test the model of hot tub you're interested in, there are still a few things you can do to get a sense of how it will feel:

  • Start by looking at the available features and read customer reviews to get a better idea of how it performs when in use.
  • If possible, visit a showroom or store to see the model in person. This can still help you get a feel for the size, material, and features of the hot tub.
  • If you have to chance to dry test, go ahead—just know that you won't get the full experience of what the spa is like. If you can wet test another model by the same manufacturer, this is often still useful as many brands have a similar feel.
  • If there's no dealer near you at all, some offer virtual tours of their spa models, which can help you get an idea of the layout and design before making a purchase.

Closing thoughts

When it comes to buying a hot tub, having the information you need to make an informed decision is key. One way to make sure you purchase a hot tub that will fit you perfectly and provide you with maximum comfort is to wet test the spa.

This has several benefits:

  • Wet testing is the only way to see how it feels when you're actually using the tub. Hot tub seats behave differently when you're submerged, and you want to identify any buoyancy issues.
  • You can test the jet strength and placement, play with the controls, hear how noisy it is at different pump speeds, and check out all the other features to see if the hot tub is everything you thought it would be.
  • If you're buying the spa second hand, wet testing can help you determine if there are any hidden defects, leaks, or issues that may need to be addressed prior to installation.

Overall, wet testing is the best way to test a hot tub, as it will give you an accurate feel of the spa before you purchase it. This will prevent any future disappointment and allow you to feel confident that you’ve chosen a spa that will fit you well and provide maximum comfort for years to come.

If you've yet to narrow down your search for a hot tub, I have another post on how to choose a quality spa.

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