Easy Access Hot Tubs: 5 Ways to Make Spas Safer & More Accessible
By Jennifer Rhodes · Updated
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The soothing hydrotherapy benefits of a hot tub can be especially beneficial for elderly or disabled people.
But hot tubs are not always easy to get in and out of. You usually have to step or climb, and there’s also a risk of slipping (in or around the spa) if you don’t have adequate grip when navigating wet surfaces.
Here are our top tips for making the at-home spa experience safe and enjoyable for everyone.
1. Choose an accessible spa
If you don't yet have a hot tub, this tip is for you. Here are the key features to look for when shopping for a spa with accessibility in mind:
- Low height: Many hot tubs are 36+ inches tall, but choosing a tub with lower sides means you'll have less of a step to get in. Looking for hot tubs that fit through doors can be a great way to find a lower-sided option.
- Loungers: A lounger is a type of hot tub seat which allows you to fully recline. They do take up more space in a hot tub (a single lounger usually replaces 3 individual seats), but can provide a safe, supportive seat if you or your loved one has mobility issues which could make sitting in an upright seat difficult.
- Cool-down seats: Sometimes added as an interior step to help you enter the hot tub, a cool down seat doubles up as a place to sit where less of your body is under the water. If you are concerned about getting too warm, one of these higher seats will give you more control over your temperature without you having to leave the spa.
On the other hand, there are unfortunately a few types of spa you may want to avoid:
- Wood hot tubs: Although wood tubs look great, they tend to run deep and have straight, vertical sides with a single bench running around the edge. This means they're not very flexible or forgiving—you can only really use them sitting in the same upright position.
- Inflatables: Inflatable hot tubs might be the most affordable type of spa, but they're not the most accessible. Most don't have built-in seating, so not only do you have to sit on the floor (which may be uncomfortable), you also have to step up over the side and straight down onto the spa floor to get in.
2. Add a spa handrail
Handrails make entering and exiting the hot tub a whole lot easier on your body. If there's something to grab onto to steady yourself, you're much less likely to suffer any slip-related injuries.
The benefit of using a standalone handrail is that you're free to use whichever steps you like, and are not limited to picking ones that have a handrail integrated.
There are a couple of different types of handrail you can use with a hot tub:
Handrails that attach to your spa
This type of handrail is designed to screw onto the side of your spa.
They are the least intrusive type of handrail, as they're smaller and more discreet, and can even fold out of the way in some cases when you're not using them.
We love the SmartRail Spa Safety Rail because it folds down, and can also either be mounted on the vertical side of the spa itself, or on a horizontal surface, for example if your spa is recessed into a deck.
Handrails that tuck under your spa
These handrails don't require you to screw anything to the your spa. Instead, they come with a plate that slides under the base of the tub. The weight of the spa then holds the handrail in place, giving you a secure handle to grip onto.
They can be a great choice if you have an expensive wood cabinet you don't want to damage, or if the side of your spa has some other surface that's not suitable for attaching anything to.
Our favorite is the Guardian Better Hot Tub Handrail as it's sturdy, adjustable and one of the most affordable handrail options out there.
Warning: If you choose a handrail that tucks under your spa, you will likely need to drain the spa before it's light enough to allow the plate to slide into place.
3. Choose sturdy steps
"The Hot Tub" by ActiveSteve is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0Besides the spa itself, steps are another important item to consider. You need robust, wide steps that will provide a solid surface with enough grip to minimize your risk of slipping.
While most hot tub steps have a 2-step design, a little-known secret (and much sturdier alternative) is to purchase portable steps designed for use with RVs or campers.
These steps come with better safety features as standard, including:
- More height (around 20" instead of the standard 13-15", and 3 steps instead of just 2) to get you closer to the top of your tub
- Integrated handrail so there's no need to buy a separate one
- Better grip (not just plastic tread)
We like the Quick Products Economy Stair which is designed for long-term outdoor use, and can support up to 300 lbs. We also have a longer guide on the best sturdy hot tub steps which mentions a few more options.
4. Consider a hot tub hoist
Need to avoid steps completely? That doesn't mean you can't enjoy the therapeutic benefits of a hot tub.
A hot tub hoist is a seat or sling attached to a lifting arm, designed to help disabled people access their spas. They can be used with any type of spa: above ground, recessed, or in some cases even tall swim spas.
Whatever your requirements, there are many different designs of hot tub hoist available:
- Portable or fixed
- Manual or powered
- Floor, wall or ceiling mounted
Two companies who specialize in offering a range of spa lifts and hoists are LifeGuard Lift in the US and Dolphin Mobility in the UK.
Hoist installations will often need to be customized to your specific needs and situation, so we recommend working closely with an experienced company who can advise on the best type of hoist for you.
5. Make sure your spa’s location is accessible
"Rack Path" by cogdogblog is licensed under CC0 1.0While this final point may seem obvious, it's worth remembering: it's no use buying an accessible spa if you can't get to it easily.
Avoid steps, grass or uneven pavers in the construction of any access path, if you can. Aim to leave a clear, level route, and consider positioning the hot tub as close to your home as possible.
These are good general guidelines for any spa owner, but especially important if there's a chance you might want to reach your hot tub with a wheelchair—either now or in the future.
An even surface will also make the initial spa installation process easier, as the movers will simply be able to wheel your hot tub into place on a dolly.