Hot Tub Looking Cloudy? Here's Why (and What to Do About It)

Jennifer Rhodes

By Jennifer Rhodes · Updated

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There's nothing like relaxing in a hot tub at the end of a long, stressful day—or any time you want to soothe sore muscles.

If you go to get in your hot tub and see that the water looks cloudy, you might be hesitant to get in it and wonder what to do about it. The good news is, cloudy hot tub water is a pretty easy fix!

In this article, I will help you understand why your hot tub might be looking cloudy, how to fix it, and also how to prevent it from happening in the future.

Why is your hot tub water cloudy?

Cloudy hot tub water is a nuisance. No one wants to go in a hot tub with cloudy-looking water because you might worry that it's dirty or that the chemicals are too strong (or not strong enough).

Any one of those things might be true (or you might notice that it's a combination of multiple things).

Here are the three most common reasons why your hot tub water might be cloudy:

Filter malfunction

Properly working filters are one of the most important components to clean and clear water in your hot tub. The filter is responsible for filtering out unwanted particles, chemicals, and anything else in the water that could make it cloudy or otherwise dirty.

If your filter is dirty, old, or damaged, you may experience cloudy water. This is usually remedied by fixing the problem with the filter and running it for a few hours to clear the water.

Check, rinse, and clean your filter regularly. This means rinsing it every couple of weeks, deep cleaning your filter every month, or even just replacing it if it's a year old or is showing visible signs of wear and tear.

Personal care products

What you wear on your body when you're soaking in your hot tub will inevitably make its way into the hot tub water. Unfortunately, your hot tub is a well-balanced ecosystem that is best left untouched by the creams, lotions, and other products we might introduce into it.

If you are wearing lotions, skincare products, hair products, perfume, makeup, sunscreen, or anything else on your skin or hair when you get into the hot tub, you are contaminating your water little by little each time. Also, even the detergent residue left on your swimsuit might be a culprit.

The mixture of these different substances can sometimes cause water to appear cloudy or as if there is a film sitting on top of the water.

If you think contaminants are the problem, check your sanitizer levels, and then try shocking your hot tub thoroughly. This should clear up the water.

If you notice an oily film as well, I have another post explaining what to do.

Off-balance chemicals

Sometimes the problem with your hot tub water is simply just that the chemical mixture isn't quite right. If you have owned a hot tub or pool for any length of time, you know that it requires a bit of finesse to find the right combination of shock, sanitizer, and other chemicals to create the optimal environment.

If your hot tub water is cloudy and you can't attribute it to anything like a filter needing cleaning or the fact that you took a dip while covered in sunscreen, your chemical levels could be off.

Test your water at least weekly, and aim to keep within these ranges:

  • pH between 7.2 and 7.8
  • Total alkalinity between 80 and 140
  • Calcium hardness between 150 and 250

You can begin with just using the at-home testing strips to see if any of the levels in the water are majorly off balance. Depending on what you see, you might be able to fix it by adding the appropriate chemicals.

You can also try a product specifically designed to fix cloudiness:

Leisure Time A Bright and Clear Cleanser for Spas and Hot Tubs, 32 fl Oz (Packaging May Vary)
Leisure Time A Bright and Clear Cleanser for Spas and Hot Tubs, 32 fl Oz (Packaging May Vary)
View on Amazon

If none of this works, and your water seems beyond saving, it's time to drain and refill so you can start over with fresh water.

How can you fix cloudy hot tub water?

Fixing cloudy hot tub water takes a little bit of patience, but is relatively easy to do.

For the most part, you should be able to fix your cloudy hot tub water by doing one of these three simple things. Usually, once you do these things your hot tub water should return to its usual clear state so you can get back to enjoying it.

  1. Clean or replace your filter: The filter is one of the most important things to keeping your hot tub water clean. Make sure you have a plan to regularly clean or replace the filter according to what your specific hot tub model requires. This should minimize the chance of cloudy water issues.
  2. Avoid excess personal care products: This can be a tough one, but it's worth it if you want your hot tub to stand the test of time. If you have recently applied lotion, perfume, sunscreen, or any other product, consider rinsing off in the shower before going in the hot tub to prevent those products from getting into the water.
  3. Adjust chemical levels: Test your hot tub water regularly (and especially whenever you notice that it's cloudy) to see where your levels are. My handy printable maintenance schedule can help with this. Many times, a bit of adjustment to sanitizer or pH can be enough to return it to clean. If not, consider changing the water.

Should you shock a cloudy hot tub?

Sometimes shock is all you need to get rid of cloudy hot tub water, but it's important not to do this by default before checking for other reasons first.

If you have ruled out that the filter is functioning properly and you know that no contaminants have recently got into the water, you might be able to solve your problem with some shock.

Check chemical levels before adding more shock to be sure you don't add too much (or not enough). When in doubt, add less than you think you need and add more incrementally if you are not seeing an improvement.

How long will it take to fix a cloudy hot tub?

You should be able to fix cloudy hot tub water in 24 hours (or less) in most cases. The length of time it will take to fix the problem depends on what was causing the cloudy water to begin with.

If the problem was just that the filter needed cleaning or you had some contaminants in the water, you might notice clear water just a few hours after fixing the problem and circulating the water for a while.

If you need to drain the spa, this process is of course going to take longer.

Is it safe to go in a cloudy hot tub?

It's not really a good idea to hop in a cloudy hot tub. Cloudiness is usually a sign that something's not quite right with the water chemistry or filtration system.

If the chemicals in the water aren't balanced properly, it can lead to all sorts of skin irritation and other health issues. And if the hot tub isn't being properly maintained, it could even harbor bacteria or germs that could make you sick.

So to be on the safe side, it's best to just steer clear of a cloudy hot tub. Better safe than sorry, right?

Do you need to replace the water when your hot tub is cloudy?

Sometimes when nothing else works to get rid of cloudy hot tub water, the best thing to do is completely drain your hot tub and refill it with fresh, clean water.

Replacing the water in your hot tub is not an easy task. You need to responsibly dispose of the water, and you must take the time to clean the inside of the hot tub and any components that may need it, and then of course you need to fill it up again.

Once it's full, make sure to treat the water as directed to get all of the chemical levels balanced before using your hot tub. This will help to prevent the cloudy water problem from happening again in the future.

How can you make sure your hot tub never gets cloudy?

It's difficult to prevent your hot tub water from ever getting cloudy, but the biggest thing that will make a difference is taking good care of your hot tub, testing the water frequently, and being responsible about what you allow into it.

Balancing chemical levels regularly, cleaning and replacing worn components like filters, and making sure that you (and your guests) are clean when entering your hot tub are great practices to help your hot tub stay crystal clear and clean.

This might seem like a lot of work, but the work is worthwhile so you don't have to worry about your hot tub being unusable when you want it most due to something as silly as cloudy water.

What if the water is cloudy when the jets are on?

If the water in your hot tub is only cloudy when the jets are on, it could be due to a few different things. One possibility is that the jets are creating air bubbles in the water, which can make it appear cloudy. This is normal and usually not a cause for concern, and the water should clear up once the jets are turned off.

But if the water stays cloudy even after you turn the jets off, it could be a sign that there's something going on, in which case you should follow the troubleshooting steps outlined above.

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