Hot Tub vs Jacuzzi vs Whirlpool: What's the Difference?

Jennifer Rhodes

By Jennifer Rhodes · Updated

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You might hear people use the terms hot tub, Jacuzzi, and whirlpool interchangeably and wonder what, if any, difference there is between these three things. The answer isn't quite as simple and straightforward as you might think.

The truth is that there are a lot of different terms that can refer to a warm soaking tub of water (with or without jets). Some people take a preference for one term over the other based on what they have always heard used while others use them distinctly to refer to slightly different things.

Of course, you want to make sure you're using the right term to describe something, so it's important to understand how they might differ (and when they don't). Let's set the record straight.

What is a hot tub?

Hot tub is the most common term used to describe any jetted tub or spa. Almost anyone will know what you're talking about when you call something a hot tub. They are usually made from an acrylic shell with a wooden frame, and can be located indoors or outdoors.

Many people also use the term hot tub to describe just a heated wooden soaking tub. These tubs can be heated with electricity or sometimes even a wood fire. This type of hot tub is a less common use of the term, but some people use it in this context as well.

What is a Jacuzzi?

Jacuzzi is actually a brand name for hot tubs, but many people use the term interchangeably with hot tub. Jacuzzi became one of the leading hot tub brands in the 70s and the name became synonymous with hot tubs due to its popularity.

The case of Jacuzzi vs. hot tub is similar to that of Kleenex vs. tissue.

The former is the company that actually makes the product, but the brand became so popular that it cornered the market. In doing so, the brand became as well known as the product itself (and some would even argue more popular).

One minor distinction to note is that many people also refer to indoor jetted bathtubs as Jacuzzis. This is because these types of bathtubs are one of Jacuzzi's flagship and most popular products. This is slightly different than a freestanding hot tub, whether located either indoors or outdoors.

What is a whirlpool?

A whirlpool is also technically the same thing as a jetted bathtub.

But to make things even more confusing, some hot tub brands also use the word 'whirlpool' to describe the way the water moves inside a hot tub or spa when the jets are running—especially with round spas. The water moves in a whirlpool or circular fashion, and so this is a common description to see in marketing for hot tubs.

In some cases, people even started to use the word whirlpool to refer to the actual hot tub itself rather than just the way the water moves. This use introduced it into many people's vocabularies as the way they now generally describe a hot tub or spa.

Which term is correct: hot tub, Jacuzzi, or whirlpool?

Technically, all of them are correct and generally refer to the exact same thing. This can be very confusing, especially to anyone who is not a native English speaker.

The English language is very strange because we have so many words that all mean the same thing, and it's just generally understood that that's the case!

So the next time you encounter a hot tub, you can probably call it any of these things and most people will probably know what you're talking about. Hot tub or Jacuzzi are the most common though.

Also, if you're looking for fun cocktail party trivia, next time you're at a party ask your friends if they know that Jacuzzi is actually a brand name and not the actual name of the tub you sit in and soak. It will certainly generate some fun conversation! Bonus points if you're in a hot tub while you have this conversation.

Is a spa different than a hot tub?

Spa is another word that many people use to describe a hot tub.

It's often more common to hear as it relates to hydrotherapy in an actual spa setting or other medical applications, but it is simply yet another way of describing a jetted hot tub used indoors or outdoors.

Usually, spas are standalone above-ground tubs, but they can also be in-ground as well. Many companies that service or install hot tubs refer to them as spas—but rest assured that it is the same thing.

Spa is generally not used to refer to wooden tubs though.

Jacuzzi bathtubs, or bathtubs with built-in water jets, have long been popular home upgrades.

Many people like to install them in luxurious master bathrooms (or even just as a regular bathtub) so that they can enjoy the benefits of the warm water jets regularly—rather than having to maintain a hot tub.

Although many people love a jetted bathtub, not everyone can fit one in their home.

Most of the time these tubs are larger than standard size bathtubs and require extra room for the plumbing and electrical wiring. These types of tubs are also sometimes tricky to fix when they break because the components are often difficult to access.

For this reason, most people who have the space for it will opt to get an indoor or outdoor standalone hot tub and leave the bathroom tub alone. That way, you can have the best of both worlds: soak in a relaxing regular tub, or get the full spa experience in your hot tub.

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