Most of the time, you want your hot tub to be full of water. But of course, you want to make sure that it can also drain water as well when you need it to! A hot tub that drains properly is necessary when you need to clean, service, or possibly even relocate your hot tub.
In this article, we are going to share our best tips for what to do when your hot tub just won't drain. With any luck, you should be able to solve this problem without calling in the professionals (most of the time)—thanks to these helpful tips and tricks.
What should you do when your hot tub won't drain?
It's always frustrating (and even anxiety-inducing) to discover your hot tub won't drain when you need it to. Even if you take great care of your hot tub and stay on top of required maintenance, you still may encounter this from time to time.
The good thing is that it's usually pretty easy to find the source of what is preventing your hot tub from draining. Once you figure out the problem, you should be able to fix it on your own in a few easy steps.
In some rare cases, you may need to call in the professionals to help figure out the problem with your hot tub not draining, but this is uncommon. Usually, you can find the issue and get it fixed without even many tools.
Here are some things to try when you notice your hot tub just won't drain:
1. Check/clean the gravity drain
All hot tubs are equipped with a gravity drain. This is the easiest and most efficient way to drain your hot tub. It is also very easy for the gravity drain to get blocked, so this is a great place to check first.
If you pulled the plug on the gravity drain but the water is staying put in your hot tub, you might have something blocking the drain. Inspect the gravity drain (both inside and outside the spa) as best you can and remove any large items, dirt, or other debris that may be blocking the drain.
2. Inspect the plumbing for clogs
If the gravity drain itself looks clear, you might have a blockage somewhere else in the plumbing that leads the water out.
You may need to inspect the plumbing that connects to the gravity drain to see if anything is blocking a pipe. It could be something as simple as pipe buildup or a larger item stuck in the pipe that is preventing water from flowing freely out as you desire.
You can try a drain snake to see if you can dislodge the blockage:
These are a cheap and easy thing to try.
3. Clear any obvious debris out of your spa before draining
If you have cleaned the gravity drain and other plumbing but you notice that the water is either still not flowing out, or is flowing at a slower speed than you would expect, you might want to take your cleaning a little bit further to help the process along.
Sometimes dirt, scum buildup, or other things floating in the water of your hot tub can contribute to a clogged drain. As you work to free any other clogs, you want to make sure the inside of your hot tub is free from debris so that more doesn't flow into the drain and create or worsen an existing clog.
A hand skimmer can work wonders to scoop any drain-clogging stuff out of the water (ideally do this before you start the draining process):
4. Drain manually using a garden hose
Sometimes it can be hard to fully inspect all of the components of your hot tub to find the source of the clog. A lot of the difficulty has to do with the hot tub being full of water, making it difficult to get up close and personal with the drain outlet and plumbing from all angles.
If you just need to get your hot tub drained quickly for one reason or another until you can fully address the reason for the clog, a great thing to do is just manually drain the hot tub using a garden hose.
You can easily create a siphon to drain your hot tub with a garden hose that you probably have hanging around the house.
How to make a siphon
- Cut a garden hose to only seven or eight feet long.
- Dunk one end of the hose into your tub's water. If it floats, tie a weight to the end of it.
- Put the dry end over a bucket or drain. Ensure it's at a lower elevation than the submerged end.
- Place your thumb over the dry end opening, creating a vacuum.
- Pull the submerged end upwards while keeping it below the water line. Remove your thumb from the dry end at the same time.
- The siphon should start pumping water out the dry end of the tube.
This will help you remove the water from your hot tub without using its own plumbing, so you can look more closely at the issue and fix it without having to struggle to see past the water.
5. Try a sump pump
A submersible pump can definitely come in handy if you're dealing with a hot tub that won't drain. Basically, this is a device that's designed to pump water out of a specific area, and is usually used to clear homes that have flooded. So, draining a hot tub is a comparatively easy task!
One of the great things about having a sump pump on hand is that it can be much faster than trying to drain the hot tub via the normal drain, even when it is functioning normally. With a pump, you can have all that water out of there in under 20 minutes, without having to spend hours trying to siphon it out or wait for it to drain on its own.
Check out my post on using a sump pump to drain a hot tub for more information.
6. Call a hot tub repair technician
Our hope is that one of the above tips will help you get to the bottom of whatever issue is preventing your hot tub from draining, but unfortunately that isn't always the case.
If you have tried every trick in the book and still can't figure out what is preventing your hot tub from properly draining, it might be best to call in a professional.
Chances are the hot tub retailer that you purchased your hot tub from should have a maintenance technician who can come out to assess and fix the problem for you.
You may need to wait a few days or even a few weeks depending on how busy the repair technicians are, but this is a great option for a more serious clog that you can't get to the bottom of on your own. If the issue is an emergency that is causing leaking or other damage, let them know so they can prioritize your call.
How often do you need to drain your hot tub?
Most hot tub manufacturers recommend that you fully drain and replace the water in your hot tub 3-4 times per year. This is considered a best practice to maintain the cleanliness of your hot tub and prolong its lifespan.
If you struggle to remember this, I have a free printable hot tub maintenance schedule which you can download to remind you of exactly what to do.
Other than regular quarterly maintenance, you shouldn't generally need to drain your hot tub for any other reason, unless you have a leak or technical problem, or need to move your hot tub.