When you think of a hot tub, bubbling water with hydrotherapy jets is probably what springs to mind. But did you know there are actually several varieties of hot tub that don't have jets at all? These gentle spa alternatives are called soaking tubs.
Soaking tubs offer a different experience—peaceful, relaxing and natural—free from all the noise and movement of conventional spas. At the same time, they still offer many of the same benefits of a regular hot tub, like relaxation and warm water therapy.
In this article, we take a closer look at several different kinds of hot tubs without jets. Read on to find out more about the most relaxing way to soak.
What is a soaking tub?
A soaking tub is simply a type of hot tub that is free from jets. Often smaller than a typical hot tub, soaking tubs can be filled with as little as 300 gallons or less of hot, still water—though you can also find larger models if desired. This makes them ideal for individuals or couples who just want a quiet, back-to-basics soaking experience.
Did you know? Even though modern, Jacuzzi-style hot tubs are more common today, deep soaking tubs have actually been around for longer. If you think about it, a lack of jets means no need for electricity. That's why the traditional soaking tub has served many cultures as a popular relaxation activity for centuries.
There are a variety of soaking tub types to choose from (as we'll see shortly). But regardless of the style, soaking tubs all have a few things in common:
- They don't have jets or bubbles
- They don't necessarily need a power source
- They often use less water to fill (due to being lower volume)
- They are generally more affordable
- They are low-tech, so can require less maintenance
For these reasons, soaking tubs are great for people who don't want the complexity, features, cost or maintenance of a more modern hot tub. They're also a perfect choice if you know you enjoy soaking in hot water, but find powerful jets to be noisy, itchy or uncomfortable—the opposite of relaxing!
Which hot tubs have no jets?
Let's take a look at the most popular styles of soaking tub.
Wood hot tubs
One of the most common types of soaking tub is simply a wood hot tub. You've likely heard of them already; they may be an older style compared to the acrylic spas of today, but are still very popular thanks to their rustic aesthetics.
Although many wood hot tubs today do have jets, just about any wood tub on the market can actually be bought without jets—they're almost always available as an additional extra, which means it's as easy as opting for no jets.
The rustic look and feel of wood hot tubs makes them a great choice if you want to bring a natural or Scandinavian feel to your backyard.
Because wood hot tubs are so customizable, you can choose everything from the type of wood to jets or no jets, and they also come in many different sizes. From 2 to 8 people, and up to 4 feet in depth, you can tailor the tub to your exact needs. They also have a variety of heating options, including traditional wood-fired, gas or electric.
Japanese ofuro tubs
Another common traditional soaking tub is the Japanese ofuro. These steep-sided wooden soaking tubs are usually small, often intended for just one bather at a time.
Although they can resemble a western bathtub, they're actually designed for relaxation, rejuvenation and healing—not bathing. That means you should enter the tub already clean, and not bring any soaps or shampoos (which could damage the wood).
Did you know? Ofuro soaking tubs have been used for centuries in Japan. Although modern versions there are now usually made from plastic or stainless steel, the kind most Americans prefer are closer to the original, and are therefore made with wood.
There are several things ofuro tubs have in common:
- Like other types of wood tub, they can be customized to different sizes and depths, but are typically deeper than western bathtubs at around 25 inches.
- They are traditionally square or rectangular in shape, though can also be oval.
- There's no overflow, so they do need to be on a waterproof surface with drainage in case of overfilling, or for when it's time to drain the tub.
- They are made from fine wood, often Port Orford cedar, with other options like teak or Alaskan yellow cedar available.
- Due to the materials, these soaking tubs are not cheap, costing from $2,000 up to around $9,000.
Stock tank hot tubs
This type of soaking tub may be less traditional, but has been gaining in popularity over the past few years. Stock tank hot tubs can be quite affordable and even possible to DIY if you have the skills.
A stock tank hot tub is essentially a repurposed agricultural stock tank—either metal or plastic—combined with some sort of heating system. At its most basic, this could be a simple wood fire. The result is a wallet-friendly soaking tub which can look very nice in the right setting:
There are a lot of examples of DIY stock tank pools (like the one above), but adding features like filtration and heating to convert a stock tank into a functioning hot tub is of course going to take a little more work. However, it can be done:
How are soaking tubs heated?
If you just have a small, bath-sized soaking tub—and a source of hot water nearby to fill it—it's possible to refill and empty it with every use. But many people choose to add filtration and a heater, both for convenience and to conserve water.
There are several ways a soaking tub can be heated, the main options being electric, gas or wood. Let's take a quick look at each.
Most people choose electric or gas heating nowadays because it's reliable, easy to operate, and gives you fine-grained control over your water temperature.
Both are popular choices, and deciding between gas and electric will often come down to which is more economical in your area. Gas heaters tend to cost a little more upfront, but potentially have lower ongoing costs if you live somewhere with cheap gas readily available.
Second only to hot springs, wood-fired tubs are the most natural, traditional way to soak in hot water. Although they're not as popular today because they require more work to operate, they are still a great way to heat a soaking tub—particularly if you want to stay off grid.
These tubs use a heating stove, which you fill with wood to burn. Water from the tub then flows past a heating element connected to the stove, which heats the water to your desired level.
Did you know? Unlike gas or electric heating systems, there's no automatic way to limit the temperature of a wood-fired hot tub. That means it's possible for the water to get too hot, so you need to dampen the fire if the temperature creeps above the recommended 104°F.
You should also monitor the wood heater's exterior to make sure it doesn't overheat, and minimize the smoke it produces by picking the right type of wood to burn.
If you like the idea of a wood-fired tub, don't let these things deter you; many people still love the experience of a natural, off-grid soak. Just bear in mind that they do require more active upkeep than the more modern heating options.