What Can I Use to Protect My Hot Tub Cover?

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From the sun's rays to the wear and tear of being lifted on and off a spa regularly, hot tub covers sure can take a beating.

But a well-maintained cover is essential for any hot tub. Without one, you risk rainwater, dirt, and debris getting into your spa, not to mention higher electricity bills—an old, worn cover is just not going to be energy-efficient.

And when the cover alone can cost $400-$1,000 to replace, you'll want to do everything you can to make it last as long as possible.

Here are 6 tips on how to maintain your spa cover, so you can keep it looking—and functioning—as good as new. By adopting a few of these simple methods to protect your cover now, you'll thank yourself in the months and years to come.

1. Get a cover cap

One of the best ways to protect your hot tub cover from harsh weather or dirt and debris is a cover cap. Cover caps are essentially weatherproof layers of fabric designed to fit over your regular cover—think of them like an outdoor jacket for your hot tub:

Classic Accessories Veranda Water-Resistant 86 Inch Square Hot Tub Cover
Classic Accessories Veranda Water-Resistant 86 Inch Square Hot Tub Cover
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Over time, wind, rain, snow, and sun can all take their toll on your cover, eventually damaging it to the point where you need to replace it.

But when you have a cover cap, it takes much of this damage from the elements instead, protecting your cover underneath it. That's a good thing, because cover caps are much cheaper and easier to replace.

You can buy a ready-made cover cap if your hot tub is a standard size, but if your tub is a non-standard size or shape, you'll need to order a custom version.

If the tub cover cap is a bit larger than your hot tub (by 1 or 2 inches), it'll fit and function just fine. But don't buy a cover cap that's too small for the tub.

Here are some of my favorites available on Amazon:

2. Get a cover lifter

A durable cover lifter helps you to more easily and quickly lift your heavy hot tub cover when you want to use the spa. Cover lifters attach onto the side of the tub.

Be sure to look for a corrosion-resistant cover lifter; models made from aluminum and designed to resist rust will hold up best outdoors.

With a lifter, there's minimal strain on the cover—and your back—when you remove it. It also keeps the cover off the ground when you use your hot tub, thus protecting it from scuffs and dirt.

The benefits of a cover lifter speak for themselves:

  • A cover lifter helps you move your cover from the hot tub, lessening the strain on your arms and back
  • Lifters have different styles to suit your preference, e.g. lifter with hydraulic gas shocks, lift-to-shelf style, standard pivot designs
  • You can choose the design of the lifter to fit your hot tub, whether round, square, or rectangular

3. Use a hot tub cover protectant

If you have a vinyl hot tub cover, exposure to the elements can cause fading in summer, as well as the formation of mold and mildew in winter. This will eventually lead to cracking and deterioration of the material if left unchecked.

Many hot tub covers are treated with anti-mold agents initially, but this protection doesn't last forever. The good news is that you can restore protection quite easily yourself.

An easy way to provide UV protection for your vinyl hot tub cover is by applying a treatment like this 303 Marine UV Protectant Spray:

303 Marine UV Protectant Spray 32oz
303 Marine UV Protectant Spray 32oz
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A 303 protectant gives UV protection for hot tub covers. It protects vinyl by blocking the sun's rays and preventing the UV from discoloring, fading, and cracking your hot tub cover. It can even help to restore your cover's original color and luster.

You can safely use 303 protectant on any vinyl hot tub cover. It's as easy as spraying a small amount onto your (clean) cover and wiping across it with a cloth to form an even layer. Reapply every 3-5 weeks for the best results.

Can I use Armor All on my hot tub cover?

Armor All protectants are good for vinyl, but they are primarily intended for indoor use.

That's why we prefer marine-grade protectants like 303 for hot tub covers, as they are designed for wet, outdoor environments. If it works for boats, it'll work for hot tubs.

4. Clean your cover regularly

A dirty hot tub cover is a breeding ground for mold, algae and contaminants. Avoid the build-up of dirt and grime in or on your hot tub cover by regularly cleaning it.

How to clean your hot tub cover

  1. Remove the cover. Place it on a clean, flat surface, near a hose.
  2. Rinse your hot tub cover with your garden hose. With moderate water pressure (in order not to damage the cover), rinse off any dirt, leaves, or debris.
  3. Clean with a gentle cleanser. You can use a mild vinegar and water solution or other gentle all-purpose cleanser. Wipe it clean.
  4. Use a cloth or a brush with soft bristles. Clean in small sections, using circular motions to scrub dirt and grime away. For stubborn dirt, gently buff with a non-abrasive sponge.
  5. For any tree droppings and sticky sap, you can remove the tree sap by rubbing a little hand sanitizer or isopropyl alcohol on those areas.
  6. When completed, rinse and remove any traces of cleanser left on the cover. Wipe with a soft rag or microfiber cloth. Let it dry.
  7. When it's dry, use a UV protectant spray on the cover's upper surface. With regular use every 3-5 weeks, the spray will provide sun protection against fading or cracking.
  8. Put the hot tub cover back on once the protection spray is dry.

Avoid harsh, abrasive cleansers. These products can strip portions of the top coating, causing vinyl failure prematurely.

How to clean the underside of your hot tub cover

The underside of your cover is close to the water, and is therefore exposed to a warm, damp environment with minimal fresh air. This can lead to odors and mold.

A remedy is to spray a mild bleach solution on the underside to kill any mold or biofilm that's starting to form.

If you notice a moldy smell or see discoloration on the underside, remove the hot tub cover. Fill a spray bottle with a 10% bleach solution. Spray the undersides and wipe down. Hose with fresh water. Then dry with a towel or let air-dry before placing the cover back on the hot tub.

5. Take the cover off to dry it out regularly

When your hot tub cover becomes waterlogged, it will become heavy, and mold can start to form in the foam inserts. This happens because stagnant water from the condensation inside your hot tub becomes trapped inside the cover.

If you take off the cover and let it dry every couple of weeks, you allow this water to evaporate, and the cover will become nice and light again.

On a warm, dry day, take the cover off your hot tub:

  • You can set it up like a tent resting on a flat surface.
  • Proceed to unzip the zippers at the ends of the cover.
  • If you see any signs of mold or mildew, spray it down with a mild bleach solution.
  • Rinse the surfaces with your garden hose.
  • Let the cover and foam inserts air-dry for several hours.
  • Reassemble and replace once everything is dry.

Check the cover regularly for any cracks or rips that expose the inner foam of the cover, because this could let the foam soak up moisture—either from rain above or condensation from your hot tub below.

It's important to do this regularly to prevent your cover from becoming too waterlogged. If it becomes soaked with water, your hot tub cover will bow. The longer the water accumulates, the heavier the bow, and the lower the cover will sag because of the excessive weight. If left too long, it could become permanently distorted by this, in which case you may need to replace it.

6. Put your hot tub under a roof

The final tip does not require you to do anything to your hot tub cover at all: instead, you place something over the top of it.

This doesn't have to mean construction work in your yard. For example, you can provide sun protection for a hot tub cover by creating shade with an umbrella, or sun sail.

Or if repositioning the spa is an option, you could place it under the eaves or where there's natural shade from trees or fences.

If you wanted to use this opportunity to create a luxurious focal point in your yard, you could of course add a gazebo or an elegant spa enclosure.

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