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What Chemicals Do I Need for a Hot Tub?

So you’re now the owner of a new hot tub. Congratulations! And you may be wondering, “What chemicals do I need for a hot tub?” No need to panic, it is easy to understand what you need and when to use them, and you’ll catch on pretty quick. Here are the four main types of chemicals and supplies:

  • Sanitizers
  • pH adjusters
  • Shocks
  • Spa Test Strips

Read on to find out the best practices for a great hot tub experience. Major cleaning should ideally be done every three to four months, or more often if the hot tub sees heavy use.

Sanitation Systems for hot tubs

Types of Sanitation Systems

There is more than one way to keep a hot tub clean and the water clear. There are roughly three different ways to keep everything looking and feeling good. Let’s take a quick look at each one.

Manual Chemical Sanitization

Most people think of this method for keeping the hot tub clean. The owner checks the water to see if there are any issues that should be addressed and then adds any necessary chemicals to correct a problem. For sanitizing a spa like this, homeowners will use either bromine or chlorine.

Salt Water Systems

Salt water systems have been around for decades, but have only become popular in the past few years. Salt water is less harsh than chlorine and feels better against the skin. In this kind of system, an electrode cell uses a small electric current to generate sanitizer as needed. The spa water still needs to be tested to get the setting right.

Newer Tech Systems – Ozone and UV

Ozone and UV are both ways of sterilizing water. Both ‌systems can be integrated into a normal spa filtration system or used on their own. The enormous advantage they have is the lower use of chemicals, especially chlorine.

Do I Really Need To Use Hot Tub Chemicals?

An outdoor hot tub may seem like a simple piece of equipment, just fill it with water and turn on the jets for a relaxing time. There is a significant amount of work that needs doing, though, to maintain a clean and refreshing unit. That includes adding chemicals to sanitize and clear the water.

You may be wondering about costs. We’ve got a whole article titled “How much does it cost to run a hot tub?” You can read a lot of info there, but the short story is somewhere between $1.50 and $3.00 per day depending on the size of the tub.

There is a basic set of chemicals you need. Sanitizing your hot tub will help keep it clean, and bacteria-free. Chemical cleaners are useful for disinfecting the inside and making the water crystal clear. Adding these can be done on a routine basis as part of the ongoing maintenance, perhaps weekly for a light check and scrub.

What Chemicals Do I Need For A Hot Tub?

Bromine and chlorine are two of the most popular sanitizers and are easy to use. In addition to bottles or powders of the chemicals, you will also need a basic set of supplies

Spa Test Kit or Test Strips

These kits show you the chemical balance of the water and are a necessary first step. You can dip the test strip straight in, or a better method would be to scoop water from a foot down. The kits show the balance of the Total Alkalinity, pH, and Calcium Hardness. Once you know the mixture, you can add the correct amount of sanitizer.


The alkalinity of the water acts as a pH buffer, and should be kept within the 100 to 150 ppm range in order to ensure a neutral balance and a pleasant water feeling for you.

Products to Adjust pH

pH Increasers and Decreasers can be added to the mix depending on the size of the range adjustment you need.

Non-Chlorine Shock

A shock is another type of chemical for hot tub maintenance. It adds oxygen to the water, which increases the effectiveness of the chlorine to aid in sanitizing.

Other Chemicals You Might Want
  • Sequestering Agent – This type of chemical eliminates calcium and other heavy metals, which can give the water a murky look. Add it whenever you fill the tub.
  • Defoamer When a hot tub sees heavy use, it can become foamy due to interactions with body chemistry or with products like makeup. Defoamers are used whenever they are needed to keep the water clear.
  • Calcium – A type of mineral found in the water; you will want to avoid having a high concentration or too little. There are solutions available to balance it, so be sure to keep some on hand for maintenance.
  • Chlorine
  • Bromine
  • Biguanide
  • Minerals
  • Salt Systems
ProTeam Spa Alkalinity Up
Brand: ProTeam Spa Chemicals

Spa Alkalinity Up

Alkalinity helps keep your pH in the ideal range. Even if pH is in range, low or high alkalinity can create havoc in your spa. Alkalinity doesn’t change that often, so it only needs to be tested half as frequently as pH.

Good To Have Hot Tub Chemicals

In addition to the pH Balancers, Shockers, and Sanitizers, there is a collection of other chemicals that will keep the tub beautiful and ready to go.

Spa Clarifier

It works by gathering together the microscopic floaties into larger groups that can then be easily filtered out with a system or batch of chemicals. Used sparingly.


Helps remove water that is foamy due to residue and contaminant buildup. Use as needed.

Water treatment/conditioner

A broad range of treatment options that condition the water and keep it feeling soft for better flowing.

Filter Cartridge Cleaner

You won’t want to neglect cleaning the Filter Cartridges. This solution breaks down any contaminants in it. Use infrequently.

Surface descalers

Certain types of water sources, and other types of contaminants can cause scaling on the inside of the tub. For light buildup, just apply a basic remover. For heavier buildup, or below the water line, the hot tub will need to be drained.

Plumbing lines cleaner

Another necessary step in routine maintenance. The piping is needed for water flow. To clean it, add the product and run the jets for a few cycles before draining.

Polish the spa shell

You’ll want to keep the outside of the hot tub looking as great as the inside. There are plenty of polishes on the market, including ones that add a glossy coating.

Cover cleaners

The cover will be used anytime the system is not in use, so it will be exposed to the elements a lot. Be sure to keep it looking brand new using conditioners.

General purpose cleaning

It is best to avoid using general-purpose cleaners, as they may be too harsh for the water and chemical balance. Rather, stick with spa-specific types.

A great brand for these chemicals is Frog Products. Their chemicals and chemical systems are designed to use the least amount of harsh or harmful chemicals possible. They also deliver smooth, fresh water for your hot tub.

Spa Marvel Water Treatment and Conditioner
Brand: Spa Marvel

Spa Marvel Water Treatment and Conditioner

Spa Marvel Water Treatment & Conditioner: an enzyme-based and environmentally-friendly product created to minimize or replace the use of other chemicals commonly used for water treatment in hot tubs.

How To Add Hot Tub Chemicals

The chemicals outlined here will need to be added on a routine basis. Keep this list handy when you are ready to clean.

Follow the Instructions

This is most important. Always be sure to read the instructions on the bottles, because complacency breeds errors, and that can lead to costly damages.

Do Not Cover Your Hot Tub

When you are just finished cleaning, leave the cover off the hot tub until the chemical mixes have a chance to off-gas. Otherwise, cover it to avoid the elements and to keep the balance from evaporating.

Keep Your Hot Tub Running

Turn on the jets. This will keep the water flowing and it circulates the cleaning fluids all around. Ideally, you should circulate the water at least 30 minutes before use.

Turn Off the Air Valves

Not every brand has these, but if you do, turn them off when the jets are circulating to prevent too much evaporation.

Test the Water

This needs to be done before adding any mixtures. Use your Test Strips.

Measure Twice, Pour Once

Just think of this as a regular outdoors project. Know how much of each pH adjustment to use so the balance is correct, and measure exactly.

Add the Hot Tub Chemicals

Once your mixture is ready, just pour it in and let the jets circulate for about 3015 minutes. Then you can switch everything off and recover it. You may want to test again before heavy use begins.

Spa Fragrances

If you want to add some zest to your hot tub relaxation experience, then look no further. There are a few options:

  • You can use a scented product to add nice fragrances to your water.
  • Epson salt-based fragrances can be used for homeopathic experiences and treatments

Feel free to experiment using different combinations as part of a care routine, such as making time for the hot tub before bedtime.

Alternative Water Care Solutions

Other options do exist for cleaning rather than your basic chemicals such as Chlorine. Several companies sell natural water care systems or ones that are marketed as premium. Make sure to grab a Shock agent as well. The natural systems often contain water conditioning agents, so be sure to investigate these solutions fully to know if that is the type of water balance you will want. If you go this route, make sure the hot tub is cleaned out and drained of any previous contaminants. Once refilled, use your Test Strips as normal and add the new water care system and circulate the jets for around half an hour.

Saltwater hot tubs are another alternative, with some pros and different cons. The saltwater can be good as part of a skincare routine, and it constantly generates its own chlorine. On the other hand, they are generally more expensive and the salt corrodes the parts quicker.

Wrap Up

That has been an overview of everything you need to know about the chemicals used in cleaning your hot tub, from the many types available to specific steps. It is not too complicated, just be sure to follow the directions and know how to read the Test Strips. You could also let an expert take care of it! Check out Epic Hot Tub’s hot tub maintenance services in Raleigh, Durham and the surrounding area. If you are ready, you can go on to learn how to choose a hot tub.

Need help with Hot Tub Chemicals or want to know the best hot tub brands? Request a FREE Consultation or visit our Durham or Raleigh Hot Tub Showroom!

About The Author:

Manny Brambila

Pool & Spa Expert

Manny has been in the Pool & Spa industry for over 15 years and is considered a pool, swim spa, & hot tub expert. He has been a Certified Pool & Spa Operator (CPO) since 2009 and worked 15 years in aquatic training and development for the largest pool chemical and customer care company. He also has been an outside consultant for the Pool and Spa industry in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles since 2018. In the past few years Manny has become Director of Operations for Epic Hot Tubs with a priority of providing customers with the most reliable information and best service possible.