How Do You Clean A Whirlpool Bathtub?

We have a whirlpool bath that is not used very often. Every time we turn it on, black scum comes out of the jets. We have tried many different ways to clean it, but nothing seems to work. How are you suppose to clean a whirlpool bath?
The whirlpool bath was invented over forty years ago, and it has become increasingly popular due to its invigorating, therapeutic, and relaxing benefits.

The same piped system that produces circulating water in a whirlpool bath may also be a health hazard if it is not regularly and properly cleaned. Effective cleaning procedures for whirlpool bath circulation systems have been largely ignored by most manufacturers. Their cleaning and maintenance instructions merely recommend that whirlpool bath circulation systems be periodically flushed with household cleaning products - products that were not formulated for this task. Their suggested frequency of flushing ranges from weekly to every 120 days, even though more frequent cleaning is often suggested for the tub shell, an area that is visible to the whirlpool bath user.

According to Jacuzzi Whirlpool Bath: “Clean every 3 to 4 months, flush the system for 5 to 10 minutes with 4 tablespoons of low foaming disinfectant, diluted in enough hot water to fill the bath, while the air induction is off. Completely drain the bath, refill with cold water, and run the whirlpool for another 5 to 10 minutes. Finally, drain the bath again.”

According to Kohler Whirlpool Bath: “Clean twice a month or more depending on usage. The whirlpool bath should be flushed using the following procedure in sequence: Close the air controls, fill an average size tub with hot water above the highest jets, and run the whirlpool bath with 2 teaspoons of low-foaming dishwasher detergent and 4 ounces of household bleach in the water. Drain and refill with cold water and run the whirlpool for another 5 to 10 minutes, drain the tub, and wipe dry with soft cloth.”

The cleaning recommendations for whirlpool bath circulation systems provided by most manufacturers are scientifically unfounded. Whirlpool bath users are being misled to believe that a whirlpool bath is safe to use even though its circulation system may harbor infectious bacteria. In addition, some manufacturers falsely represent that their product's circulation system will fully drain. This claim is erroneous because water has an adherent quality and, when mixed with oily bath residue, it will coat the piping in a circulation system, and it will not completely drain. Furthermore, the miscellaneous fittings and the multiple feet of piping contained in a whirlpool bath circulation system will entrap measurable amounts of water which in turn will produce scale deposits. Most whirlpool bath circulation systems have bends, nooks and crannies, capped dead-ends, and component parts in which disease causing organisms can hide.

Cleanliness is the primary defense against infectious bacteria and viruses in the upkeep of any circulating water system similar to that of a whirlpool bath. In order for consumers to be adequately protected from hazards associated with using unsanitary whirlpool baths, manufacturers and companies that sell whirlpool baths must provide consumers with effective cleaning and maintenance instructions. However, to be effective, these directions must be coupled with the ability of whirlpool bath circulation systems to be completely flushed by consumers. Furthermore, only cleaning products specifically formulated to clean whirlpool bath circulation systems should be recommended for this purpose, and adequate measures must be available to routinely remove scale deposits from these systems.

No soap, detergent, or combination of detergents will clean a whirlpool bath circulation system which cannot be totally flushed. Detergents and cleaners act on and remove soil by solubilizing it and allowing it to be washed free. Any dead space or any part of the system which cannot be flushed out will retain it deposits of scale and oily bath residue plus an amount of solubilized materials which will then fall out of solution and re-deposit as more water comes into the system. Four common household products are frequently recommended for cleaning whirlpool bath circulation systems: bleach, baking soda, vinegar, and automatic dishwasher detergent. These products are not effective for this purpose.

Automatic dishwasher detergent is the best of any of the above products for cleaning a whirlpool bath circulation system, but it falls far short of a complete cleaning. Soil deposited on plates and cooking implements is often oily, but it does not contain scale deposits. Dishwasher detergent is formulated to be used with high pressure agitation and at high temperatures, and it has no component designed to dissolve scale. Water circulating through a whirlpool bath circulation system is initially added at the temperature at which it comes from a water heater, and it rapidly cools as it is circulated. In addition, the volume of water needed to fill a whirlpool bath until it is at its operational level far exceeds that of an automatic dishwasher. A small amount of dishwasher detergent, several tablespoons to a cup, would not approach the amount required to clean a whirlpool bath circulation system.

There are other products on the market that do a much better job of cleaning the piping. Two products are Oh Yuk, and Sea Klear Spa Flush,   Both are available from Amazon.

Failure to follow proper cleaning procedures for a whirlpool bath's circulation system can result in the growth and transmission of infectious bacteria and viruses. The circulation system of a whirlpool bath should be flushed after every use with a chemical product specially formulated for this purpose, and a professional whirlpool bath system cleaning should be performed on residentially located whirlpool baths at least annually. A professional cleaning should consist of flushing, descaling, and disinfecting the entire circulation system with the use of specialized equipment capable of concentrating, heating to 135°F, and circulating the appropriate cleaning and disinfecting solutions.  
The only local whirlpool bath cleaning company we could find online is AAA Pool & Spa, 678-581-5010 Please let us know if you know of any other company and we will add them to our referral list.

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