How to safely close your hot tub or swim spa for winter

When one of our customers hadn’t used her hot tub for a single steamy soak over the past three winters, she decided to officially put it to bed for the season and called Buds to ask some questions about how to do it safely—and this is what we told her.

Her concerns were legitimate. Closing a hot tub or swim spa for the winter requires patience and attention to detail. Water is the enemy, and it’s all because of water’s unique property of expanding when it freezes. Leave any water in the hot tub or spa itself, the pump, the jet piping, the filter canister or the heater and you’ll have costly repairs when you open it again.

Our customer opted to have us professionally winterize her hot tub. If you want to do it yourself, here’s a step-by-step guide to help you close your spa for winter the right way.

  • 1. Dig out your owners’ manual

    These are general instructions that apply to most hot tubs and swim spas, but to be safe you should read through the specific instructions for your particular model. If you can’t find your owners’ manual, most spa manufacturers will post their manuals online for download, or contact Buds and we’ll email the link to you.

  • 2. Remove the thermal cover

    If you’re feeling ambitious, this is a great time to give the cover a thorough cleaning with an approved vinyl cleaner or water. (Curious about how to clean your cover properly? Check out these hot tub cover maintenance tips.)

  • 3. Remove the filters

    This is a great time to clean the filters using a recommended cleaner and to clean the filter basket. Store the filters inside for the winter.

  • 4. Drain your tub

    If you don’t have an exterior drain on your tub, use a submersible pump or a garden hose (used as a syphon) to remove the water from the tub. If you do have a gravity drain, remove the cap and attach a garden hose to the spigot to direct the flow to a place that can handle it, such as your driveway. If you’re pretty sure your unit has a drain but you can’t find it along the base of the hot tub or inside the panel, check your owners’ manual. Leave the drain spout open.

  • 5. Run the spa’s air blower

    Replace your hard thermal cover, turn on the power or plug your hot tub in, and turn on your unit’s air blower for up to 1 minute to blow water out of the air channels. Don’t have an air blower on your model? Skip this step.

  • 6. Power off

    Flip the breaker switch for your hot tub or swim spa at the electrical panel and pull the outside disconnect.

  • 7. Remove remaining water from inside the spa

    Use towels or a wet-dry shop vac. Don’t forget the foot well.

  • 8. Drain the pump housing, filter canister and heater

    Now’s definitely a good time to check the owners’ manual if you haven’t already done so. Loosen the couplers on your heater and pumps and remove any bleed valves or drains on the equipment. To be extra sure all the water is gone, use a shop vac. Then tighten the couplers and plug the drains again. 

  • 9. Blow water from the jet piping

    Make sure each jet is in the “open” position, then use your shop vac to blow air through each jet nozzle.

  • 10. Clean the shell

    Use an approved cleaner and make sure the tub or spa is completely dry when you’re done cleaning. Leave a large, absorbent towel in the bottom when you’re done to soak up any water that may get into the tub or swim spa over the winter.

  • 11. Secure the hard cover

    Winter storms could wreak havoc with your cover—make sure it’s well secured.

  • 12. Secure the equipment hatch door

    Keep the mice and other critters out, since they can cause expensive damage if they decide to go on a chewing spree. This step only applies to spas with a cabinet.

  • 13. Secure a tarp or winter spa cover (also known as a cover cap) over your hard cover

    This will help keep water from leaking into the tub or spa from the seam in your hard cover. If your hot tub has a wooden cabinet, the tarp or winter cover will help protect it, too.

If all that sounds like too much work—or too risky—you can keep your tub or swim spa open during the winter (follow these steps for winter spa maintenance) or, for peace of mind, contact us to close your hot tub or swim spa for you.