Cleaning Your Bathtub Jets

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If you like soaking in a Jacuzzi or whirlpool bath after a trip to the gym, chances are you and your sore muscles are not soaking alone. Soap scum, mold, mildew, bacteria and pathogens love soaking in warm water just as much as you do.

Water remains in jacuzzi/whirlpool and even hot tub pipes after you drain them completely.

My husband and I learned that lesson when we drained our hot tub last winter and temperatures went below freezing for several days. When it warmed up we tried to fill the tub up and it quickly became apparent that the pipes had frozen and burst due to water expansion. The damage was so extensive we had to buy a whole new tub. It was an expensive way to learn that there’s a significant amount of water left in tub pipes even after draining.

In a jetted tub, soaking in water that remained in the pipes after your last bath is not a happy thought. It’s the same as reserving a gallon (or more) of dirty bathwater from your last relaxing soak and pouring the stagnant water back into the tub the next time you use it.

Keep your jets clean to avoid the health hazards associated with filthy water in your jetted tub pipes. Knowing how to clean bathtub jets properly will keep you soaking in good health.

Why Bathtub Jets get so Dirty

The jets get dirty in part based on the type of soap you use(bar soap and some bubble bath soaps are the worst offenders), your skin cells, natural body oils combined with your soaking solutions like baby oil, essential oils or skin softeners that are not completely removed from the pipes.

The dirty water containing remaining soap, skin cells, body oils and bacteria that is naturally present on you and in the water will allows for a slimy buildup called a biofilm to grow in the plumbing lines of your jetted tub. When used over and again, the dirty water and slime may cause odors, mold and mildew, discoloration and possibly even an infection when you come into contact with the water.

If bathtub jets are not cleaned on a regular basis soap scum can buildup and become hardened, and will be very difficult to remove.

If you see gunk, dark flecks, or notice a smell when the jets are operating, this could also be mold or mildew and is undoubtedly a clear sign it’s time to clean the inner workings of your bathtub jets.

Bacteria Does Not Belong in Your Bath!

A biofilm is a film of bacteria or a group of microorganisms where cells stick to each other and can be found on many surfaces that are very humid or not sterile.

Some examples:

  • Outside, slippery rocks in a stream bed are caused by a layer of slimy biofilm forming on the rocks.
  • In the home, biofilm grows in areas where water is present such as in the shower, water pipes, sewage pipes, and can also be found on floors and counters if they remain damp.
  • On you, dental plaque is also a biofilm that forms on the surface of your teeth that can lead to problems if not removed promptly.

Because isolated air and water are left in all whirlpool/jacuzzi and jetted tub pipes after you use them, they allow the growth of harmful bacteria that recirculates when the jets are turned on again. At the push of a button, the stagnant water containing bacteria, dead skin and soap residue comes spewing back into your fresh new bath. Yuck!

According to Texas A & M microbiologist Dr. Rita B. Moyes, this is where trouble starts:

“a normal teaspoon of tap water contains an average of about 138 bacteria, with many samples not having any bacteria at all. But the same teaspoon of whirlpool tub water contains an average of more than 2.17 million bacteria. The stagnant water in a whirlpool bathtub pipe is a great place for bacteria to grow and grow.”

This video http://www.microbioncorp.com/2013/biofilms/shows you a computer model time-lapse simulation of a developing biofilm. It shows the amazing resistance of microbial biofilm to disinfectants and other chemical agents.

How to Clean the Jets

Now that I’ve got your attention on the importance of keeping the jets clean, here’s how to take care of the problem.

Flushing the Water in the Pipes

Flushing the pipes won’t prevent bacteria from growing inside them, but might delay the buildup of biofilm by reducing the level of of debris in the remaining bathwater in the pipes after using the jets.

  1. Fill the tub with hot water.
  2. Run the jets for 10 to 15 minutes to reduce the levels of remaining soap scum, hair, body oils, dead skin, etc.
  3. Drain the tub.

If you have visible buildup inside the holes of the jet itself, it bight be easiest to simply grab an old toothbrush or a long-handled soft brush and gently scrub inside the jet with a bit of shampoo to remove any accumulated oils. Make a point to inspect the holes when you have your next bath and do a routine wipe down to avoid this from becoming a problem.

Regular Jet Cleaning

To clean the entire whirlpool system and tub exterior, follow this process every month or more frequently if needed. Don’t let dirt and grime build up or you’ll have more scrubbing to do to get the tub clean.

  1. Fill the tub with hot water, approximately an inch above the highest jet.
  2. Make sure the water temperature reaches at least 140º F (60º C).
  3. Add 1/2 cup of laundry detergent or the amount used to clean 1 load of laundry as recommended by the detergent manufacturer.
  4. Run the jets for 15 minutes.
  5. Drain the tub and refill with clean lukewarm water.
  6. Run the jets for another 15 minutes.
  7. Drain the bathtub.
  8. Dry the tub completely by wiping it down with a clean towel.

Removing Mold and Mildew from Jets

Bleach liquefies and removes mold and mildew on contact.Chlorine bleach will help to sterilize the jets, kill bacteria, viruses, mold and mildew and reduce odors. Bleach won’t make a dent on soap scum in the tub or inside of the pipes. It will also not clean anything covered in biofilm.

Precautions:

  • Open the window or turn on the fan before using bleach.
  • Do not use any other cleaners as chlorine bleach can react with certain chemicals and produce a harmful and toxic gas.
  1. Fill the bathtub with hot water.
  2. Make sure the water temperature reaches 140º F (60º C).
  3. Add 4 cups of Chlorine Bleach.
  4. Run the Jacuzzi or whirlpool for 15 minutes.
  5. Drain the tub and refill with clean lukewarm water.
  6. Run the jets for another 15 minutes.
  7. Drain the bathtub.
  8. Run your hand along the sides to make sure the tub is not slippery and no bleach residue remains.
  9. Dry the tub completely by wiping it down with a clean towel.

Deodorizing Your Bathtub Jets

Vinegar is a very effective odor neutralizer and cleaner.Vinegar is a mild acid that will help to kill mold and mildew but it’s not nearly as effective as chlorine bleach. Vinegar is less likely to irritate the skin as bleach will if not completely removed from the tub.

Because vinegar is an acid it reduces hard water spots left from minerals in the water and soften soap scum which will make cleaning the bathtub itself easier.

Do not add any soap, detergent, baking soda or any other solution when using vinegar. These substances are alkaline and at the very least will counteract the effectiveness of cleaning with vinegar to begin with. On the more serious side, certain cleaners may react with vinegar and produce toxic fumes which can be very harmful to your health.

  1. Fill the tub with hot water.
  2. Add 1 gallon of plain white vinegar.
  3. Run the tub as instructed above under “removing mold and mildew”.

Removing Biofilm / Heavy Duty Jet Cleaning

Biofilm cleaners are specifically formulated to remove harmful bacteria from the pipes in Jacuzzi and whirlpool bathtubs.

A biofilm cleaner will cut through the slimy buildup so you can clean and remove bacteria, oils, mold, soap residue and more that can continuously grow in the plumbing lines of your jetted tube.

Follow instructions on package for getting the gunk out.

Now Enjoy Your Clean Whirlpool / Jacuzzi Bathtub

Nothing feels as good as a job well done! A relaxing bath with candles and a few drops of essential oils sounds like a treat to me.

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