Hot Tub Won’t Drain: Quick Tips To Find A Fix

Dirty Hot Tub

So your hot tub won’t drain? Whether you are a hot tub newbie or a seasoned owner, I have found a few simple tips that will get you back to hot tubbing in no time.

If you are having trouble draining your hot tub here are a few quick troubleshooting steps:

  • Make sure the gravity drain is open
  • Check the gravity drain for debris
  • Clear debris from drain in bottom of tub
  • Purge the drain with a garden hose
  • Skip the gravity drain and use a garden hose as siphon
  • Use a submersible pump instead

Now that you have a general idea of what you can try if your hot tub isn’t draining, continue reading to see how to get back to enjoying your hot tub ASAP.

What To Do When Your Hot Tub Won’t Drain At All?

Have you ever heard the phrase, it always takes longer to do something than you were expecting? This phrase is known as Hofstadter’s Law and if you are reading this post, you have probably found yourself in a situation where it applies. Thankfully, I have compiled a helpful guide that should help get you out of trouble.

Step 0: Turn Off The Power To Your Hot Tub

If you haven’t done this already, it is the most critical first step before you perform any other troubleshooting. It is labeled step 0 for a reason! If you want to know why this is so important or even how to do it, I have written a great post that will give you all the details.

Step 1: Double Check That The Gravity Drain Is Open

If no water whatsoever is flowing out of your hot tub’s gravity drain, then the first thing you should check is that the gravity drain is open. I know this sounds basic, but I used to work for an IT help desk in college and so many times the most simple fix was the right one.

Depending on the type of drain your hot tub has this may be done a few different ways. The best method for you to find out would be to check your owner’s manual, however, I have listed a few common types below.

  • The drain value opens by pulling the drain towards you or pushing it in.
  • There is a valve handle that you twist or pull up on.
  • The drain spigot twists open.

Step 2: Check The Drain Outlet Is Free Of Debris

Once you have successfully verified that the gravity drain is open, then it should be flowing water. If it isn’t, the next step will be to make sure there is no debris in the drain outlet. This should be done through a visual inspection. Take a look up into the drain spigot and see if you can identify any foreign debris.

I wouldn’t suggest sticking anything into the opening at this point as you might push anything inside deeper into the plumbing. I also wouldn’t try to backflush the drain with a hose either. Just look with your eyes. If you don’t see anything, move on to the next step.

Step 3: Check The Drain Inlet Is Free Of Debris

To perform this step you might have to get wet depending on how large and deep your hot tub is. If your hot tub has a dedicated drain inlet in the bottom of the tub then this step should be easy. Feel around the opening for any gunk and debris. If it has a screen that is removable, carefully remove it and clean it out.

If your hot tub does not have a dedicated drain port, then it drains through one of the other plumbing returns. You might have to do some searching to find which one is correct. The easiest thing might be to just check them all. It should be fairly obvious if one of them is clogged.

Step 4: Purge The Drain Line

If you have not found any debris, then there might be something trapped in the plumbing line itself. I have left this step for last because it could become a bit time consuming.

There are two ways you could go about purging the drain line. I am only confident that this method will work if you have a dedicated drain line. If your hot tub does not, then you might have limited success.

The first method, use the water pressure from your garden hose to push any debris out. Turn on your garden hose and try to direct the pressure and flow into the drain port inside the tub of your hot tub. Try this for a few minutes. Make sure the gravity drain is open while you do this. I wouldn’t try this with anything higher pressure like a pressure washer. You could damage the hot tub.

If the first method doesn’t work, then you probably need to snake the drain line. A typical plumber’s snake should do. I have even seen various forum members claim success with an unbent clothes hanger. (I would stick to the professional tool, but that’s just me) If you are uncomfortable doing this then it might be time to call a service professional.

Step 5: Call A Service Professional

There is no shame in bringing in a professional. If you have been unsuccessful thus far then your problem is probably more complicated than originally thought. Remember Hofstadter’s Law! Call a local hot tub service company and have them come out to help. Watch what they do, and maybe you can do it yourself next time.

Can I Drain My Tub Without Using The Gravity Drain?

You can absolutely drain your hot tub bypassing the gravity drain. Whether your drain doesn’t work (and you followed the steps above) or you just want to drain it faster, there are two easy methods I will outline below.

Method 1: Use A Submersible Pump

This will by far be the fastest method you can use to drain your hot tub. Depending on the size of the pump and the size of your hot tub, it might take less than 30 minutes. That is an average, if you have a large 500 gallon hot tub, expect it to take longer. I plan on putting together a tutorial on this topic using a pump I found on amazon. If you are interested in learning more, you can follow my affiliate link.

Method 2: Siphon Out The Water With A Garden Hose

This is an inexpensive and easy method that you can use to drain your hot tub with just a normal garden hose. All you need to do is drop one end of the hose into the bottom of the hot tub and prime the hose by sucking the air out of it (you can use a shop vac). Once the water starts flowing, keep the unsubmerged end (outlet) lower in elevation than the hot tub. This will take a while to drain, but is a great alternative.

How Do You Get The Water Out Of The Bottom Of The Hot Tub?

No matter which method you use to drain your hot tub, there will always be some residual water remaining in the bottom of the footwell. By far the easiest method to remove this is to use a shop vac. A wet/dry shop vac will make quick work of the remaining water and as an added benefit remove any remaining debris.

If your hot tub has deeply contoured seats, there will likely be some water remaining in those as well. You can either scoop the water into the footwell during your primary drainage method, or use a shop vac to suck out the water while you are also working on the footwell.

If you do not have a wet/dry shop vac don’t worry, you can use a sponge to soak up the remaining water as well. It will take a bit longer, but in the end, will be just as effective.

Where Is The Drainage Spigot On My Hot Tub?

Most hot tub brands have an external gravity drain that is accessible right from the outside of the hot tub. It is generally located along the bottom of the hot tub skirt pan only an inch or so above the ground.

If you walk around your hot tub and don’t find it, then you might not have an external drain. Some manufacturers hide the drain behind the front panel of the hot tub. To access you will need to remove the panel. This process is different for each manufacturer so if you are unsure, make sure you check out your owner’s manual. Once the panel is removed you should find the drain coming off one of the plumbing lines.

If you still cannot find it, then you will need to consult your owner’s manual. These are the most common locations.

How Often Should I Drain My Hot Tub?

It is generally recommended to drain your hot tub and refill it every 3-4 months. This conveniently aligns with about once a season. It is important to do this because over time the sanitizer that you use will become less and less effective. You will need to use more chemicals to keep your water balanced and safe. Eventually, it will become impossible to manage and you will waste a lot of time and money on chemicals. When you notice this happening, it is time to drain your hot tub.

There are different water treatment systems that can be used to extend the duration between refills. Some of them claim to reduce the need to once every year. I have not tried any of these systems myself, but would be interested in doing a future review so I can make a recommendation. I am writing new posts all the time so please check back regularly.

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