Public Hot Tubs-7 Tips You Need to Know Before You Soak

The best public hot tub outside 39 Degrees Lounge at the Sky Hotel in Aspen, Colorado

PLAYING IT SAFE IN SOMEBODY ELSE’S HOT TUB. You’ve paid good money to go to a resort, hotel or gym. You’re really looking forward to getting in that hot tub and washing away all of your stress and aches & pains in one big “ahh”.

But wait. Not all public hot tubs provide a clean, safe environment for bathing. Better safe than sorry. Don’t let someone else’s  germs get you. Read on.

Seven tips for tubbing fun & safety at resorts, hotels, health clubs and gyms

1. CLEAR WATER COIN FLIP.Toss a dime into the hot tub and see if it’s heads or tails. That’s how clean and clear the water should be – you should be able to see the bottom drain as well as read your dime. Also, try the sniff test. If the water smells funky, dank or acrid, keep out. They’re not taking care of it, and it’s not safe. One last touch: if the sides of the tub feel slimy, do not enter.

2. BAD FOAM. If mounds of foam are still floating on the water when the jets are turned off, don’t get in. That means the water hasn’t been filtered correctly and probably needs sanitizing.

3. STRIP. TEST STRIP. Get some pH test strips from any hot tub retailer and take them with you to check the water yourself. Follow package directions, dip the strip, and make sure it matches the proper colors on the chart for pH and disinfectant residual.

4. DRAIN BRAIN.All main drain covers must comply with the fairly new federal Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act. That means they have either large grates or a dome shape. If a cover is damaged or missing, alert the manager and don’t get in. Also, be sure your children know not to play with drain covers or near them.

5.  WHO’S IN CHARGE HERE?Ask if the facility has someone on staff who is certified

in pool operation. Certification means they’ve gone through training to maintain and operate the hot tub correctly. Also, find out where the shutoff switch is for the hot tub in case of emergency.

6. WATCH THAT KID! Don’t assume a guard or anyone else is watching your child. Keep your child no more than an arm’s length away in the water. Everybody, young and old, should take swim lessons for safety’s sake.

7. PLEAS AND THANK YOU. The Centers for Disease Control pleads for common sense in the water:

Three pleas for all hot tub bathers.

• Please don’t hot tub when you have diarrhea. You can spread germs in the water and make others sick. This counts kids in diapers, too – even swim diapers leak.

• Please avoid getting hot tub water in your mouth, and by all means don’t swallow if you accidentally let some in.

• Please practice good hygiene. Shower with warm water before hot tubbing. Wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. Get the germs off your body before you get your body in the water.

Three pleas for parents

• Please take your kids on regular restroom breaks and check diapers often. Do not wait for them to tell you they have to go.

• Please change diapers in a restroom or diaper-changing area, not at the edge of the hot tub where germs can spread to surfaces and objects where others will be walking.

• Please wash your child thoroughly (especially you-know-where) with soap and warm water so they don’t just look clean – they’re really clean before they get in the hot tub.

Hot tubbing is about peace of mind. Follow our tips enjoy your soak. Did we omit your favorite public hot tub safety tip? Please post it in our comment section!

Thanks to Tom Lachocki of the National Swimming Pool Foundation and Laurie Batter of BatterUp! Productions, publicist for National Swimming Pool Foundation (https://www.phta.org/), for their ideas and contribution to this post.

SANUM PER AQUA. Latin for Health through Water.

Author: Don Riling

Don Riling is the President of Olympic Hot Tub and has been an active member of the hot tub industry for over 27 years. As the company’s owner since 2016, he has continued Olympic’s legacy of promoting health & wellness through water.

10 responses to “Public Hot Tubs-7 Tips You Need to Know Before You Soak

  1. Steve:
    You are so right! Stay out of the hot tub when you’re sick or have an open wound. As you say, it’s common sense, but many people don’t follow it. I really appreciate your reminding me of the importance of following this rule for public hot tub soaking.

  2. I’m at a resort with family and I have always enjoyed hot tub bathing.. But I heard it’s like swimming in particles of human fecal matter.. I have already seen several unsavory people in the hot upon arriving.. I’m thinking definitely a no go…

  3. I have been using gym hot tubs for a few years, particularily LA Fitness clubs around the South Florida area. I’ve had mostly bad experiences. Everything from seeing people walk in with their street clothes on (not a proper swim suit!)..dirty feet and clothes.,eeww. To dirty foam floating around on top of most of these. To recently in West Palm beach facility…feces Floating on the top of the tub! Disgusting. I told the manager immediately and it was shut down. That’s the last time I use a gymnasium hot tub! It’s nothing more than a big public bath tub..without the soap! So Disgusting.

  4. Hello DMartin:
    Thanks for sharing your gym hot tub stories.
    EEww is right!
    Too bad that the gym operators did not maintain a healthy, clean hot tub environment.
    And, that’s all too often the case with public gyms.
    Hope my posts about public hot tubs educate the public on what to look for
    and how to judge whether or not a hot tub is safe to use.
    Thanks again for reminding readers that not all hot tubs are well maintained!

  5. Is there something you can bring with you to pour in to sanitize or disinfect a hot tub if you are unsure of how clean it is? CL

  6. CL–I generally just stay away from hot tubs in public settings to err on the side of safety. I imagine in this day and age it’s a bad idea to bring anything to a public hot tub to treat it yourself–that may look to others like something suspicious is going on. I would recommend checking with hotel or gym maintenance teams and inquiring to discover the last time the tub’s water had been balanced, what type of sanitizer they use, and ask it to be checked before taking a soak. Alternatively, you could bring your own test strips to check the water and see if sanitizer is present and the pH is in a neutral range. The same rule of thumb applies to any hot tub for me, public or private: If the water doesn’t look good or smell good, it’s probably best to steer clear.

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