How To Clean Whirlpool Tub Jets

Jan 30

The master bathroom in this rental home has the most enticing whirlpool bathtub…

Of course, the first people to enjoy the tub were the kids. 🙂

One evening after move-in I put the kids in the tub and turned on the jets after the begged me to. They were SO excited….until they saw black gunk, mold, residue and bacteria floating in the water.

yuck!

I never saw kids jump out of a bubbling bath so quickly.

Last week I spent a few days researching exactly how to clean the jets. Having never owned a tub with jets, this was a new cleaning adventure for me. I spent a day (yes an entire day – read on for more) cleaning the tub and can now happily tell you it’s super clean. If you have a whirlpool bathtub at home, hope this information will be useful to you.

First, I’m going to share exactly how I cleaned the tub/jets. Then will share some additional tips learned through my research.

My Cleaning Method
Step 1:
Fill the tub with hot water

Fill the tub with enough hot water to cover the jets by 2-3 inches…

Step two:
Add 1/2 cup of clorox clean-up or bleach
At the bottom of this post I’ll share more info about products / tips I learned through my research, but for me – I wanted to use something a bit stronger during the first cleaning go-round. This house had been sitting empty for more than a year. And before moved in, several other families rented this home. I wanted to be extra sure the jets would be clean and safe for my kids.
I would have opted for straight bleach, but only had clorox clean-up on hand so that is what I used for this first step…
Step three:
Turn on the jets

Turn on the jets and allow them to continue running for 10 minutes…

 

Within the first couple minutes I began to see small black flakes floating in the water. But after the entire 10 minutes the tub was full of large, small and tiny pieces of grossness. Here is the water after it settled down and I was able to get a better shot of what exactly was floating in there…

The most disgusting thing floating?…

…and a lot of it! So so soooooooo gross!!! I can’t even think about it anymore…gives me the chills.

Step four:
Drain the tub and rinse

As the tub drained I could see just how much came out of the jets. Before I ran it through another cleaning, I made sure all of this gunk was gone…

Step five:
Fill the tub with hot water and dish soap

Fill up the tub again with hot water (enough to cover the jets by 2-3 inches) and add a few drops of dish soap or a few teaspoons of liquid automatic dishwashing machine soap. Whichever you choose, remember that it needs to be low-sudsing as to not create an avalanche of bubbles in your bathroom…

I added the teeeeeniest amount. Just enough to create this much sudsing…

Step six:
Turn on the jets

Once again, turn on the jets and allow them to run for 10 minutes…

After this step there was still quite a bit floating in the tub. When the 10 minutes is up, be sure to again rinse all of the gunk down the drain before moving onto step seven.

Step seven:
Rinse system with cold water

Once I cleaned the tub with bleach and then again with dish soap, I rinsed the system with plain cold water. If you can believe it, after 3 cleaning flushes there was still gunk coming out!…

 

At this point I realized maybe the system had never been cleaned before and it was going to take me many more flushes to feel confident it was thoroughly cleaned. And it did! After THREE additional cold water flushes, I finally didn’t see anything floating in the tub.

Remember, after each flush to be sure you rinse out the tub before moving on.

Step eight:
Clean tub as usual

Once all of the flushing was complete, I cleaned the tub as I normally would with a soft cleanser. It was like new!…

…and ready for a relaxing bath. Which was much needed after this cleaning event!

Some additional jet cleaning tips…

* Be safe!: Be sure to do this job when children and pets are not around. Because you will be filling the tub many, many times, this is a job that should be done with no children or pets nearby to potentially fall in. For me, my kids LOVE to see those jets going and it’s enticing. Not to mention the various cleaning supplies you will have out for the job. Just be sure to make it a safe, stress and worry-free environment.

* Before cleaning your jets, check your manufacturer manual: If you don’t have a manual for your particular tub, you may find it online. This is important for a couple reasons –

1. Some manufacturers recommend specific cleansers for their tubs
2. Some manufacturers recommend closing the air controls on each jet so there is no air induction during the cleaning process
and 3. Some manufacturers recommend leaving those air controls open during cleaning

To be certain, be sure to first read your manual.

* Choose your cleaning products carefully: Through my research, I learned several ways that people have chosen to clean their jets. Most people clean them with cascade-like automatic dishwashing detergent and bleach. But there was also more specific info about limiting bleach while cleaning jets because bleach could over time potentially dry out the fittings inside the pipes. I would agree that it might be best to save the bleach cleaning to once a year (maybe less).

If you use an automatic dishwashing detergent, go for the liquid variety and not powdered. The powdered version may be harmful to any finishes you have in your tub – like brass. Liquid Cascade Complete seemed to be the go-to cleaner for that 2nd go-round of cleaning. I used Dawn dish soap because that is what I had on hand, but next time I will definitely try Cascade.

The Kohler website recommends this cleaning concoction for their jetted tubs: add 2 teaspoons of low-foaming or powder automatic dishwasher detergent and 20 ounces of household bleach.

* Don’t run the jets while there are products in the water: The bacteria, mold and deposits in the jets are most likely not just coming from filling your tub with water. They are very likely coming from the products you bathe in. For example – bubble bath, salts, oils, bath bombs, shampoos, and more. Once these products are in the water and you turn on the jets, they are brought into the piping system. When the tub is emptied, there is still a bit of water sitting in the lines and that is where mold and black gunk begins in the first place. Instead, consider turning on the jets only when there is plain water in the tub. You can still enjoy all of those fun products, just not while the jets are running. This tip should cut down significantly on the residue you typically see in these kinds of tubs.

Even more tips…

* Once the tub is clean, if you still notice dirt surrounding the jets themselves, try using dental floss to clean behind them. It’s hard to get into that thin, tight area with a regular cloth so floss is a great way to grab that gunk.

* Wipe the tub and jets clean and dry after each use. This will help keep mold and bacteria from growing.

* I found a great product online that is made specifically for this cleaning issue. I didn’t buy it myself, therefore can’t vouch for its results, but it sounds pretty good. It’s called “oh yuk! jetted bathtub cleaner” and can be found here.

I hope this information is useful to you as you clean your own whirlpool bathtub jets!

comments +

  1. Melissa says:

    What a great post! We have a bathtub with jets and I'm not sure it's ever been cleaned properly- now that I know this I will get right on it!

    • thank you! you'll have to let me know what comes out of those jets after you clean it!!! so come back and share the dirty details. 🙂

      sam

      • Linda Arahill says:

        Hi there, Buying a home with a jetted bath tub… I searched this out to see how to clean it and this helps before I step one foot into it….clean it before with your information…thanks so much!

    • Anonymous says:

      My son got a very serious MRSA infection after turning on the jets in the bath. Now, I run bleach through the jets often.

  2. I too cleaned my whirlpool tub recently and yes, it was an all.day.job. I went through pretty much the same process using bleach and then vinegar. Then I scrubbed really well with a scrub brush around all the jets to get the gunk out. Now it's nice and clean and I can actually relax in there ; )

  3. Rox says:

    I was actually looking for another blog post when I found yours. Glad I found yours instead. I am so happy to hear that mine was not the only tub that took FOREVER (all day) to clean. Actually, it never really got clean. I am also in a rental and read how to do it a few months ago, but after 6-8 "rinses" black junk was STILL coming out. I didn't use bleach, can't remember what I used, but I'm trying your method now instead of trying to find the other method. I haven't used the tub since I tried to clean it because I am grossed out by the gunk. Wish me luck….

    • Rox says:

      Well, I tried your method and while I am SURE it works, I am convinced that mine has NEVER been cleaned and the house was build in the early 90's. I am going to try the OH YUCK next. Still, I blogged about your method and linked your post. I recommend people try your way first! If you want to check it out, here's the link. Thank you for sharing all your research 🙂

      http://fourelevenrox.blogspot.com/2013/02/411-on-cleaning-garden-tubs-clean-your.html

      • Jane says:

        Hi Rod! I bought a condo in which the whirlpool hadn’t been used in about 4 years. I started with Oh Yuck! and it worked beautifully the first time around. But to be sure, I followed up with the traditional method for cleaning whirlpools and nothing much came up at all. It was so clean that, after wiping the tub clean after both rounds, the third “cleaning” was ME! I was reading for a nice bath by then and, boy, did it feel good. 😀

        I know you’ve figured all this out, but I thought it by be helpful (or reassuring) for others deciding among the various methods. Btw I first tested out the Oh Yuk! by using it to clean the metal part that keeps the water from draining out (the word slips my mind right now). It had what looked like harded on bacteria (often called biofilm) on it. It took 3 times around to get it clean by letting it sit in a cup with a very small amount of the product along with water. I stirred the water around to simulate the jets. 😉

  4. The lodging industry uses a product called Oh Yuk Jetted Tub Cleaner. This chemical was specifically designed to clean the crud out of jetted bathtubs.

  5. smcteach says:

    I actually just did this today using instructions from a different post, but my process was similar to yours. I did bleach, and then because I wasn't getting much black junk I added some dawn to it. I let it run for forever and never did get much out. I've lived in my house for almost 2 years, so I know there had to be junk there. I'm wondering what I did wrong.

  6. My jets unscrew. I don't care how many times you flush it out. ( I do weekly ). Monthly I unscrew all the jets and let me just say it is gross! Try to see if they unscrew. After I did mine one time I will not use any other jetted tub no matter where I go.( because I know they do not clean there's like I do).

    • Janet says:

      I have to remove and clean the jets after every bath or they get covered in black guck. I am about ready to trash the tub unless perhaps there is some product that can be sprayed on them to stop the black from forming. It’s very damp where we live, I run the bathroom fan a lot and we have a de-humidier but the tub is still gross. AND who has time to clean the jets after every bath!

  7. rottengeek89 says:

    I used vinegar and dishwashing soap, but the most important part is to let it sit overnight. Then it has a chance to soak in. I'm in a rental, and I don't think anyone had ever cleaned it. My water is very hard, and after I got the water softener installed I did the vinegar/detergent rinse, let it set about 24 hours, ran the jets again and it is like new, now. After the last time, I saw more disgusting goo, chunks and silt come out than ever before. My guess is that if you have hard water, you might want to do it once a week or so. Just make sure you leave it to soak for a good long while before you rinse it

  8. Im totally frustrated! I have filled, run, and drained the tub no less than 30 times. I've used Drainaway', bleach, vinegar, cascade complete, hydrogen peroxide, and still get black flakes!! I read a post that claims they used laundry detergent in conjunction with 'Oh Yuck' I will order some this weekend, but Im.afraid that's my last treasury and I'm not optimistic at this point 🙁

  9. Amanda says:

    I ran into an unforeseen problem… I am on step 3 and after 1 minute, the tub is about to overflow with thick foam from the bleach! I had to turn off the jets. Not sure how to proceed. I'm scooping out the foam into the sinks and shower, but even they are struggling to clear it! Oy…

    • Humm, from the bleach? I've never heard of bleach foaming. :-/ Did you add any other kinds of soap in there before starting? Or could it be from all of the soap residue that has built up in the jets? I wish I had an answer to this for you….because I would really like to help you out! I haven't heard of a thick foam from adding bleach. ???

      • Anita Herron says:

        My bleach foamed also…i had to turn it off…i went back in periodically and would turn the jets on for a few minutes at a time…until i had let them run for a total of 10-15 minutes

    • Shari says:

      Oh gosh, I posted too soon before. Now my tub is full of the bubbles from the bleach, and I don't think it's soap residue, as this tub doesn't appear to have been ever used, and no black floaties or anything else. I'm wondering if it's because I'm using the Clorox Splashless Bleach. Maybe there's something in it that's not in regular bleach? I think this might be concentrated as well, as the bottle is smaller. Oops. Now I guess I just wait for the bubbles to die down!

    • I used splashless bleach also and I could loose my son in all this foam! I wish there were another way to make foam disappear other then just scooping them out as another site suggests.

    • Use a capful of fabric softener, it will immediately get rid of the suds.

    • Michaelann says:

      If you use a soap or cleaning product that “suds” up adding vinegar will help to “pop” the bubbles and control the sudsing as well as rubbing alcohol (I prefer alcohol)..

      • Samantha says:

        Oooooh, this is good to know! Thank you so much for sharing! Love this kind of feedback!

        xo,
        Sam

      • Zugzug says:

        Be careful with adding isopropyl alcohol to bleach if you are trying to reduce suds. Bleach + Isopropyl Alcohol = Chloroform.

      • LDRR says:

        As zugzug said, dont mix with bleach not only with alcohol, but also don’t ever mix it with vinegar because bleach+vinegar=chlorine gas. This can be deadly in large amounts, but even in small amounts it can cause many respiratory problems that will land you in the ER possibly ICU. It forms quickly and effects can take place within seconds to minutes. Very dangerous!

    • Naomi says:

      I had the same problem when cleaning out my jetted tub with clorox clean up. It took a while for the foam to drain, but it did not happen with regular clorox.

  10. I moved into a house and want to clean my jets BUT with the drought I am going to wait. But will keep thus Handy posts as soon as the daughter eases up. Thank you

  11. Nancy says:

    I ran bleach through the jets twice and got all the black flecks out. Then I ran Oh Yuck through twice and got yellowish stuff out. Did again and all clean. Now I run 1/2 cup Oh Yuck every time I use the jetted tub to ensure its clean. Can now soak in peace

  12. ELAINE says:

    OVER THE HOLIDAYS I WAS AT MY SON’S FOR CHRISTMAS & MY DEAR DAUGHTER IN LAW TOLD ME ABOUT THE TERRIBLE ODOR THAT HAD PREVIOUSELY COME FROM THE JETS ON HER TUB & BEING THE GIRL THAT SHE IS (DETERMINED TO SOLVE PROBLEMS) SHE PROCEEDED TO UNSCREW THE JETS (IT TOOK SOME DOING BUT SHE MANAGED TO GET THEM ALL UNDONE) TO EACH JET THERE IS ABOUT 4 PARTS ,THE LITTLE BALL, THE FRAME AROUND IT, A SEAL & A SPRING WHICH ALL COMES APART. OH MY, YOU SHOULD HAVE SEEN WHAT WAS IN THERE & ALSO IN THE HOLE THAT THE JET CAME OUT OF. IT TOOK HER MOST OF THE DAY TO CLEAN ALL THE LITTLE JETS BUT SAVED ON A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF WATER & THEY ARE DEFINITLEY CLEAN. THEY ARE A LITTLE HARD TO GET APART THE FIRST TIME BUT PERSEVER THRY DO COME APART & NEXT TIME IT WILL BE EASIER. GOOD LUCK

    • Samantha says:

      Wow, sounds like an incredible job! So glad she was able to tackle that and hope the end result removed the odor.

      Happy New Year!
      Sam

      • ELAINE says:

        No more odor & she cleans them about every 6 wks. now, this saves on all that water & cleaning products but is time consuming.
        HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALSO SAMANTHA & ALL OTHERS

    • Jeanette says:

      Once you take the jets off and clean them. Then fill the bath tub up and add vinegar and let the jets run and you should see what comes out . the scum that came out would be the size of a ruler, it was disgusting. But know there is no longer any smells and you will enjoy your jet tub, for at least a couple months.

  13. Scott says:

    Use a footie pantyhose over the intake. This acts like a filter and keeps the crud from circulating back into the pipes. Then you don’t have to run so many rinses

  14. Bryan says:

    Is it okay to use cascade powder detergent, clorox (splash less) and vinegar all at the same time? I’m worried about the foam issue mentioned in previous comment s and thought maybe the vinegar would help. Anyone know what is different about the splash less clorox? Thanks

    • Neil Edwards says:

      Splashless bleach contains sodium hydroxide, which is the active ingredient in Drano and oven cleaner. It is also used in dishwashers in laboratories and hospitals for heavy duty cleaning of glassware. It might be helpful as a cleaner along with the the bleaching agent in the Clorox. I would follow that up with a vinegar rinse to neutralize any sodium hydroxide that remains in the system.

      • Neil Edwards says:

        Also, splashless bleach produces a lot of sudsing. If possible, use regular Clorox or store brand bleach. Check the label. It should list sodium hypochlorite as the only active ingredient, at anywhere from 5% to 8.25% concentration.

    • Jane says:

      My first whirlpool was brand new and the manual said to use 2 tablespoons of non-sudsing liquid dishwasher soap (I used Cascade) and about a cup of vinegar. Worked great at keeping bath and jets clean once we started to use the tub.

      I was very glad that bleach wasn’t needed since I’m terribly allergic to it. Plus bleach has to be used with such caution, so no bleach for me and my tub’s still shiny clean!! – inside and out.

  15. Deb says:

    Thanks for the great ideas BUT my spa is no longer working in the home I rent and I would love to be able to have a bath but the jets are old and so gross with mould and goodness know what. Any ideas on cleaning jets that don’t work???

    Cheers and thanks

    • Shar says:

      Did you read the above posts that told how to remove them and clean them? I don’t really know, but thought that might be your answer. Good luck!

  16. Sasha says:

    I found this inexpensive product called Plumb Clean (the one with the yellow label), that when used as directed, has effectively worked in my whirlpool bath. I use it regularly and have had no black yucky flakes or oily residue in my bath! Finally I can take a relaxing bath again and not have to worry about disgusting germs! Awesome! P.S…I wonder why the kitchen and bath manufacturers don’t tell you this…bleach can ruin your plastic seals in your tub and then you have bigger issues.
    http://www.kitchenbathsinks.net/products/Plumb-Clean-Whirlpool-%26-Airbath-Cleaner-%28single-bottle%29.html

  17. Jennifer Cruts says:

    I just bought a house built in 2000. I can’t even begin cleaning because I don’t know who manufactured the tub.

  18. Jmrw says:

    Will Hydrogen peroxide clean a junky jetted tub alone… maybe a bottle per running cycle?

  19. Susan says:

    Vinegar and bleach create toxic chlorine gas. It can make you really sick…and it CAN kill you. Don’t use together. I’m using ahh-some and alternating with the oh yuk stuff…I’m fairly certain this will never end.

    • Tanya says:

      Not true, my child had a staph infection on the skin and our pediatrician told me to fill the tub like normal and add a half cup of bleach and a half cup of white vinegar to dry up the infection , we have used this recipe in the bath for insect bites, poisen ivy etc

  20. TC says:

    Just bought an old farm house with a tub like this…trying a bit more bleach….well water and the softener had been turned off before we arrived.
    I cant imagine getting in before at least 1 good cleaning and another run through of just hot water and 20 min run tomorrow. I’ll follow up.

  21. Dale Walters says:

    I’m cleaning my whirlpool tub as I write this. While watching all the soot whirling around I got an idea. My daughter’s butterfly net! It’s very fine mesh and catches all the junk. It’s working like a champ.

  22. cristy says:

    We have not just black, yucky flecks but little black worms (upon research, we learned that these are drain fly maggots YUCK!) Imagine relaxing in a nice, hot bath only to look down to see you’re not alone. YIKES! We have tried everything short of taking the inner workings out. Have lived here 2+ years but never a problem until a couple months ago. We have no clue where this is coming from.

  23. Rachel says:

    If you really want to clean the jets out (while the jets are running) block two jets at the same time and cigar sized chucks will come shooting out the jets. Then do it to the other jets. I used my finger to block the jets, just closing the jets off wasn’t enough pressure. We’ve only lived in our house 1 year and we built it ourselves so I was shocked at the amount of funk coming out. I wish I could up load pictures to this blog.

  24. Beth says:

    Cleaning my tub as I type, I always joke that my kids are the cleanest kids in town because they LOVE taking baths in my jet tub.

  25. Laurie Dunn says:

    I do one, two three cleaning.
    30 minutes hot water with one cup of dishwasher detergent.
    30 minutes warm water with one cup of bleach.
    30 minutes cold water with one cup of vinegar.

    I am prone to infections. This regiment, once a month has never failed me.

  26. Lisa says:

    Awesome! So glad i found this

    • Lisa says:

      Also, unfortunately, my cat fell in hot water..trying to jump in window. I promise she got out fast and i dried her off!

  27. Cindy says:

    I have a Bain Ultra jet tub and didn’t realize that it needed to be clean since my kids don’t like the jets. I called Bain Ultra and they recommended filling the tub with hot water 2 to 3 inches pass the jets. Add two gallons of bleach, turn on the jets for 5 seconds for the bleach to mix in, then let it soak for 12 hours. Then turn on the jets for 10 seconds,, on and off, 4 times. Make sure to let the jets blow out all the extra water after draining. I will be doing this today and will add the additional cold water raise with dish detergent.

  28. Tabatha says:

    Hi!! I’m so grateful for this post!

    Years later and here I am having to deep clean the jets from the Whirlpool tub that came with our house (we purchased 2 months ago, but the tub is original to the 2005 build).

    We’ve had to replace the pump and all the trim, but my oh my the gunk in these lines!!

    Thanks again for the great tips!!

  29. Robin says:

    Did u find anything about using dishwashing pods instead of straight dw detergent? I didn’t have any plain stuff so used 2 pods—this tub was likely NEVER cleaned before we bought this house and it takes a LOT of water to fill so thought it would take 2 pods to even out. (I was using Bob Villa’s directions and didn’t see anything about the powder form could be hard on the finish of the metal—oops!) Turned out my shiny brass fittings cane out shiny, not damaged but don’t know if this was luck or that pods are safe.

    It worked GREAT!! Only had to do one cleaning run and pounds of black gunk came out. I emptied and wiped down well then decided to disinfect.

    Didn’t have plain white vinegar, didn’t think I should risk bleach on these older pipes. So I used white wine vinegar. After the vinegar run, saw no black gunk, just some white scale so it must have done the job of helping de scale as it disinfected.

    One more run, this time plain water and no gunk/leftovers found!!!

    Note, be sure to turn the jets to high to give as much pressure as possible to blast that stuff out!!

    Thx for your research and post.

    • Samantha says:

      Hi Robin – this is all great info, feedback and tips so thank you very much!!!

      My pleasure putting together this post – it’s been years and still one of the most popular. So funny to me since I’m a professional organizer haha!

      Thank you again!!

      xx,
      Sam

  30. Carol says:

    You system does work but I came Along an easier method just by accident. I took a soaking bath only in my jet tub with Epsom Salt. Just on a whim I turned on the jets and of course black flakes. So ran for about 10 minutes. I drained and repeated the next day and no flakes. Then had been around a month started my jet tub and no fakes. So maybe something to look at.
    Thanks
    Carol

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