January 30, 2013

How To Clean Whirlpool Tub Jets

Our 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 I put our kiddos in the tub, added some bubbles, and turned on the jets. They were SO excited....until they saw black gunk, mold, residue and bacteria floating in the water.


I never before saw my kids jump out of a bubble bath so quickly.

Last week I spent a few days researching exactly how to clean the jets. We've never had a tub with jets, therefore this was a new cleaning adventure for me. I spent a day (yes an entire day - read on for more) cleaning the jets and can now happily tell you the tub is super duper clean. If you have a whirlpool bathtub at home, I hope this information will be useful to you.

First, I'm going to share exactly how I cleaned our tub/jets. Then I'll share some additional tips I 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 we 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 I 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 of dawn dish soap...

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 very 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 very 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 be able to find it online. This is important for a couple reasons -

1. Some manufacturer's recommend specific cleansers for their tubs
2. Some manufacturer's recommend closing the air controls on each jet so there is no air induction during the cleaning process
and 3. Some manufacturer's 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 Complete liquid.

The Kohler website recommends this cleaning concoction for their jetted tubs: add 2 teaspoons of low-foaming of 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, shampoo's, 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 a lot of the 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 to me. 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!


  1. 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!

    1. 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. :-)


    2. 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. 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....

    1. 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 :)


  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. 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).

  7. 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. 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...

    1. 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. ???

    2. 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!

    3. 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.

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

  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