Q: I have a whirlpool tub made by Jacuzzi. My question is how do I effectively clean the jets? I’ve bought the jet-cleaning solution made by Jacuzzi, but I’m not satisfied with the cleaning. How do I give the jets a good flushing?
A: With whirlpool tubs, you need to clean a few different pieces: the hidden piping where the water recirculates, the jets and the drain cover.
Cleaning the piping is most vexing. All drainpipes collect gunk, but in other places in your home, you don’t see it unless you need to open a trap or other fitting to undo a clog. In a whirlpool tub, the pump sends the debris into the tub itself. Because you can’t see the interior of the piping, you think you’ve cleaned — and then more yucky stuff shows up the next time you use the tub.
To minimize this problem, Jacuzzi, the brand that came out with the first whirlpool tub in 1968, now has a feature called Auto-Dri, which blows remaining air out of the system after the tub drains. If your tub has this feature, make sure it is working.
Also, avoid using oily bath products. If you want scents, get them from candles. Water-soluble products such as powdered bubble soap should be okay, but if you want to be especially cautious, run the jets while only plain water is in the tub. Then switch off the jets and use your shampoo, creamy hair conditioner and other bath products. When you drain the tub, those will go directly down the drain and not into the pipes for the recirculating water.
To clean the piping for recirculating water, Jacuzzi recommends its two-part, branded cleaner, Systems Clean, which is apparently what you bought.
Part 1 is an alkaline cleaner containing sodium metasilicate, while Part 2 contains that cleaner plus a powder with salts of chlorinated isocyanurate, which supplies chlorine. Kohler, which also makes whirlpool tubs, recommends cleaning with two teaspoons of a low-foaming, powdered automatic dishwashing detergent and 20 ounces of household bleach. That combination seems to be similar to what’s in the Jacuzzi cleaner.
Instructions for how to use the cleaners differ by brand, and there is a lot of contradictory advice on the internet. So make sure you are following the appropriate instructions. While Kohler, for example, says to clean without any air and run the jets for five to 10 minutes, the Jacuzzi cleaner’s label says you need to add Part 1 with the air running at the lowest setting, add Part 2 after the jets have been running for 30 seconds, then run for five to 10 minutes. After emptying the tub, Kohler just says to rinse, but Jacuzzi says to refill with plain water and run for two to three minutes, then drain and clean the tub.
Even within the Jacuzzi instructions, though, there is muddled advice. The operating manual for its Pure Air, Whirlpool and Salon Spa tubs says: “To remove accumulations of bathtub residue from the whirlpool system, it is recommended that a Whirlpool bathtub be cleaned at least twice a month. For best results, we recommend that you clean your Whirlpool bathtub after each use using Systems Clean, our exclusive two-part plumbing system cleaner made specifically for Whirlpool bathtubs.” Unless you use the tub only twice a month, you’re left wondering how often you need to clean.
A customer service representative for Jacuzzi, who asked not to be identified by name, said cleaning once a month should be sufficient, unless the piping hasn’t been cleaned regularly. In that case, you may need to clean and then clean again several times, he said. Since the Auto-Dri feature should be blowing all of the water out of the pipes after each cleaning, you might get the best results by doing several cleanings back to back, so that the remaining gunk is more likely to stay soft and able to be rinsed away.
If going through packet after packet of the branded cleaner gets too expensive, the representative suggested switching to adding a couple of cups of white vinegar in a tub full of water. Eventually, you should see just clean water when you run the jets.
There are two other cleaning details, though. Sometimes the jets themselves get tangled with hair or other debris. To clean them, Jacuzzi recommends pulling the nozzle straight out. You can then separate it from the casing by pushing the nozzle out from the back. And the suction cover/hair strainer can collect hair or other gunk. To clean that, remove the center screw and flush away the debris from the back. An old toothbrush can come in handy here.