While some whirlpool tub manufacturers state that bath salts are safe to use in their tubs, others don't recommend it at all, or only when using the tub without turning on the whirlpool jets. Plain bath salts offer the best potential for dissolving completely without harming the tub, but of any type of bath salt has potential to clog the inner workings of the whirlpool or even damage the pump if the jets are used with salts in the water.
Plain Bath Salts Are Best
Basic bath salts begin as naturally occurring minerals, such as sea salt, which contains sodium chloride and other trace minerals. Some bath salts contain blends of ingredients, such as magnesium chloride, epsom salts and essential oils. Each bath salt blend is designed to help with relaxation by helping ease discomforts such as muscle aches or skin inflammation.
A basic, plain bath salt such as Dead Sea salt—free of added oils or fragrances—is the best form of salt to use in a whirlpool tub, largely because there are no oily residues that might gum up the whirlpool's intake valve. Check the packaging before purchase to ensure the salt has no additives such as fragrances, dyes or essential oils. For best results, make sure the salt dissolves completely. Start with a small amount of salt in hot bathwater to get a feel for how easily and quickly the salt dissolves. Powdered salt or small chunks dissolve faster than large pieces. To completely avoid the possibility of damage to the pump or other parts of the whirlpool's inner workings, soak in the tub without using the jets at all.
Avoid Added Oils
Salts containing fragrance oils or essential oils may damage the pump, coat the whirlpool's inner plumbing or even harm the tub itself. Acrylic tubs are prone to permanent discoloration from direct contact with some essential oils, although this usually does not happen if adding the salts to water already in the tub. Oily additives could also cause bacterial growth or even mold within the whirlpool plumbing.
Cleaning the Whirlpool
Keeping a whirlpool in good shape means cleaning its inner workings at least once a month or after each time you use bath products in the tub. Consult the owner's manual for recommended cleaning instructions, as these may vary slightly by manufacturer.
If you suspect salt or bath-product residue in the whirlpool's hidden parts, here's a process for cleaning:
- fill the clean tub with enough hot water to submerge the uppermost jets by at least 2 inches.
- Add 2 cups white vinegar to the water, then close the air-induction valves (unless your tub manufacturer recommends otherwise).
- Turn the jets to the HIGH settign and leave them on for 15 minutes, or until no more new debris enters the tub from the inner workings of the whirlpool.
- Drain the water, wipe out any residue left inside the tub, then fill the tub again, this time with warm water.
- Run the jets for another 15 minutes, drain, then clean the inside of the tub as you would during a normal cleaning routine. Do not use any harsh abrasives that may damage the tub's surface.
Check the Intake Valve Screens
The mesh intake-valve covers are designed to catch debris that may otherwise clog the whirlpool plumbing. Look for the valves covered by mesh screening, typically on the tub's floor. These are the intake valves. Remove the covers with a screwdriver, then scrub the covers and rinse them thoroughly. Replace the covers before using the tub again.