Slipping into a jetted bathtub can help give a u-turn to any not-so-great day. These bubbly oases can help relieve muscle tension or soreness from that killer workout (or for those who hold their stress in their bodies) and also improve circulation and reduce inflammation. Not a bad way to end the day, right? These bathing installations aren’t all sunshine and rainbows, though. Mold in a jetted tub can turn your relaxing day into a serious health hazard.
That’s right. While you’re getting your spa on, you could be sitting in a pool of water filled not only with all sorts of moldy particles but also with other contaminants as well. Like bacteria! Chances are that’s not exactly the direction you were going for when you hopped in for some one-on-one time with that bubbly water.
It’s like that saying, “You can’t just eat at anyone’s house,” except, in this case, you can’t just use a bathtub with jets at anyone’s house.
The good news is that there are steps you can take to prevent mold in a jetted tub from happening to you so that you can get your relaxation on. Here’s what you need to know!
Why Does Mold in a Jetted Tub Occur?
An icky tub can occur in the blink of an eye for a variety of reasons. The best way to understand why is to have a solid foundation about that fungus among us itself.
What’s the Deal With Mold?
Mold is a type of fungus, with over 100,000 species identified by researchers so far. It exists all over the world and plays a vital role in natural processes such as decomposition.
This microorganism reproduces by creating microscopic spores and releasing them into the surrounding space.¹’² Picture a dandelion releasing those fluffy white seeds into the air and you’ve got the right idea. Like seeds, these spores will remain non-living particles until they land on a surface with the right elements for growth. Thanks to their hardy nature, most species of mold spores only need two things to begin growing.³
These two components are:
A moisture source
- A food source
If a mold spore finds a surface where these are present for 24–48 hours, the spore will put down roots called hyphae (again, similar to those of a plant) and begin to grow. Once established, it will make itself at home and restart that reproductive cycle.
Understanding this shines a light on just how easily indoor mold growth can occur and why prevention is so important so that our indoor spaces do not become hazard zones.
How Mold in a Jetted Tub Pops Up
Going off of the information above, mold in a jetted tub can come about pretty easily.
When it comes to food sources, organic matter such as skin cells and bath products offer phenomenal options for that fungus among us. Tack on the mineral buildup from the water in the jets and other random particles floating around, and this is an easy box to check off.
As for moisture, tubs are made with water in mind! Every time you run a bath, this can create the perfect opportunity for mold to begin growing if that moisture does not dry out quickly. Not to mention, the bathroom itself is full of moisture. From steamy showers, wet towels and bathmats, running sinks, and flushing toilets, there’s an endless source of wetness in this room.
Basically, if a lucky mold spore landed in one of your bathtub jets, it will think it won the lottery dream home. Once those roots are down, your tub and bathroom can become one heck of a health hazard.
Is Mold in a Jetted Tub Dangerous?
As mentioned above, when mold grows, it releases microscopic spores into the surrounding space. Some species of mold also create microscopic toxins called mycotoxins when threatened, further adding to the particle party.⁴ Interestingly, while mycotoxins are regulated in our food products, no limits exist for acceptable levels in our homes.⁵
And, on top of all of that, bacteria can often grow in the same conditions as mold.⁶ This adds yet another complex layer to the contamination situation going on in the tub.
The ability of these particles to cause problems largely rests on their size. Measured in a unit called a micron, mold spores, fragments, mycotoxins, and bacteria can all be inhaled, ingested, and absorbed into the body.
The EPA further classifies these types of particles as particulate matter and breaks them down into two categories.⁷
These two categories are:
PM10: particles that have a diameter of around 10 micrometers or less.
- PM2.5: fine particles that have a diameter of around 2.5 micrometers or less.
A common misconception is that since mold is everywhere, it’s not a big deal when it grows inside a home. That is not true.
Yes, we are exposed to all of these particles throughout our regular day while driving down the street, walking into work, and even hanging out in our homes. As we can’t put a bubble around ourselves or our indoor environments, it’s impossible to completely avoid coming into contact with some of the particles floating around. When this typically occurs, the body will tag these particles as foreign invaders and send the immune system to kick them to the curb ASAP.
An indoor contamination situation is not the same scenario. Thanks to modern building practices pushing for net-zero energy efficiency, there’s very little airflow between indoor and outdoor environments. So, while particles from a mold colony outdoors have the entire world to disperse through, a majority of those from a colony indoors only have that enclosed space to blow around. The longer that contamination situation exists indoors, the more particles will build up in the space.
- Lowers the indoor air quality
- Contaminants the surfaces within
- Increases the chances of another colony developing elsewhere in the home
Now, instead of a few particles here and there throughout the day, the body is tasked with fighting off an entire army. This can lead to the immune system getting bogged down and/or malfunctioning, opening the door to chronic symptoms.⁸’⁹’¹⁰’¹¹’¹² It can also allow autoimmune conditions to take hold, such as Aspergillosis or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Some common symptoms of mold exposure include:
Headaches and migraines
- Joint and/or muscle pain
- Digestive issues
- Brain fog
- Chronic fatigue
- Flu and cold-like symptoms
- Hair loss
- Anxiety and/or depression
- Mood swings
- Skin issues such as rashes
- Hormone imbalances
The tricky thing is that no two people will respond the same way to a situation such as mold in a jetted tub. One individual may experience occasional digestive issues while another develops 17 symptoms and an autoimmune disease.
Much more research is needed to better understand how indoor contaminants affect our health, but it’s a tough subject to nail down. Factors such as genetics, mold species, mycotoxins, bacteria, length of exposure, and immune system status all play a role. For example, those with compromised or developing immune systems are at greater risk of developing symptoms faster and to a greater extent.
The potential for adverse health reactions is reason enough to want to avoid problems such as mold in a jetted tub. Not to mention, floating around in mold and bacteria is pretty high up there on the ick factor and definitely will not add to the relaxing atmosphere you were hoping for!
How to Prevent Mold in a Jetted Tub
The key to preventing mold in a jetted tub is reducing growth opportunities. That means eliminating food sources, removing particles such as mold spores, and reducing moisture as much as possible.
The more you can do to keep your tub safe, the more it will support your ongoing wellness.
That being said, here are some steps you can take to prevent mold in a jetted tub:
- Maintain indoor humidity levels between 35-50%¹³: Some mold species can grow in high humidity, so make sure to keep the levels low. Focus on creating airflow in the bathroom by turning on the exhaust fan when using the room and cracking a window or door. If that level just will not go down, consider investing in a dehumidifier for the space.
- Avoid bath oils and bubbles: This is probably a bummer, but all of these products contain components that can leave behind residue in your tub that microorganisms like mold can use as a food source. To avoid this, only use products specifically designed for jetted bathtubs that will not leave any particles behind.
- Maintenance after use: When you hop out of the tub, drain that water and then fill it up once more, about 2-3 inches above the jets. Turn them on for 10–15 minutes, and then drain. This will help flush away any particles hanging around from your bath.
- Hang up wet items to dry: After use, hang up towels, washrags, loofahs, and bathmats so that they can dry out properly after use. The less moisture in the room, the better.
- Clean the bathroom regularly: Using a HEPA vacuum cleaner, botanical cleaning products, and microfiber towels, deep clean the bathroom often to remove any spores, bacteria, and other particles present. The fewer particles there are in the room, the lower the opportunity for microbial growth.
- Avoid abrasive cleaning: This can lead to scratches in the tub, which will trap moisture and particles, creating the perfect opportunity for microbial growth.
- Deep clean it once a month: This is the most important step to help prevent mold in a jetted tub. Keep in mind that the more often you use the tub, the more frequently you should clean it. Regularly check for mold: The sooner you can find a problem, the better. Not only will it lessen exposure, but it will also prevent other problems from developing elsewhere in the bathroom (like those jets!) Areas to check include underneath the sink, the grout and caulk, the tub jets, the toilet tank, and the bathmat.
How to Deep Clean a Jetted Tub
The first thing you should do before tackling this cleaning project is check the manufacturer’s instructions. Every tub is different, so the individuals that created it will know best how to maintain it. Also, some of the steps may vary based on the specific tub. For example, some brands recommend closing the air valve controls while cleaning, and others recommend leaving them open.
From there, you can jump into your cleaning regimen. Luckily, it’s not an incredibly difficult process and won’t take you all day!
Steps to deep clean the tub include:
Wipe away any visible debris inside the tub with a microfiber towel
- Fill the tub with hot water until it reaches 2-3 inches above the jets
- Add a botanical cleaning solution such as white vinegar or PurTru
- Turn off the air-induction valves if the manufacturer’s instructions say that it’s okay (this will force the water and cleaning solution to only circulate through the internal plumbing of the tub)
- Run the jets on high for 10–15 minutes
- Drain the water from the tub
- Wipe any debris away with a microfiber towel
- Fill the tub with hot water once more, run the jets for 10–15 minutes, and then drain
- Liberally spray a botanical cleaner like Benefect Decon 30 over the interior of the tub, including the jets and air-intake valve cover
- Allow this to sit for 10 minutes, and then wipe away with a microfiber towel (you may need a small brush to reach the little nooks and crannies of the jets themselves)
- Run water through it one more time, and then drain it out
- Turn the air-intake valves back on (if they’re off)
- Allow the entire tub to dry completely
While this process is thorough, it will help ensure that your tub remains clean so that you can bathe in peace. If you’re not quite confident in how well you can clean the tub or if you recently bought a new house and want to make sure your new tub is in tip-top shape, contact a qualified professional to come out and clean it.
How to Tell If There’s Mold in a Jetted Tub
Sometimes, even with all of your hard work, contaminants like mold will still pop up and try to ruin your spa time. That fungus among us is seriously persistent. Knowing what signs to look out for can help ensure that your bath time isn’t bogged down with microscopic particles.
Are There Visible Issues?
With so many species existing in the world, mold colonies can come in a variety of colors, shapes, and textures. Some of the most common colors include green, white, grey, blue, red, black, brown, or a combination of them. As for textures, they could be fuzzy, powdery, velvety, or slimy.
If any type of unidentifiable growth pops up in the machine, it's a safe bet to assume there’s a mold problem. Grabbing a flashlight and looking closely at the jets is a great idea to help catch a problem.
Other aspects to look out for include:
- Murky water
- Particles floating around in the water
- Rings around the tub
Is There a Funky Smell?
Mold growth isn’t always visible. It could be in a hidden crevice inside the jets or in the pipes. In this instance, look to your nose to help determine if there’s a problem.
Growing mold often creates an earthy, musty, damp, cigar-like smell due to the release of gases called microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOC).¹⁴ If this odor is coming from the tub or the water, it points to a problem existing inside.
Do You Feel Weird After That Bath?
Baths are supposed to be relaxing and invigorating, but if you come out feeling not so great, that can indicate a problem. If chronic symptoms spark up after the bath or worsen over time, exposure to mold in a jetted tub might be the root cause.
Our bodies are incredible warning systems that will alert us if something’s wrong, including if there’s a contaminant in our indoor environments. It’s up to us to listen to these signals and figure out the root cause so that it can be eliminated.
How to Get Rid of Mold in a Jetted Tub
If any of the signs above pop up, it’s essential to handle the issue quickly and correctly. The longer it goes unaddressed, the more contamination there will be and the more particles that will enter your body.
The best option is to hire a professional to come in and give that system a serious clean-down. But! Make sure that they do NOT use bleach. In order to remove mold, all of the particles have to go, including roots and dead mold. Bleach cannot accomplish this, so it’s not the solution.
If you want to attempt to handle mold in a jetted tub on your own, follow the steps for deep cleaning but with a few modifications.
- Throw on protective gear, including goggles, a mask, and gloves
- When running the cleaning solution through the system with the jets on, complete this process at least two times
- Complete the spray and wipe down process two more times, allowing it to sit for 30 seconds this time before wiping away
- Use a new side of the microfiber towel after every wipedown
- Deep clean the bathroom afterward, using botanical products, a HEPA vacuum cleaner, and microfiber towels
If the mold comes right back, there’s more than likely an underlying issue allowing the problem to persist. In that case, it’s time to bring in a professional to determine if the pipes need to be changed or the tub replaced. When it comes to your health, you can never be too careful.
Putting the “Ahh” in Your Spa Time
At the end of the day, no one wants to soak in warm water that’s filled with all sorts of harmful particles. To really reap the benefits of your spa time, it’s important to actively work to prevent issues such as mold in a jetted tub. That way, you can throw on your favorite music, light a candle, and tune out the world for a bit.
Home health, including a clean tub, is a huge aspect of promoting our ongoing wellness. Even if we don’t always consider this piece of the puzzle! The more we can do to keep these spaces clean and contaminant-free, the healthier our bodies will be. And a happy body leads to a happy you!
Health begins at home.™
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