Natural alternative to hot tub chemicals -using essential oils in hot tub

I’m happy to say our hot tub is now chemical-free!  So for a few years now, I have been looking for alternatives to chemicals in our Hot Tub. I’ve been ditching toxic chemicals in other parts of our home, so this was the next step. Besides, spas are supposed to support a healthy lifestyle, but how can you do that when you are just soaking in a bunch of chemicals.

Before I switched this natural alternative to hot tub chemicals we were using Bromine, and every time my husband and I were soaking in it the next day, I always felt crappy, my eyes were red, and my skin was itchy. It got to the point where we didn’t use the hot tub for almost 2 years. After researching, I have discovered that Bromine and Chlorine are both endocrine disrupters.

I started researching and seeing what alternatives were out there. There are a few manufacturers of ‘natural’ chemicals, but wow, they were a little pricey. I also accessed a few articles about people using essential oils in their hot tubs.

What am I using as a natural alternative to hot tub chemicals?

What I ended up doing was using a combination of geranium essential oil and Thieves Household Cleaner (both from Young Living). The tub was already empty so we filled it with fresh water, I balanced the pH and then added in 10 drops of geranium oil and a cap full of Thieves Household Cleaner. That’s it! Such a simple natural alternative to hot tub chemicals!

Yes, I do use the test strips for measuring. You can use Baking Soda to raise the Ph if needed and Vinegar to lower it.

We have been doing this for about 8 months now and it seems to be working great. I add in about a capful of Thieves every other week or so and I do clean out the filter more often now (once a month). We only use our tub about once a week, so if we end up using it more, I will just add in a little more Thieves Household Cleaner. The water has been staying crystal clear. I even toss in a few essential oils (lavender, joy) right before we soak to give us a great aromatherapy session too.

I’m so happy I gave this a try, the spa is actually now refreshing instead of making me feel crappy. We also now use it for our son as part of his detoxing program. Below is a photo of him enjoying his soak, he loves it 🙂

natural alternative to hot tub chemicals

Now our hot tub is over 15 years old so I wasn’t too worried about ruining it, so obviously do this at your own risk. That being said I feel that it’s actually gentler on the spa. Before going natural I had a tendency of leaving the spa alone for a few weeks and not checking on the chemicals and it would get crusty or film would be on the hot tub. I don’t see that after changing to a natural alternative to hot tub chemicals

Now to try and figure out how to do this to the pool too 🙂



Jen P

Hi! I'm Jen, and I love teaching others how to live a toxic-free life. It's time to ditch those chemicals and get back to better wellness.

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  1. Kim Tubergen on September 17, 2017 at 9:35 pm

    Hi jen-
    I’m just about to venture into a chemical free hot tub. It’s new to us so I don’t have experience in any using any chemicals so we are starting fresh. I’m curious if you are still using the Thieves cleaner and geranium oil for your hot tub? If so, how often do you add geranium oil? Thank you!

    • Jen on September 18, 2017 at 10:01 am

      YES! I’m still using Thieves in our Hot Tub and it’s wonderful! to be honest I lost my bottle of geranium (Yikes!) so I have just been using Thieves Household Cleaner and it’s been working fine. I put in a capful every week. We change out the water about every 6 months and I clean off the filter about once a month. The water stays clear, feels great and in my opinion is better for the Hot Tub. I think the other chemicals were harsh on the parts.

  2. Tami on October 18, 2017 at 11:26 am

    I just switched our hot tub to Chem free
    Ours is 500 gal
    To start I emptied and cleaned with thrives cleaner
    Cleaned filters with thrives cleaner and a couple drops of thrives oil in laundry sink.
    Filled tub and ran jets
    Emptied tub again and refilled to start process.
    How much thrives cleaner would u suggest.
    I put a cap and a half in with 6 drops geranium
    But I smell a little funk in the water.
    It’s looks clear not cloudy at all and feels great but when I open lid it has a little smell to it.
    I’m 3 weeks into the change over from chlorine.
    Any suggestions?

    • Jen on October 20, 2017 at 1:36 pm

      I only use a capful of the Thieves Household cleaner. What does the funk smell like, is it the geranium you smell? It could also be some chemicals that were in your jets/pipes. It will probably take awhile for it all to run through. Your cover is probably still holding some chemicals in it… I know it’s taking awhile for our to stop smelling like bromine.

  3. Jacquie on October 24, 2017 at 11:11 pm

    Just curious if you use test strips and use chemicals to keep ph in balance?

    • Jen on October 29, 2017 at 9:05 am

      Yes I do use the test strips for measuring. You can use Baking Soda to raise the Ph if needed and Vinegar to lower it.

  4. Kyla on October 28, 2017 at 7:55 pm

    How did you balance your pH?

    • Jen on October 29, 2017 at 9:05 am

      I use test strips for measuring and then use Baking Soda to raise the Ph if needed and Vinegar to lower it.

  5. Susan on December 28, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    I use thieves cleaner in my hot tub, but I see a lot of people adding geranium EO. Why is this?

    • Jen on January 7, 2018 at 10:56 am

      Geranium oil can be a immune booster.

  6. Elaina Smith on January 18, 2018 at 2:29 pm

    Hi Jen ,
    I just changed our tub to the essential oils as well…1500 litre tub.
    I was given instructions to put
    20 drops of both geranium and thieves eo. Also to soak filters in the thieves cleaner solution for 12 hrs. Then rinse well.
    It’s been 3 days , we’ve used it 2x .
    And it’s murky today…
    Can I ask how much of either baking soda or vinegar you add at a time ?
    I did use a test strip and it read extremely high on alkalinity and ph.
    I’m so glad I found your site to read! And get advice!!!!
    The idea of a chemical free tub is amazing!
    Thank you

    • Jen on January 19, 2018 at 8:51 am

      More than likely the cloudy is from the high ph/alkalinity. If it’s super high I would put in like a 1/4 cup and see how much it changes. I’d go little by little so that you can see the changes and you don’t end up on the other end.

      I love our chemical free tub!! The water feels so much better to me!

  7. Treca on February 22, 2018 at 4:31 pm

    Hello, I have skin allergies and always breaking out. I am wanting to change our hot tub (500 gal) over to all natural. Currently our hot tub is very cloudy and I will be adding vinegar to clear it up and hopefully get in back in balance. When I change, do I need to refill fresh or can I start with a balanced spa?

    • Jen on February 22, 2018 at 4:46 pm

      I would refill it fresh, this way you get all the old chemicals out.

  8. Lisa Edwards on April 12, 2018 at 4:40 pm

    Hi Jen, I’m so happy to have found your site. I have a new 205 gallon hot tub. I want to use your natural formula from the start. I will begin by naturally balancing PH with baking soda as recomended (1 box?). Would you still recommend 10 drops of geranium oil and a capful of Thieves to start for a small 205 gallon tub? Thank you for your advice!

    • Jen on April 16, 2018 at 11:07 pm

      How much balancing is going to be determined by the water you are using so just go slow and add as needed. Yes, I would still use the cap-full and the geranium 🙂

  9. Tanner on April 16, 2018 at 9:43 pm

    we are awaiting our first ever hot tub. what do you recommend as a start up and maintenance program? my wife and i are really looking forward to the relax time at night and want to minimize the chemicals to make the experience better

    • Jen on April 16, 2018 at 11:08 pm

      I would recommend the same as I did… fill the tub, balance the pH and then add in the Thieves Household cleaner and geranium.

  10. Paige Edwards on May 21, 2018 at 8:42 am

    Thank you for posting! We FINALLY got a great hot tub used that I intended to use as a therapy spa using ozone and iodine and I’ve not been able to free up the iodine to make it work, and using the hydrogen peroxide lowered the acidity (did not know hydrogen peroxide does that until I was researching further!) and now it’s a cloudy mess and still not enough free iodine to sanitize.

    I’m a praying woman and so I turned to God for answers and found you and a couple of other places mentioning the thieves cleaner successfully. I realized that not only would it be far more affordable, but I could still use some Potassium Iodide in the spa, only not to sanitize it, but so the body would have access to it as is for our needs through the skin and that this would be a far better option! Instead of trying to find cups of potassium Iodide, let alone the expense, I can use a couple of tbsp! (I’ve done this before in bath soaks with much smaller amounts and my skin feels SO good and soft for hours after!!)

    We have 375 gal spa, and will likely use it almost daily if not every other day, so I’m guessing a cap full of thieves cleaner every other day after we soak, and geranium oil once a week. Thoughts? Thanks again for sharing your experience with it!

    • GlutenfreeinSacramento on October 1, 2019 at 9:27 pm

      Did you use the potassium iodide? If so, did it work well for you?

      • Jen on October 2, 2019 at 11:28 am

        No, I didn’t use potassium iodide, just the geranium oil and Thieves household cleaner.

  11. Paige Edwards on June 5, 2018 at 8:57 am

    I don’t know if you have any thoughts on this, but I filled up with water, tested the ph/alkalinity, and it was just right. Added the geranium eo and thieves cleaner and still great ph/alkalinity. I did have to add some calcium because of our water is naturally crazy soft. But ph/alkalinity was still fine.
    We soaked in the hot tub and next morning water was cloudy. So I tested and the ph/alkalinity was high. I ran out of vinegar so I don’t know if bringing it back down into range will clear up the cloudiness, but I think I’m more baffled by why soaking in the hot tub seemed to send the ph off balance. Is this unusual?

    • Jen on June 7, 2018 at 4:30 pm

      There’s lots of reasons the pH can go out of wack. It might have been something in your suits, lotion you had on, etc. I would adjust the levels back and it should clear up. Also be sure your filter is clean.

      • Paige Edwards on June 26, 2018 at 1:09 pm

        Awesome! Thanks, we did and everything is clear and perfect! We are loving our Thieves method! My husband actually really likes the geranium eo (he’s not a fan of the flower, so this surprised him) and I’m going to add some cedarwood eo occasionally. For whatever our needs are, I sense it will pair nicely!

  12. Paige Edwards on July 16, 2018 at 11:50 pm

    Seems we have another issue. Our water is now slimy. Just curious, did your spa have an ozone generator? Ours does, but it doesn’t seem to be affecting it. We drained and refilled the spa Saturday afternoon and 36 short hours later hubby went to use it and it was already slimy again. Any suggestions? When I read up on it I keep seeing that slimy or slippery surfaces is a water sanitation issue. “Add more chlorine/bromide”.
    We didn’t have this problem for the first month, once we got the ph balanced we were home free! Then the check valve on the ozone generator failed and the water back flowing into it ruined the ozone generator. We replaced it and have been struggling with slime problems since. But I realized that you never mention that you have/had ozone for sanitizing. Just the thieves. (We are on well water. Maybe that’s contributing to the problem?)
    I guess ultimately, I’m just wondering if you have any suggestions?

  13. Bobbie Meese on August 20, 2018 at 10:13 am

    We are on well water and often treat for water hardness. Right now we use calcium to adjust.
    I want to go to the Young Living treatment you discuss, but am concerned about the water hardness.
    Does the protocol listed take care of the hardness in the tub or is there something else I need to use?

    • Jen on August 22, 2018 at 9:26 am

      The Thieves is just replacing the bromine so you will probably need to keep using the calcium to adjust the hardness. Just be sure to test it, you might not need as much.

  14. Korek on September 11, 2018 at 1:26 pm

    Hi Jen. Thank you for having this forum. I just started this method over the last few days. Our water’s PH starts at about 7.8-8 then start rising after a day or so. The alkalinity starts at about 80 then starts dropping. I am tempted to use Baking soda to bring it back up, but the PH will rise with it. I have probably put about 5 capfuls of Thieves cleaner in over the last 4 days. Do you have any suggestions on how to being down the PH and bring up the alkalinity? Thank you

    • Jen on September 19, 2018 at 8:01 am

      I’m not sure how you would bring up pH and down alkalinity. You might want to wait a few days and see if the alkalinity will adjust along with the pH. If you just switched over you might also have leftover chemicals from before, again waiting a few days might clear it then. If it’s not balancing then you can also use regular hot tub products to adjust the levels. I know the point is not to use chemicals but if you are only using them to adjust it’s still much better than using them all the time.

  15. Jenn on October 9, 2018 at 10:40 am

    Do you have hard or soft water?

    • Jen on October 9, 2018 at 11:03 am

      We are on well water

  16. Denise on October 18, 2018 at 10:30 pm

    Hi Jen love your site. I just bought a soft tub 300 (used) and it came with all kinds of bottles of chemicals so I was online trying to figure out what too do when I came across your site what a lifesaver you are. Plan on trying your way first as I like natural versus chemicals. May be back with some questions.

  17. Sarah on October 24, 2018 at 3:04 pm

    Hello, thank you for sharing all this great information! We just moved to a place with an old hot tub. We are trying to get it up and running and want to maintain an all natural sauna. Do you ever conduct tests to check for bacteria? Just curious if this is necessary or if the thieves just always works it’s magic?

    • Jen on October 26, 2018 at 5:30 pm

      I don’t conduct tests for bacteria… but then again I never did when I had a hot tub with bromine. If you were worried about it you could test it 🙂

  18. Liz on January 8, 2019 at 8:10 am

    Hi, we are awaiting our new hot tub. Our water is EXTREMELY soft. Do I need to make adjustments for this?

    • Jen on January 13, 2019 at 11:48 am

      I don’t think you would need to but it might depend on what your water is softened with. I would be sure to rinse off out the filter often when it’s first starting up.

  19. Bobbie on March 18, 2019 at 3:42 pm

    Started using this suggested process in November. Am very happy with no chemicals to irritate my skin.

    I cleaned and changed the water twice before going to this process. Upon using the tub, after the second use, the water became slightly cloudy. Testing the water came up with very good test results. I continued with the process and after about 3 months i had to clean out again because the water became scummy and brownish. Think I may have added too much Theives. Drained the tub and added fresh water.

    Again with second use, tub became cloudy again. Testing the water showed within good results.

    We are on well water and hardness has tested within good limits.

    Any suggestions??

    • Jen on March 25, 2019 at 9:05 am

      Make sure your filter is cleaned well and clean it often. Well water has lots of impurities in it and your filter needs to run for a bit to clear them all out.

  20. GlutenfreeinSacramento on September 26, 2019 at 3:29 pm

    I have a year old spa and Im going to try this! Thank you so much for posting this blog that I would of never have known about otherwise. My hot tub has an ozonator, but I don’t think that should make a difference. I anticipate having the chlorine as zero on my strips. Can’t wait to try this method out!

    • Jen on September 27, 2019 at 7:45 am

      Correct your strips will say zero chlorine/bromine. Seeing that blank spot always made me so happy, I hated sitting in those chemicals! Ours did not have an ozonator but I don’t think that would make a difference. Have fun!

  21. Brandy on April 7, 2020 at 8:04 am

    Could you use thieves cleaner in an Inflatable hot tub? We want an inflatable for occasional use for sore muscles….. don’t want to use any chemicals.

    • Jen on April 7, 2020 at 4:16 pm

      I have never tried it but I don’t see why not.

    • EH on July 21, 2021 at 1:19 pm

      Have you tried this? we are seriously considering an inflatable hot tub…
      Also, I know that woman have trouble with yeast infections from hot tubs… does the thieves work better for that reason?

  22. Dona MillerRuger on May 8, 2020 at 5:00 am

    I’m wondering how much thieves I’d use for a 18’ pool.

    • Jen P on May 8, 2020 at 8:36 am

      I haven’t tried it in the pool yet, but I have been thinking about it 🙂

  23. Herman K on July 5, 2022 at 10:39 am

    Hello Jen.

    So much great info here. We just got a hot tub, and struggling with keeping things clear using chemicals. Happened across this site, and really love the idea of not bathing in toxins. I see a lot of these comments are 2-3 years old. Your about 5 years into thieves, it seems. Are you still happy with it so far? Any

    • Jen P on July 7, 2022 at 4:03 pm

      We did end up getting rid of the hot tub because of a broken motor but I did use Thieves up until we got rid of it. We do plan on getting another one and I will be using Thieves in the one too.

  24. Katie H on February 15, 2023 at 5:22 pm

    Do you use a pre filter on your hose for filling the hot tub?

    • Jen P on February 22, 2023 at 11:08 pm

      We don’t, but we are on a well so we don’t have city water.

  25. Stacey Goulet on April 18, 2023 at 12:22 pm

    Hi there, I have been using Thieves Household Cleaner and Geranium EO in my hot tub for almost 3 weeks now and I’m kinda grossed out by the water – it’s murky and doesn’t smell quite right.

    Here’s what I did:
    The spa is about 200gal/775L and I drained it, cleaned it and the filters and the jets etc. filled with fresh water, added 20 drops of geranium and 1 cap of thieves cleaner. It was lovely, soaked for an hour and a half with hubby but the next morning it was murky. The water cleared up a bit over the next couple days so we went back in, this time I put 1 cap of thieves cleaner in when we got out. Next day, water still murky. We are almost 3 weeks in and while we both love the chemical free soaks, the water is starting to gross me out.

    Did a test strip and both the ph and alkalinity seem fine. Not sure what to do. Any ideas?

  26. Shannon on August 2, 2023 at 12:19 am

    Is anyone using this method with a Master Spa hot tub? I think they use less chemicals anyway but wondering if this would interfere with the special filter they have.

  27. Jashelle on November 16, 2023 at 1:05 pm

    Hey Stacey
    We used this method all last fall and just got our tub going this year and have been doing this again for about two weeks. I would suggest making sure your filters are clean. I’ve also started ‘shocking’ the tub with vinegar. I know this can mess with the ph but I find it takes any funk out of the water. I also started using all sorts of different antibacterial essential oils- not just geranium. I’m not sure why this oil was chosen specifically (on a couple different natural hot tub sites) but there are other heavy hitters in the EO world too. Tea tree oil, eucalyptus, peppermint, even lavender are a couple that have antibacterial fighting powers! Try some different things and use common sense…. That’s what I’m trying and so far so good! Lol

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