Reuben's Home Inspection Blog

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Want to gross out your buyer? Don't clean your whirlpool.

Have you ever turned on a whirlpool and seen a bunch of nasty black gunk shoot out of the jets?  I've heard it's either mold or some kind of bacteria that feeds off dead skin cells.  Personally, I don't care what the stuff is - it's gross no matter what.  If the water in the circulation piping sits stagnant for a while, there's a good chance that this black gunk will start growing; it can take as little as a month for this to happen.

Nasty WhirlpoolWhirlpool Gunk

I've heard some home inspectors say that if this black gunk comes out of the jets, they won't even drain the water in the tub if they have to stick their arm in, because they're too grossed out.  Personally, I have no such issues and I prefer to leave the house in the same condition that I found it in, if I can.

To prevent this black gunk from accumulating in your whirlpool,  you're supposed to clean it at least monthly, depending upon the manufacturer.  Pretty crazy, huh?  Here's what a few of the larger manufacturers say:

American Standard: Once a month, fill the whirlpool with warm water, add two teaspoons of powdered automatic dishwasher detergent and 4 ounces of bleach, and run the system for two minutes.  Drain the tub, fill it again with cold water, and run it again for five minutes.

KohlerTwice a month or more, fill the whirlpool with warm water,  add two teaspoons of powdered automatic dishwasher detergent and 20 ounces of bleach, and run the system for five to ten minutes.

JacuzziTwice a month or more, clean the whirlpool with their exclusive cleaning product, called Systems Clean.

My two cents: Maintaining a whirlpool tub is a lot of work.  Not as much as a spa, but still... who would have thought?  Oh, and to Jacuzzi for only giving instructions to clean with their exclusive cleaning product - boo.

If you're planning to sell your home and you have a whirlpool tub, take the time to clean the system out, especially if you never use it.  If a bunch of black gunk comes out of the jets when the home inspector tests the system in front of the buyers, they're really going to be grossed out with your bathroom.

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections

        

Comment balloon 20 commentsReuben Saltzman • September 27 2011 06:09AM

Comments

I LOVE that on a home inspection!  It gives me the opportunity to tell them the stuff you describe here about cleaning that monster.

OK, I tell them anyway...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Reuben - great post; honestly, it never occured to me that the jets would need cleaning....or at least not that often.

Posted by Carol Zingone, Global Realtor in Jax Beach, FL - ABR, CRS, CIPS (Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Florida Network Realty) over 6 years ago

Hi Reuben,

Black gunk?

Interesting post.

I spent most of the time reading, wondering what a whirlpool was. I guess we use different words up here.

Thanks

PHil

Posted by Phil Leng, Phil Leng - Retired (Retired) over 6 years ago

Great advise for those who plan to sell a home with a whirlpool. And great advise for those who do not plan to sell their house but have a whirlpool and have no idea they are supposed to clean the system on a regular basis.

Posted by Carlotta Remong (Berkshire Hathaway HS N.E. Prime Properties) over 6 years ago

Jay - got any good tips for cleaning that stuff out once the tub fills up with it?

Carol - I think most people assume that as long as they don't use the system, it shouldn't need cleaning.

Phil - instead of black gunk, how about 'crap' ?  As for 'whirlpool'... what do you call 'em in your area?

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 6 years ago

Carlotta - Until I researched this, I had no idea how often they were supposed to be cleaned either.  I always used to tell my clients to do this a couple times a year.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 6 years ago

Yours - dishwash soap, because it doesn't bubble, and bleach.  NO ammonia!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago
Always fun to clean after the inspection, too. I bring a towel to wipe 'em down. I betcha 90% or more that I test, look just like the one in your picture. I'm sure lot of it boils down to lack of use due to most people not having the time to take a bath. I think most people put them in to say, "Hey look, I've got a whirlpool & you don't." IMO, they should start putting them in the kids bathroom. They actually use & enjoy them.
Posted by Joshua Frederick, Home Inspector in Defiance & all of Northwest Ohio (Home Inspector for ASPEC Residential Services, LLC) over 6 years ago

Why wouldn't an inspector not drain a tub? You should have to stick your arm in the water. I see the black stuff on about half the whirlpools I test. You're right, GROSS!

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 6 years ago

Who would of thought! Now I'm not sure if I ever want to go in a public whirlpool again!

Posted by Michael S. Bolton, MN Appraiser (Michael S. Bolton,Inc.) over 6 years ago

Reuben, I would guess that regular cleaning would be news to most hot tub owners

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) over 6 years ago

Since we have a hot tub outside (and my husband is meticulous in keeping it clean), I never use our whirlpool tub. Guess I better fill it up and turn it on!

Posted by Shar Sitter, Home Staging and Redesign Minneapolis/ St. Paul, M (Rooms With Style) over 6 years ago

Reuben:  this is exactly what happened at my last home inspection with a buyer.   The bits of dark stuff started shooting out of the jets.  It was awful.  When we left I informed the Seller's agent that the black stuff still in the tub was from trying to run the jets.   Yes - it was disgusting!!!!

Posted by Valerie Zinger, Home Organizer (House Proud Ottawa-Ontario-Canada) over 6 years ago

Reuben,

I have a little cleaning comment that I have for my clients. 

That tub is nothing compared to most crawlspaces ; )

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Jay - I meant how do you clean all that scum out of the tub during your inspection?

Joshua - I've found that if you can direct all of the water to the drain and not let that black stuff settle on the tub walls, you don't end up leaving much of a mess at all when your done.  Good idea bringing a towel along though.  I always keep one in my truck for emergencies.

James - delicate sensibilities.

Michael - public whirlpools are loaded with chlorine... although I've heard reports of problems with public whirlpools.  Hmm.  I don't blame you.

Chris - hot tub owners need to keep their chemicals mixtures 'just so', which actually takes weekly maintenance.  I just set up a hot tub at my own house this summer, and I was surprised at how much work it was.  If a hot tub owner doesn't stay on top of maintaining the water... yeah.  Gross. 

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 6 years ago

Shar - can't say I blame you.  I haven't used my own whirlpool since I set up a hot tub this summer.  Well, and it's been warm too...  a hot bath in warm weather just seems wrong and weird.

Valerie - leaving a note is a lot better than making the sellers wonder why the inspector created a mess.

Donald - I might have to use that line - the only problem is that we don't have many crawl spaces here in Minnesota.  

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 6 years ago

After the water drains, I splash water around until it goes away.  If all out fails, the old electrical lick test works for getting rid of goop, but you already knew that.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Solid advice, Jay.  I've always wondered if that stuff tasted like chocolate.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 6 years ago

Reuben --  My wife worked for a hot tub company for a while and found out how much work they were to maintain, so when we remodeled the bathroom, we got an airjet model tub -- so that the water isn't sitting in the tubes.  It still requires that we run the jets after using the tub to get all the moisture out.

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) over 6 years ago

I agree with what most say here. Just wanted to add a couple different approaches.

I own and operate a spa and jeted bath repair company here in KC for over 25 years.

 

Cleaning your Jetted bath tub:

1.    Fill tub with hot water to a couple inches above jets.

2.    Pour in about a half cup of bleach.

3.     In another container,  pre-mix about a 1/4 cup of cascade complete dishwashing detergent  and warm water ….pour it in also. Granulated is fine in emergencies.

4.    Using a rubber band, take cheese cloth and cover the suction fitting to catch flakes from recirculating.

5.    Run the jets for 15 minutes.

6.    Observe gunk and try not to choke.

7.    Empty tub Refill with cold water to above jets 

8.    Run jets to rinse - 10 minutes then empty.

 

Ask yourself, where does mold grow? In a dark and damp environment…just like the plumbing on your tub.   So….I always add another step.

 

9.    Fill tub with water to a couple inches above jets and add a cup of apple cider vinegar, circulate 10 minutes then drain. The apple cider contains at least 5 different anti-fungals.

        It’s hard to find but, use “Calgon Take Me Away” in every bath.

Posted by Gary Collins over 5 years ago

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