Faeces, urine and sweat – just how gross are hot tubs? A microbiologist explains

For many centuries we have bathed in communal waters. Sometimes for cleanliness but more often for pleasure. Indeed, in ancient Greece, baths were taken in freshwater, or sometimes the sea – which was thought of as a sacred place dedicated to local gods and so was considered an act of worship.

But it was the Romans who created state-sponsored aqueducts to allow for large-scale public baths. These were mainly used for relaxation but also for more private pleasures, too. Yes, the public baths were often where Romans did the dirty deed – sometimes with their bath attendant slaves.

Two millennia on, we’re still attracted to bathing communally, though many people now have their own hot tub or Jacuzzi – sales of which went up massively during the pandemic.

For those that don’t have their own, there’s always the local gym or spa. And many hospitals also feature one too. This is because Jacuzzis are often used therapeutically for relieving and treating joint inflammation in rheumatoid and osteoarthritis patients. Indeed, in many ways Jacuzzi bathing is regarded as a luxury treat experience – one that’s both relaxing and rejuvenating.

The warmth of the water within the Jacuzzi naturally widens blood vessels, which helps our muscles to relax and eases sore joints. As well as being physically comforting, a sense of psychological wellbeing may also be created by the buoyant warm water and the companionship of those who share the bathing experience.

Bacteria, viruses and fungi

But it’s also worth bearing in mind that when we enter the waters of a Jacuzzi whatever we have on our skin we deposit into the warm water swirling around us. This includes the 100mg or so of faeces that is usually present between our buttock cheeks. This means that while you’re relaxing in the warm water, you’ll likely breathe in or swallow your Jacuzzi partner’s body’s bacteria, viruses and fungi.

The more people in the Jacuzzi, the higher the levels of faeces and sweat shed into the water (and urine if anyone has peed in the water). And these bodily deposits can be used by the bacteria as direct nutrients.

As Jacuzzi owners are advised to change the water in their baths only around every three months, bacteria will grow. For microbiological safety, most Jacuzzis that recirculate water have microbe-removing filters and water is treated with microbicides (which kill germs) such as chlorine, bromine, or other disinfectants to control bacterial numbers.

Such chemicals are toxic and cause skin and eye irritation. This is why Jacuzzi users are advised to shower after bathing (and should also shower before, too). The temperature of the water within a Jacuzzi (around 104°F or 40°C can also cause potentially serious health problems such as core overheating which can lead to feeling faint or even loss of consciousness and potentially drowning.

View the whole article to read more.

PWTAG Hot Tub Operating Guidance

PWTAG provides hot tub operating guidance for both businesses and at home. Click the links below to find out more.

Hot Tubs for Business
Hot Tubs for Home

  • Original Article: The Conversation
  • Date: February 2023