Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Whirlpool Tubs

Whirlpool tubs are among the most coveted bathroom upgrades out there. There’s just something about a big, beautiful, jetted tub that says “I’ve made it” in terms of luxury and R&R. But not all whirlpool tubs are created equal. So even if you’re ready to dive head first into your luxury bathroom remodel, read this first! Not only do whirlpool tubs come in different in sizes, shapes, and styles, there are also quite a few types that produce very different user experiences. So, especially if you’ve never used a whirlpool tub before, this little bit of lingo will help you find a tub you’ll love.

The Classic Whirlpool Tub
(aka Jetted Tub or Water Jet Tub)

Eago AM196 6' Left Drain Rectangular Corner Whirlpool Bath Tub With Fixtures
Eago AM196 6′ Left Drain Rectangular Corner Whirlpool Bath Tub With Fixtures

This is what most people think of when they think of a “jacuzzi” because they were originally designed and marketed by the Jacuzzi corporation almost a hundred years ago. Whirlpool tubs circulate water and force it back out through a series of jets, sometimes mixed with air to give an intense, deep-tissue massage. This is the most intense whirlpool experience (too intense to be relaxing for some), and similar to what you’d experience in your average outdoor hot tub. Importantly you cannot use bath oils or salts in this type of tub, as they can clog the motor and break the tub as they circulate with the water.

Air System Tubs
(aka Pure Air, Air Bath, Bubble Massage, Effervescence Baths)

Venzi Viola 42 X 72 Rectangular Air Jetted Bathtub With Right Drain VZ4272VAR
Venzi Viola 42 X 72 Rectangular Air Jetted Bathtub With Right Drain VZ4272VAR

The air bath represents the much gentler cousin of the classic whirlpool tub. Instead of water jets, these tubs produce streams of tiny air bubbles. Like the traditional water jets, they can be adjusted in intensity, producing anything from a light fizz to a gentle massage, rather than the deep tissue massages of a whirlpool. Air system tubs are a good choice if you dislike the intense experience of hard water jets and prefer a lighter, bubblier experience. Also, you can use bath oils or salts in this type of tub, as the heated air comes from a separate source and the bath water does not come in contact with the motor or pump.

Combo Massage Tub
(aka Salon Spa, Combination Tub)

Venzi Grand Tour Padre 34 X 67 X 21 Oval Air & Whirlpool Water Jetted Bathtub VZ3467RDX
Venzi Grand Tour Padre 34 X 67 X 21 Oval Air & Whirlpool Water Jetted Bathtub VZ3467RDX

As the name implies, combo massage tubs contain both water jets and air jets. These tend to have many more jets in them than either other type of tub, but not all of them are necessarily used at once, as both systems can be adjusted independently to get exactly the intensity and type of jet experience you want. Combo massage tubs are an excellent choice if you’re not completely sure which kind of jet you prefer and won’t have the opportunity to try them out. These are also great if multiple people with different tastes will be using the same tub, or if you sometimes prefer a more intense experience and other times want to be pampered. For the same reason as whirlpool tubs, combo tubs cannot be used with bath oils or salts, but they do sometimes come with built in aromatherapy features.

Soaking Tub
(aka: I don’t really want a whirlpool, I just want to soak)

Eviva Lulu Free Standing 68" Acrylic Bathtub EVTB6227-68WH
Eviva Lulu Free Standing 68″ Acrylic Bathtub EVTB6227-68WH

If you’ve read this far and are still feeling a little ambivalent or uncertain about your options, it might be that you don’t actually want a whirlpool tub after all – you just want a big, deep tub to soak, relax, and unwind undisturbed by man, beast, or pesky water jets. The good news for you is that there are now soaking tubs that are just as deep, long, and wide as your average whirlpool tubs, both built in and freestanding. That means you can enjoy the luxury of being totally submerged in water without having to go for a full hot tub, plus you can use bath oils or salts to your heart’s content.

Chromatherapy
(aka Light Therapy, Illumatherapy, or “with lights”)

EAGO AM2130 66" Round Free Standing Acrylic Air Bubble Bathtub with Chromatherapy
EAGO AM2130 66″ Round Free Standing Acrylic Air Bubble Bathtub with Chromatherapy

Chromatherapy isn’t a particular type of tub, but a common add-on feature offered by most luxury brands. Whirlpool tubs with chromatherapy essentially contain a series of LED lights placed variously below the water line that seem to tint the water when they’re turned on. The lights can be altered to almost any color in the rainbow, and many of them have pulsing or color changing settings as well. Why? Because science has found again and again that colors have a profound effect on the mood, and the use of colored light can help deepen and intensify the relaxing or invigorating experience of using whirlpool tubs.

Sound Therapy
(aka VibrAcoustic or built in sound system)

Modern Whirlpool Bathtub with Colored Light Up Glass Panel AM151-L from Eago
Modern Whirlpool Bathtub with Colored Light Up Glass Panel and Built In Sound System AM151-L from Eago

Many luxury whirlpool tubs also have built in stereo systems, bluetooth capabilities, or at the very least an FM radio so you can enjoy your favorite music while you soak. If you don’t already have an easy, waterproof way to play music in your bathroom and you’d like one, this can be an excellent add-on. Some brands go a step further, with tubs that actually use the music you’re playing to produce vibrations that ripple through your bath water, or come with built in sound therapy rhythms designed to help energize and invigorate your body and mind.

In Line Heating
(aka RapidHeat, Whirlpool Heater, Safe-T-Heater)

Corner Acrylic White Whirlpool Bathtub For Two With Inline Heating AM125ETL from EAGO
Corner Acrylic White Whirlpool Bathtub For Two With Inline Heating AM125ETL from EAGO

Another add on and, I’ll admit, a personal favorite: in-line heating is available in select whirlpool tubs and essentially heats and/or maintains the temperature of your bath water. Now, if you’re buying a whirlpool tub in the first place, I think it’s fair to say there’s a good chance you’ll spend some time soaking in it. And when you have a tub that can hold over a hundred gallons of water, you probably don’t want to have to top it off every time the water starts to cool down. Whirlpool tubs with in-line heating will keep your water as hot as you like it for as long as you want to use it.

Tub For Two

Venzi Capri 54 X 72 Rectangular Whirlpool Jetted Bathtub VZ5472CWL
Venzi Capri 54 X 72 Rectangular Whirlpool Jetted Bathtub VZ5472CWL

While this is neither strictly a feature nor a type of tub, it’s important to note that there’s an increasing number of indoor whirlpool tubs that are designed to seat two rather than just one. Some of these come in the form of long, figure-8 shaped tubs and some square, round, or wedge shaped ones that are more like your traditional hot tub. In any case, these tubs almost always have two backrests, either side by side or facing each other, so it’s comfortable to sit without getting squished (and you still have plenty of leg room for two). So if you’ve got the extra space and are looking to spend some quality time with your significant other, there are whirlpool tubs of all types that can accommodate you.

No Room For Two (A Tub AND A Shower, That Is)

Ariel Platinum DA328F3 Steam Shower
Ariel Platinum DA328F3 Steam Shower

If you’re reading this in hopes that I’m going to reveal the secret whirlpool tubs that will work in an ordinary every day sized bathroom without room for a separate shower, your patience has just been rewarded. Not all whirlpool tubs are an inaccessible luxury. In fact, it’s become more and more common for really luxurious setups to come in rather compact packages. Many of these setups have the footprint of a standard shower/tub combo, but are fully enclosed, so they include not only the whirlpool tub, but also full body shower sprayers and steam shower capabilities. If you’re looking to get a full suite of high end features, but are limited on space (or budget), these steam shower whirlpools are a great alternative that’s both affordable and easy to install.