Air Tub vs. Whirlpool: What’s the Difference?

posted in: Whirlpools and Jacuzzis | 23

At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much difference between whirlpools and air tubs. Both provide jet massages in a tub. But once you are in the market for one or the other, you will quickly realize that there are some important variances between a whirlpool tub and an air tub. The main distinguishing feature that sets the two apart is the mechanism by which the jets operate. Simply put, a whirlpool shoots jets of water while an air tub uses jets of air. This can have several implications in regards to upkeep, function and personal preference.

American Standard Evolution Whirlpool
American Standard Evolution Whirlpool

The most noticeable difference is the sensation. A whirlpool’s water jets come with the classic, high pressure, deep massaging jets that most people have come to associate with hydrotherapy. When you visit a professional physical therapist, this will likely be the type of tub they have. An air tub, on the other hand, is a more generalized, effervescent feeling. Instead of a few concentrated jets, the air tub has numerous air jets that shoot millions of massaging bubbles. It’s a gentler sensation, but still highly relaxing.

Jacuzzi Allusion Air Tub
Jacuzzi Allusion Air Tub

The other significant difference between whirlpools and air tubs is the maintenance. Both are relatively simple to clean. For a whirlpool, simply add in a cleaning solution (store bought or homemade) and run the jets for a few minutes. It’s also important to remember to never run a whirlpool unless it is filled. An air tub, on the other hand, is self-drying and is thus self-cleaning. Simply drain the air tub and turn on the jets until the tub is completely dry.

Neither the air tub nor the whirlpool is a superior choice. Choosing which one you install in your home is simply a matter of taste.

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23 Responses

  1. I have an Americh Airtub which I thought, like this website states, was “self-drying and is thus self-cleaning. Simply drain the air tub and turn on the jets until the tub is completely dry.” That is totally wrong, because after having my tub for almost 3 years and thinking it was clean, well, now I have the same little black specs floating around the tub in the water that I’m NOT supposed to have with an air tub.
    So, don’t be fooled, if you buy a whirlpool tub OR an air tub, it seems you still need to clear out those lines, even if you THINK they’re clean by their ‘self-cleaning’ because they ARE NOT.
    Hope my comments can help someone.

  2. Ive been researching tubs for about 2 weeks now. All sites seem to say that there is no way to clean an air tub. All you are supposed to do is run the jets and it dries it for you.

    Do you always … always run your jets after you use your tub?

    Im going to call a sales rep and ask them.

  3. I’ve had my air jet bathtub for a few months now and I cant be more impressed, I find the functionality better and the clear up quick and easy! I found another interesting article about air jet bathtubs for you to consider if you’re in the market for one.
    @Susie, I run my jets after every use just to make 100% sure its dry.

  4. Cherisse

    Thanks for the comments. I am about to build a new home and need to select a “luxury” bathtub for our master suite. I currently have a whirlpool. I refuse to turn on the jets because it is just disgusting. Based upon my experience, I would NEVER get into a bathtub anywhere else besides my home. However, my husband and I were at a Hilton in Las Vegas a couple of months ago and I got into a air jet tub. It appeared to not have all those “black flecks” and I loved it. However, I want to make sure that I order the right thing.

  5. I have a Jacuzzi and let it sit for a couple months and had the black specks. A condo we stayed in had an air tub so I was checking into it to see if indeed it is self cleaning, it appears its NOT by these comments. The good news is, I got my Jacuzzi clean. Order Ahhh-some off Amazon and try it. I had to run my tub twice and rinse twice but, alas, its clean. I’ll just put a teaspoon in after each bath (I take only 1 a week) and it should stay clean from now on.

  6. Real effective site, this genuinely answered some of my questions. Thank you!.

  7. An remarkable share, I handed your link to a co worker who was doing a little analysis on this topic. And he bought me breakfast because I found it for him.. smiling. So let me reword that : Thnx for the treat! But yeah Thnkx for spending the time to talk about this, I feel strongly about it and enjoy reading more on this topic. If possible, would you mind updating the blog with more details? It is extremely helpful for me. Big thumb up for this blog post!.

  8. whirlpool baths

    I totally agree with your comments. Both has its own advantages but i preferred whirlpool although its costlier than air tubs. As long as there are benefits from moving water, whirl pool is here to stay.

  9. If the air=jetted tub has an automatic turn on feature after your bath, it will automatically evaporate water in the air lines eliminating any possibility of bacterial water deposits. We have had 8 air tubs at our BnB and we have yet to have experienced a single dirty air system complaint. They are marvelous. Downside: the air system comes on automatically for 2 minutes after each bath. Some people might be annoyed by that. We just tell our guests in advance to expect it and there is no problem.

  10. I am agreed with your post David, there is not much difference between both and i have both types of tubs. See my bath tubs collection.

  11. Air tubs and water jetted tubs all will have biofilm buildup in the lines. Any surface that comes in contact with water, including the air lines, develop biofilm even though you don’t see it. It’s like the wall of a toilet, it looks clean but you wouldn’t bath in it.

    There is a cleaner the lodging industry uses to clean the plumbing lines called Oh Yuk Jetted Tub Cleaner. This will clean both air and water lines. Simply fill the tub up high enough to turn the jets on, let the product circulate according to the directions. Drain, wipe the surface down with a good cleaner and the tub is perfectly clean.

    A clean jetted bathtub is as safe to use as a well taken care of pool. A dirty tub on the other hand, very high levels of mold and bacteria in the water.

  12. I am currently trying to decide on a whirlpool jetted tub or a air tub(specifically BainUltra). Among the bacteria and mold issues, I was told that the whirlpool tub, because of its more vigorous jets, can break your blood vessels. The sales person assured me that I would be happier with the air tub. Any suggestions?

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  14. I was set on a whirlpool tub until I realized that you are not supposed to use bubble bath, bath oils, and bath salts in them because it will damage the water pump… I have heard that it is safe to use all of these in an air jetted tub.. anyone else hear this and/or have any input??? I like to take baths and I don’t think I’d be completely happy with a whirlpool if I could not put anything in the bath….

    • Every manufacturer has different maintenance “rules.” Generally oil-based products are not recommended. Be aware that one major reason behind the “ban” against bubble bath is due to the fact that the forceful water jets will whip it into a huge frothing mess! (Not as much of a problem with the gentler air tub jets.) It can be okay to use a small amount of product in a whirlpool tub, but that depends on the manufacturer.

    • I had two different whirlpool tubs over a period of about seven years and am currently shopping for another one for my new home because I miss it so much! I never had any black specks in my tubs. I use to clean them by using four to seven dishwasher pucks (depending on the size of the tub), filling my tub just over the jets because the pucks will cause some sudsing, dropping in the pucks and running it for about fifteen minutes. Never a problem! If I wanted to use bath oil in my bath, I wouldn’t run the jets, then made sure to clean the oily surface off the tub afterwards. I always ran the jets with bath salts and/or bubble bath products without a problem. Just put your salts in first to give them a chance to dissolve before running your jets. And of course always be careful with bubble bath, a drop goes a long way! Or you could end up with a bubble bath floor!

      • Thanks for the tips, Dominique! Let us help you find your new whirlpool bath – contact one of our sales reps for a personalized showroom-like experience.

  15. ChristianChandler

    With all the new features, whirlpool bath tubs are superior than air tubs. They look great and give us a comfortable and relaxing bath time.

  16. Everyone here appears to be quite knowledged on these tubs. I will be buying my 1st tub. I have decided on water jets due to therapeutic reasons. The tub will be standard size alcove. Any recommendations of what manufacturer to go with. I need to stay in the $1000-2000.00 range.

    • Hi Vicki, we’d recommend Hydro Systems’ Sydney tubs for your particular needs. You can see them here.

      Feel free to call our knowledgeable sales staff for any further assistance.

      Good luck!

  17. Any recommendations for a whirlpool tub 60-66″x36″ with a height less than 20″?

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