Are Hot Springs Sanitary? What You Need to Know

Kurt Norris
Last Updated: March 7th, 2023

Hot springs have long been believed to boast natural curative properties. And while these springs are renowned for their therapeutic mineral concentrations, many of the world’s most famous thermal pools often host dozens or even hundreds of visitors per day.

Considering the high volume of visitors many hot springs receive and the fact that numerous bacteria are famous for their ability to thrive in elevated temperatures, many beg to ask: Are hot springs sanitary?

The answer to this question is that it varies on a pool-to-pool basis. While most developed sites are maintained to boast clean waters, some pools may not be as fresh as others. However, even an undeveloped primitive pool can be considered sanitary if it has the proper natural processes.

Are Hot Springs Sanitary?


Are Commercial Hot Springs Sanitary?

The surest way to enjoy a sanitary soaking experience is by submerging in the thermal pools of a commercial hot spring facility. In most countries, these complexes are legally required to engage in hygienic practices, including regularly cleaning and purifying their waters.

While this often results in a less rustic setting for enjoying a thermal soak, visitors don’t have to worry about any foreign bacteria left behind by previous visitors. Of course, the quality and frequency of cleaning differ between each complex, and visitors should inquire about each facility’s sanitary practices before visiting.

How Do Commercial Hot Springs Stay Clean?

Now that you know that most commercial hot springs are required to purify their waters, the next question you should be asking is what processes they use to clean them.

Regular drainage is the most straightforward and effective cleaning process that ensures a fresh soaking experience. Naturally, the longer water sits in a pool, the more bacteria can grow.

Commercial hot springs can combat this in several ways. For starters, some complexes feature 100% natural flow, which allows for constant replenishment of the natural spring. Others drain their pools at least once to several times a day.

However, some complexes seldom drain their pool, limiting it to once a week or month. Unfortunately, these are not as sanitary as those that practice frequent drainages.

Beyond replacing the natural mineral water, commercial hot spring complexes can help facilitate the cleaning processes of their waters by engaging ozone filtration or adding chlorine to help kill off harmful pathogens.

Are Primitive Hot Springs Sanitary?


While most commercial hot springs are sanitary and boast onsite staff and management that maintains the complex’s cleanliness, primitive hot springs do not share that same luxury.

Tucked away in nature’s more pristine corners, primitive pools are left to the whims of nature. Unfortunately, this means not all primitive hot springs are safe to swim in, with many boasting dangerous levels of algae or bacteria.

Luckily, these dangerous conditions are rare, and most primitive hot springs undergo natural purifying processes that ensure their clean and safe swimming conditions for visitors.

How Do Primitive Hot Springs Stay Clean?


Like at a commercial pool, the best way to ensure a primitive hot spring stays clean is by checking to see if it features a circulation of a natural flow from the source. Many primitive hot springs are constantly fed from their natural spring source, typically from below the earth’s surface.

As it is filled with fresh geothermal water, the older water sitting in the pool is displaced and is often released over the pool’s edge. The most significant danger to a primitive pool is stagnancy.

And by featuring a constant circulation of fresh water displacing the old, the natural flow of primitive pools means that dangerous bacteria and pathogens do not have enough time to develop and grow in the natural pool.

Unfortunately, not all primitive hot springs feature this natural flow, and visitors should be wary before submerging in any of these pools.

Are Hot Springs Sanitary – Final Thoughts

So, are hot springs sanitary? Unfortunately, there isn’t one singular answer to this question since it differentiates on a spring-to-spring basis.

A commercial hot spring complex is the best way to ensure you receive a sanitary soaking experience, as most of these facilities must clean their pools by law. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a fresh soak in a primitive hot spring. Most are safe to swim in, but their cleanliness is not promised.

Whether visiting a commercial site or a rustic primitive pool, the most important thing to look for when it comes to the sanitation of a spring is circulation. If a natural flow is constantly refilling the reservoir, then the chances are dangerous bacteria are not being allowed to thrive.

About The Author

Kurt Norris

A Canada-based freelance writer, Kurt acquired his bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Windsor. He began his professional writing career while in school as a sports journalist. Upon graduating, Kurt left the courtside media desk behind and began venturing the globe. Throughout his journeys, Kurt enjoys partaking in slow travel and loves to explore the histories and cultures of each destination, which he shares with others through his writing.

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