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The History of Hot Tubs: How We Ended Up with Today’s Modern Spa

Posted by Watson's on Feb 6, 2023 2:18:00 PM

Relaxing in one of today’s state-of-the-art hot tubs can feel like something out of science fiction. With features like LED lights and Bluetooth speakers able to be controlled remotely using special apps, soaking in your spa can feel downright futuristic.

But as technologically advanced as today’s hot tubs are, the truth is that people all over the world have been enjoying the benefits of hot tubs for thousands of years. Whether it was for socialization, health benefits, or even spiritual fulfillment, all sorts of civilizations throughout history have used hot tubs.

If you’ve ever wondered how we ended up with today’s modern spa, keep reading.


Ancient Egypt was one of humanity’s first great civilizations, and the ancient Egyptians took bathing and hygiene very seriously. Egyptian nobles were known to have dedicated bathing rooms in their homes, in which tubs were filled with hot water and fragrant oils. 



The ancient Greeks recognized the potential of the volcanic hot springs in their region and built stone pools around warm, mineral-rich springs. The philosopher Hippocrates recommended soaking in hot spring water to alleviate illness. But the ancient Greeks didn’t just use their hot tubs for medicinal purposes. 

Archaeologists have uncovered ornate alabaster baths dating back to at least 1500 BCE, as well as aqueducts and marble tubs excavated from various islands in the region. It’s believed that these baths were used for socialization and entertainment, much like today’s spas.



Leveraging the power of a complex system of aqueducts, the Romans were able to build elaborate bathhouses with heated pools. Innovations in boiler technology gave Roman engineers the ability to heat water without relying on geothermal sources like volcanic springs. Both private and public baths were built throughout the empire and its colonies, some of which still stand today.



Japanese hot springs have been used for spiritual and medicinal purposes for at least one thousand years. The volcanically active islands of Japan have produced a multitude of natural mountain hot springs, but the Japanese also pioneered a unique type of hot tub called an “ofuro”.  These square wooden tubs are not only used for bathing and hygiene but are also often used for meditation or spiritual restoration. 


Indigenous America

Although little written history exists of spas and hot tubs in pre-Columbian America, there is evidence to suggest that native people on the continent were using hot springs since time immemorial. Both the Mohawk and Mohican people used local hot springs to treat injuries and other medical problems. And it’s believed that geothermal pools in Hot Spring, Arkansas, were used by indigenous people as a place of healing. 


Victorian Era

Spa resorts became a popular destination for Europeans and Americans in the late 1800s. Many of these resorts were modeled after classic Roman bathhouses and were touted for their hydrotherapy benefits. President Franklin Roosevelt is reported to have relied on spa resort treatments to help alleviate his paralysis. 


Atomic Era

Following World War II, some American GIs brought back Japanese onsen bathing culture with them, building their own wooden ofuro tubs. At about the same time, inground pools were becoming popular for American suburbanites, and some were even getting basic concrete spas installed.


Modern Era

The advent of fiberglass spa shells in the late 1960s helped to control the health risks posed by wooded tubs and streamline the installation process of concrete spas. By the 70s, manufacturers had created the first truly self-contained spa unit by engineering a cabinet around the shell of the spa. Advanced features like filtration systems and water jets were added, and the cost of spa installation became more affordable for everyday homeowners. 


Internet Era & Today

The 80s and 90s brought about more refinements and improvements to hot tub technology. Digital controls and lightweight materials made installation and daily use even easier. 

Today, spa technology has made relaxation and rejuvenation as easy as clicking a button. You can find cutting-edge spas equipped with all sorts of connected technology to seamlessly integrate relaxation and entertainment. Not to mention, today’s spas have been designed to comfortably accommodate six or more people



If you’re looking to add a new hot tub to your property, Watson’s has everything you need.

When you shop with us, you’ll find an amazing selection and personalized service, along with the guaranteed lowest prices in the USA. We offer all the spa and pool supplies you need to make this summer unforgettable. So, if you want to relax in a state-of-the-art spa of your own, shop online or stop by your nearest Watson’s location today.


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