IBC Tote Hot Tubs: DIY Personal-Sized Fun for Less Than $200

IBC tote hot tubs are the latest craze.  What could be better than turning an oversized free or very cheap container into a bubbling bath of ahhhh-someness?

Anybody who repurposes anything for the sake of water fun is a winner in my book.  Over the years, I have tried all sorts of things–some moderate successes, many failures–that can be grouped under the heading of:  quickly collecting water in one place so that people can get into it.

Using IBC totes to make a hot tub is the best kind of repurposing there is.  Giant food-grade plastic containers are purchased used, tops cut off, piping added, and voila–water fun.  It’s a bit more involved than that, of course (details to follow), but let’s see what the best of the best have done.

Four Things You Will Learn About IBC Tote Hot Tubs

1 – IBC totes are bulk storage containers, typically for food or chemicals.

2 – They are tough to find for free, but likely you can find one cheap.  Even new IBC totes are relatively inexpensive, compared to the high entry costs of a real hot tub.

3 – IBC tote hot tubs are small but mighty.  A 330 gallon tote is about the same as four or five bathtubs’ worth of water.

4  – Creative makers cover the outside of the tote in any number of materials:  wood, corrugated steel, reed bamboo screening.

What Is an IBC Tote?

Unless you work in an industry like food, chemicals, or pharmaceuticals, you may have never seen an IBC before.  Intermediate bulk containers (IBCs) are cube-shaped plastic containers that hold liquids or solids.  They are basically modern replacements for the classic 55 gallon drum.

IBC Tote Components

Tote Tank or Bottle:  The tank, or bottle, is the plastic cube that gets turned into the hot tub.  The plastic material, High density polyethylene (HDPE), is thin enough that it can be cut with a reciprocating saw.

Cage:  IBC totes must rest within steel cages.  If it does not come with a steel cage, you need to built a supporting frame.

Pallet:  Steel cages have integrated pallets.

Common IBC Tote Sizes

Minimum:  180 gallons

Maximum:  550 gallons

Average:  275 and 330 gallons.

Weights:  The 275 gallon tote is 123 pounds.

Prices

IBC totes aren’t all that expensive, when you price them in relation to an actual hot tub.  While you’ll probably use a free or low-cost used IBC tote, let’s start at the top with new and reconditioned totes from The Cary Company:

  • New 275 gallon tote:  $267.00
  • New 330 gallon tote:  $300.24
  • Reconditioned 275 gallon tote:  $181
  • Reconditioned 330 gallon tote:  $205

While prices are not bad, shipping and handling is expensive.  Sample shipping cost to Seattle, WA for a new 330 gallon tote is $254, bringing the total up to $554.

Craigslist will save you money, but probably not as much as you expect:  Some sample prices:

  • Used food grade 275 gallon tote:  $160
  • Used 330 gallon tote:  $200

Size and Capacity

IBC totes may be big for transporting cooking oil, but they are small for using as a hot tub.  Looking at it from the top, a 330 gallon IBC tote measures 40″ long by 48″ wide.  The height is 54″.  IBC tubs are good for one or two bathers.

Capacity is tight, too.  A 330 gallon IBC is about 3x to 4x larger than your average 60″ x 34″ bathtub.

Totes to Avoid

Heavy-Duty Totes:  An improved (and more expensive) tote, these do not require a metal cage because they are strong enough as-is.  Because of their construction, they will not work as hot tubs.

Non-Food Grade Totes:  When you buy anything but a new tote or a tote that has a new bottle, you run the risk of anything having been stored in it.  Use at your own risk.

IBC Tote Hot Tubs Hall of Fame

DIY master Reon Hogg already had built two birthing tubs, but needed another.  So he whipped up this one out of an IBC tote.

Corrugated Steel IBC

YouTuber Andrew McLeod constructed an industrial chic style IBC tub by attaching corrugated steel to the outside.

Cozy Fire-Heated IBC Tub!

My favorite IBC hot tub of all!  I love the little L-shaped deck that wraps around the corner and the wood-burning heater that he built from scratch out of an old propane tank and copper tubing.  He even coiled the copper himself by wrapping it around a large cardboard tube.

Wood Fired Fun

From YouTube maker Mogens Rokkjær, another fantastic wood-fired backyard hot tub.

Tropical Treat