The new Sapelo bath from MTI incorporates thermo-air massage from 20 air jets in the bottom of the tub and additional lateral air jets on the sides of the bath that concentrate on different parts of the body. It has a simple, sleek geometric shape to complement minimalist décor. All of the air bath piping is concealed between layers of reinforced acrylic.
“The air bath is a strong trend,” said Michael Kornowa, director of marketing at MTI Whirlpools, in a booth interview at the Kitchen/Bath Industry Show in Las Vegas this past May.

One reason for the growing interest in air baths is consumer concern about cleanliness of the fixture, he said. It's important to thoroughly clean the jets of the whirlpool between uses. By their nature, whirlpool plumbing lines can collect soap residue, body oils, dirt and water deposits.

Some air baths are designed to prevent any backflow of water into the jets that blow the air into the water. MTI's air baths include specially designed plastic protective jet housings to prevent residue buildup in the fiberglass backing of the bath. A built-in backflow prevention check valve keeps bath water from entering the air lines.

“It's possible to get high tech hydrotherapy with an air bath,” Kornowa said.

In general, an air bath is good for a light, full body massage. The jet holes that create the bubbles should be located on the bottom of the tub to promote better blood circulation. The air bath creates a graceful, relaxing massage vs. the more aggressive massage of a traditional whirlpool. Traditional whirlpools may be more effective for treating aches and sore muscles, he said.

“We recommend putting both types (air jets and whirlpool jets) in the tub,” he said.

MTI also offers patented cleaning systems for its traditional whirlpools.

TOTO has always focused on the air bath because of its emphasis on hygiene, according to Lenora Campos, public relations manager, also interviewed at K/BIS. The air jets are hermetically sealed so that no water can enter.

MTI air bath bubbles
An air bubble bath massage provides increased circulation and creates relaxation hormones, she said.

Jacuzzi Whirlpool Bath offers both traditional whirlpools and air baths. “We have seen a lot of growth in air baths among women,” said Aly Johnsen, vice president, jetted baths and showers, also interviewed at K/BIS. “A heat blower forces warm air through the jets to create relaxing bubbles.” This is a more gentle, tranquil experience than the therapeutic whirlpool massage. The jets in the air bath can be positioned to blow up or down, and the air temperature can be adjusted warmer or cooler.

MAAX offers both traditional whirlpools and air baths. The air jets create a very different massage that is smoother and softer than a traditional whirlpool can provide, according to a company spokesperson.