Having a nice, cool pool to dive into on a hot day is a great benefit, but pool ownership comes with a list of maintenance responsibilities, including cleaning the inside of the pool. Above ground pool filtration systems do a lot of the work to remove dirt, oil, and bugs from the water, but there is always a portion of debris that falls to the bottom of the pool. However, you can quickly clean up this dirt and debris with an above ground pool vacuum.
These vacuums are available in several different types to suit the pool owner’s needs and the type of pool, including manual, robotic, and suction-side. The best above ground pool vacuum can suction up dirt, insects, grass, leaves, and other small debris. This guide explores several factors to consider as you start the search for an above ground pool vacuum and provides descriptions of some of the top products on the market.
- BEST OVERALL: DOLPHIN Nautilus CC Robotic Pool [Vacuum] Cleaner
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: U.S. Pool Supply 16″ Weighted Pool Vacuum Head
- UPGRADE PICK: Dolphin Escape Robotic Above Ground Pool Cleaner
- BEST MANUAL: Milliard See-Thru Pool Vacuum
- BEST SUCTION-SIDE: Hayward W900 Wanda the Whale Above-Ground Pool Vacuum
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Above Ground Pool Vacuum
When choosing the best above ground pool vacuum cleaner to clean your pool, it’s essential to consider the factors that can impact how the pool vacuum operates and whether it’s suitable for the size and shape of your pool. Read on to learn more.
There are several types of pool vacuums, including manual, robotic, pressure-side, and suction-side.
- Manual pool vacuums consist of a small vacuum head that attaches to a hose and a long pole. The hose sits in the pool skimmer, using the suction from the filtration system to draw up the dirt from the bottom of the pool into the filter or an attached bag. However, the user needs to move the head of the vacuum manually with the long pole, and it can be difficult to reach every corner in the deep end of an inground pool without a weighted head.
- Robotic pool vacuums take the maintenance tasks off your hands. These vacuums will clean the entire bottom of an above ground pool completely on their own, making them a great option for people who enjoy the set-it-and-forget-it lifestyle. Most robotic vacuums feature a programmable timer, so you know when they are finished cleaning the pool. These devices can operate on a battery or use a long, waterproof extension cord to connect directly to a power outlet.
- Pressure-side pool vacuums have a set of wheels that allow them to move around the bottom of the pool using the pressure produced by the water return line from the filtration system. These vacuums use a pressurized water cycle to draw in pool water and trap dirt and debris, which also allows the vacuum to stick to the bottom. However, above ground pools don’t have water return lines, so pressure-side pool vacuums aren’t an option.
- Suction-side pool vacuums connect to the pool filter and use the suction to power the wheels. This type of vacuum typically has a hose that sits inside the pool skimmer and uses suction power to pull in dirt and debris. However, they don’t have a collection bag, relying entirely on the filtration system to handle the debris from the bottom of the pool. This means that it’s a good idea to backwash the system after vacuuming to remove built-up dirt deposits, leaves, and any other pool water contaminants.
Pool Shape and Size
Before deciding on an above ground pool vacuum, head outside and measure the pool, if you don’t already know the size. Note the specific shape of the pool to ensure that the measurements are correct. Typically, an above ground pool will either be circular or oval. Measure the diameter or radius and height of a circular pool, and take length, width, and height measurements of an oval pool.
Using a pool vacuum that is intended for a smaller pool may initially save some money, but the vacuum won’t be able to keep up with the demand, leaving you with a dirty pool. Additionally, battery-operated pool vacuums may not be able to vacuum the entire pool on a single charge. Conversely, pool vacuums rated for larger pools are unnecessary for smaller pools and could even damage the walls if the vacuum is too heavy.
Skimmer Basket vs. Pump
If robotic pool vacuums aren’t of interest, you will need to decide between using the skimmer basket or the pool pump to power the vacuum. Suction-side pool vacuums connect through the pool skimmer, using the suction power to draw debris into the filtration system. If the skimmer is easy to access, this is an inexpensive option that may work well for your pool.
However, if the system already has a powerful pump, or you’re willing to spend to install an additional pump, a pressure-side pool vacuum is a great choice that collects dirt and debris in a vacuum bag or cartridge, putting less stress on the filtration system.
Hose and Cord Length
The length of the hose can be a prohibitive factor for an above ground pool vacuum. Before connecting the vacuum, measure the hose to make sure it reaches every corner of the pool. If there is concern about the hose being too short, then consider purchasing an extra hose you can connect to extend the length.
While robotic pool vacuums don’t rely on a hose for suction or pressure, some products have power cables that can present the same problem. Remember to check the length of the cord to make sure it’s appropriate for your pool before investing in that specific vacuum.
Wall-climbing capability, common in robotic pool vacuums, can be a desirable feature—but only when the vacuum is used to clean an inground pool. These pool vacuums may attempt to climb above ground pool walls, but the 90-degree angle is often too sharp for them to navigate, resulting in the vacuum falling off the wall.
Some pressure-side pool vacuums can climb walls, but these products aren’t suitable for above ground pools. This isn’t to say that pool vacuums with wall climbing features are a bad choice. In fact, they typically require high levels of traction and suction, which are also beneficial for cleaning the bottom of the pool. However, if they don’t make it up the wall of your above ground pool, this shouldn’t be a surprise.
The standard function of an above ground pool vacuum is simply to pull in dirt and debris from the bottom of the pool. However, many manufacturers try to benefit the user by including additional features like a remote, a hose swivel, and a scheduling function.
- Remotes are ideal for users who don’t necessarily want to jump in the pool or pull up the vacuum every time they need to clean the pool. Instead, just push a button on the remote and let the vacuum go to work.
- Hose swivels help to prevent the hose from becoming tangled or kinked. A kinked hose reduces the power of the vacuum. And, if a hose repeatedly kinks in the same spot, it can become torn or otherwise damaged.
- A scheduling function is a premium addition to robotic above ground pool vacuums. This function allows the user to set a schedule for the vacuum to regularly activate on its own to clean and maintain the pool.
Our Top Picks
Now that you’ve read through these important product features, here’s a look at some of the top options on the market. This list includes a range of pool vacuums, including choices for manual, robotic, and suction-side, to help users find the best above ground pool vacuum to keep their particular pool clean.
This Dolphin Nautilus robotic pool vacuum works in both inground or above ground pools up to 33 feet in length. It’s powered by a 50-foot waterproof electrical cord that attaches to the top of the vacuum to help prevent tangling or kinking. The vacuum has an internal filter and a collection basket that users should remove and empty regularly to keep the vacuum functioning at top efficiency. It also has a handle that makes it easy to lift out of the pool.
Set the weekly timer so the vacuum will automatically activate up to seven times in one week. Users can also set it for every other day or every 3 days; however, after 1 week, the cycle will need to be reset. This short scheduling period encourages users to empty the filter basket and clean the vacuum between uses. It takes about 2 hours for one cleaning cycle.
- Long waterproof power cord
- Weekly timer for auto cleaning
- Full cleaning cycle done in 2 hours
- Filter and basket need frequent emptying
Connect this inexpensive, manual above ground pool vacuum from U.S. Pool Supply to a 1.25-inch or 1.5-inch hose to borrow suction from the filtration system. One end of the hose attaches to the top of the vacuum head while the other sits in the pool skimmer, allowing dirt and debris to be sucked directly into the pool filtration system. Users will need a telescopic pole to control the vacuum at the bottom of the pool; however, note that this model doesn’t include a hose or a pole.
The vacuum features a 16-inch weighted head that sits comfortably on the bottom of the pool, maintaining strong suction while the nylon side and bottom bristles scrub stuck-on debris. If the suction is too strong, making it difficult to move the vacuum, then adjust the suction with the two air-relief valves on the top of the vacuum head. If the suction is too weak, close the air valves.
- Valves to adjust suction power
- Effective side scrubber brushes
- Manual labor required
- Needs connection to a filtration system for suction
- No hose or pole included
Robotic above ground pool vacuums, like this Dolphin Escape model, are generally more expensive than the other types of pool vacuums. However, with features like a smart navigation pool scanning system and an active dual scrubbing brush, the extra expense for this premium pick is worth it to many pool owners. The smart navigation system prevents the vacuum from missing spots or running into the pool ladder, drain, or walls.
This pool vacuum has a 40-foot power cord and a set of continuous rubber tracks that improve the grip on the bottom of the pool, reducing slipping and increasing the efficiency of the vacuum. It’s suitable for pools up to 30 feet in length and includes a large top-load filter that’s easy to access, empty, clean, and replace.
- Smart pool scanning system
- Improved rubber grips
- Filter is easy to access
- May require a fine particle filter
- Does not handle pool steps
- No remote control
Manual pool vacuums are simple devices that can be used in any pool, as long as the user has a suitable hose, an extension pole, and an available pool skimmer. This inexpensive option from Milliard pairs with a 1.25-inch or a 1.5-inch hose and has a 2-pound vacuum head to help keep the vacuum on the bottom of the pool. Keep in mind that this product is only a vacuum head, so users will need to invest in a separate hose and extension pole.
The above ground pool vacuum, which can also be used in inground pools, includes angled brushes on the tips of the triangular vacuum head to make it easier to clean corners and scrub grime off the pool where the walls and bottom meet. It also boasts nine sets of brushes on the bottom of the vacuum to remove and direct stuck-on dirt into the suction hose.
- Multiple brushes for extra cleaning power
- Triangular shape great for corners
- Weighted well for easy motion
- No hose or pole included
- No brushes on the side
For use with any size or type of pool with an accessible pool skimmer, this suction-side pool vacuum from Hayward can move around the pool on its own using nothing but the suction from the filtration system. Connect the vacuum to the included 32-foot suction hose, and place the other end of the hose in the pool skimmer. Then, watch as the vacuum begins moving around the bottom of the pool, pulling in dirt and debris in its path.
This above ground pool vacuum has a bumper ring around the outside to reduce the impact and friction between the walls, steps, or ladders in the pool, helping to guide the vacuum away from those areas. While the included hose is only 32 feet long, users can connect it to an additional hose for use with larger pools. The vacuum also has a whimsical whale exterior that’s fun for kids to watch and swim with in the pool.
- Only needs suction to move
- Bumper ring to reduce impact
- Fun design for kids
- May miss spots in the pool
- Will clog with large debris
For shoppers looking to flip a switch and have a robot do all the work, pick up the DOLPHIN Nautilus CC Robotic Pool Cleaner and enjoy a clean pool just a few hours later. For a more budget-friendly option, consider the U.S. Pool Supply Weighted Pool Vacuum Head; just prepare yourself for a workout (and purchase the pole and hose separately).
How We Chose the Best Above Ground Pool Vacuums
When it comes to pool cleaning, the best above ground pool vacuums really depend on both the budget and the expectations of the shopper. Our list of recommendations covers both ends of the spectrum, from top-of-the-line choices that allow users to fully automate their pool-cleaning chores to manual scrubbing heads that can give users more of a workout.
Regardless of which type of above ground pool vacuum you are looking for, our top picks are proven to deliver excellent results and are made of high-quality materials that can stand up to heavy use. We also made sure to include products that suit a variety of pool shapes, since we know that not all swimming pools are rectangular. Our recommended products are able to conquer odd angles and scrub away the most stubborn dirt and stains.
Keeping the pool clean and crystal clear is easier with the help of an above ground pool vacuum. But if you aren’t completely sure how and when to use the pool vacuum, then take a look at the answers below to these and more frequently asked questions.
Q. How often should I vacuum my pool?
You can vacuum the pool any time debris begins to accumulate at the bottom. For regular maintenance, plan to vacuum it at least once per week to help remove any excess dirt from the water.
Q. Is it OK to leave a pool vacuum in the pool?
It depends on the specific product. Some above ground pool vacuums are made to stay in the pool for an extended period of time, but generally, you should remove the vacuum after the pool is clean. Chemicals in the water can cause premature wear on the pool vacuum if it’s left in the water indefinitely.
Q. Why is my pool dirty after I’ve vacuumed it?
If the water is dirty after vacuuming, then this is likely an issue with the pool filter. During vacuuming, many dust and dirt particles can get kicked up by the movement of the vacuum, but a properly functioning filtration system should pull these particles out of the water.
Q. How do I clean my above ground pool vacuum?
Spray down an above ground pool vacuum after use to remove excess dirt and debris and rinse away chlorine. For any type of pool vacuum, the steps are simple:
- Remove any excess debris from the vacuum, vacuum bag, and brushes.
- Clean the built-in filter (if applicable).
- Wash any part of the vacuum that is exposed to pool water or debris from the pool.
A manual pool vacuum typically takes just a few minutes to properly clean. However, it takes more time to clean a robotic pool vacuum, as these models are larger and have brushes on the bottom and sides, which will need to be cleaned along with the filter and vacuum bag, if applicable.
Q. How long will my above ground pool vacuum last?
Above ground pool vacuums typically last between 3 to 5 years, depending on the frequency of use and if they are properly maintained.
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Timothy Dale is a freelance writer, specializing in the home repair and construction niche. He spent his post-secondary years working in the plumbing trade, while completing degrees in English Literature and Psychology, before taking on a Project Management position that ended up lasting 10 years. Mr. Dale has worked in residential plumbing and carpentry over his time as a Project Manager and also spent a year of his career in the commercial and industrial sector.