Most love a pool on a hot day. Pool ownership is a popular dream, but pool owners are often surprised by the amount of work it takes to maintain them. Fortunately, you can keep your pool sparkling clean all summer long with minimal toil by using a top-notch pool vacuum.
The best pool vacuums can clean up leaves, twigs, grass, and other debris—and the most convenient models do it automatically. They come in a few varieties, including robotic, suction-side, and pressure-side, so no matter what kind of pool you have, you can find a vacuum that will work for you.
When shopping for the best pool vacuum, it’s important to choose a quality product that is well-suited to your lifestyle and the type of pool you have. This article will help you find the right pool vacuum so you can kick back and enjoy your pool like you always imagined.
- BEST OVERALL: Dolphin Nautilus CC Automatic Robotic Pool Cleaner
- BEST MANUAL: U.S. Pool Supply 14” Weighted Flexible Vacuum Head
- BEST PRESSURE-SIDE: Polaris Vac-Sweep 360 Pressure Side Pool Cleaner
- BEST SUCTION-SIDE: Zodiac Baracuda G3 Advanced Suction Side Pool Cleaner
- BEST FOR ABOVE-GROUND POOLS: XtremepowerUS Automatic Pool Cleaner Vacuum
- BEST FOR IN-GROUND POOLS: Zodiac MX6 In-Ground Suction Side Pool Cleaner
Types of Pool Vacuums
Pool vacuums come in a few varieties, and some are extremely easy to use. Which style works for you depends on the type of pool you have and how involved you’d like to be in the cleaning process. Learning about the types of pool vacuums is the first step in choosing the right one for your needs.
Manual pool vacuums are the style that you’re probably most familiar with. These vacuum heads attach to the end of a long pole while the user pushes them back and forth across the pool’s floor and walls.
Manual pool vacuums use the pool’s suction system to capture debris, and they’re useful in most types of pools. However, the deep end of an in-ground pool can be tricky to get to, as it requires a longer pole, and the user has to keep the vacuum in contact with the bottom of the pool. For this reason, the best manual vacuums have weighted heads.
Depending on which manual vacuum you buy, it may have a bag that fills up with debris (pressure-side), or it may use the pool’s filter (suction-side). This simple design makes these vacuums more affordable.
Robotic vacuums are the next generation of pool cleaning products. These handy vacuums are let loose in a pool and left to their own devices. They’ll clean the entire pool bottom, and some models even climb up the walls. Many robotic vacuums have programmable timers that determine when and how long the vacuum will run. The technology and capabilities of a robotic vacuum make it an expensive but convenient option.
Robotic vacuums have two power sources: electric and battery. Electric robots use a long waterproof cord to keep the power flowing, while battery vacuums just need a charge between uses. Both types fill a bag or a cartridge, depending on the model, which the user has to empty.
Pressure-side vacuums use the water return line from the pool’s filtration system to power the wheels and vacuum the pool. While a pressurized vacuum system may sound counterintuitive, it’s actually a common style used by most pool vacuums.
Pressure-side vacuums work thanks to the Venturi effect, which uses a pressurized water cycle to draw pool water in, trapping debris and particles. This effect is also what allows pressure-side vacuums to stick to the ground and walls of pools, depending on the models.
Pressure-side vacuums are affordable, but they may require you to install an additional booster pump.
Suction-side vacuums use suction from the pool filter to power the wheels and vacuum the pool. These vacuums hook up to the suction side of the pump system, typically through the pool skimmer.
Since all filtered pools have some form of skimmer, these vacuums are easy to retrofit to your pool. They don’t require any additional pumps, either.
The one issue with suction-side vacuums is that they don’t come with debris bags or cartridges, relying only on the pool’s filter to remove debris. The filter can fill up and slow down the suction, so they do require some additional attention.
What to Consider When Buying Pool Vacuums
When choosing the best pool vacuum cleaner for your needs, you’ve got some factors to consider, including your pool’s size, existing pump equipment, and the features you’d like in a vacuum. Here are some things to keep in mind when shopping for the best pool vacuum cleaner.
Pool Shape & Size
It’s best to match the size of the pool to the size of the vacuum that you’re choosing. If you’ve got a small pool, there’s no sense in buying a large vacuum cleaner. It will be heavier than a smaller model, making it more difficult to use. You’ll also spend more money than necessary if you purchase more vacuum than your small pool requires.
Large-size pools, on the other hand, do require a bigger, better-equipped vacuum. In the case of battery-powered vacuums, you need to choose one with a run time long enough to cover your entire pool. Also, large pools collect a lot of debris, so you’ll need a vacuum cleaner that holds enough debris before requiring emptying.
Skimmer Basket vs. Pump
The type of vacuum that you choose may have a lot to do with your existing equipment. If you’ve got an easily accessible skimmer, the easiest and least expensive option is a suction-side vacuum cleaner. These come in self-propelled and manual options, but they’re quick to install and work well. The issue is that they use the pool’s filtration system to remove debris.
If you’ve got a powerful pump—or the skills to install an additional pump—you might be interested in a pressure-side vacuum cleaner. These vacuums collect debris in bags or cartridges, putting less of a load on the pool’s filter. The initial cost of installing a pump can be cost-prohibitive, however.
Before you set out to unleash a vacuum on your pool, you need to be sure it has enough hose to get the job done. Remember, the deep end of your pool may require more hose as the vacuum reaches the deepest depths.
While most vacuums come with enough hose for your average pool, it’s a good idea to have an extra length on hand as well as some fittings to connect two ends together. This way, if you find your pool hose isn’t long enough, you can add a bit of length to make sure your vacuum can reach every corner of the pool.
Too much hose can be troublesome as well. When your vacuum does laps underwater, the hose can tangle on the surface. If your hose is tangling, you might consider cutting it shorter.
Wall climbing vacuum cleaners can be a big help in keeping your pool sparkling clean. These machines use their vacuum and powered wheels to create enough suction to climb a wall, scrubbing dirt and removing junk.
If you have an above-ground pool, however, it’s not worth buying a robotic vacuum. The right angle where the pool floor and the wall meet makes climbing impossible, as the wheels won’t make the transition to the walls, and they might lose the suction as they try to bridge the gap.
Other options will work for above-ground pools, however. These vacuums look similar to a mop and travel using suction alone. They’re able to maintain enough suction to make the transition from floor to wall, and they’ll work their way to most areas in your pool.
If you’re of the “set it and forget it” mindset, you’ll want to find a robotic vacuum cleaner that you can program with a timer. They’re ideal if you’re going on vacation and don’t want to come home to a ton of debris in your pool. You do have to leave them in your pool while you’re gone, however, so you might want a friend to drop by and check on it every day or two.
Some of the best pool vacuums come with remotes that allow you to activate them from the poolside or even inside the house. These remotes are nice to have, as you can start the vacuum in the morning so that it’s clean by the time the sun’s afternoon rays force you to retreat for a dip.
When a hose tangles, your vacuum will lose its effectiveness. If the hose that comes with your vacuum doesn’t include a swivel, you should purchase and install one yourself. A swivel allows the hose to flip and twist without tangling, which can be a big help, particularly for mop-style vacuums that tend to follow random paths.
Our Top Picks
Now that you know what to look for in the best pool vacuums, here’s a look at some of the top models on the market. This list contains manual and robotic options as well as vacuums that work on both sides of the pressure system. The products on this list will keep your water sparkling clean while allowing you to kick back and enjoy your pool, without all the extra labor.
If you’re looking for an all-purpose pool vacuum, the Robotic Nautilus is a great choice. This robotic pool vacuum uses its own filter to keep your pool clean, leaving your pool’s filtration system to do its job. This vacuum is ideal for pools less than 33 feet in length, and it will clean most pools in this range in under two hours. It uses CleverClean technology to scan the pool and ensure that it gets to every area.
The built-in filter has a large capacity, enabling the Nautilus CC to pick up large debris and leaves. It also features a full-width scrubber, allowing it to deep-clean your pool’s slippery spots, leaving behind a clean surface that you can be proud of.
- Cleans 33-foot-long pools in 2 hours
- Automatically cleans floors and walls
- Adjustable cleaning schedule
- Doesn’t need a hose or pump
- Anti-tangle feature isn’t consistent
- Light weight may cause it to slip on wall corners
It doesn’t take a huge investment to keep your pool clean. If you don’t mind some manual labor, then the U.S. Pool Supply Weight Flexible Vacuum Head is a choice worth checking out. The 14-inch wide head flexes to fit the curves of in-ground pools. It’s also weighted, making it easier to remove dirt and grime from the trickiest corners, regardless of the pool’s depth.
It fits both 1 1/4-inch and 1 1/2-inch hoses, so it’s likely that your current vacuum hose will mate up without issue. While this vacuum head doesn’t come with a pole or vacuum, it will complement your current setup, providing top-notch cleaning from a manual vacuum.
- Manual, weighted vacuum head
- Wheels help move it along the bottom and sides
- Adjustable spring-loaded head for better angle during cleaning
- Best for concrete pools
- Spring may be looser than preferred
- Sometimes missing parts when shipped
If you’ve got the pump to run a pressure-side pool vacuum, then the Polaris Vac-Sweep 360 is a great choice. This vacuum and sweeper combination propels itself with three jets and comes with 31 feet of hose, allowing it to reach the deep corners of most mid-size in-ground pools. It vacuums both the floors and the walls, and the sweeping tail helps remove algae and tough grime.
The large filtration bag can be emptied and reused, which eases the load on your pool’s filter system. Best yet, it comes with a backup valve that frees the unit from tangles, so you don’t have to worry about babysitting it while it cleans.
- Cleans any style of in-ground pool in 3 hours
- Includes bag to collect all debris
- Includes 31-foot feed hose
- Collects large debris through 2.25-inch inlet
- A full filter bag can tip the unit to one side
- May take time to get the right suction
Options for self-propelled wall-cleaning vacuums are scarce for above-ground pools. The Zodiac Baracuda G3 is an exception, using your pool’s filtration system to create suction and travel throughout your pool. It can clean the floor, walls, and even the steps.
The 36-fin rubber disc allows the Barracuda to traverse lights and filters, as well as tuck itself into the curves or tight angles of an above-ground pool. It has just one moving part, making it a very low-maintenance option. It comes with roughly 40 feet of hose, which covers most medium-size pools without any issue.
- Capable of working with low-power pumps
- Quiet, automatic operation with only one moving part
- Self-adjusting flow valve to keep the pressure up
- Can’t handle large debris
- Hose may be a little short
The XtremepowerUS Automatic Pool Cleaner will free you from much of the cleaning work for your above-ground pool. This suction-side vacuum hooks to your pool’s existing filter and follows a random pattern around your pool, cleaning as it goes. It’s lightweight and easy to heft over the wall of an above-ground pool.
It comes with enough hose to cover a 16-foot by 32-foot pool, and the soft rubber fins allow it to gently bump along inside your pool, keeping it sparkling clean. It does require a 3/4-horsepower pump to operate, however, but with enough suction, it will climb and clean pool walls as well.
- Thick base for extra suction on any surface
- Hooks up to existing filtration system
- Automatically cleans pools up to 32 feet
- Hose doesn’t fit other generic attachments
- Doesn’t pick up larger than 1-inch debris very well
One of the trickier areas of an in-ground pool to clean are the walls in the deep end. For an automatic pool vacuum to tackle these, it needs to create a lot of suction and provide tons of traction. The MX6 from Zodiac uses your pool’s suction-side to create a cyclonic force underneath that allows it to climb your deep end’s walls easily and keep them clean.
This vacuum comes with just over 30 feet of modular hose, allowing you to shorten or lengthen it to fit your pool’s needs. The MX6 works in above-ground pools and it will stop one of its tracks to turn itself around when it can’t go any further.
- Flow regulator manages performance automatically
- Rugged tires for better wall-climbing traction
- Swivel hose connections resist coiling
- Needs at least a 1.5-horsepower pump to work effectively
Pool owners need to stay on top of pool maintenance, so choosing the best pool vacuum is an important decision. Our top pick, the Dolphin Nautilus CC is reliable, powerful, and automatically cleans large pools on your preferred schedule.
How We Chose the Best Pool Vacuum
Pools come in all shapes and sizes and have various mechanical features as well. Pool vacuums are not one size fits all, so we’ve included a number of products on our list that work for pools with skimmer baskets or with pumps. The ability to pick up debris is a key factor in choosing a pool vacuum, so these options have a range of abilities for debris collection. We also narrowed our choices by reviewing their hose length and tangle-free features, which are crucial factors for larger pools or for a vacuum to reach the deep end of a pool. Many have additional hose length that can be purchased as well. Our top choices are primarily robotic vacuums that conveniently clean the floor and walls without help, but there is also a manual vacuum included for those who find it therapeutic to spend time cleaning their pool.
Pool vacuums, like the pools they clean, come in many different shapes and sizes. If you still feel like you’re drowning in information, you might have some questions that need answering. Below are some frequently asked questions about pool vacuums.
Q. How often should I vacuum my pool?
You can vacuum your pool anytime you notice a lot of debris at the bottom. In regard to regular maintenance, you should vacuum your pool once a week.
Q. Is it okay to leave a pool vacuum in the pool?
Some manufacturers design their vacuums to spend days at a time submerged in a pool. While it does potentially shorten the vacuum’s lifespan due to corrosives like chlorine or salt, it’s generally okay to leave certain vacuums in the pool for days at a time. Vacuums that use a timer are best suited for these situations.
Q. Why is my pool dirty after I’ve vacuumed it?
This could be an issue with the pool filter. While you’re removing the gunk from the bottom of the pool, it’s the filtration system’s job to clean the water. If the filter doesn’t remove these particles kicked up by the vacuum, they’ll sink to the bottom of the pool, giving it a dirty appearance again.
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