Owning a swimming pool is one of the coolest things (literally and figuratively) one can do. Not only do you get to enjoy a water-filled day whenever you like, but you also get to host a plethora of get-togethers (when the timing’s right, that is).
But, with every advantage of pool ownership, comes a disadvantage. And one of the biggest drawbacks is cleaning your swimming pool. Sure, the chlorine you add to the water as well as your pool pump and filter do a decent job, but the best pool vacuum cleaners complete the task of keeping a swimming pool clean.
These devices use suction (from an internal source, a garden hose or your pool’s pump) to pick up the dirt and debris from the pool floor and walls. This, in turn, gives you and your guests a grime-free swimming experience — which is especially necessary in our modern-day world of immense germaphobia.
In this article, we’ll first answer all your questions about pool vacuum cleaners, and then we’ll dive into the best models available right now.
Why Are Pool Vacuum Cleaners Necessary?
Even though you put chemicals in your swimming pool and it has an effective filtration system, particles can still build up along the bottom. Whether it’s leaves, acorns or sand, these heavier particles will never get pumped through the filter. That’s why all pool owners need to invest in a swimming pool vacuum cleaner. Without a regular vacuum, your pool will never be truly clean, and it might not even be healthy for swimmers.
What are the Different Types of Pool Vacuum Cleaners?
Pool vacuum cleaners are generally categorized into three types, namely manual, automatic and robotic. Below, we’ll give you the low down on each one and outline their benefits and drawbacks.
Manual Pool Vacuum Cleaners
Manual pool vacuum cleaners are exactly what they sound like. These suction devices hook up to your pool’s filtration system and pull dirt and grime off the sides and floor of a pool. However, they do require the user to physically move them around the pool, much like a traditional vacuum cleaner. While that might seem like a lot of work, manual pool vacuum cleaners tend to be the cheapest pool vacuums on the market.
For pool owners who like to personally ensure they’ve cleaned every inch of their pool, there is no better choice than a manual option. However, for people who feel that they would rather not bother with vacuuming a pool every few days, a more expensive, non-manual option may be more appropriate.
Pros: Manual pool vacuum cleaners are cheap and give the user the ability to really clean all the crevices and hard-to-reach places personally
Cons: These vacuums require the user to do all the hard work, pushing and pulling the vacuum across the floor and sides of the pool.
Automatic Pool Vacuum Cleaners
In between manual pool vacuum cleaners and robotic pool vacuum cleaners is the somewhat confusing category of automatic pool vacuum cleaners. You can think of these as the predecessors to their robotic counterparts. Like manual pool vacuum cleaners, these devices hook up to a pool’s filtration system, and they suck dirt and grime off a pool’s walls and floor.
However, they do not require a user to push and pull them around the pool. Instead, automatic pool vacuum cleaners simply need to be plugged in, placed in the pool and left to run. While these vacuums are cleaning the pool, you can do your other chores or relax. When the vacuum is finished, you’ll need to disconnect it and store it away until the next cleaning session.
It’s also important to note that automatic pool vacuum cleaners are occasionally separated into two different types, namely suction-side and pressure-side. Most suction-side pool vacuum cleaners are only designed to pick up fine particles, such as sand and dirt. But, pressure-side cleaners can be used to collect larger items, like leaves. Where you live and what causes the most grime in your pool will determine which type of automatic pool vacuum you need.
Pros: Automatic pool vacuum cleaners strike a balance between price and convenience, as users can set them up and forget about them for a few hours.
Cons: Although they are more expensive, automatic pool vacuums aren’t fully self-capable. They still require someone to get them ready to clean.
Robotic Pool Vacuum Cleaners
Much like robotic vacuums, robotic pool vacuum cleaners are the most advanced models on the market. Rather than hooking up to a pool’s filtration system, these vacuums have their own built-in filters. Not only does this make vacuuming easier for you, but it also means your pool filters will last longer as they don’t have to deal with the dirt your vacuum sends to them.
When using a robotic vacuum cleaner all you have to do is place the robot in your pool, and it will get to work. You’ll hardly have to lift a finger. Plus, most robotic pool vacuum cleaners can pick up all types of dirt and debris, including sand, leaves and other grime.
Furthermore, like many household robotic vacuums, some robotic pool vacuum cleaners can create a digital map of a pool to ensure every square inch is cleaned during any given vacuuming session.
Of course, this type of automation comes with a price. Robotic pool vacuum cleaners can cost upwards of $1,000.
Pros: Robotic vacuum cleaners require very little input from the user as they don’t need to be hooked up to a pool’s filtration system.
Cons: These vacuums can be significantly more expensive than their counterparts.
Automatic vs. Manual Pool Vacuum Cleaners
When you start to look into the price and functionality of pool vacuum cleaners, there’s a big jump between manual and automatic vacuums. So knowing whether you’d be happy with a cheaper manual pool vacuum cleaner or you’d prefer the convenience of an automatic cleaner is imperative when picking out the best pool vacuum cleaner for you.
First and foremost, let’s get the obvious out of the way. Manual pool vacuum cleaners are, in general, hundreds of dollars cheaper than automatic pool vacuum cleaners. This makes them the most popular choice among pool owners.
However, manual pool vacuum cleaners require a lot more work than automatic ones do. With a manual pool vacuum cleaner, you’ll need to push and pull the device across your pool’s floor and walls. On the other hand, an automatic pool vacuum cleaner simply needs to be attached to your pool’s filtration system and left to run for a couple of hours.
The latter option is much easier, but it also doesn’t allow for the thoroughness a personal clean provides. When you’re the one cleaning your pool, you can be assured you’ve gotten the grime out of all the nooks and crannies.
Therefore, for clean freaks, people on a budget and experienced pool owners, a manual pool vacuum cleaner may be the better choice. For all others, the convenience of an automatic pool vacuum cleaner will more than make up for the extra money spent.
Automatic vs. Robotic Pool Vacuum Cleaners
If you’re trying to decide between an automatic and a manual pool vacuum cleaner, there are three factors you need to consider, namely price, convenience and the strain on your pool filters.
The first of these is probably the most important to most people. Automatic vacuum cleaners are cheaper than robotic vacuum cleaners, and, in reality, both devices adequately clean swimming pools. Therefore, most people tend to choose an automatic vacuum cleaner if they are worried about budget.
Of course, the price increase between robotic pool vacuum cleaners and automatic pool vacuum cleaners comes with an increase in convenience. Automatic pool vacuum cleaners generally still need to be hooked up to the pool’s filtration system, whereas robotic pool vacuum cleaners have built-in filtration systems. This means that robotic pool vacuum cleaners are quicker to set up and easier to use. The time saved might be worth the extra few hundred dollars in the long run.
Finally, it’s important to note that because robotic pool vacuum cleaners usually have built-in filtration systems, they put less strain on your pool’s filtration system. This may save you money on filter replacement year after year, which, in turn, makes the price increase between an automatic and robotic pool vacuum cleaner more palatable.
In-Ground vs. Above-Ground Pool Vacuum Cleaners
There’s a large difference between in-ground and above-ground pools, but there isn’t much of one when it comes to how to clean them. Both can be efficiently vacuumed.
As you probably already know above ground pools tend to be smaller and shallower than in-ground pools. Because of this, their pumps also tend to be less powerful. These factors mean that manual vacuum cleaners are often the best option for above ground pool owners, although some automatic vacuum cleaners are designed for these types of pools.
On the other hand, in-ground pool owners can use any type of pool vacuum cleaner they prefer. The only caveat to this is for pools with a deep end. Most pool vacuum cleaners are only designed to function up to eight feet deep. Any lower, and you’ll need a special pool vacuum cleaner which can function at depth.
How Much Do Pool Vacuum Cleaners Cost?
There’s a lot of variation between the three different types of pool vacuum cleaner. Although you will likely find some outside such a range, here are the prices you can expect.
- Manual Pool Vacuum Cleaners – $50 to $300
- Automatic Pool Vacuum Cleaners – $300 to $700
- Robotic Pool Vacuum Cleaners – $600 to $1,500
How Long Do Pool Vacuum Cleaners Last?
Like a swimming pool, a pool vacuum cleaner is an investment. Cheaper models will only last two to three seasons, whereas a more expensive vacuum is expected to function for three to five seasons. It’s also important to note that proper vacuum maintenance will go a long way towards extending the lifespan of your device. Be sure to read the owner’s manual to determine what’s recommended.
What are the Top Pool Vacuum Cleaner Brands?
Because pool vacuum cleaners are such a niche product, there are only a few brands in the market. Of these, about seven are names to watch out for. The top pool vacuum cleaner brands are:
- Dolphin – The top name in robotic vacuum cleaners, Dolphin models are some of the most popular high-end vacuums.
- Zodiac – Zodiac is the brand to beat in the automatic pool vacuum cleaner category.
- Hayward – With both robotic and automatic pool vacuum cleaners, Hayward specializes in in-ground pool service.
- XtremePowerUS – For powerful suction on a budget, XtremePowerUS is a popular brand to look out for.
- Polaris – Polaris is known for designing powerful vacuum cleaners that can pick up any type of debris. Models include both automatic and robotic designs.
- Pentair – Known for a balance between price and functionality, Pentair produces both automatic and robotic pool vacuum cleaners.
- Aquaproducts – Aquaproducts, and in particular the Aquabot, is a popular brand among above-ground swimming pool owners.
Other Things to Look for in a Pool Vacuum Cleaner
While deciding between a manual, an automatic (suction-side or pressure-side) and a robotic pool vacuum cleaner is the most important decision in the buying process, there are a few other things to consider.
- Surface Compatibility – While most pool vacuum cleaners can clean any type of pool material, some are designed only for plaster or gunite and won’t effectively clean tile or vinyl. Be sure to read the vacuum description before purchase if this is a concern for your pool.
- Pump Suitability – Most pool vacuum cleaners need to hook up to your pool’s pump to create suction. Therefore, you’ll need to ensure your pump’s rating is compatible with any given device before purchase.
- Climbing Ability – Some pool vacuum cleaners can only clean the floor of the pool, while others can clean the walls, too. In addition, if you have stairs in your pool, you’ll need to make sure you buy a vacuum that can climb and descend these tricky areas.
- Wheel Layout – Swimming pools are full of obstacles, from drains to filter flaps. Make sure the tracks or wheels on your pool vacuum cleaner can handle everything your pool is going to throw at it.
- Size – These specialized vacuum cleaners are often designed to clean a pool of a certain size. Therefore, if your pool is 30 feet, you’ll need a vacuum cleaner that’s rated to 30 feet or bigger. It’s also worth noting that you can occasionally add an extra hose to allow a vacuum to clean a bigger pool. However, you may not get the same suction and your cleaner may become entangled as it’s not programmed for the longer hose.
The Best Manual Pool Vacuum Cleaners
As the cheapest pool vacuum cleaners on the market, manual devices require nothing fancy. Most use the pool’s filtration system to create suction, although some may require a garden hose to force debris through a collection bag. In many cases, electricity is not required. If you want to start vacuuming your pool, but you don’t want to pay hundreds of dollars, check out the best manual pool vacuum cleaners.
POOLWHALE Portable Underwater Cleaner
One versatile manual option is the POOLWHALE Portable Underwater Cleaner. As the name suggests, it’s compact and easy to move between sites if required, making it easy to clean pools, fountains, ponds and spas. The cleaner comes with a four-piece, four-foot pole which provides a handy amount of reach for cleaning and can be broken down for more compact storage in the months it’s not being used. Furthermore, with over 2,000 five-star reviews from happy users, you can trust this device to get rid of those stains, leaves and stones.
PoolSupplyTown Pool Spa Jet Vacuum Cleaner
The PoolSupplyTown Pool Spa Jet Vacuum Cleaner is a simple and budget-friendly way to keep your pool clean. This easy-to-assemble, manual pool cleaner includes a four-foot pole to give you plenty of reach and help prevent you from getting wet during cleaning. There’s also a drawstring collection bag which is easily attached and removed for emptying when full. Plus, in addition to all kinds of swimming pools, this versatile, electric-free cleaner can also be used to clean fountains, ponds and spas, too.
Pool Blaster Max Cordless Pool-Cleaner
BEST BATTERY POWERED
By using battery power, the Pool Blaster Max Cordless Pool-Cleaner provides you with pool-cleaning freedom few other manual pool cleaners can offer. Every time you recharge the built-in battery, you’ll get 60 minutes of wire-free cleaning to remove dirt and collect leaves, twigs and other unwanted items. This battery-powered device also includes a large filter bag as well as a scrub brush head for scrubbing as it collects. In addition, this easy-to-use cleaner works great on all kinds of pools, including both in and above-ground models.
Poolmaster 28316 Swimming Pool Leaf Vacuum
See what’s actually going on throughout your entire cleaning experience with this pool leaf vacuum designed specifically for those who see a lot of greenery at the bottom of their pools. If you have a few trees in your backyard that ruin your pool days with constant foliage, the Poolmaster 28316 will be your skimmer’s best friend. Obviously, skim the top with what you’re currently using, but when leaves sink further than normal, suck them up with ease by using this vacuum. You’ll be able to physically trap and see everything inside, so you’ll know when it’s time to empty just by looking down.
The Best Automatic Pool Vacuum Cleaners
As discussed above, automatic pool vacuum cleaners are available in either suction-side or pressure-side configurations. Both need to be set up on the day of cleaning, and placed in the pool. After a couple of hours, you’ll simply need to return to the pool, remove the device and clear the filter or bag. If you’re looking for a good middle ground between price and convenience, consider investing in one of the best automatic pool vacuum cleaners.
Zodiac Baracuda G3 Automatic Pool Cleaner
The Zodiac Baracuda G3 Automatic Pool Cleaner comes recommended by over 1,750 five-star reviews and provides a quiet yet powerful way to get your pool clean. Simply attach the included hose and let the device get to work. You’ll find that the built-in FlowKeeper valve automatically regulates water, meaning it’s even capable of working with low-speed pumps. The design includes a 36-fin disc which prevents the cleaner head from getting stuck, while increasing the overall adhesion as it cleans your entire pool, including the steps, floor and walls.
Baracuda Zodiac MX8 Suction-Side Cleaner
The Baracuda Zodiac MX8 Suction-Side Cleaner is another well-reviewed automatic pool cleaner that provides an effort-free way to clean your pool. The cleaner includes a dual-suction head for a wider reach as well as cyclonic vacuum technology for more efficient debris collection. The X-Trax also help prevent the device from getting caught against lights, filters and other potential obstructions. It’s best suited to in-ground pools and works on all surfaces, including tile, fiberglass, concrete and vinyl.
Zodiac Polaris Vac-Sweep 360 Pressure Side Pool Cleaner
BEST FOR BIG DEBRIS
The Zodiac Polaris Vac-Sweep 360 Pressure Side Pool Cleaner is one of the most popular pool cleaners out there. It boasts over 2,500 five-star reviews, comes in two different sizes, and vacuums, sweeps and scrubs your pool all at the same time. The large opening ensures the cleaner can handle even the biggest debris, like acorns and leaves, while the large filler bag ensures you’ll get plenty of cleaning done before you’ll need to empty it. To get it going, simply attach it to your pool circulation pump using the included 31-foot feed hose and enjoy effortless pool cleaning.
The Best Robotic Pool Vacuum Cleaners
Set them up and forget about them, or control their movements from your smartphone. These are the best robotic pool vacuum cleaners on the market.
Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Pool Cleaner
With over 3,500 five-star reviews from Amazon users, you can trust that the Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Automatic Pool Cleaner is worthy of your investment. Not only is it great for all types of swimming pools, from tile to gunite, it also includes a powerful motor that produces impressive suction for removing pool debris, resulting in impressively clean outcomes. Furthermore, the cleaner’s tangle-free cable gives your robot cleaner unrestricted freedom to clean pools up to 50 feet in size in a maximum of two hours per clean.
Dolphin Triton PS Automatic Robotic Pool Cleaner
This energy-efficient, sustainably designed pool cleaner is great because, like other Dolphin brand cleaners, it doesn’t need to connect to your filter or pump to do its magic, making it a great energy saver. It’s automatic so you can walk away and let the robot do its thing for you in just two hours. And then it’s time to get swimming again. Set it on a daily timer so it does the job as much as you’d like. You’ll never be caught cleaning your pool alone again.
Dolphin Nautilus CC Supreme Pool Vacuum Cleaner
The DOLPHIN Nautilus CC Supreme Pool Vacuum Cleaner is an advanced pool cleaner made for the era of smart home gadgets. Like your smart doorbell camera, TV, and window blinds, this device connects to your home WiFi and lets you control it from anywhere using the accompanying mobile app. The device itself includes a powerful, dual dynamic motor that powers the triple active brushes for intense and effective pool cleaning. It also includes two large cartridge filters to collect pool debris, has a tangle-free swivel cable and, unlike many competing models, is capable of waterline scrubbing.