The Best Pool Floats for Summer Go Beyond the Pizza Slice
Think: Stripes, ombré, and rainbow shimmer.
Published May 19, 2022 1:15 PM
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Summer is here, and the living is easy—and what makes warmer months by the pool even better? A float to lounge on, of course. Whether you have a pool in your backyard or at your apartment building, or if you make frequent trips to the beach, we’re thinking a pool float (or two or three) is in order. There’s a reason why they seem to dot every watery shot seen on Instagram—these inflatables instantly decorate any pool with a bright pop of color, and they’re a relaxing spot to rest in between dips underwater.
Nowadays there seems to be a pool float to suit, really, any preference. Our favorites boast fun, geometric shapes and come in quality materials (hello, recyclable vinyl). Not to mention the designs: Classic cabana stripes? Kaleidoscopic hues that’ll catch the sun? Yes and yes. No matter what type of float you’re looking for, we’ve got you covered with the eight best pool floats.
- Best colors: Funboy Ombré Rainbow Chaise Lounger
- Best stripes: Drift and Escape Morgan Dwyer Signature Series Pool Chaise Lounge Float
- Best sparkle: PoolCandy Holographic Deluxe Pool Raft
- Best patterns: The Nice Fleet Inflatable Printed Pool Rings
- Best for groups: Pottery Barn Round Lounger Pool Float
- Best minimalist look: Petites Pommes Céline Inflatable Ring
- Best conversation starter: SunnyLife Float Away Lie on Greek Eye
- Best for comfort: Pottery Barn Kai Water Hammock
Best Colors: Funboy Ombré Rainbow Chaise Lounger
Size: 45-by-28-by-24 inches | Weight capacity: 225 pounds | Shape: Lounger
What we like:
- Made by one of the top pool float brands
- Made of vinyl, which can be recycled
- Can be used in the water or on the beach
- Holds up to 225 pounds
Why we chose it: A place to stash a cold one and lounge in the ultimate reclined position.
The best pool floats around tend to come in punchy colors, but this might be the punchiest of them all. We love its ombré treatment in pink, orange, and yellow, which literally looks like a sunset’s palette. The popular pool float brand Funboy is known for its thick, durable materials and features that just make sense, like a perfectly placed cup holder and that it’s elevated enough to use as a sleek poolside seat, too.
Size: 74-by-42-by-29 inches | Weight capacity: N/A | Shape: Lounger
What we like:
- Made of fabric, so it’s less hot in the sun
- A backrest that supports your whole body
- Big enough to squeeze in 2
- A bit expensive for a pool float
Why we chose it: Summery stripes you won’t get tired of, with a comfy pillow, to boot.
There’s a reason why the first-ever Barbie doll still looks just as stylish today in her black-and-white–striped swimsuit—it’s a timeless pattern that has held up over the years, even on a pool float. The giant backrest on this one doesn’t hurt either, making for a pool lounging experience that allows you to sit upright while reading or chatting with friends. And despite its size, when the day is done, it’s easy to put away thanks to three handles for maneuvering.
Best Sparkle: PoolCandy Holographic Deluxe Pool Raft
Size: 74-by-30 inches | Weight capacity: N/A | Shape: Raft
What we like:
- Holographic treatment that will glisten in the sun
- Made of super-durable PVC
- No headrest
- At 6 feet long, it won’t accommodate taller people
Why we chose it: Head turning in holographic tones and crafted by a family-owned company.
Admit it—part of the reason you go to the pool is to show off your stylish summer essentials. You’re wearing your standout bikini, you’ve got that just-right sunscreen glow on your skin, and to top it off with something extra-frilly, you take out your holographic pool raft that’s anything but a wallflower. This float has serious sparkle, and while it looks low-key luxe, it’s actually very affordable to painlessly add to your cart.
Best Patterns: The Nice Fleet Inflatable Printed Pool Rings
Size: 47-inch diameter | Weight capacity: N/A | Shape: Ring
What we like:
- 5 punchy patterns to choose from
- Printed on both sides
- Recycled PVC plastic
- Can’t be inflated with compressed air
Why we chose it: Tie-dye, bold florals, and charming swimmers in five patterns of your choosing.
Novelty floaties, from a buoyant pizza slice to an iconic white swan, are great and all, but sometimes you just want a contemporary print that can match your swimsuit. French recyclable inflatables brand Nice Fleet checks all the boxes there: tie-dye pastels, chic florals, and charming swimmers. Get one or a few of these patterned inner tubes and flawlessly create the perfect pool ensemble.
Best for Groups: Pottery Barn Round Lounger Pool Float
Size: 78-by-27.5 inches | Weight capacity: N/A | Shape: Round
What we like:
- Made of UV-resistant fabric
- Perfect for multiperson pool parties
- Ottoman pops out so you can swim through
- Can feel too large for solo lounging
- Needs to be stored in a dry place when not in use
Why we chose it: A nautical look and enough spots for pals during an afternoon in the pool.
While you could sprawl out across this giant pool float by yourself with that summer book you just can’t put down, we recommend breaking this one out for parties. In supersoft Sunbrella fabric (one of the best and sturdiest outdoor fabrics around), it will be a comfy nook for you and three of your friends to sip some margs and watch a perfect afternoon turn into evening.
Best Minimalist Look: Petites Pommes Céline Inflatable Ring
Size: 47-inch diameter | Weight capacity: 220 pounds | Shape: Ring
What we like:
- Sleek, hand-printed design
- Phthalate- and BPA-free
- Can’t use an air pump to inflate, which means you’ll be using your own set of lungs to blow it up
Why we chose it: A subtle yet highly stylish print in an oh-so-classic ring shape.
Imagine that you’re floating in turquoise blue waters in the South of France…what pool float are you using? We’d like to think that you’re lounging in something with neutral hues and a quiet, streamlined pattern that won’t go out of style anytime soon. This classic inflatable ring has staying power for years to come if you don’t want to buy a new float each summer. We also love that it comes with a storage bag and puncture-repair patch should you accidentally tear it.
Best Conversation Starter: SunnyLife Float Away Lie on Greek Eye
Size: 70.87-by-51.18-by-7.09 inches | Weight capacity: 220 pounds | Shape: Eye
What we like:
- Made of nontoxic PVC
- Includes repair patch
- Eye shape could be difficult to stretch out on
Why we chose it: An eye-catching look (pun intended) that’ll make for a ’grammable afternoon no doubt.
So you might not be able to spread out on this float like the other picks on this list, but c’mon—it’s an eye, complete with gold eyelashes! This float is begging to be Instagrammed, even while just floating around on its own during a poolside cocktail hour. Maybe it will bring you some good luck when you need it—like preventing you from turning into a lobster in the sun (no matter how much sunscreen you layer on).
Best for Comfort: Kai Water Hammock
Size: 28-by-70 inches | Weight capacity: 300 pounds | Shape: Lounger
What we like:
- Available in 3 classic colors: red, teal, and blue
- Made of incredibly durable marine fabric
- Filled with polystyrene beads that aren’t eco-friendly
- Requires a few steps to clean and care for it
Why we chose it: Hot plastic no more: This fabric makes for a cool lounging experience no matter the summer temps.
Sure, falling asleep in a hammock is a quintessential summer activity, but what about a pool float that imitates a hammock? It’s a whole new relaxation experience, where the water can support you in an afternoon nap under the sun.
We Also Like These See-Through Picks
- For a pink see-through option that’ll let you look down at the sand below, consider Funboy’s Clear Pink Mesh Lounger, complete with a drink holder and a curvaceous shape that’s reminiscent of Memphis-style mirrors.
- Sure, you could go with a totally clear float, but why do that when you can have glitter swirling around inside? That’s what you’ll get with the SunnyLife Tube Lilo Glitter—a little extra sparkle when the sun hits just right.
How We Chose These Products
There are countless pool floats out there (you’ll basically find them everywhere you shop this time of year). That’s why we did our due diligence to narrow down our favorites, first by tapping Domino’s style director, Naomi deMañana, for her brand input. From there we considered the fun elements of these floats, such as colors and patterns, but also durable materials. For the nitty-gritty details of care and use, we talked to experts Blake Barrett, cofounder of Funboy, and designer Emily Henderson. We also pulled a variety of prices to include every summer budget.
Our Shopping Checklist
Most pool floats are made from PVC plastic, which tends to be very sturdy (but not puncture-proof). For an option that’s more on the eco-friendly side, look to pool floats rendered in vinyl, a material that can be recycled and, in turn, melted down to become other vinyl items.
“If your budget allows, I would try to get ones that will last,” says Henderson. “It’s so important to be conscious of the plastic we are buying and make sure that we aren’t throwing them away after one season.”
Keep in mind that any kind of plastic can be hot to the touch on a particularly balmy day—pool floats in darker colors will be hotter than ones in lighter hues. If this worries you (especially if you have little ones), aim for a float with a fabric cover that won’t get as hot to the touch.
Shape and Size
Choose a pool float based upon who will be using it. While a teeny-tiny float may work for a child, others might not enjoy trying to squeeze into a small-diameter tube-shaped float. Also think of the comfort level you’d like to achieve. Rectangle-shaped, lounge-style rafts are the comfiest (and level up with a headrest) and circular tube-shaped ones come in at a close second.
If you’re blowing up a float before heading to the pool or beach, tube-shaped floats are supereasy to carry. Lounge-style floats are a wee bit tricker to tote because of their slightly cumbersome, rectangular shape. And extra-large floats designed for groups you may want to keep for backyard pools, unless you wait to blow them up once you reach your summer destination.
Q: I’m not a human inflator! How do I blow up a pool float?
Yup, looking at a deflated float can make you feel a bit deflated, too. You may think: How am I ever going to fill that thing up with my own breath? Well, you’ll be happy to know that electric pumps exist and are wise investments if you plan on buying one float or an entire collection of them. That said, people have come up with brilliant hacks in place of electric pumps, like using a leaf blower or bicycle pump. If you do take it on with your own breath, go slow and take breaks so you aren’t lightheaded before your day of supposed relaxation even begins.
Q: Can I leave my float in the pool?
While you may not want to leave them in the water all the time (they can get bleached from the sun, become dirty, or even develop mold), pool floats can certainly act as great conversation starters during a get-together! Henderson even recommends it, as they add instant color, pattern, and whimsy to any outdoor pool gathering. You might as well use your floats for as many occasions as possible. “I would just use a couple and make sure they work stylistically with the rest of the party decor,” she says. Henderson is partial to ’60s and ’70s retro prints, both in warm, saturated, and muted tones: “Think: pinks, oranges, and yellows.”
Barrett puts it best: “Pool floats make time with your family and friends simply more fun. If you have floats, you’re encouraging your guests to vibe-shift into a playful, carefree mood.”
Q: What’s the best way to store pool floats?
Unfortunately, for many of us, winter arrives at some point and those floats may look out of place (and will be pretty frozen) on your pool deck. Or you simply may want to stash your floats whenever they’re not in use. It can be tedious to hold open the plastic valve as you deflate your float, which is why you should try holding it open with a binder clip instead—you can gently press down on the float to make it deflate faster. Barrett recommends storing floats away from not only extreme cold but UV light (that means not leaving it in peak sun all day, every day). “If you deflate and store your float after you use it, you’ll significantly prolong the life of the product,” he adds.
Q: How do I clean pool floats?
“Pool floats are supereasy to clean if you properly take care of them,” Barrett says. “After using your float, rinse with fresh water and wipe dry with a towel. Allow to fully dry before deflating and folding. If you need a bit more cleaning, a touch of dish soap and a rag will do the trick for most.” And, of course, always be sure to read the care instructions.
The Last Word
Whether you’re dressing up a party in colorful summer goodness or legitimately looking for an idyllic place to lounge in the sun, you pretty much need a pool float. With all the color and material options available today, you’re sure to score one (or a few) that fit your decor vibe and make your pool complete.
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