Leaves Don’t Stand a Chance Against the Best Pool Vacuums
Make cleaning suck less (literally).
Published Apr 23, 2022 9:05 AM
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While you may have managed to turn your backyard into a complete oasis with the addition of a custom pool, nothing sours the mood faster than swimming around fallen leaves and sediment. Investing in a pool vacuum not only allows you to enjoy your pool without the unwanted cloud of debris, it saves you all of the hours you usually spend skimming.
These nifty gadgets can sweep up the interior of your pool while you’re not using it, so there’s no fuss when you hop in the water. Some are more automatic for quick spot-cleans, and others (while more hands on) can tackle an entire pool overnight. We tapped pool designers and contractors to find the best pool vacuums that are reliable and make a clean sweep. Dive into our picks, ahead.
- Best overall: Polaris Vac-Sweep 280
- Best value: Seagull 600 Cordless Robotic Pool Cleaner
- Best suction: Pentair 360042 Kreepy Krauly
- Best robot: Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Robotic Pool
- Best surface cleaner: Ariel Solar Breeze
- Best for spot cleaning: Kokido Telsa 5 Rechargeable Pool Vacuum
Best Overall: Polaris Vac-Sweep 280
Type: Shaft drive | Use in: In-ground pools | Weight: 19 pounds | Coverage: Entire pool | Remote control: No
What we like:
- Powered by 2 jets
- Large waste bag
- Easy to replace pieces
- No smart features
Why we chose it: Looks aside, this pool vacuum is great at picking up underwater debris thanks to a large bag and long nozzle.
Sometimes you need to think of function over aesthetics when it comes to tech accessories you hope to rely on for years. At least that’s what designer Kele Dobrinksi of Colossus prioritized when choosing his pool vacuum. “I think with a pool vacuum, functionality is the most important thing,” he says. “While the Polaris 280 is not the prettiest or the most feature-rich, it’s designed with longevity in mind and has held up.” After 10 years of owning his, he also found that if minor repairs were ever needed, this vacuum’s parts are really easy to replace.
With its advanced cleaning technology (powered by triple jets), the Polaris 280 can scrape the bottom and sides of your pool and swiftly get the job done in just three hours. While you do need to attach it to your filter pump to use it, this model doesn’t require hands-on attention—its large filter bag can hold leaves and larger debris without needing to empty it out after every use.
Best Value: Seagull 600 Cordless Robotic Pool Cleaner
Type: Robot | Use in: Aboveground and small in-ground pools | Weight: 6.6 pounds | Coverage: Bottom of pool | Remote control: No
What we like:
- Easy to remove from pool
- Rechargeable battery
- Can run while swimming
- Takes more time
- Only works on flat floors
Why we chose it: This mini machine keeps out of your way while you take a dip.
Ideal for aboveground pools and smaller in-ground ones, this nifty rechargeable bot does a good job of picking up junk that settles underwater. With the ability to clean for up to 3.5 hours on a single charge, the Seagull 600 is completely wireless and hoseless—meaning you don’t risk running into it while you’re in the water. Simply turn the bot on and watch as two powerful motors propel it forward as its scrapers get the nitty-gritty off the bottom of your pool. Keep in mind that this simple option can only run on flat-floor pools and the smaller bag will need to be emptied frequently. But its lightweight and smaller size make it easy to set up and later swim around—you’ll forget it’s even there.
Best Suction: Pentair 360042 Kreepy Krauly
Type: Manual | Use in: In-ground pools | Weight: 10 pounds | Coverage: Bottom and sides of pool | Remote control: No
What we like:
- Extends to long distances
- Makes it easy to get to sides of pool
- Reaches where robots can’t
- Requires some work to operate
Why we chose it: Guiding dirt and debris into its wings, this manual cleaner will help you get every inch of your pool clean.
There are places that some cleaners just can’t get to—like the sides of the pool or sharp corners. For these situations, Dobronski recommends the Kreepy Krauly, which feels like a cross between a skimmer and a handheld vacuum. Hook up the tubing to your pool pump, and its dive-float directional system and cleaner wings will help route dirt, leaves, and other debris right into its filtration system. The Krauly’s roller straps allow it to maneuver around tricky spots like pool ladders, too, and its handle extends to 106 inches, which means you can even get down to the bottom of the deep end. This one might require a little more effort on your part, but for a sparkling-clean pool, we find that it’s a great option to consider.
Best Robot: Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Robotic Pool
Type: Robot | Use in: In-ground pools | Weight: 19 pounds | Coverage: Bottom and walls of pool | Remote control: Yes
What we like:
- Smart navigation
- Can climb walls
- Two cartilage filters
Why we chose it: This bot has the ability to crawl across walls and dip into the deep end all on its own.
Different pools have different floorings, but the Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus manages to sweep them all—including gunite, tile, and vinyl. Don’t be fooled by its relatively compact size either; the Nautilus can clean a medium-size pool up to 50 feet long, thanks to two scrubbing brushes and a tangle-free cord. You can pick between three cleaning frequency options: every day, every other day, or every third day to best match your pool usage and, well, swimming schedule. Its most impressive feature, however, might be its ability to climb walls, leaving the sides of your pool squeaky-clean as well.
Best Surface Cleaner: Ariel Solar Breeze
Type: Robot | Use in: Any pool | Weight: 15 pounds | Coverage: Above water | Remote control: No
What we like:
- Solar powered
- Easy to clean filter
- Runs for 10 hours without sunlight
- Doesn’t deep-clean
Why we chose it: A sun-powered cleaner that’ll help you put down the skimmer.
With this solar-powered contraption in your tool kit, you can put away your skimmer forever. The Ariel Solar Breeze can float on the surface of pools of all shapes and sizes, and its mesh filter collects a variety of debris, from bugs to leaves. Simply turn it on and watch it take off. This robot does not need to be charged either, as it’s powered by the sun. No sunlight? It can still run for 10 hours on a single charge. To maintain the unit itself, you’ll need to hose it down with water at least once weekly to keep the gunk from building up inside.
Best for Spot Cleaning: Kokido Telsa 5 Rechargeable Pool Vacuum
Type: Manual | Use in: Aboveground pools | Weight: 4.2 pounds | Coverage: Bottom of pool | Remote control: No
What we like:
- Good for spot cleaning
- Handheld size
Why we chose it: If you don’t plan on using it to clean your entire pool, this small vacuum can quickly pick up messes.
While a larger, more automatic cleaner is good if you want to set it and forget it, this smaller, handheld pool vacuum works well for spot cleaning before you go for a swim. That said, it can also be used to clean a small-to medium-size aboveground pool up to 18 feet; that just might take more time. This cleaner vacuums and filters simultaneously thanks to its wide nozzle and rotational ball wheels made for easy gliding along the pool floor. You won’t have to deal with any cords either—it’s equipped with a rechargeable battery that has a 30-minute run time.
How We Chose These Products
The best pool vacuums help take care of a tedious cleaning chore and shouldn’t cause homeowners any headaches—from setup to charging. That’s why we evaluated automatic cleaners not only on how easy they were to use, but the kind of pool they worked best on, from tiled to fiberglass and in-ground to aboveground. To help narrow down our search, we tapped both pool designers and contractors for their recommendations of products and what to look for. From there, we found models that checked our boxes in suction, mobility, and filters.
Our Shopping Checklist
Types of Pool Vacuums
There are four major kinds of pool cleaners: robot, manual, pressure-side, and suction-side. The size and type of your pool will impact what vacuum is needed. Pool vacuums connect to a filter or pool pump, so that compatibility will also determine what kind of vacuum is the best fit for your setup.
Robot: Akin to household robot vacuums, these do almost all of the dirty work for you. Powered by electric cords, batteries, or solar power, you can set them for several hours (some even have programmable timers) and typically leave them alone while they work. But once the vacuum is filled, you’ll need to empty it on your own. While on the pricier end, they definitely handle some of the heavy lifting.
Manual: These vacuums require the most work on your end but still make it easy to sweep up debris. Their vacuum heads are attached to extended poles and will use your pool’s suction system to capture leaves and the like, making them as efficient and powerful as the pump you own. You’ll have to push the vacuum across the bottom and walls yourself; however, they are appropriate for most pool shapes, sizes, and textures (though deeper areas may be harder to reach).
Pressure-side: These vacuums use water pressure from pool pumps to push the device forward and clean up a pool. This is the most common power source, and the pressurized water system will pull the water (and particles) in, trapping anything unwanted. Some of these models are able to climb on walls, but you may need a booster pump if yours isn’t strong enough.
Suction-side: Rather than using pressure, suction-side vacuums use the suction from a pool filter to power them and are hooked up through the pool skimmer, which most pools have. Without any debris bags or cartridges, these filters empty out through the filter, but that can sometimes slow down the suction if clogged.
Robot vacuums aside, even when some pool vacuums feature more than one jet or cartridge, the suction power still primarily relies on your pool’s current pump and filter. “A pool vacuum always runs off your pump or filter,” says Steve Combee, construction manager at Premier Pools. “All of this is an extension of your current system.”
In your search for a powerful, long-lasting pool vacuum, you’ll need to consider the shape of your pool. Some pool vacuums cannot move over steps, around sharp corners, or maneuver down steep, deep-end drop-offs. And others work better on varying materials like gunite or fiberglass.
Because of this, Dobrinski says he’ll even design his pools with vacuum movement in mind. “I think that looking at a pool’s layout in the beginning and making sure your vacuum is going to be able to be efficient and work well in the space is a key consideration,” he explains.
Care and Maintenance
Unfortunately, no pool vacuum will last forever, but with some extra care and maintenance, it can last a good while. Ensure that bags and cartridges are regularly cleaned out to prevent any clogs or messes. It’s also a good idea to check the warranty, which is usually about two years. But if you find a vacuum with easily replaceable parts, you can make some adjustments if something does break post-warranty, so you don’t have to replace it entirely.
Q: How often should you vacuum a pool?
According to Combee, you typically only need to clean your pool with a pool vacuum once a week. But depending on the amount of debris blowing around, you might want to do it more often. For Dobrinski, he says he runs his daily, as long as the pump is running.
Q: How many hours per day should you run a pool cleaner?
If you plan on doing more frequent cleans, you can run your vacuum continuously, but there’s no need to do it longer than 12 hours, says Combee.
Q: How long do pool vacuums last?
Depending on the manufacturer, pool vacuums can last anywhere between three and five years. However, you can extend the longevity of the machine to seven years or more with basic maintenance and occasional part replacements.
Q: Can pool vacuums pick up algae?
Most pool vacuums are connected to your pool pump or filter through the tubing, meaning it will pick up any particle that is not dissolved in the water, including algae (though the best algicides also help). “If you could pick it up with a screen, a vacuum would pick it up,” Combee says.
Q: Should I run a pool vacuum when it’s raining?
Because a pool vacuum is an extension of your current system and is made with water in mind, it should be safe to run during rainy weather. Plus why not get the dirty work done when you can’t swim?
The Last Word
Pool vacuums take care of the annoying task of skimming your pool for leaves and other debris that has sunk to the bottom. For most pools, the Polaris 280 will do an excellent job at scooping up that grime and last for years to come. But for those with smaller or aboveground pools, the handheld Kokido Telsa will work wonders for spot cleaning.
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