Best pool vacuum: 6 essential buys for easy pool cleaning
Keep your pool looking its best with our edit of the best pool vacuums, with the top designs for all types and sizes of pools
The best pool vacuums make cleaning your backyard pool a breeze. After all, you want your pool to be sparkling but you want to spend your time enjoying it, not cleaning it. Luckily, technology has come a long way and there are many automatic pool vacuums that can complete this chore for you.
If you’re trying to keep your pool spotless with an old, manual vacuum, it’s about time you got yourself a new one. The latest pool vacuums can effortlessly clear up leaves, sand, gravel, grass, bugs, or any other debris from your pool, while you chill out poolside. We don’t love chores, so we focused on automatic pool vacuums in our list and we’ve found options to suit all budgets and needs.
Pool vacuums usually come in one of four varieties; manual, robotic, suction-side, and pressure-side. If you have a small above-ground pool, you’ll want a lightweight, budget-friendly option. If you have a large inground pool, you might want a robotic one with all the bells and whistles so you can set it and forget it. No matter what type of pool vacuum you’re looking for, the ones listed below are good-quality products from trusted brands. They are built to last and all come with warranties, too, just in case.
When choosing the right pool vacuum for you, you’ll want to consider your budget, pool size, type of pool, type of debris, and how much effort you’re willing to put in. Some require professional installation, others attach to your skimmer, some are battery-powered, or plug-and-go, and don’t need to be hooked up to your pool’s filtration system at all. All the vacuums we’ve listed here don’t require a booster pump and can be installed yourself, so you'll already have everything you need.
Whatever your routine, vacuuming is an essential element of pool maintenance, so sit back, relax and read on to find the best pool vacuum for you.
The best pool vacuums
Why you can trust Gardeningetc Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.
1. Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Robotic Pool Vacuum
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Robotic Pool Vacuum takes the number one spot as it automatically and thoroughly cleans your backyard pool with almost no user effort required. This robotic cleaner works just like a robot vacuum inside the house; you simply set it and forget it. It also has CleverClean technology which ensures it works its way around your whole pool, including the walls, without missing a spot.
We love that it is so user-friendly. It has a simple display so you can push a few buttons and sit back and relax while it does the hard work for you. It doesn’t require any installation as it has inbuilt filters and doesn’t need to be hooked up to the skimmer. You just plug it into a power supply and let it get to work.
It works well whether you have a fiberglass, vinyl, tile, or cement pool liner and, as it has its own filter built-in, it won’t affect the lifespan of your pool's filtration system. This model has dual scrubbing brushes and superior filtering capabilities to keep your pool squeaky clean. It also comes with a fine filter included, so you can switch to clear smaller particles like sand or gravel.
The Dolphin Nautilus is very efficient; it can clean a 33ft long pool in under two hours, which is a lot faster than we could do with a manual vacuum. Plus, it's able to clean pools up to 50ft long.
We love the scheduling feature, too. You can set it to clean your pool daily, every other day, or every three days to keep it looking crystal clear. You do have to remember to empty the filter regularly though, so it doesn’t get clogged up.
The only drawback is that all of this doesn't come cheap. It’s one of the more pricey options on our list and it may be a little more than some pool owners need. However, it's also more energy-efficient than many other vacuums, so it could save on bills in the long run. It also can't clean steps very well and it sometimes gets tangled in its ‘tangle-free’ cable.
Overall, this is a fantastic cleaning machine that makes your life so much easier. It is more expensive than other options out there, but Dolphin is a reputable brand and it comes with a 24-month limited warranty. It is very quick and easy so you can spend more time swimming and less time cleaning. We think it’s well worth the investment.
2. Zodiac Baracuda G3 Automatic Pool Cleaner
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
If you have a smaller pool, it probably isn’t worth splashing out on a pricey, robotic option with all the bells and whistles like the one above. Instead, go for the Zodiac Baracuda G3 Automatic Pool Cleaner. This super simple suction-side cleaner has less moving parts, so less can go wrong.
This pool cleaner delivers efficient, effective cleaning for the floor and walls of pools with tile, cement, vinyl, or fiberglass liners. It has a wheel fitting behind the head of the cleaner to help it navigate tight areas, like stairs and lights. This is a suction-side cleaner, so it works by automatically vibrating its way around the pool, sucking up any debris in its path without any input required.
It does need to be hooked up to the skimmer or to a dedicated vacuum line, just like a manual vacuum does. It doesn’t require a booster pump or professional installation and comes with detailed instructions to show you how to do it yourself. You can simply attach the disc, wheel deflector, and hose, and connect it up to the skimmer. Once you’re set-up, it does all the hard work for you.
The Baracuda G3 also comes with a FlowKeeper valve that regulates water flow, allowing the vacuum to be effective even with low-speed pumps. And although this vacuum is designed for inground pools, we found it works well for above-ground pool maintenance, too.
We like the durable hoses that are designed to be scuff resistant so as to not damage the walls of your pool. We also like that it is so low maintenance and simple without any wheels, filters or technology to worry about.
One of the main drawbacks is that it won’t work if your pool is longer than 39ft, which isn’t ideal if you have a large pool. It also uses your pool's filtration system which may reduce its lifespan and it can get clogged with large debris like leaves. It does take a little longer to clean than a robotic vacuum as it uses suction to navigate around and will clean dirt as it chances upon it, rather than being programmed to cover all areas of the pool.
If you have a small or medium-sized pool and you are looking for a good quality option that won’t break the bank, this is the one for you. It gets the job done completely automatically and doesn’t require any professional installation.
3. Polaris 360 Inground Pool Cleaner Vacuum
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
If you have a particularly dirty pool with lots of leaves or large debris, the Polaris 360 Inground Pool Cleaner is a great choice. It has a wide debris throat and a roomy filter bag that can collect things like leaves, sticks, or pinecones easily. It’s far better to have these collected in an external filter bag instead of going directly into your pool’s filtration system, as they would with a suction-side cleaner. It reduces filter cleanings and can prolong the life of the filter.
This vacuum is completely automatic and requires minimal input to clean your pool. It also cleans very thoroughly with its triple jets and sweep hose. Many pressure-side cleaners require a booster pump, but this one doesn’t. It hooks up to your regular pump system, which is much more convenient.
Another plus is that, as this is a pressure-side cleaner, it will increase the circulation in the pool. This mixes up the pool chemicals which means they can work more effectively. This reduces the need to add more harsh chemicals.
We found the setup to be more difficult than other options on our list. It is possible to do it yourself without a professional, but it does take some time and effort and you may need some helpers. We also found that it is not the best wall climber and it can be a little erratic when maneuvering around steps and lights. This vacuum has more moving parts than the Baracuda above, so it will likely require more maintenance over time. It takes longer to clean the pool than our top choice too, but it is much more affordable.
In summary, this is the best vacuum for pools that tend to have issues with leaves or larger debris. While these would clog a suction-side cleaner like the Baracuda above, they pose no problem at all for the Polaris 360. Polaris is a reputable brand that has been in the business for over thirty years. It comes with a one-year warranty and it feels like it is built to last.
4. Polaris F9550 Sport
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
If you are looking for something that actually cleans the walls of your pool, rather than just claiming to, the Polaris F9550 Sport is the pool vacuum for you. This 4WD robotic pool cleaner is designed to tackle all pool terrain, including steps and walls.
This vacuum does a great job of cleaning the pool with a built-in scrubbing brush and wide throat that can handle large debris. It requires very little input and doesn’t even need any installation, you just plug it in and you’re good to go.
The motion-sensing remote control can be used to direct the vacuum to where it’s needed most. And the ActivMotion sensor controls the robot's position, so it will cover all areas of the pool, rather than relying on chance, like suction or pressure-side cleaners. It also has an easy lift system so you simply push a button on the control and the vacuum climbs up the wall to you.
We really like the dirty canister indicator and the easy-clean filter canister. If only all pool cleaners did this. It saves you from having to take the vacuum out and clean the filter after every use. You can just do it when you need to.
The main downside is that it's an expensive option. We also found that, although it can clean large debris and leaves, it is not the best for smaller sand or gravel. Our top choice, the Dolphin Nautilus, comes with different filters for larger or smaller debris and we wish this one did too.
If you have a lovely, deep, inground pool with steep walls to clean, this vacuum is the one for you. It even has a waterline-only setting, where it just focuses on scrubbing the walls clean around the waterline.
5. Hayward 500 Aqua Bug Above-Ground Automatic Pool Cleaner
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
So far our list has focused on vacuums designed for inground pools, but above-ground pools often don’t have powerful, built-in pump systems to attach inground vacuums to. They often have a vinyl liner too and need a more gentle clean, in the same way that many of the best hot tubs do if you opted for an inflatable design. Our top choice for above-ground pools is the simple and effective Hayward 500 Aqua Bug.
If you have time and you're willing to put in the effort, small above-ground pools can be cleaned effectively with a manual vacuum. However, the Aqua Bug can automatically clean pools up to 27ft long with very little user input required. The Aqua Bug has a patented SmartDrive steering system that ensures the bottom of the pool is cleaned completely. It connects to the pool's skimmer system and pulls water up from the bottom of the pool with a turbine. This system ensures constant, balanced water flow, so the vacuum moves gently across the pool floor. This is especially important in seasonal, above-ground pools with liners that can be damaged more easily.
Setup is quite simple. The manufacturers claim it can be installed in ten minutes. We think it takes a little longer, but it does come with detailed instructions that are easy to follow.
The main downside of this vacuum is that it doesn't clean walls or steps, so it's definitely not the best option for inground pools. It’s also not ideal for cleaning leaves or large debris which can clog the cleaner. Plus, as it is a suction-side cleaner, it uses the pool's filtration system which can shorten the lifespan of the filter.
However, for an above-ground pool where you can clean the walls manually, this vacuum is ideal. It cleans the floor of your pool automatically, with very little user effort. It is slower than robotic models, but it's also significantly cheaper, and it is all you need for a small to medium, above-ground pool.
6. XtremepowerUS Automatic Suction Pool Cleaner Vacuum
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The XtremepowerUS Automatic Pool Cleaner is much more budget-friendly than many other automatic vacuums on the market. So before you resign yourself to spending hours cleaning your pool manually, take a look at this bargain time-saving device.
It automatically cleans your pool with very little user input. This suction-side vacuum vibrates its way around your pool cleaning as it goes. It's a nice simple design without wheels or gears, which makes maintenance easier.
It does require some initial setup to put together the right length of hose and attach it to your pool's skimmer system. You can do this yourself without any tools or professional help. It isn’t as easy as plug-and-go options, but it does come with detailed instructions.
It requires at least a 3/4-horsepower pump to operate, but most pool pumps easily fulfill this requirement. However, if you have a small above-ground pool, double-check that it will be compatible with your pump before you make the purchase.
This is another good option for above-ground pools, as it is super lightweight and can easily be lifted up and over the walls. It comes with enough hose to clean a pool up to 29ft long. However, it cannot clean pools with a shallow end less than 3ft deep. For some shallower above-ground pools, this could be an issue.
It isn’t ideal for pools that get super dirty as leaves or large debris can clog the vacuum. Also, it uses your pool’s filter which will need to be cleaned more regularly which can reduce the lifespan of the filter.
It isn’t the most effective pool cleaner on the market, but it is a lot cheaper than the other vacuums on our list. It is certainly a lot easier than cleaning your pool manually. Overall, we think it’s a fabulous budget option.
Things to consider when choosing the best pool vacuum
From what type of pool vacuum will work best for your pool to how easy you want your pool maintenance to be, there are a few things worth considering when making your purchase.
Types of pool vacuum
- Manual: This is the classic style pool vacuum with a long pole that the user has to push back and forth across the floor and walls. They can attach to the pool's filter (suction-side) or have a filter bag to collect debris (pressure-side). We’re not a huge fan of these as they require more work than automatic pool cleaners. However, they are usually the most affordable option.
- Robotic: These are at the other end of the scale. They can be chucked into the pool and left to it. They plug straight into a power supply or some are battery powered and have their own built-in filters. They come with technology to ensure they don’t miss a spot. Just like the best robot lawn mowers, they are the most expensive, but most convenient option.
- Pressure-Side: These use the return line from the pool's filtration system to power the vacuum. It uses something called the Venturi effect to draw pool water in trapping debris in the built-in filters. This is also what allows them to stick to the floor and walls. Some models require a booster pump, others work without (like those on our list).
- Suction-Side: These vacuums attach to the suction side of the pool filter through the skimmer. This means they rely on the pools filtration system which can shorten the lifespan of your filter. On the plus side, they don’t require any booster pumps.
Pool size and type
Whatever swimming pool shape you have, if you've only got a small pool, you don’t have to invest in a robotic cleaner with all the bells and whistles. You will likely be fine with a simpler automatic cleaner, or even a manual vacuum if you’re willing to put the work in.
If you have a large pool with lots of pool landscaping surrounding it, make sure you check that the vacuum you purchase comes with enough hose or cable to reach your whole pool. A robotic vacuum will ensure that you don’t miss any spots and allow you to keep on top of cleaning with scheduling capabilities.
If you have an above-ground pool, you will definitely want to consider the weight of your cleaner, as you will have to pick it up and over the walls. You will also want to consider whether your liner is vinyl, tile, cement etc., and ensure the vacuum you chose will work well on your surfaces. Inground pools with steep walls will need a 4wd cleaner that will be able to clean the walls too.
How often do you need to use a pool vacuum?
Ideally, you will need to use a pool vacuum at least once a week during the swimming season. However, sometimes you may need to use it more often than this – for instance, after a pool party, or if heavy rainfall and windy weather has caused debris to fall into the water.
Leave the vacuum on for as long as it takes to clean the entire pool – this will vary depending on the model, how clean the pool was to start with, and the size of your pool.
What other tools do you need to maintain your pool?
Vacuuming is just one aspect of a pool maintenance routine. You'll also need to get the chemical balance right, meaning you'll need to invest in tester kits and pool balancers and sanitizers, such as chlorine or bromine and shock treatments.
A pool net is also a must for your pool maintenance tool kit – use this to skim off any fallen leaves as soon as you spot them, before they sink and potentially stain the bottom of the pool.
A pool brush can also come in handy, although you'll likely need to use this less if you invest in a robotic pool vacuum that includes a brush as part of its design. Pool brushes are used to brush the walls and steps of your pool to prevent a film of algae, mineral deposits, oils, and other sediments from building up.
Can a pool vacuum get rid of algae?
A vacuum can help to get rid of algae in a pool, but using a manual one is generally the most effective option. Switch it to the waste setting and keep topping up the pool as needed to avoid allowing the water level to dip too low.
As well as this, you'll need to check the chemical balance of your pool and apply a shock treatment. Once you've treated your pool and removed the algae, remember to clear out the pool filters, too.
Emily Grant is a British ex-pat living in Squamish, Canada. She has written about all sorts from interior design and gardening, to travel, tourism, and pets. When she’s not writing, she loves finding DIY ways to beautify her rented space. She also loves spending time out in the backyard, relaxing in the hammock on her beautiful patio. In addition to Gardeningetc, her work has featured on Real Homes and Homes & Gardens.
Take part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2023 to save our feathered friends
Gardens Watching garden visitors for just one hour in the Big Garden Birdwatch 2023 could help provide vital data to protect birds from the effects of climate change
By Jayne Dowle • Published
Do you need to chit potatoes? Find out what the experts say
Grow Your Own Learn how to chit potatoes before planting them in the ground and you’ll be on your way to getting an earlier and bigger harvest
By Drew Swainston • Published