Updated Aug 10, 2022 4:10 AM
There might be no scene that better encapsulates summer than this one: you’re lounging poolside, drink in hand, sunscreen at the ready, BBQ heating up. If you have a pool, you probably spend an inordinate amount of time dreaming of this day all winter. But, along with the benefits (and there are so many benefits) of owning a pool, come the responsibilities of upkeep, which can get out of hand if you don’t have the right tools with which to keep your pool in tip-top shape. Case in point? The pool vacuum cleaner, that all-important piece of equipment that keeps the debris out and the good times rolling, all summer long. So get a head start on summer with our picks for the best pool vacuums.
- Best overall: POOL BLASTER Water Tech Catfish Pool Cleaner
- Best inground: Zodiac MX6 In-Ground Suction Side Pool Cleaner
- Best cordless: AIPER SMART Cordless Rechargeable Pool Cleaner
- Best robotic: Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Robotic Pool Vacuum Cleaner
- Best manual: Poolmaster Big Sucker Swimming Pool Leaf Vacuum
- Best budget: POOLWHALE Portable Pool Vacuum
How we chose the best pool vacuums
We love diving into specs to find a selection of great products. We then look at critical reviews, take peer recommendations, and survey user impressions to narrow down the options to the best pool vacuums.
What to consider when buying the best pool vacuums
While the American tradition of pool-centric leisure has been around since the late 1800s, manual pool vacuums didn’t come around until the 1950s. Thus, while pool cleaning technology certainly isn’t new, it’s not that old, either. Plenty has happened in the way of innovation since the mid-20th century and that trend is sure to continue. Nowadays, there are so many different types of pool vacuums to select from that it’s easy to become overwhelmed with choices. Do you want one that’s manual or one that’s automatic? Small and portable or large and in charge? What if you don’t actually need a pool cleaner at all? These are the kinds of questions (and subsequent decisions) that will help steer you in the direction of the best pool vacuum for you, and they’re also the focus of our shopping considerations below.
Above-ground vs. inground pool vacuums
There are plenty of perks that come with an above-ground pool vacuum, not least of which is that they are typically much cheaper than their inground counterparts. Of course, these pool cleaners come with downsides, too: For one, they won’t be able to go as deep as inground cleaners, so if the deep end of your pool is extra deep (more than 4.5 feet or so), this style probably isn’t for you. Conveniently, most above-ground pools aren’t any deeper than 4.5 feet, so that shouldn’t be a problem; relatedly, if you’re looking for a small pool vacuum one for a hot tub or spa, this type of cleaner will also work for you.
Inground pool vacuums cost more than above-ground pool vacuums but they tend to be more effective than their less-expensive counterparts. They can also go much deeper underwater, to the tune of 8 or more feet, which helps if you’ve got a deep end. We recommend looking for something small and efficient; that way, it can fit around tight corners and curves, cover every inch of tile, and transform cleaning your pool into a chore that’s all but effortless.
Corded vs. cordless
One of the most annoying aspects of using a pool cleaner is untangling tubes and cords, hooking them up, making sure they do their job correctly (no small feat), and finally, putting them away neatly when you’re done. It’s a pain! And, more importantly, it’s time-consuming! Enter: the cordless pool vacuum. Ostensibly, this pool robot should solve all of your problems, but beware of a vacuum that purports to do it all; we all know that swimming pool maintenance is never that simple. That being said, we can confidently assure you that purchasing a cordless vacuum in lieu of one with, well, cords, will make your life much easier.
Robotic pool vacuums vs. manual
As we mentioned before, the more work a pool cleaner can do on its own, the less work for you. That obviously sounds ideal, but extreme convenience also comes with a hefty price tag.
Robotic pool vacuums come equipped with all the bells and whistles: generally speaking, they can go much deeper than your average pool cleaner, have a longer lifespan, more powerful suction, and essentially function independently, meaning you can go about your day without worrying whether or not the pool has been properly cleaned. Pool ownership can often be tedious and burdensome, so having the convenience of a pool cleaning robot can go a long way.
If robotic, autonomous pool vacuums are on one end of the pool cleaning spectrum, manual pool vacuums are on the other. It probably goes without saying that these pool cleaners are much more affordable, but they also entail a lot more work, since you have to operate them by hand. This could be an opportunity for a good workout in the sunshine—but at the end of the day, it’s all a matter of your needs, and how much you’re willing to spend to fill them.
There’s no doubt that pools are an expensive undertaking, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some penny-pinching to be had. Put another way: you do not have to spend $700 in order to keep your pool clean! On the contrary, there are plenty of affordable options when it comes to pool maintenance, and while they do require a whole lot more manual labor, sometimes the price is just too good to pass up. That said, keep in mind that beyond the hard work involved, these tools also might not last as long, or work as effectively as their more expensive pool cleaning counterparts.
The best pool vacuums: Reviews & Recommendations
Our choices for the best pool vacuums are workhorses that can cannonball debris out of your backyard oasis. Here’s what we found:
Best overall: POOL BLASTER Water Tech Catfish Pool Cleaner
Why it made the cut: This small pool vacuum works with above-ground and inground pools.
- Weight: 6 lbs.
- Item dimensions: 8 x 8 x 18 inches
- Style: Manual pool vacuum
- 45-minute battery life
- Not for deep in-ground pools
Searching for a pool vacuum that can do it all? This small pool vacuum is the ideal piece of equipment if you’re looking for a no-frills, easy cleaning system. Suck up all debris and then recharge for its next use (the battery is designed to run for up to 45 minutes). This model comes with the vacuum head, wall charger, one all-purpose filter bag, and two disposable micro-filter bags. At less than three pounds, it’s also easily transportable. You won’t get the depth of a deep inground pool vacuum, or the thoroughness, but you will get a simple, affordable cleaner.
Best inground: Zodiac MX6 In-Ground Suction Side Pool Cleaner
Why it made the cut: Leaves and debris are no match for this vacuum’s suction, easy maneuverability, and side cleaning capabilities.
- Weight: 6.54 pounds
- Item dimensions: 40.38 x 8.88 x 14.75 inches
- Style: Automatic cleaning robot
- Cyclonic suction
- Can clean floors, walls, and waterline
- Can get stuck if the suction isn’t high enough
This small pool robot has the power of a much bigger vacuum, and will quickly traverse the walls and floor of your pool for a flawless clean. Swiveling hoses make for an easy hook-up and assembly, and “cyclonic” suction gives this Zodiac MX6 some serious chops. It easily maneuvers your pool floor using a grooved track design and it can also be used for above-ground pools.
Best cordless: AIPER SMART Cordless Rechargeable Pool Cleaner
Why it made the cut: This lightweight, high-tech pool vacuum does all the work for you.
- Weight: 11.5 lbs.
- Item dimensions: 17.9 x 15.25 x 12.25 inches
- Style: Automatic pool robot
- No hoses
- Doesn’t go up walls very well
This rechargeable pool vacuum is so decked out in high-tech features that it barely requires your help to get the job done. It cleans up to 538 square feet in less than an hour. Powerful motors offer suction while bottom brushes sweep out leaves, dirt, and other debris. It’s programmed to stop near a pool wall when the battery starts to drain, and it’s lightweight enough to easily carry to and from the pool. Plus, it only takes three to four hours to charge up, and it will run for about 50 minutes. Essentially, all you have to do is drop it in the pool, and watch it do all the work.
Best robotic: Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Robotic Pool Vacuum Cleaner
Why it made the cut: This automatic pool vacuum has a scheduling timer, meaning it will run automatically when you want it to.
- Weight: 19 lbs.
- Item dimensions: 16 x 10 x 16 inches
- Style: Automatic pool robot
- Scheduling capabilities
- 60-foot cable
- Great at cleaning walls
Want the best robotic pool vacuum? The Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus is what pool cleaning dreams are made of. Essentially independent, you can program this robot to a weekly schedule, and you’re all set. It’s not completely hands-off, though—you still need to take it out of the pool regularly, if not daily, to empty it and clean out the filters. Also, it weighs 19 pounds, which is quite heavy, and has a 60-foot cable, so it’s not cordless.
Best manual: Poolmaster Big Sucker Swimming Pool Leaf Vacuum
Why it made the cut: This manual pool vacuum is specifically designed to capture pesky leaves.
- Weight: 1.82 lbs.
- Item dimensions: 15 x 15 x 2.64 inches
- Style: Manual pool robot
- No batteries required
- Smooth maneuverability
- Hose and pool pole sold separately
It’s back to basics with the Poolmaster vacuum; simply attach this cleaner to your garden hose, assemble the vacuum, and get to work. It should be able to pick up large debris, but smaller leaves or dirt might get left behind. The plus side? No batteries mean no time limit, and no recharging when you’re done.
Best budget: POOLWHALE Portable Pool Vacuum
Why it made the cut: Inexpensive and easy to assemble, this handheld vacuum is perfect for above-ground pools, spas, ponds, and fountains.
- Weight: 1.2 lbs.
- Item dimensions: 4.72 x 10.43 x 47.24 inches
- Style: Manual
- Easy to assemble
- Handle feels flimsy
Weighing in at a mere 1.2 pounds, the Poolwhale pool vacuum is probably the most portable vacuum on our list. Because it’s so tiny, it works best with spas and hot tubs, and less well in deep inground pools. It’s easy to assemble, attached to a standard garden hose, and comes with a 6 sections pole of 56.5-inches, making it perfect for collecting stains, leaves, and stones from the bottom of a shallow pool.
Q: How long does a pool vacuum last?
How long a pool vacuum lasts depends on the quality of your vacuum; a more expensive model could last five years, while a cheaper one will only make it through a couple of seasons. Your caretaking skills will also play a part—if you treat your vacuum poorly, for example, it’s almost inevitable that it won’t max out its potential lifespan.
Q: Are robotic pool cleaners worth the money?
For those perfectionists among us, a robotic pool cleaner may be worth the money. Here’s why: they’ll nab every last piece of debris in your pool, scrub the tiles, filter the water, and could last up to five or even eight years, so you won’t have to pay for a replacement anytime soon.
Q: Do you really need a pool vacuum?
If you’re reading this article (and have made it this far), chances are you already believe in the effectiveness—and, thus, necessity—of a pool vacuum. If you’re on the fence, though, the answer to this question really comes down to your standards. Do you want your pool to be spotless? Or can you turn a blind eye to the occasional floating debris? Where you live and what you use your pool for can help you answer these questions, and figure out if you really need a pool vacuum.
Final thoughts on the best pool vacuums
Long, loungy days spent by the pool are arguably the best way to experience summer, and a pool vacuum will only make those days that much more enjoyable. Find the best pool vacuum for you by figuring out your priorities—price, efficiency, or technological innovation—and your pool care will be set for years to come.