If you want to keep your pool clean all season long, you're going to have to invest in a pool cleaner.
It's going to save you time and money, reduce your chemical usage, and save you a lot of water.
This guide lays out the different types of pool cleaners, the benefits of using a cleaner, how to shop for one, and the best brands and cleaners you can buy.
Let's dive in!
Types of pool cleaners
There are a few different types of pool cleaners to choose from, divided mainly into four categories: manual, robotic, suction, and pressure.
Each one has its own unique set of advantages and limitations, but they're all pretty effective at getting the job done.
I’ll go ahead and mention manual pool cleaners here, a simple unit that attaches either to your skimmer or garden hose. And like the name implies, it’s a handheld unit that you push around the pool manually to vacuum debris off the surface.
But for the purposes of this article, we'll be focusing only on automatic pool cleaners since those are what will save you the most time and hassle.
Robotic pool vacuums are the most recommended type of cleaner for people who want low-maintenance cleaning.
They're operated by electric motors and house their own pumps and filters, making them self-contained and self-driven.
They'll motor their way up your steps, walls, and corners, and most are designed to shut themselves off when your pool is clean or according to a timer.
Suction side vacuums attach to your pool’s skimmer and are usually the most economical of all the pool vacuums.
Most models can be used for both in ground and above ground pools, and just like the robotic cleaner, the suction vacuum scoots around the pool surface, scrubbing and cleaning as it goes.
However, whereas the robotic cleaner has a motor, the suction cleaner is propelled by suction.
Instead of having its own filter, suction side cleaners pass the water through their hose to your pool’s filtration system, where debris is filtered out and removed.
With this type of cleaner, you'll set it up when you need it and then remove it from the pool when the cleaning cycle is over.
Pressure side cleaners
Pressure side vacuums work with your pool’s water return port or to a dedicated booster pump line.
The booster pump line models are more automatic and can be set to turn on and shut off automatically; they have their own bags to collect debris rather than using your pool’s filtration system. And both work by using the water that is pumped back into the pool to propel them across the surface.
In a pressure side pool cleaner, the water enters the cleaner and gets distributed to the sweeper tail, venturi, and thrust jet. The thrust jet is sort of like its propeller—it moves and directs it.
The sweeper tail helps to sweep up small debris off the walls so that can get circulated into the water and through the filter. And the venturi is the entry at the bottom of the cleaner where larger debris and leaves are suctioned into the bag.
Robotic pool cleaner reviews
The Dolphin Nautilus Plus (click here to check the price on Amazon) comes to you from one of the most trusted names in the pool cleaning industry.
It's super easy to use and maintain with top-loading filters and an anti-tangle cord, and has two types of filters: fine and ultra-fine for maximum cleaning and way less work for you.
Its dual scrubbing brushes work hard to remove the junk in half the time, and the best part is its scanning technology that “tells” it where to go: just drop it in and in just a couple of hours, your pool will be completely clean.
This baby works for just about any size pool you have since it covers up to 50 feet.
Another fantastic Dolphin cleaner, the Dolphin Premier (click here to check the price on Amazon) has the latest and greatest features of all the cleaners.
Its new commercial grade motor is said to reduce energy usage by up to 87%, and the microprocessor controlled software offers a new navigation for coverage and cleaning like never before.
It has an extra large filter and debris bag for less frequent cleanings and a 3-year warranty to cover any possible defects.
The Polaris Sport (click here to check the price on Amazon), made from the trusted maker of all things water sports, is a four-wheel drive, rugged vacuum with Aqua-Trax tires for maximum traction.
What else would you expect from Polaris?
Its advanced sensor technology ensures efficient navigation, and its 70 foot cord ensures coverage for any surface, and it has Vortex Vacuum technology that sucks up even large debris effectively.
It's made to clean well under stairs and in corners, and comes with its own caddy, programmable timer, and remote for ease of transportation and use.
The Aquabot Pool Rover (click here to check the price on Amazon) is a fully customizable cleaner with its own navigation system that will clean any shape of above ground pool.
It is jet propelled and powerful enough to clean up even large debris and super fine algae spores with ease, and comes with its own large filter bag that’s easy to clean.
It's propelled with water jets rather than a motor, so it has fewer parts, which means cheaper and easier maintenance.
It also uses its own unique, anti-scuffing tires that won’t mar even vinyl surfaces.
The SharkVac (click here to check the price on Amazon) is an extra fast pool cleaner that cleans and scrubs the whole pool floor in about two hours.
It doesn’t use the pool’s filtration system so it saves wear and tear, and it has two top-access filters that you can remove and clean easily which doesn’t require extra hoses, pumps, or connections.
It's navigated by a smart-steering technology that hunts down even fine debris and removes it with ease.
Suction side cleaner reviews
The Zodiac Baracuda cleaner (click here to check the price on Amazon) is just as mean and powerful as it sounds.
It quietly goes to work devouring small and medium sized debris on your pool floor, walls, and stairs, and has a FlowKeeper valve system that maintains the proper water flow to ensure it works just as well with small horsepower pumps as it does with large horsepowers.
The scuff free hoses makes sure it doesn’t mark up your pool surfaces, and it clings to your pool while gliding over lights and drain covers with ease.
This cleaner from Hayward (click here to check the price on Amazon) has patented turbine vanes that self-adjust to make sure it has maximum flow.
It picks up even large debris with its adjusting suction power, and also has tires with patented treads that help it climb any surface quickly and easily.
And it self-steers to cover the whole pool!
This vacuum from XtremepowerUS (click here to check the price on Amazon) is a simple, generic model that works well for up to 30 foot pools.
It will clean the floor and walls of the pool and requires no tools and no electricity, and it hooks up directly to your existing filtration system very easily and includes all the hoses and weights you need to adjust it to your pool size.
It's very easy to use, light to store, and simple to maintain.
And, its powerful suction makes it easy to remove even larger debris, such as leaves.
Pressure side cleaner reviews
This pressure side pool cleaner from Polaris (click here to check the price on Amazon) is made for inground pools and requires a booster pump for use.
It's great for circulating clean, heated water through the pool to eliminate low-temp spots. It’s a powerful cleaner with a three-wheel design that makes it easier to navigate and difficult to flip over.
Its brushes scrub and sweep the finest debris off the pool floor and walls of any size or shape of pool, and its back-up valve ensures that it continuously cleans without interruption.
The booster pump powered suction makes it possible to pick up even heavy or large debris.
XtremepowerUS is known for their ability to create products that perform as well as their brand-name competitors, but usually a little more economically.
This cleaner (click here to check the price on Amazon) is a good product that works on all surfaces in inground pools.
It includes 31 feet of hose, which is also compatible with Polaris cleaners, and it works with a booster pump that powers it to scrub and clean the bottom of the pool.
3 benefits of using a pool cleaner
As a pool owner, there’s almost no getting around owning a pool cleaner. That is, if you want a life outside the water.
Cleaning the pool surface can be exhausting, time-consuming, and just plain messy.
And if you hoped your pool would bring you relaxation, fun, and satisfaction, why would you want to spend your entire weekend cleaning it?
But aside from that, there are a few other awesome benefits you might never have thought of.
#1. Saves you time & money
There are a few reasons why using a pool cleaner saves you money.
First, you don’t have to hire someone to clean your pool. And if you did the work yourself, it would cost you tons of valuable time.
Also, if you use your cleaner regularly, you’ll cut down on the major things that can cause you headaches with a pool, such as algae and other bacteria.
This means lower cost on chemicals, too.
#2. Reduces chemical usage
Speaking of chemicals, using a pool cleaner on a regular basis cuts down on the amount of chemicals you need to add.
Here’s an example of why: algae grows and flourishes in stagnant water, especially in conditions where there is not enough chlorine or oxygenation.
A pool cleaner keeps the water circulating for maximum oxygenation and scrubs away algae spores to be carried away to the filters.
This means the chlorine can do its job effectively, rather than being eaten away by life-sucking algae.
It also means you usually won’t have to use an algaecide to combat pesky spores.
In turn, it is easier to keep your chemicals balanced without adding more than you should, making it cheaper for you and safer for your family.
#3. Saves water
Not only do you have to use fewer chemicals, but a pool cleaner might also save you hundreds of gallons of water.
Algae and other debris will throw your pool chemistry off. And when your pool chemistry is imbalanced, you either have to add more chemicals to balance it or drain some of the dirty water from the pool and replace it with fresh water.
The latter is usually preferred if you are concerned about safety and your family’s exposure to harsh chemicals. It's also sometimes the only method that works, like in the case of chlorine lock, where adding chemicals only makes the situation worse.
Depending on how big your pool is, even draining a few inches could mean many gallons of water over the course of a year.
But when you have a pool cleaner, it's constantly working to rid your pool of the debris that affects the chemistry. Keeping it balanced means less risk of having to drain the water.
A pool cleaner also cuts down on how often you have to backwash your filters.
Backwashing is the method you use to clean your filter where you flush water back through it to remove all the sand and debris that’s gotten trapped in it. Every time you do this, you waste a large amount of water.
Your filter will likely still have to be backwashed occasionally, even if you have a cleaner, but it will be a lot less often.
Since you now know that any type of cleaner will get the job done, you need to know what to look for when purchasing your own.
That being said, remember that all brands of pool cleaners are not created equal. Some have better customer service and some are built for quality.
We'll cover that shortly, but it’s a good thing to keep in mind while you’re shopping, along with some other important features.
Make sure the pool cleaner you select has enough hose to reach from the skimmer to the other end of the pool.
If it doesn't come with a long enough hose, make sure the manufacturer makes a longer one you can buy separately if you’re willing to spend the extra money.
If you’re on a budget, you’ll want to consider the cost of your pool cleaner.
Robotic cleaners are usually the most expensive, but they are also the most efficient and they can run without your help.
Ability to climb walls
Some pool cleaners only clean the bottom of the pool, which means you'll still spend a lot of time every week brushing your pool walls to make sure you get rid of algae and debris.
If this is important to you, look at the specs on the product and search through the reviews to see how well it does the job.
Some pool cleaners are built to last longer than others.
A good indication of their durability is the length of warranty they offer; the longer the warranty, the longer the company expects the product to last.
You can also usually get a good idea of life expectancy from the reviews, as not lasting as long as they expected is one of the main things people complain about.
Popular pool cleaner brands
Dolphin is a brand of pool cleaner created by Maytronics.
They consistently get top ratings and make lists of top pool cleaners to buy. By their own claims, they are eight times more efficient than suction and pressure cleaners and have a lifespan of 5-7 years.
They have fantastic customer support and build durable, high-quality products.
Polaris by Zodiac has a 40-year-old reputation for making quality water gear and their pool cleaners hold up to that reputation.
They even have a few trademarked features, like the 3-wheeled cleaner design. They’re also all built to last and usually include 5 year warranties.
Hayward is a pool supply company that’s been around for more than 80 years, and they have a good reputation for making products built to last.
They're known for their excellent customer service, and most of their products have 3-5 year warranties.
XtremepowerUS sells a lot more than pool equipment, offering a wide array of other goods such as tools, hunting gear, and fitness machines.
Their pool line consists of products comparable to some of the brand names, but usually at much lower prices.
Some of them are even compatible with parts from other manufacturers, like Polaris or Hayward.
Pool cleaner maintenance tips
If you want your pool cleaner to last as long as possible, it’s important to take care of it the right way. They don’t require a lot of maintenance, but it is important to use and store them correctly.
Most require very little cleaning, but if they have their own filters and debris bags, you’ll want to keep them cleaned out and rinsed well.
The bag needs to be emptied every time it’s full to keep it from losing suction and burning out the motor. But if it has a filter, it can probably be rinsed with a hose just every so often or when it looks dirty.
Unless you have a robotic cleaner that is meant to live in your pool, take it out after every use. Rinse the unit off with a hose once in a while to clean off excess chemicals and store it in a dry place.
Drain the hoses after use and coil them loosely to store with the pool cleaner. It’s also a good idea to hang them on a wall rather than laying them on the floor to keep them clean and dry.
The importance of keeping your pool clean
You probably want to keep your pool clean because it feels and looks better, but you may not realize just how important it is for safety and the life of your pool.
For one thing, when your pool’s chemistry is imbalanced, it can become a breeding ground for bacteria, fungus, and algae. Not only does this contribute to a nasty looking pool, it also harbors germs that can harm its swimmers.
But aside from safety issues, chemistry levels that are improperly balance can damage liners and equipment.
A low pH level, for example, speeds up corrosion of pool equipment, and high calcium hardness levels can cause scaling.
All these things add to the wear and tear on your pumps and filters by leaving deposits and causing them to work harder.
And damage to your pool’s liner can quickly cause damage to the surface underneath, weakening the entire structure.
Pool cleaner FAQs
1. How long does a pool cleaner usually last?
If you take care of your pool cleaner, there’s no reason it shouldn’t last you quite a while.
Robotic cleaners don’t typically last quite as long as the other types because it has a motor that will eventually wear out, but it should last anywhere from 3 to 5 years, depending on the model.
Pressure and suction side cleaners have parts that can be replaced as often as needed, sometime making it possible to prolong their lives for 8 years or longer.
2. How long do you run the cleaner during each cleaning?
All cleaners are a little different here.
For example, a suction side cleaner usually runs at a rate of about 8-10 feet per minute. But that doesn’t mean you can always just calculate the size of the pool to determine run time.
That will depend a lot on the efficiency of the unit and whether it has good sensors to make sure it doesn’t go back over already clean areas.
Robotic cleaners typically run faster and most claim to clean an entire average-sized pool in about two hours.
Basically, you just need to run any type of cleaner until the entire pool is clean. But they all come with their own instructions that should be fairly easy to follow.
3. How much does a pool cleaner cost?
Cost also varies quite a bit for different types of pool cleaners. Robotic cleaners are usually the most expensive, most running anywhere from $500 to over $1,000.
Suction side cleaners are usually the least expensive type of automatic pool cleaner, ranging from about $100-$400.
Pressure side cleaners are about in the middle, ranging from $300-$900 for the most part.
However, if yours requires a booster pump, as some of them do, you might have that added expense. Those are usually in the $200-$200 range.
4. What type of pool cleaner do you use for an above ground pool?
Unless otherwise specified by the manufacturer, most pool cleaners will work just as well for above ground pools as they do inground pools.
However, you can probably get away with buying a cheaper cleaner because above ground pools are usually smaller and shallower.
Above ground pools might not have very strong pumps, though. This means a suction or pressure side pump won’t be quite as powerful as it would on an inground pool.
But that doesn’t mean they won’t work. You just might have to let them run longer and do a little extra manual brushing.
Because of the safety and sanitation issues of keeping a pool nice and clean, it’s important to find tools that make the job a little easier.
An automatic pool cleaner is one of the best ways I've personally found to get this job done quickly and efficiently without taking unnecessary time out of my schedule.
Sure, you could spend all weekend brushing and hand vacuuming out your pool or hire someone else to do it. But why do that when you can purchase such an awesome tool at a reasonable price?
I hope this answered all your questions about pool cleaners.
As always, if you have any questions or need a little extra guidance, drop us a line. We’ll be happy to help!