The 7 Best Pool Cleaners for Crystal Clear Water All Summer Long
Almost nothing beats diving into a cool swimming pool on a sweltering summer day. However, jumping into a puddle of leaves or a sea of algae can quickly spoil that refreshing feeling. Luckily, pool cleaners make it easy to maintain clean waters so you'll be able to swim at ease all season long, whether you're hosting a pool party or taking a solo dip.
Automatic pool cleaners (or pool vacuums) remove debris from the surface of the pool floor and walls. While some cleaners are powered by either your pool's suction or water pressure, newer robotic cleaners have their own power source and container to avoid straining your pool's existing equipment. Some non-robotic cleaners have their own containers, while others will use your pool's existing filtration equipment to house debris.
With so many options out there, it can be difficult to figure out which is best for your pool size and style. To help, we researched the best pool cleaners out there, keeping in mind each pick's type and filtration method, as well as pool types. We also consulted Brian Wells, a pool expert for Leslie's Pool Supplies, and Mark Thompson, owner of Absolute Pool & Spa Care.
Overall, we recommend the Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus. It has two brushes and is able to climb walls, so it's the best defense against fine particles as well as rocks, bugs, twigs, and leaves.
Here, the best pool cleaners.
- Best Overall: Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Robotic Pool Cleaner
- Best Robotic for Fine Debris: Dolphin Nautilus CC Supreme Pool Vacuum Cleaner
- Best Non-Robotic for Fine Debris: Pentair Kreepy Krauly Great White Inground Pool Cleaner
- Best Robotic for Large Debris: Polaris VRXIQ+ Robotic Pool Cleaner
- Best Non-Robotic for Large Debris: Polaris Vac-Sweep 360 In Ground Swimming Pool Cleaner
- Best Above-Ground Robotic Cleaner: Polaris 7000 Above Ground Robotic Pool Cleaner
- Best Non-Robotic Above-Ground Cleaner: Zodiac Baracuda Wahoo Automatic Pool Cleaner
What We Recommend
Best Overall: Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Robotic Pool Cleaner
Best Robotic for Fine Debris: Dolphin Nautilus CC Supreme Robotic Pool Vacuum Cleaner
Best Non-Robotic for Fine Debris: Pentair Kreepy Krauly Great White Inground Pool Cleaner
Best Robotic for Large Debris: Polaris VRX iQ+ Robotic Pool Cleaner
Best Non-Robotic for Large Debris: Polaris Vac-Sweep 360 In Ground Swimming Pool Cleaner
Best Robotic for Above-Ground Pools: Polaris 7000 Above Ground Robotic Pool Cleaner
Best Non-Robotic for Above-Ground Pools: Zodiac Baracuda Wahoo Automatic Pool Cleaner
The Bottom Line
Overall, we recommend the Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Robotic Pool Cleaner as the best pool cleaner because the cleaner is compatible with a variety of pool shapes and has a thorough brushing system that will clean both the walls and the floors. Plus, you can choose from multiple settings and have a clean pool within two hours.
What to Know About Pool Cleaners Before Shopping
The three main types of automatic pool cleaners are robotic, suction-side, and pressure-side. Robotic cleaners run on electricity and bypass your pool's filtration equipment completely. They use computer navigation to reach all areas of the pool and can be programmed to clean for a specified amount of time or just in a certain section of the pool.
Suction-side and pressure-side pool cleaners are powered by your pool's existing pump motor. Suction-side pool cleaners connect to the skimmer or a dedicated suction to suck up dirt and debris. The suction moves the cleaner around the pool at random. A pressure-side cleaner is connected to the water return jet; the pressure pushes the cleaner around the pool, also at random. Both of these pool cleaners will run as long as the pump motor is running and can take up to six hours to cover an average-sized in-ground pool, which is about 16 feet by 32 feet.
A suction-side pool cleaner is typically better for finer debris, says Mark Thompson, owner of Absolute Pool & Spa Care in Atlanta, Georgia, while pressure-side pool cleaner is better for the bigger stuff.
Robotic cleaners have reusable containers within them, either cartridges or baskets you clean out periodically. Suction-side pool cleaners collect debris in your pool's skimmer or filter basket. You have to keep a close eye on those because if they get too clogged, your motor will have to work harder and may burn out. If you want to protect your motor, a leaf canister attached to the hose of the suction-side pool cleaner will keep the larger stuff away from your existing filter basket.
Pressure-side pool cleaners have their own reusable collection bags. It can be handy to have an extra one on hand so you can clean out a full one without missing a cleaning cycle. "Pressure-side pool cleaners have more moving parts than suction-side pool cleaners, which can mean more maintenance and repairs," Thompson says.
Most automatic pool cleaners are compatible with all in-ground pool shapes, sizes, and surface materials. Just be careful if your pool is lined with vinyl. If there are bubbles, tears, or rocks in the liner, the pool cleaner can create further damage—and many cleaners have exceptions for damaged vinyl in their warranties. There are pool cleaners (robotic, suction-side, and pressure-side) available that are designed specifically for pools with vinyl linings.
Your Questions, Answered
How does a pool cleaner work?
Pool cleaners are powered by either electricity, suction, or water pressure and drive around your pool floor and walls to collect debris in either their own containers or your pool's existing filter. They pick up both large and small debris, such as sand, silt, pebbles, twigs, bugs, and leaves. Cleaners with brushes can also agitate stuck-on algae and calcium deposits.
What is the difference between a suction-side and pressure-side cleaner?
Suction-side pool cleaners are powered by your pool's pump, and the suction from the hose drives the cleaner around the pool floor surface at random. They can drive on wheels, bristles, or a rubber disc. Some pools have dedicated ports for suction-side cleaners, or they can connect to the skimmer.
Pressure-side cleaners connect to the water return jet. The water pressure pushes the cleaner around on wheels. The pressure-side cleaner collects debris in its own bag.
What size pool cleaner do I need?
Almost all size pool cleaners will work in an average-sized in-ground pool, which is about 32 to 36 feet long. For robotic and non-robotic cleaners, you want to have a hose or cable longer than your pool for ease of movement. Robotic pool cleaners can weigh anywhere from 20 to 30 pounds, and sometimes the caddy costs extra, so consider how often and how far you will haul it when choosing a size. We suggest looking for an ergonomic design to make transporting it more comfortable.
How long do pool cleaners last?
Pool cleaners of any kind last about five to seven years on average, both Thompson and Wells say. After two to three years, some parts may need replacing for normal wear and tear, like wheels and brushes, says Wells. You may also want to upgrade your pool cleaner to take advantage of the latest features, technology, and productivity settings. "Honestly, with any of these, you can make them last as long as you want, but at some point, it will make sense to get a new one," Wells says.
Who We Are
This article was written by Veronica Graham, a freelance writer in Austin, Texas, who has been writing about home, automotive, and lawn and garden products for the last two years. She's also a former American Red Cross Water Safety Instructor and spent her childhood in the water more than on land. To create this list, Veronica talked to Mark Thompson, owner of Absolute Pool & Spa Care in Atlanta, Georgia, and Brian Wells, a pool expert from Leslie's Pool Supplies in Phoenix, Arizona. She also pored over owner manuals and talked to pool owners about their experiences, needs, likes, and complaints.