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Updated March 2017

Best Pool Cleaners

Updated March 2017
Dolphin
Nautilus Robotic w/Swivel Cable
Zodiac
Polaris Vac-Sweep 280
Hayward
Poolvergnuegen 2-Wheel
Zodiac
BARACUDA Advanced Suction
XtremepowerUS
Kreepy Krauly Climb Wall
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Bottom Line

The Dolphin Nautilus 99996323 Robotic Pool Cleaner is essentially a Roomba for swimming pools. Ready to go within minutes of unboxing, and automatically scans all surfaces to be cleaned. Great service for the initial investment.

Pool owners with the right high pressure water lines should benefit from the Polaris Vac-Sweep 280's efficient cleaning cycle. Booster pump is a requirement, not a suggestion. Can be used continuously for all-day maintenance.

Since the Hayward Poolvergnuegen 896584000013 uses an existing skimmer connection, no additional plumbing is required. We suggest using the two-wheeled cleaner for pools no larger than 16' by 24' for maximum efficiency.

The Baracuda G3 W03000 is a good alternative to wheeled models that can damage liners. Handles larger debris such as leaves and pebbles with relative ease. We recommend that pool owners use both automatic and manual vacuuming for best results.

Very affordable generic version of a classic pool cleaner, the Kreepy Krauly. Easy to assemble and easy to operate as either an automatic pool cleaner or as a manual vacuum cleaner. Straightforward operation for new pool owners.

Good

Self-programming base scans pool floors and walls for maximum efficiency. Swiveled cord attachment reduces tangles. Does not require pre-installation with pool attachments.

Powerful suction and high pressure water pump cleans all surfaces well. 31-foot hose should be enough length for most in-ground pools. Company has long history in the pool cleaning industry.

Uses several pre-programmed cleaning patterns to assure 100% coverage. Rugged wheels capable of climbing pool walls. Special turbine blades maintain movement at any pressure level.

Works equally well with high or low pressure pumps. 36 fins improve adhesion to pool floors, steps and walls. Will not leave scuff marks on cleaned surfaces.

Does not require additional electricity; uses existing pool skimmer lines. Assembly does not require any specialized tools. Contains enough connectable hoses to handle a 30' pool.

Bad

Housing can make unwanted contact with pool floor and leave streaks. Quality control issues with power supply. Bagless design requires several cleaning runs.

Requires an additional booster pump to perform duties. Must be attached to a dedicated high pressure water supply. Can sometimes get stuck in corners or other remote locations.

Wheels can damage pool liners over time. Shares same water line as skimmers, creating hours of downtime. Two-wheeled model better for smaller pools, four-wheeled better for larger, deeper pools.

Assembly and operation instructions could be clearer. Sometimes needs guidance into shallower parts of pool. Tends to perform a figure-8 cleaning pattern without assistance.

Requires at least a 3/4 hp pump motor to function correctly. More efficient as a manually operated pool vacuum, not in automatic mode. Hoses can draw in air and reduce suction power.

Best of the Best
Dolphin
Nautilus Robotic w/Swivel Cable
Check Price

Bottom Line
The Dolphin Nautilus 99996323 Robotic Pool Cleaner is essentially a Roomba for swimming pools. Ready to go within minutes of unboxing, and automatically scans all surfaces to be cleaned. Great service for the initial investment.

Bad
Housing can make unwanted contact with pool floor and leave streaks. Quality control issues with power supply. Bagless design requires several cleaning runs.

Good
Self-programming base scans pool floors and walls for maximum efficiency. Swiveled cord attachment reduces tangles. Does not require pre-installation with pool attachments.
Zodiac
Polaris Vac-Sweep 280
Check Price

Bottom Line
Pool owners with the right high pressure water lines should benefit from the Polaris Vac-Sweep 280's efficient cleaning cycle. Booster pump is a requirement, not a suggestion. Can be used continuously for all-day maintenance.

Bad
Requires an additional booster pump to perform duties. Must be attached to a dedicated high pressure water supply. Can sometimes get stuck in corners or other remote locations.

Good
Powerful suction and high pressure water pump cleans all surfaces well. 31-foot hose should be enough length for most in-ground pools. Company has long history in the pool cleaning industry.
Hayward
Poolvergnuegen 2-Wheel
Check Price

Bottom Line
Since the Hayward Poolvergnuegen 896584000013 uses an existing skimmer connection, no additional plumbing is required. We suggest using the two-wheeled cleaner for pools no larger than 16' by 24' for maximum efficiency.

Bad
Wheels can damage pool liners over time. Shares same water line as skimmers, creating hours of downtime. Two-wheeled model better for smaller pools, four-wheeled better for larger, deeper pools.

Good
Uses several pre-programmed cleaning patterns to assure 100% coverage. Rugged wheels capable of climbing pool walls. Special turbine blades maintain movement at any pressure level.
Best Bang for the Buck
Zodiac
BARACUDA Advanced Suction
Check Price

Bottom Line
The Baracuda G3 W03000 is a good alternative to wheeled models that can damage liners. Handles larger debris such as leaves and pebbles with relative ease. We recommend that pool owners use both automatic and manual vacuuming for best results.

Bad
Assembly and operation instructions could be clearer. Sometimes needs guidance into shallower parts of pool. Tends to perform a figure-8 cleaning pattern without assistance.

Good
Works equally well with high or low pressure pumps. 36 fins improve adhesion to pool floors, steps and walls. Will not leave scuff marks on cleaned surfaces.
XtremepowerUS
Kreepy Krauly Climb Wall
Check Price

Bottom Line
Very affordable generic version of a classic pool cleaner, the Kreepy Krauly. Easy to assemble and easy to operate as either an automatic pool cleaner or as a manual vacuum cleaner. Straightforward operation for new pool owners.

Bad
Requires at least a 3/4 hp pump motor to function correctly. More efficient as a manually operated pool vacuum, not in automatic mode. Hoses can draw in air and reduce suction power.

Good
Does not require additional electricity; uses existing pool skimmer lines. Assembly does not require any specialized tools. Contains enough connectable hoses to handle a 30' pool.
How We Decided
  • 8 Models Considered
  • 49 Hours Spent
  • 2 Experts Interviewed
  • 139 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    POOL CLEANER SHOPPING GUIDE

    Every pool owner needs a way to clean debris from their pool's floor, wall, and stairs. The market offers hundreds of pool cleaners, but it's important to find the ideal match for your pool. Consider the following:

    • Different pool cleaners can handle different pool sizes.
    • Some pool cleaners work with your existing filters and water pumps. Others require additional equipment.
    • Some cleaners work well on all pool surfaces, but others could potentially damage your pool's lining or other delicate areas.
    • Both manual and powered options exist.

    The right pool cleaner can extend the life of an in-ground pool, but the wrong one can result in expensive damage by the end of its first season.

    Richard
    EXPERT CONSULTANT

    Richard is a seasoned small business owner in the hardware industry. He also owns a pool maintenance business and serves as an advisor on groundskeeping committees for a number of prominent organizations. He’s a regionally renowned safe cracker/locksmith expert, and in his spare time, he renovates and repairs vaults, safes, appliances, and a number of other products.


    Richard  |  Pool Maintenance Business Owner

    If your pool water becomes too acidic or alkaline, the potential for algae or mildew growth increases. Pool cleaners don't affect a pool's pH balance, but maintaining the pool's general water quality stave off algae and mildew growth for a healthy pool.

    Richard
    Hardware Store Owner, Do-It-Yourself Guru

    TYPES OF POOL CLEANERS

    Mesh skimmers, battery-powered brooms, and pool brushes are the primary manual pool cleaning tools of today. The three most common electrically powered pool cleaners available are the suction side automatic cleaner, the pressure side automatic cleaner, and the robotic automatic cleaner.

    Pool cleaner types

    Suction Side Pool Cleaners

    Suction side cleaners are generally the most affordable, but they're also the most limited. A suction side cleaner requires no booster pump because it attaches to your pool’s existing filter and intake system. However, its suction and cleaning power directly correlate with the size and design of your pool's original pump and filter.

    Suction side cleaners efficiently remove small debris from most pool surfaces, including walls and steps. Powered by the intake pump, a flexible rubberized flap essentially pulls itself along the bottom of the pool, agitating dirt, sand, and other debris. A powerful vacuum then draws the material into a filter for disposal.

    This type of cleaner gobbles up a lot of your pump's energy, which can in turn shorten the pump life and raise your electric bill. It's not ideal for larger pools (or pools with unconventional designs), but it's great for smaller pools that don't collect much detritus.

    Suction side cleaners are affordable, but their features can be limited for many pool owners.
    Pool cleaner types

    Pressure Side Pool Cleaners

    Pressure side pool cleaners use water pressure from a jet stream to agitate debris and draw it into a vacuum chamber for disposal. Typically mounted on small wheels, the unit randomly wanders the bottom of the pool as it does its job. Its aggressive cleaning action is more effective on stubborn algae and dirt than a suction side model, but unfortunately, some pressure side pool cleaners have been known to wear down vinyl surfaces.

    Because most pool pumps don't produce enough energy to feed a pressure side cleaner, owners must either invest in a stronger pool pump or a second pump dedicated to the pressure side cleaner. Neither choice is easy on the budget, but a pressure side cleaner will not produce acceptable results without this additional power boost.

    You needn't enter the pool to install or retrieve your pressure side cleaner, but in terms of maintenance, you will have to change the location of the collection bin fairly often and backwash the pool's filter to avoid clogging the system. Pressure side pool cleaners are recommended for pools that regularly collect larger debris, such as gravel, acorns, leaves, and sand.

    EXPERT TIP

    Pressure side pool cleaners need energy from a strong pool pump or second dedicated pool pump to be the most effective.


    Richard  | Pool Maintenance Business Owner
    Pool cleaner types

    Robotic Pool Cleaners

    Self-contained robotic cleaners that automatically scour the pool’s floor, walls, and steps are the ultimate in pool cleaning technology. Much like a robotic vacuum cleaner for the home, a robotic pool cleaner runs a programmable or random pattern across the floor. Special bumpers alert the unit's on-board computer to obstacles, and brushes on the bottom of the base direct debris into a centralized suction tube. Once in the tube, the debris travels to an on-board collection bag for disposal.

    Because no external connections are required to the pool's pump motor, skimmer, or filter, owners shouldn't have to modify their existing pool maintenance system to accommodate a robotic cleaner. However, a water-safe electrical cord is needed to power the unit.

    Robotic cleaners have a few drawbacks. They cannot be pushed into position from the side deck; rather, they must be installed and removed from the water manually. When the cleaning cycle finishes, someone must also retrieve the unit from the bottom of the pool. Depending on the pool's overall condition, the collection filter may need to be cleaned frequently during the cycle. And, just like a pressure side pool cleaner, a robotic pool cleaner may have a detrimental impact on certain pool surfaces.

    Robotic cleaners are certainly thorough and convenient in many ways, but due to their hefty price tag, they may be too much of an investment for some people—particularly those who own small pools and don't mind putting some personal effort into their pool maintenance.

    Robotic pool cleaners represent the best in pool cleaning technology, but they have a hefty price tag.

    POOL CLEANER MAINTENANCE TIPS

    Tips

    Maintain water quality

    It’s true that pool cleaners don’t affect water pH, but a pool’s general water quality directly impacts how challenging a pool cleaner’s job will be. The optimal pH level for pool water is considered to be 7, so many owners spend hours adding acidic and basic chemicals to maintain that balance. But during that process, if the water becomes too acidic or alkaline, the potential for algae or mildew growth increases. Pressure side pool cleaners, which do not make direct contact with pool surfaces, are not always effective against these outbreaks.

    Tips

    Minimize debris

    Does your pool tend to collect a lot of debris? Skimming leaves and sticks from the water’s surface keeps them from sinking to the bottom and becoming the responsibility of a pool cleaner. Seed-bearing tree branches should be cut back, and swimmers should be encouraged to clean their feet before entering the pool.

    To help combat the accumulation of foreign materials, a lightweight mesh pool cover can easily be stretched over the pool to collect airborne debris and discourage algae growth.

    FAQs

    Q: What does a pool cleaner do?

    A: A pool cleaner performs essentially the same function for a pool that a vacuum cleaner does for a carpet: it agitates and removes debris from the floor, wall, and stairs. It doesn’t have much of an effect on the water’s pH level or clarity. Water treatment and pool cleaning are two separate maintenance operations.

    Q: Does pool size matter?

    A: The dimensions and design of your pool definitely matter. Pool cleaners are rated to handle different pool sizes, and some have difficulty accessing design elements like sharp corners. Some pool cleaners use long external handles which limit their cleaning range in larger pools. Owners should have their pool dimensions handy when shopping online or in store.

    Q: Does surface type matter?

    A: Another important consideration before buying a pool cleaner is the pool’s surface. Is your pool made of concrete, fiberglass, tile, or vinyl? Some materials are more vulnerable to damage than others, and some pool cleaners exert more aggressive force than others. Furthermore, some surfaces discourage algae growth while others tend to promote it. See our Types of Pool Cleanerssection for more information.

    Q: How much physical labor is required?

    A: The amount of physical labor required to maintain a pool depends, in large part, on the type of cleaner you get. Manual pool cleaners (water brooms, vacuum brushes) require users to spend a significant amount of time and energy on the job. Suction side and pressure side models are a little more autonomous, but some human guidance is usually required. Fully automated robotic pool cleaners offer true “set it and forget” technology, but even then, owners must spend some time cleaning and backwashing the pool’s filter during the cleaning cycle.

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