Best Automatic Pool Cleaners

Updated August 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

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

34 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
446 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

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

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best automatic pool cleaners

Last Updated August 2019

Few things in life are better than a day by the pool. However, for the owner of said pool, all of that refreshing cool water and relaxation comes with some challenges. Outdoor pools are exposed to falling debris and bacterial contaminants, which means they require significant maintenance and upkeep. Thankfully, an automatic pool cleaner can do most of the heavy lifting for you, allowing you to sit back, chill out, and soak up the rays.

Automatic pool cleaners wheel, scoot, and slide themselves over the various surfaces in your pool, using brushes, scrubbers, and filters to remove unwanted objects. There are three main types: Inexpensive suction-side cleaners, which skim around the walls of your swimming area, using the pool’s existing suction line and filtration system to work; mid-range pressure-side cleaners, which have their own filters and use a dedicated booster pump to propel themselves; and robotic cleaners, which are all-in-one programmable devices that effectively act like aquatic Roombas.

No matter which design you choose, the convenience is simply unbeatable. To learn more, read our shopping guide, which is full of helpful tips for picking the right automatic pool cleaner. When you’re ready to buy, consider one of our recommended models.

Worried about using electricity in your pool? Automatic pool cleaners run on low-voltage power that use ground-fault circuit interrupter outlets. These outlets automatically shut off the power if they detect electrical imbalances, with many reacting in as little as 0.025 seconds.

Key considerations

Speed and mobility

This is a simple one, as it essentially boils down to how large of a pool the machine can clean. This is determined by how fast the cleaner can move and how much water it can cycle, which is generally designated by a gallons-per-minute rating (for example, 75 gallons per minute is near the top of the range for consumer-grade automatic pool cleaners). Some are specifically rated for pools of a certain volume.

Keep in mind that the shape of your pool is a factor as well, as intricate basins filled with steep angles and steps will take longer for cleaners to navigate. Four-wheeled robotic cleaners are adept at scanning and cleaning open areas and offer a lot of convenience, but their width can present issues in narrow areas. Narrower suction-side units may be better for tricky spots, so buy according to your pool shape.

Power cable and hose length are important considerations, too, if applicable, as they physically limit the machine’s range and can cause tangles if they’re designed poorly.

The flagship pool cleaner

This automatic cleaner is both powerful and smart, capable of cleaning large in-ground pools with a sophisticated scrubbing system and advanced sensors. It boasts simple single-button operation and climbs walls effortlessly. The large cartridge filters are easy to remove and clean. It also features a two-and-a-half-year manufacturer’s guarantee.

Brush and filter style

A fast pool cleaner is great, but if it doesn’t do the job thoroughly, it’s not worth your money. That means the style of brushes and filters are just as important to quality as the machine’s speed, especially when you’re dealing with deep stains and fine particles.

Pool cleaners use a combination of suction and physical removal to do their jobs, and in our research, we’ve found hard bristle brushes and rotating scrubber brushes to be extremely effective. The matter they disturb is sucked into the machine and caught by flapper valves and filters. Coarse mesh is best for catching leaves and large-textured debris, while pleated polyester fine mesh filters are best for finely textured debris. To make the process even easier, seek out cartridge filters for simple removal and cleaning.

On the whole, though, robotic pool cleaners typically boast superior cleaning abilities to alternatives that use the pool’s integrated circulation pump.

EXPERT TIP

The ideal acidity level of your pool — also known as the pH level — should be kept between 7.5 and 7.8. Not only does this prevent irritation to swimmers, but it also protects pool equipment from eroding over time.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Programmability

A feature unique to robotic pool cleaners is programmability. Select machines use software and sensors to determine the size and shape of your pool, cleaning it in an efficient manner rather than the random “navigation” of other automatic pool cleaners.

High-end units take it one step further, offering scheduling and various cleaning modes through their power station or remote. Some even connect to a smartphone app through Bluetooth, allowing the user to literally point and click on an area in the pool, commanding the machine to go there and clean it. This is a fantastic feature if you have a labyrinthine swimming hole that the cleaner’s sensors have trouble with.

Easy lifting

The point of an automatic pool cleaner is to cut down on labor. That makes the weight of your product significant, and some units are legitimately heavy due to their electric motors and complex housings. Robotic cleaners can weigh 40 pounds or more, so if you’d like an easier time lugging your gadgets in and out of the pool, consider a lighter model.

The first automatic pool cleaner was developed in 1883 by John E. Pattison. Called a "Cistern and Tank Cleaner,” the device swept and scraped the bottoms of tanks and removed sediment through suction.

Warranty

Automatic pool cleaners can get expensive and considering their work environment and high chance of failure, you should protect your investment with a fair warranty. These can pay for themselves if your machine happens to fail, but not every manufacturer offers the same level of insurance. Warranties range from short-term parts-replacement guarantees to full-device exchange promises spanning several years, so factor the warranty into your purchase decision.

Automatic pool cleaner prices

Inexpensive: Suction-side versions are the most inexpensive, as they link to your pool’s filtration system and are relatively simple. Expect to pay between $75 and $150 for these. However, some high-end models can cost $300 or more.

Mid-range: Pressure-side pool cleaners occupy the mid-range price segment, typically costing between $500 and $1,000. Keep in mind that, while they can clean more thoroughly than suction-side variants due to their powerful booster pumps, these pumps are not always included and will necessitate a separate purchase.

Expensive: A budget between $1,000 and $2,000 will net you a top-of-the-line, ultra-convenient robotic pool cleaner. You’ll pay a pretty penny up front for these, but you’ll save money down the line on chemicals, hired cleaning professionals, and your own time.

DID YOU KNOW?

The size of your pool will determine how much energy your cleaner uses. Smaller units consume about 200 watts of power per hour, but larger units can use as much as 1,000 watts per hour.

Tips

  • When your pool cleaner’s cycle is complete, remember to remove it from the pool, drain the water according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and clean the brushes and filters. Doing so will help preserve the motor, valves, and seals while also making your pool a safer place to swim.
  • Once a week, test your water for proper chemical balance to avoid cloudy buildup and bacteria. The Center for Disease Control recommends you test for chlorine, cyanuric acid (to protect chlorine from sunlight damage), pH level, and calcium hardness.
  • Store all of your pool-cleaning chemicals and materials away from direct sunlight. Also, never store acid and chlorine next to each other, as their reaction can result in extremely toxic chlorine gas.
  • Even if you have an automatic pool cleaner, a pool skimmer is still handy for quickly grabbing leaves, bugs, and other debris that might fall in while you’re using the pool.

Sanitation done simply

This nonelectric pool cleaner works with your pool’s existing filtration system to keep costs, weight, and maintenance down. Cleans both the bottom and walls of your pool without tools and includes a one-year parts warranty. It’s short on bells and whistles, but it gets the job done.

Other products we considered

The Polaris Vac-Sweep 280 pressure-side pool cleaner from Zodiac requires a Polaris booster pump to work, but its three-wheeled design allows it to sweep, scrub, and vacuum nearly any shape of pool with outstanding results. We were similarly impressed by Aquabot’s Pool Rover robotic cleaner, and not just because of its cool name. Ideal for aboveground pools, the Aquabot has a suction power of 80 gallons per minute, filters objects as small as 2 microns, and requires no assembly right out of the box. The only major limitation is its 40-inch cable, which some users have found too short.

To ward off plaster damage in your pool, monitor its calcium hardness. Aim for ratings of around 200 to 400 parts per million, but if your pool has vinyl siding, lower numbers are better. Calcium hardness can be adjusted with products like calcium increaser or flocculant.

FAQ

Q. How long will it take an automatic pool cleaner to clean my pool?
A.
Cleaning times can vary wildly depending on the size of your pool and the efficiency of your product, specifically its gallons per minute and mobility ratings. Somewhere between one to three hours is a common average, but certain models can take as long as six hours.

Q. Can automatic pool cleaners filter out extremely small objects and bacteria?
A.
Some automatic pool cleaners are better for scrubbing, some are better for particulate filtration, and some excel at both. Check product ratings for specifics, but high-end models are capable of filtering out objects as small as 2 microns. A human hair measures 50 microns, so these products are more than capable of filtering small debris and even bacteria.

Q. My pool hasn’t been used in a while and is discolored and saturated with debris. Will an automatic pool cleaner fix it?
A.
Put simply, no. Automatic pool cleaners are geared toward consistent maintenance rather than complete renovation, and their filters can’t handle contaminants of that scale. If your uncovered pool has been stagnant for a month (covered pools will last much longer), it likely needs to be drained, cleaned, and refilled.

The team that worked on this review
  • Andrew
    Andrew
    Writer
  • Angela
    Angela
    Editor
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Katie
    Katie
    Editorial Director
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Steph
    Steph
    Writer

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