Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
Keeping a swimming pool clean and clear is no small job and, in the absence of an automatic pool cleaner, requires hours of manual scrubbing and vacuuming. Spend less time on routine maintenance and more time enjoying your backyard oasis with the help of a pool cleaner.
Automatic pool cleaners typically require an investment of around $100 up to $1,000 or more. As the features increase, so does the price tag. However, whether you spend a lot or a little, you’re likely to agree that the savings in time can be well worth the cost. Pool cleaners are available for both inground and above ground pools, though inground pool cleaners generally are more full-featured and will often clean the walls of your pool, as well.
Here, the best pool cleaners to keep your swimming pool in tip-top shape.
Best Robotic: DOLPHIN Nautilus CC Plus Automatic Robotic Pool Cleaner
For a pool cleaner that requires minimal user intervention and has plenty of power and features, check out the Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus. This robotic pool vacuum uses its own power supply to navigate across your tile, fiberglass, cement, or vinyl inground pool. It also will climb the walls of the pool, scrubbing all the way to the waterline.
With a robotic pool vacuum like the Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus, you can skip the skimmer system. Instead, this pool vacuum contains its own filter media. Rotate between standard duty filters for general debris or fine corrugated filters for smaller particles. The unit is programmed for a 2-hour cleaning cycle and is a good match for pools up to 50 feet in length.
"Using it, I felt like one of the The Jetsons with an aquatic Rosie the Robot Maid, especially as this product requires just about nothing from its human companion. All I did was plug it in, carry it over to the pool, push the “on” button, and drop it in the water."—Sarah Vanbuskirk, Product Tester
Best for Small Pools: Zodiac Baracuda G3 W03000 Advanced Suction Side Automatic Pool Cleaner
This pool cleaner makes quick work of the tedious task of vacuuming your pool floor and walls. The Zodiac Baracuda G3 Automatic Pool Cleaner is a suction side pool cleaner that connects to your pool’s skimmer or to a dedicated suction line. Equipped with a 36-point disc, the Baracuda G3 is designed to glide smoothly across your pool surface without getting stuck on obstacles, like drains or lights. In addition, a wheel fitting behind the head of the cleaner helps to steer the vac clear of tight areas, like behind stairs.
Whether you have a single, two-speed, or variable-speed pool pump, the Baracuda G3 is a good choice. It’s designed to work with even low-speed pumps and it’s equipped with a FlowKeeper valve to regulate the speed of water flow. Whether you have a vinyl, tile, concrete, or fiberglass pool, this automatic pool cleaner is ready to take on your dirt and debris.
Best Suction: Zodiac MX6 Suction Automatic Pool Vacuum
Suction pool cleaners are an efficient, easy way to keep your pool clear of algae, dirt, dust, and debris. By connecting to your pool’s skimmer or dedicated vacuum line, a suction side pool cleaner will automatically traverse the floor and walls of your pool, grabbing up anything in its path.
The Zodiac MX6 is equipped with 4 belt-driven wheels and a cyclonic suction mechanism to capture small and medium-sized debris. Large debris, like palm fronds, may clog the vacuum—but it’s a cinch to open the center compartment of the vacuum and free the mechanism of nay oversized items. An advantage of suction pool cleaners is their ability to climb the walls of your pool, delivering a more thorough clean-up to the waterline. To make it more efficient at wall climbing, this model features an articulating turbine blade.
Best for Above Ground Pools: Hayward W900 Wanda the Whale Above Ground Pool Vacuum
Above ground pools sometimes pose special challenges when it comes to keeping the water clean and sparkling. While some inground pools have built-in suction lines to attach a pool vacuum, above ground pools typically rely on manual cleaning.
If you’re looking for an easier way to maintain your above ground pool, Hayward’s Wanda the Whale is here to help. This above ground pool cleaner connects to your pool’s skimmer system and uses a turbine to pull up water from the bottom of the pool, sending debris up the hose and into your skimmer as it goes. It can handle pools up to 27 feet in size and uses a SmartDrive system to efficiently steer the vacuum and make the most of each cleaning session. Keep in mind that this pool cleaner won’t climb the walls of your above ground pool; it’s strictly for keeping the bottom of the pool clean, which it does well.
Best for Inground Pools: Hayward W3PVS20JST Poolvergnuegen Pool Cleaner
If you’re searching for an automatic pool vacuum for your inground pool, the Hayward Poolvergnuegen Pool Cleaner is a long-standing popular pick. This 2-wheel drive version is sized right for pools up to 16 x 32 feet, but a 4-wheel drive version is also available for larger in-ground pools. The treads of the tires enable the Pool Cleaner to travel unhindered across the pool floor and up walls, despite encountering lights, drains, or other obstacles. It weighs only 5 pounds, making it easy to transport it to and from the pool in between cleaning sessions.
Other unique features of the Hayward Poolvergnuegen Pool Cleaner include interchangeable throat plates that can be swapped out to maximize suction based on flow rates or to accommodate larger debris. The unit is also programmed with internal steering sequences to vary the Pool Cleaner’s path and ensure more even cleaning coverage. Pair this pool cleaner with at least ½ horsepower pump (or 35 GPM) for a cleaner, clearer pool.
Best for Vinyl Pools: Pentair 360042 Kreepy Krauly Pleated Seal Pool Cleaner
Pentair’s Kreepy Krauly Pleated Seal Pool Cleaner is powerful enough to tackle algae, dirt, and debris, but gentle enough for vinyl pools. The soft, pleated skirt on the head of the Kreepy Krauly isn't overly abrasive on the vinyl liner of your swimming pool when compared to some brushes or wheels of other pool cleaners. It also keeps the design simple with minimal moving parts and no wheels, gears, or diaphragms.
This pool cleaner relies on a dive float system to guide it along the length of your vinyl pool and up the wall to the waterline. Connect it to your pool’s suction line or skimmer, and the Kreepy Krauly will get to work capturing debris that you’d otherwise spend hours vacuuming manually.
Best for Leaves: Polaris Vac-Sweep 360 Pressure Side Pool Cleaner
A pressure pool cleaner hooks up to the return side of your pool pump, using the incoming pressure of clean water to power the vacuum on its cleaning mission. While some models require the use of a separate (and costly) booster pump, the Polaris Vac-Sweep 360 is a standalone unit that simply connects to the pressure line.
This model is a great choice as a pool cleaner for leaves since it’s equipped with an onboard filter bag that collects larger debris—like pine needles, acorns, pebbles, twigs, and more. The advantage of this system is that collected items are contained for easy disposal, rather than clogging your skimmer or pool filter. The Vac-Sweep 360 features three propulsion jets and an all-wheel-drive system that powers the three wheels for better maneuverability and efficient cleaning.
Best Budget: XtremepowerUS Automatic Suction Vacuum Pool Cleaner
Pool cleaners vary in cost, and many models have steep price tags that might make you re-think whether or not you should just manually vacuum your pool every week. But before you trade in your free time for cheaper pool cleaning, consider this budget pool cleaner that costs less than $100.
The XtremempowerUS Pool Cleaner Vacuum connects to your pool’s suction line and assists in cleaning the floor and walls of your pool, up to 16 x 32 feet in size. This basic pool cleaner skips fancy features and isn’t meant to pick up heavy debris, like leaves. However, it excels at routine maintenance and scrubs away algae, fine dirt, and dust. For adequate performance, be sure that you have at least a ¾ horsepower pool pump (or 1600 GHP). You’ll need to take the time to set up this budget pool cleaner, ensuring that you have the right length of hoses with stabilizer weights where necessary.
For a pool cleaner that requires minimal user intervention and has plenty of power and features, we recommend the Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Robotic Pool Cleaner. This cleaning system is intended for inground pools up to 50 feet long and works well for a variety of pool shapes. Another great option is the Zodiac Baracuda G3 Automatic Pool Cleaner (view at Amazon), which is easy to set-up and keeps things simple with a single moving part. The unique cleaning disc devours small to medium-size debris and makes this suction-side pool cleaner a top pick for most pools.
What to Look for in a Pool Cleaner
Manual vs. robotic
Manual cleaners are much cheaper but require more grunt work. They are more suitable for above-ground pools and small inground pools. If you have a larger pool or are short on time, a robotic pool cleaner is a much more efficient way to get that crystal clear water.
There are two main types of automatic pool cleaners: pressure-side and suction-side. Pressure-side cleaners use water pressure to move along the bottom and sides of the pool and collect dirt and debris in a bag. These cleaners are ideal for leaves, twigs, and larger debris. Suction-side cleaners connect to your pool’s filtration system and are better for dirt, sand, and smaller debris.
Suction-side pool cleaners depend on a built-in filtration system to work properly, while robotic and pressure-side pool cleaners can operate autonomously. Pressure-side cleaners use a bag to collect debris, and robotic pool cleaners use filters that need to be changed periodically.
How do pool cleaners work?
Pool cleaners are designed to capture dirt, dust, pollen, leaves, bugs, algae, and other debris that affects the clarity and cleanliness of your pool water. Automatic pool cleaners are equipped with hoses that connect to your pool’s skimmer or to a built-in vacuum line, if available. The pool vacuum traverses the floor and walls of your pool, suctioning up debris and sending it through the hoses to the skimmer or the vacuum line. Steering patterns and mapping ability vary by model, with some pool cleaners working on a more randomized cleaning pattern and more advanced models following a pre-programmed route.
How do robotic pool cleaners work versus regular pool cleaners?
While regular automatic pool cleaners rely on your pool’s skimmer system or a dedicated suction line, robotic pool cleaners connect to their own power supply and have onboard filtration. This makes them a good choice for pools that lack a powerful pump to propel the pool cleaner or if you don’t want to worry about frequently backwashing your filter system to remove the debris suctioned up by your pool cleaner.
How long do pool cleaners last?
Many factors affect the longevity of a pool cleaner, including how you maintain and store it. Most manufacturers recommend that you remove the unit from the pool after each cleaning cycle; prolonged exposure to chlorine and pool chemicals can shorten the useful life of a pool cleaner. If you’re willing to replace parts on your pool cleaner, such as the foot, cleaning disc or head, and other miscellaneous parts, you may be able to use the same pool cleaner for 5 or more years.
Why Trust the Spruce?
This article was researched and written by Erica Puisis, a professional writer that specializes in products that elevate outdoor and indoor living, including backyard products like pools, hot tubs, and patio furniture.