The best above-ground pool vacuums of 2023
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Updated Jan 24, 2023 8:44 AM
Above-ground pools are a popular and relatively affordable way to bring warm-weather fun to your yard, but they still require routine maintenance to ensure hygiene and longevity. Unlike inground pools, which feature integrated underground filtration system installation, above-ground pools rely solely on passive external filtration and removable electric pool vacuums to remove the debris that invariably, well, pools, in the water. The best above-ground pool vacuums are essential pieces of pool cleaning equipment designed to quickly and efficiently sweep or even scrub the inside of a pool without requiring draining, making them perfect for folks who want to automate their swimming pool maintenance and save money on a cleaning service.
How we chose the best above-ground pool vacuums
We’re well-versed in aquatic accessories and have conducted past research on the best above-ground pools. Based on that, we know what an above-ground pool vacuum needs to meet the demands of above-ground pool ownership. We looked to critical reviews, peer recommendations, user impressions, and personal preferences to dive into our choices.
The best above-ground pool vacuums: Reviews & Recommendations
Like any outdoor accumulation of water, natural or otherwise, pools are subjected to a variety of elements—from temperature fluctuations to direct sunlight, as well as interactions with plants, wildlife, people, and a host of other environmental factors. Proper and frequent swimming pool maintenance is key to staving off buildups of algae and dirt in your above-ground pool that can stress your filtration system or develop into more stubborn muck that requires a harsher, more labor-intensive deep cleaning.
When shopping for the best pool vacuum, environmental factors such as pool size and location are key considerations to keep in mind. A suction model that connects to your pool’s filtration system will require no extra electricity to operate but will move randomly and offer less scrubbing power, which can translate into longer cleaning times. If your home has ample power in proximity to your pool, an electric model is by far the most efficient and easy-to-use option and will offer fully automated cleaning with a simple one-plug operation.
If your home has ample power in proximity to your pool, an electric model is by far the most efficient and easy-to-use option and will offer fully automated cleaning with a simple one-plug operation.
Best overall: Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Robotic Pool Vacuum
Why it made the cut: Schedule when you want the Dolphin Nautilus to run, and let it do the rest.
- Weight: 19 lbs.
- Item dimensions: 16 x 10 x 16 inches
- Style: Automatic
- Automatic scheduling
- Two hours of cleaning time
The Dolphin Nautilus is one of the best pool vacuums for above-ground and inground pools alike thanks to its easy one-cable operation and an automatic scheduling function that allows users to adopt a hands-off approach to pool cleaning. The Nautilus sports two scrubbing brushes for deep removal of grime, a large twin-cartridge filter to capture debris of every size, and a 60-foot tangle-free cable equipped with 360-degree swiveling for uninhibited travel. An onboard scanner reveals the most efficient path of travel in your specific pool to the Nautilus, allowing for thorough cleaning to take place during its two-hour cycle.
Best automatic: Zodiac Ranger Suction Side Automatic Above-Ground Pool Cleaner
Why it made the cut: A deflector prevents this pool vacuum from getting caught on steps, ladders, and corners
- Weight: 15 lbs.
- Item dimensions: 16 x 9.5 x 40.5 inches
- Style: Automatic
- Deflector wheel
- Side travel capabilities
- Can’t operate in pools deeper than 6 feet
The Ranger from Zodiac is a skimmer-powered pool vacuum designed for safe and skid-free performance in above-ground pools, including designs with dished-out bottoms up to 72 inches in depth. The vacuum is equipped with a unique deflector wheel that’s designed to prevent the unit from getting stuck on steps, lights, and other features in the pool, and its base disc allows for smooth gliding along the bottom surface, as well as travel in tight areas and up the sides. Because it only operates with one moving part, it’s incredibly quiet and doesn’t suffer from the banging or flapping noises commonly associated with this design, making it one of the best automatic pool cleaners in its class.
Best electric: Dolphin Escape Robotic Above-Ground Pool Cleaner
Why it made the cut: There are no messy bags to worry about when operating this pool vacuum.
- Weight: 14 lbs.
- Item dimensions: 22.44 x 17.8 x 13 inches
- Style: Automatic
- Hypergrip tracks
- High suction rate
- Smart navigation
- Pops wheelies when it changes directions
The Escape pool cleaner from Dolphin is one of the best electric pool vacuums on the market thanks to its feature-packed design and relatively affordable price point. Its wheels are equipped with hypergrip continuous tracks for unparalleled traction and easy maneuvering underwater, and it sports a lift-off top filter for easy cleaning access without the need for bags. Active scrubbing, smart navigation, and a 4000-gallon-per-hour suction rating round out this model to deliver an incredible level of above-ground pool cleaning in a form factor of no more than 14 pounds.
Best battery-operated: Pool Blaster Max
Why it made the cut: A handheld mode lets you clean up debris while enjoying the fresh, crisp pool water.
- Weight: 5.5 lbs
- Item dimensions: 15.5 x 6.5 x 7.5 inches
- Style: Handheld; manual
- No need to connect power supplies or suction feeds
- Easy maneuvering
- The battery holds an hour of charge
- Harder to clean lower flow areas and rounded corners because of design
The Pool Blaster Max features a removable vacuum head for whole-pool cleaning and a small nose cone for collecting the small, stray debris, making it one of the best battery-operated pool vacuums available. Its lithium-ion battery provides up to one hour of continuous cleaning on a single charge and the entire unit attaches to any standard pool pole for easy maneuvering. The small stature of this unit also makes it ideal for cleaning smaller pools or hot tubs quickly without the hassle of connecting power supplies or suction feeds.
Best budget: XtremepowerUS 75037 Climb Wall Pool Cleaner
Why it made the cut: Get a clean pool hassle-free for under $100.
- Weight: 12 lbs.
- Item dimensions: 40.5 x 5.5 x 17.5 inches
- Style: Automatic
- Easy to use
- No electricity required
- Can clean a large surface area
- Takes a long time to completely clean your pool
- Tricky to get the weight system balanced
This wall-climbing automatic suction vacuum from Xtremepower is one of the best cheap above-ground pool vacuums thanks to its simple design and easy-to-use construction. No tools or electricity are required, as this pool-cleaning equipment is powered using your pool’s own pump and is designed to move about the pool at a rate of 8 to 12 feet per minute, delivering waste and debris to your pool’s filtration system without the need for extra wiring or power. This pool vacuum is ideal for basic cleaning of pool floors and lower walls, but it doesn’t scrub surfaces or plan its route, so you’ll have to leave it in the water for longer durations to achieve ideal results.
What to consider when buying the best above-ground pool vacuums
Efficient as it is, a passive pool cleaning filtration system is not an end-all-be-all solution to keeping water free of leaves, twigs, bug carcasses, etc. Continuous filtration systems are great for removing small objects and particulates from pools on an ongoing basis, but an automatic pool vacuum is much better suited to collecting larger waste, like leaves and trash, in a controlled and designated manner. This is particularly true in cases when foreign objects become submerged and stick to the bottom or sides of the pool, as traditional filter systems rely upon gentle water currents that may not be robust enough to dislodge stuck material.
Some of the best above-ground pool vacuums also offer the unique ability to physically scrub the floors and the walls of your pool, which aids in the removal of small dirt and debris that, if neglected, could build up on those surfaces. Booking a thorough manual pool cleaning with a professional crew requires the water to be fully drained—an expensive, time-consuming—so an automatic pool vacuum can be a worthwhile swimming pool maintenance investment for any above-ground pool owner.
In the pool vacuum world, the majority of designs are either propelled using the pool’s pump and suction system or by a low-voltage electrical current. Water-propelled designs tend to be more affordable, but since they require feeding the collected debris through the pool’s filtration system, more filter cleanings are required after use. Electric pool cleaners and pool robots tend to cost more upfront, but they operate independently of your pool’s water system and are able to actively scrub things away in addition to vacuuming.
Automatic vs. manual
Unlike manual sweepers, automatic pool cleaners operate on a set-it-and-forget-it basis, allowing pool owners to simply hook up the cleaner, drop it into the water, and come back later to collect it. Performed on a regular basis, this passive form of cleaning keeps pools free of buildup for longer stretches. When shopping for the best automatic pool cleaner for your above-ground pool, consider a suction-powered model if affordability and simplicity are high factors on your list of requirements.
Suction-powered automatic pool cleaners and pool vacuums connect to your pool’s existing filtration system and are powered by low-speed pumps for a slow yet deliberate automated cleaning. The best automatic pool vacuum designs in this class feature tight suction against the pool’s surfaces to deliver maximum cleaning pressure, often using a flexible rubber disc or comparable design to ensure a snug fit. Look for a design that uses soft materials to ensure that your pool cleaner leaves the floors and walls of your pool free of scratches.
Electric vs. battery-operated
Electric pool vacuums are well-suited for larger above-ground pools, as well as long-term installations, as they offer predictable and consistent results thanks to features including active scrubbing and timed cleanings that are unavailable in purely water-powered designs. Although electric models usually cost more than suction-powered designs, their deep feature sets and the enhanced level of control they provide may be ideal for you depending on your needs and routine.
When selecting the best electric pool vacuum for your above-ground pool, consider a model that offers a smart navigation feature to deliver active pool cleaning for the sake of efficiency. This feature utilizes onboard scanners to plot the best route for your electric pool cleaner and automatically detect walls and obstacles. Unlike water-powered cleaners, electric pool cleaners with this feature won’t amble at random, which translates to a shorter cleaning duration overall.
Many electric pool vacuums also have the ability to actively climb and scrub the walls of your above-ground pool, resulting in a depth and level of cleaning unparalleled by non-electric models. Because walls are no less susceptible to harboring the growth of algae and other debris, choosing a wall-climbing pool vacuum can offer a much more comprehensive cleaning than that offered by water-powered models.
Pool owners who prioritize ease of storage and portability may want to consider a battery-operated pool vacuum in lieu of, or in addition to, a traditional above-ground pool vacuum. These designs operate on suction and feature debris collection chambers. While there is a generous measure of manual steering required to operate these designs, they’re nearly unparalleled when it comes to spot-cleaning and super-quick cleanup of small areas because they don’t require any water or electric hookups to take place.
When shopping for the best battery-operated pool vacuum, go with a design that features interchangeable heads for switching between cleaning wide swaths of the pool and accessing small hard-to-reach areas like corners and the bases of steps. Battery-operated pool vacuums are designed to perform easy user-controlled cleanings, so it’s important that the design be maneuverable and relatively lightweight. Choosing a model with a battery life of at least an hour ensures a continuous cycle without stopping to recharge.
Finding an effective above-ground pool vacuum on a budget can be somewhat difficult due to the niche nature of pool-cleaning equipment, but there are still some great options if you know what you’re getting into. Electric models are largely off the table when shopping for the best cheap above-ground pool vacuum due to their bulk, power, and automated nature, but a suction-powered design can make for a cost-effective alternative if you’re open to compromise.
Hose length, as well as base materials, are the main considerations to keep in mind when shopping for the best cheap above-ground pool vacuum for your needs. Hoses that are too short will prevent a cleaner from traveling the length of the pool, and hoses that are too long can easily become tangled and prevent proper movement. Softer base material will ensure proper contact and suction against the pool bottom, with some designs even allowing extra flexion to occur against the base of the pool walls for some small measure of wall cleaning to occur.
Q: Should I vacuum my pool of waste or filter?
Above-ground pools are best kept clean by using a combination of filtration and vacuuming. While filters are essential pieces of pool construction that passively maintain water quality, a vacuum supplements the filter by addressing submerged waste and static buildup that a filter cannot collect on its own.
Q: How often should you run a pool vacuum?
Pools should be vacuumed anywhere from daily to once every three days for optimal results. This number is flexible depending on the weather, time of year, and the frequency of pool use, but generally speaking, daily cleanings will all but guarantee that your pool requires fewer deep scrubs and stays sparkling clean longer.
Q: How long do pool vacuums last?
While basic suction units and less pricey pool vacuums are designed to last up to two seasons, more complex and expensive pool-cleaning equipment like robotic pool vacuums can last anywhere from three to five seasons before needing replacement.
Final thoughts on the best above-ground pool vacuums
Keeping a pool clean on a continuous basis is no easy task, but the best above-ground pool vacuums on the market can get the job done in style and with relative ease. An automatic pool cleaner is an ideal choice for those who prefer to save their energy and come home to a clean pool, while a battery-operated pool vacuum may be better for folks who need a way to quickly spot-clean their smaller pool or hot tub on an as-needed basis. No matter the size or depth of your above-ground pool, choosing the best pool vacuum is key to keeping your water sparkling clean.
Related: How to maintain a pool