While an automatic cleaner is an indispensable tool, it can toss debris right back into the water when it tries to vacuum a swimming pool full of debris, or worse, algae.
If you’re dealing with a mean, green infestation, using a manual pool vacuum is pretty much required to fight the little water squatters.
What You Need To Vacuum Your Pool Manually
It would be wonderful to live in a world where pools (and everything else) simply stayed clean. But until those self-cleaning pools are invented, we have to live in the present, and we’re still on the hook for cleaning our stuff ourselves.
Before you can vacuum your pool, you’ll need:
- A vacuum head, also called a vac head
- A telescopic pole to attach to the vac head
- A vacuum hose long enough to reach every area of your pool
- A skim vac or vacuum plate (if needed)
- A pool brush to attach to the pole
Bonus Tip: Got kids? Do they use the pool? Then maybe it’s time to put them to work to help keep it clean. Just a suggestion.
If you’re looking for some extremely detailed video tutorials on how to vacuum your pool, invest in the Pool Care Video Course. We’ll show you the proper way to hook up your manual vacuum and vacuum your pool efficiently so you can spend more time swimming.
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Put Your Pool Filter to Work
If you can’t get your kids to use the pool vacuum, you can at least make use of your pool filter to make the task a little easier.
If you’re performing routine maintenance and giving your pool a weekly cleaning, you may not need to adjust your pool’s filter setting at all. The standard “Filter” setting will do the job quite nicely.
But let’s say you have a lot of leaves and other debris in the pool after a thunderstorm. Or you used flocculant to clear up water-clouding particles. The storm debris and particle-laden flocculant will sink to the bottom of the pool where they’ll sit until you vacuum them up.
To clear a large amount of debris like this from your pool, you’ll want to adjust your filter to compensate before you begin vacuuming.
Depending on the size and style of your pool, the filter system will have two or more settings for controlling filtration.
Pool floc binds particles (and dead algae) that are making your water cloudy together and sinks to the bottom of your pool so you can easily vacuum out the cloudy mess.
Using Multiport Valve Filters
These may offer several options, with special settings just for vacuuming, including one called “Waste.” This setting pumps water out of the pool while bypassing the filter.
This setting keeps you from clogging your filter with debris, flocculant, and dead/dying/annoyingly persistent algae.
Important: If you use this method, your pool water level is going to drop while you vacuum the pool. Use a garden hose with an attached hose filter to add fresh water while you’re vacuuming and keep air out of the skimmer inlet.
Using Two-Position Valve Filters
Often called “push-pull” valve filters, these are more common on smaller pools. They won’t have a “Waste” option. Instead, with this system’s only setting—”Filter”—all the water you vacuum will be pulled into—and cleaned by—your pool’s filter. The cleaned water is then sent back into your pool.
Important: This setting is perfect for routine cleaning, provided you backwash the pool filter while and after you vacuum the pool.
How to Set Up a Manual Pool Vacuum
First, ensure the pump and filter are running. Attach the vacuum head to the open end of the telescopic pole. Attach one end of the hose to the vac head. If the hose is slippery, use a hose clamp to keep it in place.
Place the vac head, telescopic pole, and hose in the pool, making sure the vac head rests on the pool floor.
Place the other end of the vacuum hose against a return jet in the pool. This will push water through the hose and drive all the air out.
Triple-check to make sure the vacuum inlet is the only line open to the pump. If not, particles and debris will also be sucked in by the pump and undo all your hard work.
NOTE: You’ll see bubbles rising from the vacuum head on the floor of the pool. Once the bubbles stop, all the air is out of the hose.
Attach the vacuum plate to the end of the hose you’d previously placed against the return jet, block the opening with your hand, and bring it over to the skimmer. Be sure to create a good seal or suction will be lost.
If you’re not using a vacuum plate, remove the basket inside the skimmer, and, using your hand, block the end of the water-filled hose. Then place the hose into the skimmer, making sure it’s firmly inserted into the suction hole at the bottom of the skimmer.
NOTE: Whichever method you choose will create the suction that pulls material through the vac head, up through the hose into the skimmer, and then through the filter system. If your vacuum loses suction, just follow the prep steps again to restore it.
How to Vacuum Your Pool Manually
We’re not gonna lie. You’re in for quite a workout if you’re going to vacuum your pool by hand. And it’s going to take some time, too, so don’t make any other plans for the afternoon.
Start at the shallow end and slowly move toward the deep end of the pool. Use long, slow, sweeping strokes to clean. Make sure your strokes overlap slightly to avoid leaving any debris behind.
Not to belabor the point, but this is no time to go for the world pool cleaning speed record. As the Beastie Boys might say, slow and low is the tempo. Rushing will just kick up debris, which will reduce visibility and take hours to settle down again, leaving you on the hook for another super-fun session of vacuuming your pool.
If you’ve got a load of debris, you’ll likely kick up a cloud no matter how careful you are, but there’s no need to make more work for yourself by hurrying.
If the water does become cloudy, give it a couple of hours to resettle, then come back and vacuum again, repeating as necessary.
If the vac head becomes stuck, switch off the pump for a second to break the vacuum force and set it free. Also, be sure to monitor your pool filter’s pressure gauge as you vacuum. If the pressure rises above the levels recommended by the manufacturer, take a break, and backwash your filter.
After You Vacuum Your Pool
When you’ve finished cleaning your pool, remove the vacuum head from the telescoping pole, and drain any water still in the vacuum hose. Attach your cleaning brush to the pole, and use it to scrub away any algae, dirt, and debris from the sides of the pool.
Clear any debris in your pump strainer basket, and give the filter a final backwashing if you have a multiport system and used the “Filter” setting.
If you used the “Waste” setting to vacuum the pool, make sure you switch the valve back to the “Filter” setting, and keep adding fresh water to your pool until the water level is restored.
Once you’ve topped off your water, test your pool water, and adjust your alkalinity, pH, and chlorine as necessary.
Tests for 7 important chemistries in seconds: Total Hardness, Total Chlorine, Total Bromine, Free Chlorine, pH, Total Alkalinity, and Cyanuric Acid.
Rinse all your equipment with fresh water, dry it, and return it to storage. This will help keep it in top working condition and avoid unnecessary wear and corrosion.
You don’t have to dread the vac head! When it’s time to vacuum your pool—whether you’re just the hands-on type or waging war on invading algae—you can get the job done by hand with a little preparation, a lot of elbow grease, and a healthy dollop of patience.
What If You Don’t Like Vacuuming Your Pool By Hand?
First of all, welcome to the club! While some people find this to be a form a meditation, it’s still a chore. And thankfully, we live in a world of blossoming technology that I can help you task this to a swimming pool vacuum that acts like a robot.
These robots are called automatic pool vacuums and there are three types:
1. Robotic Pool Cleaners
Independent cleaners that vacuum your pool using electricity. You plug them in, drop them in your pool, and let them do all the hard work on their own. All you have to do is empty the built-in filter bag when they get full of debris. These are by far the best automatic pool cleaners on the market, but they can be a bit pricer. Hey, you get what you pay for.
We keep an updated list of our favorite robotic pool cleaners. But here’s one we highly recommend:
Designed for above ground swimming pools up to 30 feet. It takes less than 2 hours to clean your pool with built-in water filtering and scrubbing.
2. Pressure-Side Pool Cleaners
These cleaners hook up to your return line and use the water pressure from your filter system to power a self-contained automatic cleaner around the bottom of your pool to pick up debris into a filter bag.
We highly recommend investing in a Polaris Pool Cleaner. But here’s our favorite one:
Connects to the pressure side of your pool and uses a patented jet sweep assembly to loosen and remove dirt and other particles from hard-to-reach places. It also has a trailing all-purpose debris bag that scoops up some of the larger items that are blasted loose from the pool floor.
The Polaris 360 automatic pool cleaner improves water circulation and helps mix chemicals and heat while it cleans the bottom and walls of your pool. It’s powerful enough to pick up larger items like leaves and pebbles, catching the debris in its own filter bag.
3. Suction-Side Pool Cleaners
This is just an automatic version of vacuuming your pool manually. They hook up the same way you do when you vacuum your pool manually. The biggest difference, however, is that they move around the bottom of your pool by themselves. That way, you don’t have to stand there in the hot sun and do it yourself.
However, we recommend if you’re going to make this investment, that you go for a pressure-side or robotic cleaner. That said, here’s our favorite suction-side automatic pool cleaner:
This Kreepy Krauly pool vacuum attaches directly to your pool skimmer line and is powered by your pool’s pump, using an internal free skimming valve to automatically regulate water flow, ensuring the unit is cleaning at the proper speed.
It connects directly to your pool filter system and includes 32 ft. of hose. It's powerful, balanced, and doesn't have any hammering noises (common in other suction-side pool cleaners) for quiet operation.
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