Every pool owner needs to own and know how to use a manual vacuum. While an automatic pool cleaner provides hands-off pool cleaning, it doesn’t help vacuum cloudy water or algae.
Here’s our full in-depth guide to how to vacuum an inground or above ground pool quickly and effectively so you can get back to swimming.
What You Need To Vacuum Your Pool
- Pool vacuum head (also called a vac head).
- Telescopic pole to attach to the vac head.
- Pool vacuum hose long enough to reach every area of your pool.
- Skim vac or vacuum plate (optional if you want to use the skimmer basket).
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A Step-By-Step Guide to Installing and Cleaning Your Pool with a Manual Pool Vacuum
Before you get started, make sure the pool pump and filter are running. You also want to check that you’re running at a good starting pressure. If you have a D.E. or sand filter and the pressure is high, backwash it. If you have a cartridge filter, make sure the cartridges inside are cleaned and ready to go. Here’s our full guide on cleaning every type of filter.
IMPORTANT: If you’re dealing with algae or cloudy water, change your filter valve settings to the waste setting if you have a multiport valve or push/pull valve. This will bypass your filter and send the dirty water out through the waste port. If you have a cartridge filter, just remove the drain plug and attach a backwash hose. Your pool water level will drop while you vacuum. Use a garden hose to add fresh water while you’re vacuuming.
1. Attach Vacuum Head and Hose to the Telescopic Pole
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.
The weighted triangle pool vacuum head is a great way to clean your pool. The weights on the bottom of the vacuum head help to keep it in place while vacuuming.
2. Fill The Vacuum Hose with Water to Remove Air
Place the vac head, telescopic pole, and hose in the pool, making sure the vac head rests on the bottom of the pool. 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 air bubbles rising from the vacuum head on the floor of the pool. Once the air bubbles stop, all the air is out of the hose.
3. Attach Vacuum Hose to Pool Skimmer
Attach the skim vac 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. Insert it in the skimmer on top of the basket and be sure to create a good seal or suction will be lost.
If you’re not using a vacuum plate, remove the skimmer basket inside. Use your hand to block the end of the water-filled hose. Then place the hose into the skimmer inlet, 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. Here’s more information on troubleshooting your pool skimmer.
4. Start Vacuuming
Now that you’ve built a powerful siphon using your filter system, you can vacuum the floor of your pool. Start at the shallow end (if you have one) and move toward the deep end of the pool. If you have a round pool, just start at one side and move left or right across the floor.
Use long, slow, sweeping strokes to clean. Make sure your strokes overlap slightly to avoid leaving any debris behind. Rushing will just kick up debris, which will reduce visibility and take hours to settle down again.
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.
5. Disconnect The Vacuum and Perform a Final Clean
Once you’ve finished vacuuming your entire pool, it’s time to clean up and get back to swimming.
- 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 backwash the filter if you have a multiport valve and used the “Filter” setting. Here’s our full guide on cleaning your pool filter after you’re done vacuuming.
- 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.
- Rinse all your equipment with freshwater, 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.
Frequently Asked Questions About Vacuuming a Pool
Looking for more help with your pool vacuum cleaner? Here are some common questions and answers.
What setting do you put your pool filter on when vacuuming?
If you’re just doing a light debris vacuum, you can keep it on the “Filter” setting. But if your pool is really dirty, it’s best to put the filter on the “Waste” setting (not “Backwash”) to bypass the filter when vacuuming. The filter is now powerful enough to remove debris that quickly.
Do you vacuum a pool on backwash or waste?
If you’re vacuuming a lot of heavy debris out of your pool, your filter setting should be turned to “Waste.” Do not use the “Backwash” setting. The goal is the bypass the filter entirely which is what the “Waste” setting does. Backwashing reverses the flow of water through your filter to clean it out.
Do you leave skimmer basket in when vacuuming pool?
When I vacuum my pool the dirt comes back in?
This is because your filter system isn’t powerful enough to filter debris that quickly. If you’re dealing with a lot of fine debris that’s passing through your filter, turn your filter setting to “Waste” and bypass the filter completely when you vacuum. Just be sure to fill with freshwater while you vacuum so the water level in your pool doesn’t get too low.
Don’t Like Vacuuming Your Pool By Hand? Here are our Favorite Automatic Pool Cleaners
First of all, welcome to the club! While some people find this to be a form of meditation, it’s still a chore. And thankfully, we live in a world of blossoming technology I can help you task this to a swimming pool vacuum that acts like a robot.
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.
Need More Pool Maintenance Help?
- Download our free Pool Care Cheat Sheet. It’s a free, easy-to-use guide to help you keep track of taking care of your pool.
- Subscribe to our Swim University YouTube Channel. We publish free video tutorials throughout the pool season.
- Check out our Pool Care Course. You’ll get 30+ step-by-step videos and a downloadable guide with everything you need to know about pool maintenance.