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How to Vacuum a Pool Manually

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Hold on a minute, you’re thinking. Why in the world do I need to vacuum my pool by hand when I have an automatic pool cleaner? Shouldn’t that little robot be doing all the work for me?

Well, yes. Some of it. But Rosie from The Jetsons it ain’t. While an automatic cleaner is an indispensable tool, it can toss debris right back into the water when it tries to vacuum a pool full of debris, or worse, algae. If you’re dealing with a mean, green infestation, manual pool vacuuming is pretty much required to fight the little water squatters.

How to Vacuum a Pool Manually

What You’ll Need to Vacuum Your Pool

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:


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.

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Put Your Pool Filter to Work

If you can’t get your kids to do the pool vacuuming, 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.

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Multiport 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.

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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.

Assemble the Vacuum

  1. Ensure the pump and filter are running.
  2. Attach the vac head to the open end of the telescopic pole.
  3. Attach one end of the hose to the vac head. If the hose is slippery, use a hose clamp to keep it in place.

  5. Place the vac head, pole, and hose in the pool, making sure the vac head rests on the pool floor.
  6. Place the other end of the hose against a return jet in the pool. This will push water through the hose and drive all the air out.

  8. 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.


  9. 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.
  10. 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.

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Vacuum Your Pool

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, low and slow 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.

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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.

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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.

Happy Swimming!

Recommended Reading

A Beginner’s Guide to Swimming Pool Maintenance
Did you just move into a new home with a pool or buy one for your backyard? Either way, this guide for new pool owners will help you take care of your pool.
5 Common Household Products You Can Use To Clean Your Pool
There are many common household products you can use to clean your pool. Learn more about what chemicals are safe to use and how you use them here.
The Pros and Cons of Hiring a Pool Maintenance Company
Gabe Ullmann from Blue Science talks about the benefits and the problems when hiring a pool maintenance company to take care of your swimming pool.
How to Create a Pool Maintenance Schedule
More treatments means using LESS CHEMICALS. It all makes sense if you understand a few key components to creating the perfect pool maintenance schedule.

The Art of Pool Care

Spend Less Time Cleaning and More Time Swimming

We cut out all the fluff and confusion of pool maintenance and stripped it down to the bare bones in this easy-to-read illustrated digital guide.

Click here to learn more

Last Updated: Friday, March 9th, 2018