6 Best Suction & Pressure Pool Cleaners of 2023, Tested & Reviewed
Of the 18 models we tested, these are the most dependable and effective.
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Real Simple / Kristin Kempa
It's no secret that keeping your pool pristine can be a daunting task that requires regular maintenance. That's where suction and pressure pool cleaners come in handy—they minimize the hassle of manual cleaning so you can spend more time lounging poolside and less time fishing out debris.
"A clean pool is less likely to develop organic stains and algae, and automatic pool cleaners are popular tools because they help reduce the amount of time spent on pool care," says Brian Wells, category director of pool equipment and cleaners at Leslie's Pools.
To find the best suction and pressure pool cleaners, we tested 18 models in our Lab and assessed them on setup, design, ease of use, effectiveness, and more. We also spoke to Wells for expert insight on achieving a spotless pool with as little labor as possible. Whether you need to capture large debris or tackle chlorine stains, these suction and pressure cleaners will streamline your pool maintenance checklist.
Double jets and a 2.25-inch vacuum hole make this pool cleaner suited to pick up larger debris.
It doesn't scrub the surfaces, so it may not be suitable to remove stains and fine dirt.
If you want your pool sparkling clean, opt for a pressure cleaner like the Polaris Vac-Sweep 280. This automatic pool cleaner is propelled by double jets and can remove medium to large-sized debris from your pool. You can use it on pool surfaces such as gunite, tile, pebble, fiberglass, and vinyl. Even though its build was smaller and lighter than some other pool cleaners, we still found that it outperformed other Polaris models we tested. And although we hired professionals to install it, the process was easy enough to do on our own.
It has a wide vacuum hole and a chamber bag to store the debris it collects, making it well-suited to clear large debris. Plus, a long 31-foot hose can stretch to all corners of your pool.
During our testing, it cleared the detritus from the stairs, sides, and floor within three hours without any adjustments. Just note that this cleaner tends to vacuum and not scrub the surface, so it may not be ideal if you need to remove stains from your pool.
Price at time of publish: $599
Type: Pressure | Cleaning Coverage: Floor, wall | Pool Surface Types: Gunite, tile, pebble, fiberglass, vinyl | Warranty: 1 year
It's easy to set up and use.
It does not work as quickly as some other selections.
This Hayward pool cleaner was easy to set up (we did it in under 10 minutes) and connect to our existing skimmer. Instead of a flat sweeper brush (like in other suction models), it has self-adjusting turbine vanes that power it through the pool at full throttle. The tire treads on its wheels allow it to climb your pool walls for full-fledged cleaning. Additionally, there are three interchangeable throats, so you can tailor the vacuum suction to your pump speed or flow.
Like other suction cleaners, it comes with pre-programmed steering that allows it to move around the pool in a set pattern. During our testing, we observed that while it did steer itself (with hardly any intervention from us), the movement seemed haphazard. This resulted in it taking more time to finish the entire pool.
Although the Hayward was slow, it was still easy to use and more effective than cleaning the pool manually. Also, note that this cleaner can't handle large debris, so we recommend using a manual pool cleaner first.
Price at time of publish: $449
Type: Suction | Cleaning Coverage: Floors, walls, coves | Pool Surface Types: Gunite, vinyl, fiberglass, pebble, tile | Warranty: 3 years
This pool cleaner runs quietly because it uses your pool's pump and not a booster pump.
It doesn't have a smart navigation feature, so you may need to double-check that it cleaned all parts of your pool.
If you want a pool cleaner that can tackle small and large debris, opt for the Polaris Vac-Sweep pressure cleaner. Unlike other pressure cleaners, it operates quietly because it connects to your filtration system and does not need a booster pump. During our testing, this pool cleaner easily picked up leaves and rocks—plus it has a filter bag to store all the debris. It's also a climber, so you can use it to clean dirt and grime from the sides of your pool.
This pool cleaner features triple jets plus a motor belt drive for quick and effective cleaning. Note that there is no smart navigation feature, so you may have to double-check your pool floor after cleaning to ensure it covers all areas. Even though our pool was quite dirty and had tons of leaves, this model picked everything up in just two hours.
It only took 15 minutes to set up during our testing, as it's almost fully assembled right from the box—all we had to do was connect it to the pool pump. While it left our pool spotless and free of large debris, it may not be the best cleaner if you have to tackle a lot of fine dirt.
Price at time of publish: $700
Type: Pressure | Cleaning Coverage: Floor, walls | Pool Surface Types: Vinyl, fiberglass, gunite, pebble, tile | Warranty: 1 year
This pool cleaner can remove salt and chlorine stains from your pool's floor and walls.
The hose was bulky and heavy.
The Pentair Kreepy Krauly is a dependable suction-side cleaner that won't clog easily. It wipes away dirt from your pool floor with cleaning wings and a dive float directional system, plus it has a built-in valve that automatically controls water flow and sets the cleaning speed.
During testing, we found that the cleaner worked well even in a pool packed with leaves, dirt, and pollen.
While it couldn't pick up the leaves during our tests (you can buy a leaf catcher attachment separately), it captured smaller debris and sediment at the bottom of the pool. We also noticed that it was one of the only pool cleaners on our list that removed salt and chlorine stains from the pool floor. It struggled with pool steps and ledges, and we frequently had to finagle its roller straps to keep it submerged.
Overall, we thought it did a remarkable job and gave it a perfect score in terms of value. The other main drawback we noticed was that the hoses are bulky, making it cumbersome to bring to and from the pool.
Price at time of publish: $370
Type: Suction | Cleaning Coverage: Floor, walls, steps, ladders | Pool Surface Types: Gunite, fiberglass, vinyl | Warranty: 2 years
The suction design easily picks up small dirt particles and comes at an affordable price.
There was no user manual included with the package.
We wouldn't recommend the Zodiac for anyone who wants to clean large debris like leaves and branches. However, if you want a suction-side cleaner that removes fine dirt from your pool floor—this is it. It has a 36-inch fin disc that travels closely along the pool's bottom to remove grime and stains. On top of that, this pool cleaner is designed to get rid of dirt from hard-to-reach nooks and sloping side walls. We found it worked best when we used it with a robotic pool cleaner. With these two products, we washed away practically all the dirt and sediment from the floor, walls, and steps while barely lifting a finger.
Our pool had a greenish tint before cleaning, so we used a robot cleaner to remove large debris before relying on the Zodiac to suck the dirt from the walls. Although it took us two days to complete the entire task—this cleaner left the pool entirely spotless.
Unfortunately, it was not easy to set up, and we spent a lot of time (about an hour and a half) assembling it. This was because it didn't come with a user manual, so we had to refer to an online version of the instructions to put it together.
Price at time of publish: $324
Type: Suction | Cleaning Coverage: Floors, walls, steps | Pool Surface Types: All pool surfaces | Warranty: 2 years
The pool cleaner is easy to set up and effectively captures dirt and leaves.
The instruction manual could have been clearer.
The Hayward Navigator Pro Automatic Suction Cleaner effectively cleans standard-sized in-ground pools in minutes by obliterating dirt from the floor, walls, and coves (a foam that sticks to the wall on the pool's bottom).
One of the best things about this cleaner was how easy it was to use—it only took 10 minutes to connect it to the suction port of the pool and align the hose. It also operated extremely quietly during our tests—to the point that we only knew it finished cleaning because it stopped moving.
For the most part, we found that it worked well and cleaned most of the leaves and other debris at the bottom of the pool. This model is as fuss-free as they come—it's easy to take apart to clean its filter and has no debris bags. Our sole critique of this cleaner was that the instructions were vague and difficult to follow. To learn how to use the machine, we recommend watching instructional videos online.
Price at time of publish: $379
Type: Suction | Cleaning Coverage: Floor, walls, cove | Pool Surface Types: Gunite | Warranty: 3 years
Our top pick is the Polaris Vac-Sweep 280 because it's lightweight and can remove large debris from your pool floor. If you prefer a suction pool cleaner, the Hayward The PoolCleaner 2-Wheel Suction Cleaner is easy to set up and has tire tracks on its wheels to clean pool walls and floors efficiently.
We tested 18 suction-side and pressure-side pool cleaners in real-world conditions over a period of three weeks to evaluate their performance. Our tests varied on the type of pool cleaner, as each has unique characteristics and settings we wanted to assess. First, we prepared our pool by cleaning the filter and pump basket, performing a backwash, and ensuring that the chemical balance was correct.
We set a timer to unbox and set up the pool cleaner while following the manufacturer's instructions, installing the necessary pumps, filters, filter bags, and hoses (ensuring that the hose was within 6 inches of the furthest point of the pool).
After set up and installation, we used the pool cleaners every few days to once a week depending on our level of pool usage and debris. We took note of the debris in the pool and recorded our observations about the type and amount. During the first trial, we observed its cleaning route, noticing whether it hit all areas or had any discernible pattern. We also took note of how well it cleaned different areas (like the floor, walls, stairs, coves, and waterline) and recorded how long it took for the cleaner to finish the task. If we were using a pressure model with a collection bag, we emptied the debris and cleaned the filter with a hose.
If you’re deciding between a pressure or suction pool cleaner, consider the type of debris that's usually in your pool. For small debris like sediment, pebbles, and dirt, a suction-side pool cleaner is best, like the Hayward The PoolCleaner 2-Wheel Suction Cleaner. These cleaners connect directly to the pump through your pool's skimmer and use suction power to clean.
"Suction cleaners are a simple, no-frills cleaner that's great for removing dirt and debris from the pool," says Brian Wells, category director of pool equipment & cleaners at Leslie's Pools. "They’re generally the least expensive type of cleaner, and some models have very few moving parts—which means less maintenance and fewer repairs over time."
If you need to clean debris like leaves and twigs, a pressure pool cleaner like the Polaris Vac-Sweep 280 is best, as it has larger suction "throats" or passages to pick up the debris and a filter bag that you can empty when finished. Keep in mind that most pressure pool cleaner models require a booster pump, which you can buy separately if you don't already have one.
Cleaning coverage varies depending on the pool cleaner—be sure to select a model that can tackle the grimiest areas of your pool. Some suction and pressure pool cleaners, like the Pentair 360042 Kreepy Krauly Suction-Side Inground Pool Cleaner, can remove matter from pool floors, while others are suited to clean grime and dirt off steps and walls, as well as debris floating on the pool's surface. Both suction and pressure pool cleaners have auto-steering, which allows them to clean the pool by moving in pre-set patterns.
Common pool surface types are vinyl, fiberglass, plaster, and gunite. While many automatic pool cleaners are compatible with most pool surfaces, some are better suited for cleaning specific materials. The type of surface in your pool can impact your cleaner's performance and maintenance over time, according to Wells. "Placing a cleaner made for vinyl liner pools inside a plaster pool may lead to it wearing down faster, or it may not be able to climb the walls as efficiently."
To find how much cord length you need for your pool cleaner, measure the size of your pool and pool depth, recommends Wells. "Calculate the distance between the two farthest points of the swimming pool and your pool depth," he says. "So, if you have a suction cleaner, and the skimmer is 30 feet from the farthest wall, and the deepest pool depth is eight feet, you’ll require a hose length of at least 38 feet."
Zodiac MX6 Suction Pool Cleaner: We tested the Zodiac on a pool that was recently opened for the swimming season and needed a heavy cleaning due to algae. Because it was small and lightweight, it took us multiple sessions to clean the pool. While we thought it did a good job, it's better suited for smaller pools.
The best pool cleaner depends on the type of debris in your pool. In general, suction pool cleaners are great for removing dirt and small debris while pressure pool cleaners pick up larger debris, like twigs or leaves. Robotic cleaners (which are typically more expensive) can clean both small and large debris.
"All of these cleaners are great options if you’re looking for an easy alternative to manual pool cleaning," says Wells. "Suction side cleaners are great all-around cleaners, and they’re one of the most popular types. But, the main downside is that suction side cleaners rely on your pool pump to operate, and you’ll need to clean your filter and pump strainer more often."
"The life of pool equipment always varies depending on several factors including frequency of use, pool water chemistry, and how well it's maintained," says Wells. "On average, a high-quality, well-maintained pool cleaner will last about five years."
Suction pool cleaners are generally cheaper, with a price range of around $150 (for a no-frills version) to roughly $700. Pressure pool cleaners typically come with a higher starting price of $200 and up. If you don't want to spend a hefty amount on an automatic pool cleaner, a suction-side cleaner is your best bet.
This article was written by Nor’adila Hepburn, a contributing writer for Real Simple. To compile this list, we tested 18 suction and pressure pool cleaners. We also compared factors such as type, pool surface, cleaning coverage, and cord length. We also received expert insight and shopping tips from Brian Wells, category director of pool equipment and cleaners at Leslie's Pools, for his expert take on finding the best cleaner for you.
Next to each product on this list, you may have noticed a Real Simple Selects seal of approval. Any product appearing alongside that seal has been vetted by our team—put through tests and graded on its performance to earn a spot on our list. Although we buy most of the products we test, sometimes we do get samples from companies if purchasing a product ourselves isn't an option. All products go through the same rigorous process, whether they are purchased or sent by the company.
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