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Types of Pool Cleaners: Robotic vs Suction vs Pressure – Which is Best for You?

Types of Pool Cleaners

The Different Types of Pool Cleaners

Now that you’ve got your own swimming pool to enjoy, you’ve also got your own swimming pool to clean. And they need cleaning! Lots of it. Unless you can afford a cleaning service to come out and clean your pool twice a week, it’s up to you. Let’s take a look at some of the different types of cleaners available and how to use them.


Quick Comparison of Our Favorites

Image Product Details
Our Favorite Robotic Pool Cleaner Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus
  • Fast
  • Affordable
  • Smart Cleaning
  • Our Favorite Suction-side Pool Cleaner Hayward AquaNaut Suction Pool Vacuum Hayward AquaNaut Suction Pool Vacuum
  • Can navigate any surface
  • Advanced steering capability
  • Can handle large debris without clogging
  • Our Favorite Pressure-side Pool Cleaner Polaris Vac-Sweep 360 Pressure Side Pool Cleaner Polaris Vac-Sweep 360 Pressure Side Pool Cleaner
  • Booster pump-free operation
  • Fast
  • Our Favorite Manual Pool Cleaner Milliard See-Thru Pool Vacuum Milliard See-Thru Pool Vacuum
  • Fits 1½ and 1¼ inch standard vacuum hoses
  • Has rubber bumpers to prevent scratching pool liners
  • Cleaning surface is 11in. wide
  • The 4 Different Types of Pool Cleaners:

    1. Robotic Pool Cleaners

    a robotic pool vac
    A robotic pool cleaner. This is the popular Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus.

    Starting at the top in terms of cost and ease of use, robotic cleaners don’t require any effort once you’ve programmed them and dropped them in the water. As the name would suggest, they are robotic; therefore, completely autonomous once they’re underway.

    They don’t need to be attached to your swimming pool’s pump or water circulation system.  They have their own filter bag or capture system. They are literally, plug-and-play. Plug them into a socket – with a suitably long extension cord of course – and turn them loose in the water. Walk away and come back a few hours later to a clean pool.

    Click here to see a rundown of the 5 Best Robotic Pool Cleaners

    When using a robotic cleaner, it helps to turn your pool’s pump off so all the dirt and debris settles to the bottom where it can be scooped up by the robot. This eases the wear and tear on your pool’s pump and filtration system, thereby extending its useful life.

    You’ll need to clean out the robot’s filter after each use, but that’s it. They’re expensive but worth it.

    Our Favorite Robotic Pool Cleaner

    Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Robotic Pool Vacuum Cleaner — Wall Climbing Capability — Top Load...
    • The Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus robotic pool vacuum cleaner features powerful wall climbing capabilities to scrub the floor and walls of...
    • Get your pool exceptionally clean with the easy-access, top load fine filter basket. The fine filters remove debris from your pool for...
    • Cleaning your pool has never been easier. With the Dolphin's plug-and-play system, just plug your robot in, drop it into the pool, and...

    2. Suction-side Pool Cleaners

    a suction side pool vac
    A suction-side pool cleaner. This is the popular Hayward Aquanaut.

    A suction-side pool cleaner relies exclusively on your pool’s pump to provide the suction to scoop up debris. It has a long hose that will connect to the skimmer at the water intake valve. The cleaner then becomes a water-based vacuum cleaner moving around the pool in a predetermined pattern.

    They can move quite high on the sides of the pool and are very easy to use for first-time swimming pool owners. You must have a functioning pool pump in good condition, and you’ll need to backwash the filter and clean out the skimmer basket after each use. Some models have their own filter bag but most rely on your pool’s filter to capture the debris.

    Since the pump is providing all the power for these cleaners, your electric bill will necessarily be higher than with the robotic cleaners. They also put an additional strain on your swimming pool’s filter, but it is one of the cheapest cleaners available.

    Our Favorite Suction-side Pool Cleaner

    Hayward PHS41CST AquaNaut Suction Pool Vacuum (Automatic Pool Cleaner)
    • HANDLES LARGE DEBRIS WITHOUT CLOGGING: Patented V-Flex variable vane turbine technology eliminates clogs and maximizes power at almost...
    • EXPERTLY NAVIGATES ANY SURFACE: Patented high-traction tires with rugged treads provide superior climbing power and motion on all...
    • MAINTAINS CONSTANT SUCTION: Patented adjustable roller skirt maintains optimal suction on uneven surfaces

    3. Pressure-side Pool Cleaners

    A pressure side pool vac
    A pressure side pool cleaner. Here’s the popular Polaris Vac-Sweep 360.

    A pressure-side cleaner also relies on your swimming pool’s pump and filter, but it uses the water on the pressurized side of the pump, where the pressurized water is being forced from the pump into the pool. This is where it gets the name “pressure-side cleaner.”

    As the pressurized water moves through the cleaner, it powers the wheels and creates a suction that sucks up dirt and debris. Another nice thing about these cleaners is they have their own filter bags like the robotic cleaners; thus, reducing the wear and tear on your swimming pool’s own filter.

    Which Pressure-Side Pool Cleaner is Best for the Money? Click here to read more

    You’ll have to clean the filter bag on this cleaner after each use. Since it relies on your swimming pool’s pump for its power, the electric bill will be the same as for the suction-side cleaner above, but you don’t have to backwash it when you’re done. In terms of price, pressure-side cleaners fall somewhere between suction side cleaners and robotic cleaners.

    Our Favorite Pressure-side Pool Cleaner

    Polaris Vac-Sweep 360 Pressure Inground Pool Cleaner, Triple Jet Powered with a Single Chamber...
    • NO BOOSTER PUMP NEEDED: This advanced pressure-side cleaner is powered by the water pressure coming from the pool's return line,...
    • FOR IN-GROUND POOLS: Safe for all pool shapes and surfaces including vinyl, fiberglass, gunite, pebble, & tile.
    • Complete Coverage: The Vac Sweep 360 is equipped with 3 venturi jets that deliver greater vacuum power, while its large 2.25" inlet...

    4. Manual Pool Cleaners

    a manual pool vac
    A manual pool cleaner/ vacuum head. Here we have the Milliard Pool and Spa Vacuum Head.

    The cheapest and simplest. type of cleaner to use is the manual cleaner. You provide the power to move it around through the water. You connect the hose to the skimmer so the pump is sucking water through the cleaner, just like in a suction-side cleaner. But then, you grab a long pole and push the cleaner around the swimming pool, just like you would push a vacuum cleaner around inside your house.

    Your swimming pool’s pump has to be running while you’re using the cleaner; therefore, your electric bill will be the same as with the suction-side and pressure-side cleaners above, and you’ll have to backwash the filter when you’re finished.  It’s a time-consuming task so you need to allow yourself at least an hour each time you clean your swimming pool.

    Our Favorite Manual Pool Cleaner

    Milliard Deluxe Pool Vacuum Head/Weighted Triangle Shape/for Inground and Above Ground Swmming...
    • Handle has spring-loaded locking clips for attaching standard extension poles, and the vacuum port fits 1½ and 1¼ inch standard...
    • Triangular plastic body is see-thru for maneuverable and accurate vacuuming along walls and into corners for a more complete clean.
    • Weights keep the vacuum head at the bottom of the pool where it belongs. Rubber bumpers at the sides prevent scratching or scraping of...


    As you can see there are automatic cleaners, and more old-fashioned, time-craving manual models.

    Counting down from the most expensive to the least expensive, and from the physically easiest to use to the physically hardest to use, the cleaners are:

    Now you know what’s out there, how to use them, and what’s involved, you can make a decision regarding which one is best for you.

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