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Best pool cleaners 2021: Top-rated in-ground and above ground pool cleaners

Best pool cleaners 2021: Highly-rated robotic and pressure pool cleaners
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Dive into the best pool cleaners to keep your outdoor pool looking fresh and clean all summer long. Whether it’s a pressure-side pool cleaner you are looking for, a suction-side model or a robotic pool cleaner, we’ve done all the hard work and discovered the top-rate gadgets from respected brands such as Polaris, Paxcess and Pentair. So the hardest decision you have to decide is what pool cleaner is best suited to your budget, pool type and needs. 

The price of the machine is one factor that will help you discover what is the best pool cleaner for you. Robotic pool cleaners are more expensive than other pool cleaner designs but they do come with their benefits. For example, you can just place robotic pool cleaners in the pool and let them get to work. 

But that’s not to say pressure-side pool cleaners and suction-side devices don’t have their list of positives. Pressure-side pool cleaners are known for coming with some serious suction power, while suction-side pool cleaners operate close to the pool surface for a super intense clean. 

To find the best pool cleaner for your outdoor pool, decipher what type of pool you have and how much debris it collects. If it’s a lot, look for the best pool cleaners that have a large throat and lots of suction power. If you’re time poor, a robotic pool cleaner might be better suited to you. If you’re looking for more pool essentials, discover our guide to the best pool alarms and the best solar pool covers.


1. Polaris Vac-Sweep 360: Best pool cleaner for performance

Best pool cleaners: Polaris Vac-Sweep 360

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Polaris Vac-Sweep 360

The Polaris Vac-Sweep 360 is a powerful device that will ensure your pool is left squeaky clean every time.

 Large inlet 
 No booster pump needed 
 Users say it has a leaky hose 
 You need to buy an additional return line 

Despite being compact in its design, the Polaris Vac-Sweep 360 is a powerful pressure-side pool cleaner. Special features include a big inlet which measures in at around two and a quarter inches. This means it is wide enough to capture stones and other pool debris before they get sucked into your filtration system. Its auto back-up feature means it also won’t get stuck whilst cleaning your pool. 

The Vac-Sweep 360 comes with Polaris’ iconic three-wheel track design. This helps it move effortlessly around the pool and up the walls. According to the brand, it can leave a pool debris-free in under three hours. 

But perhaps one of the most valuable points about the Polaris Vac-Sweep 360 is its impressive Amazon reviews. The pool cleaner scored an average of 4.4 stars out of five, with most users highly rating the machine because there is no need to use a booster pump. If you’re looking for the best pool cleaner for an in-ground pool, you will find it in the Polaris Vac-Sweep 360.


2. Zodiac MX6: Best pool cleaner for suction power

Best pool cleaners: Zodiac MX6 Suction Pool Cleaner

(Image credit: Zodiac)

Zodiac MX6 Suction Pool Cleaner

Removes small dirt and debris from the floors and sides of your pool

Brilliant suction power
Superb cleaning credentials
Struggles with larger pieces of debris 
Suction-side cleaner means more wear and tear 

The Zodiac MX6 is a suction-side pool cleaner that’s suitable for in-ground and above-ground swimming pools. Due to the fact this machine is a suction-side pool cleaner, this means it is powered by the suction of your main pool pump. 

On one hand, this is great because it doesn’t use up any extra power as it utilizes the current usage. However, because it attaches to the suction of your main pool pump, your pool filter will experience more wear and tear.

Suction-side pool cleaners are known for their brilliant cleaning credentials and the Zodiac MX6 is no exception. The Zodiac MX6 sits very close to your pool floor meaning it's able to rid dirt or grime. As well as cleaning your pool floor, the Zodiac MX6 has no problems traveling up your pool sides. 

Thanks to its cyclonic suction power and articulating turbine blade it can tackle 90-degree angles with ease. If you invest in the Zodiac M6, it also comes with 8.4m of hose – which is brilliant if you have got a small to medium-sized pool. It will ensure the pool cleaner can reach even the furthest point in your pool. 

From 4,332 reviews the Zodiac M6 has received on Amazon, it’s averaged 4.2 out of 5 stars. Users rated the pool cleaner for its ability to climb walls, work just as well in the deep end as well as the shallow and how easy it is to assemble. However, It looks like the pool cleaner dropped points with buyers because of its ‘inability’ to pick up larger items of debris such as leaves or grass.  


3. Pentair 360042: Best pool cleaner for vinyl pools

Best pool cleaners: Pentair 360042 Pool Cleaner

(Image credit: Pentair)

Pentair 360042 Vinyl Pool Cleaner

Ideal for vinyl pools thanks to its soft pleated seal

Automatic valve
Pleated seal
Struggles with pool sides 
Not to be used on an incline

Vinyl pools require the right type of pool cleaner. Why? Because pools with a vinyl surface are much more delicate than, say, concrete pool surfaces. So if you want to find the right pool cleaner that won’t make any holes or scratches to your walls and flooring, we’d suggest the Pentair 360042 because it's lightweight and doesn’t have any hard or scratchy surfaces. The head of the Pentair 360042 is actually fitted with a pleated seal, which makes it perfect for cleaning vinyl pools without you worrying about it ruining your pool surface. 

The Pentair 360042 also comes with an automatic valve. This means you will never have to worry about the Pentair 360042 getting tangled or caught because this back up valve cuts in every couple of minutes and draws the machine back. Not only does this feature help the Pentair 360042 continue with its cleaning regime should it get stuck, but it means it never misses a spot. So you can enjoy a super clean swim.

There is only one moving part in the Pentair 360042 which means there are no bags to empty or gears to be jammed.  On Amazon, the Pentair 360042 has had just over 600 reviews. It’s racked up a good average of 4.3 stars out of 5. Users said this machine was super easy to install, and it has left their pool ‘so clean’ they could see a ‘dime on the bottom of it’. However a handful of users marked down this device because of its inability to deal with deep ends of sharp inclines. 


4. Hayward Wanda the Whale: Best pool cleaner for above ground pools

Best pool cleaners: Wanda the Whale Pool Cleaner

(Image credit: Hayward)

Hayward 900 Wanda the Whale Pool Cleaner

Add some fun to your above-ground pool cleaning session

Playful design
Cleans bottom of the pool quickly
Doesn’t clean the sides
Not great for large pieces of debris

Fun, playful and backed-up with cleaning power, Hayward’s Wanda the Whale looks as good as it cleans. On the manufacturer’s website, it says this turbine cleaner is designed to clean the bottom of all shapes and sizes of in-ground and above-ground pools. However we think Wanda the Whale is best suited to above ground pools. That’s because this pool cleaner won’t travel up the sides of your pool to give them a scrub. 

Wanda the Whale is fitted with a one-of-a-kind turbine system which helps it travel across your pool floor. While creeping across the pool floor, it pulls water up from the bottom as it moves. The unique whale design is fitted with a ‘deluxe bumper ring’ which is said to rid friction and prevent it from bumping into walls, steps and ladders. 

Wanda the Whale scored 3.8 stars out of 5 on Amazon from just over 1,100 reviews. Users of this device said they were "very impressed" because it works "way better" than a more expensive model. However the same user mentioned they did have to buy an additional hose because the one Wanda the Whale comes with isn’t long enough for their 30ft pool. 

One user of the machine pointed out that the machine works brilliantly for picking up algae and small pieces of debris, however it is not designed to pick up leaves.


5. Pentair LX500G Kreepy Krauly Legend II: Best pool cleaner for compatibility  

Best pool cleaners: Pentair LX500G Kreepy Krauly Legend review

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Pentair LX500G Kreepy Krauly Legend II

The Pentair LX500G Legend II works well on in-ground pools that are made from concrete, fiberglass, and tiles.

 Low running cost 
 Works across different surface materials 
 Has a ‘flimsy’ hose, according to reviews 
 Short warranty  

Coming with the Pentair name, the LX500G Kreepy Krauly Legend II is one of the best pool cleaners on the market. It is the second series of the brand’s Legend collection and has four wheels, which stops any tipping that might occur with other three-wheeled models. 

This is one of the design features that makes the device really compatible with all different kinds of pool surfaces. It also comes with a front-wheel drive, meaning it has great traction. Another bonus with this model is the fact it doesn’t require a booster jet. Its powerful dual-jets create a strong vortex to suck up all the dirt and move the Legend II around the pool. 

One of the negatives about this pool cleaner that seemed to be voiced with a handful of users reviews was its ‘flimsy’ hose. 


6. Polaris Vac-Sweep 3900 Sport: Best pool cleaner for big pools  

Best pool cleaners: Polaris Vac-Sweep 3900 Sport pool cleaner

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Polaris Vac-Sweep 3900 Sport

The impressive pool cleaner from Polaris can vacuum up to 40GPM through its filter bag.

 Powerful  
 Big debris bag with a five-liter capacity  
 Requires a booster pump 
 Pricey 

The Polaris Vac-Sweep 3900 Sport is nothing to be scoffed at. Being able to suck up to 40GPM through its dual chambers, this pool cleaner is super powerful. If you have a large pool, this will be the best pool cleaner for you. 

It comes with a massive five-liter debris bag and has grippy wheels to crawl across the pool floor and walls with ease. The device comes with the brand’s one-of-a-kind ‘TailSweep Pro’. This clever design feature stops pool water from spraying sidewalks, the lawn, or people as the machine cleans. 

There are not many cons to this Polaris Vac-Sweep 3900 Sport. But the major negative feature about this device is the fact it requires a booster pump to perform so that means an added expense. If you don’t already have a booster pump this could cost you around $300. Add that to the device’s already steep price tag of around $900 and this pool cleaner will cost you more than $1100. However, if the price isn’t an issue then give this powerful pool cleaner a go. 


7. Zodiac 6-130-00T Polaris Turbo Turtle: Best pool cleaner for above-ground pools 

Best pool cleaners: Zodiac 6-130-00T Polaris Turbo Turtle

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Zodiac 6-130-00T Polaris Turbo Turtle

Have an above-ground pool that’s no deeper than five-foot? This quirky turtle cleaner is the best pool cleaner for you.

 Colorful design  
 Easy-to-use 
 Gets tangled in its own hose  
 Not suitable for deep pools 

If there was an award for the most creative looking automatic pool cleaner, the Zodiac 6-130-00T Polaris Turbo Turtle would win every time. The device by the well-known water solutions brand, Polaris, was made for above-ground swimming pools. 

The turtle works by using the pressure of super fresh and clean water flowing back into your pool. Whilst the brand’s patented design in the form of a jet assembly, helps to loosen any muck around the pool corners or sides. It has a filter bag attached to it which crawls the bottom of the floor to pick up any debris. All you have to do is empty this bag and reattach it ahead of its next clean. 

Whilst there are lots of positives about this device, a handful of users who bought the turtle claimed this is a pool cleaner you will have to keep an eye on. That’s because users claimed it sometimes gets ‘tangled’ in its own hose. 


8. Paxcess Automatic Robotic Pool Cleaner: Best robotic pool cleaner  

Best pool cleaners: Paxcess Automatic Robotic Pool Cleaner

(Image credit: Amazon)

Paxcess Automatic Robotic Pool Cleaner

The device is one of the most affordable robotic pool cleaners on the market.

 Robotic pool cleaner 
 Automated cleaning schedule 
 Can mark the interior of your pool  
 Doesn’t work as well on corners 

If you’re after the best robotic pool cleaner, you’re in the right place. That’s because the Paxcess comes with many bonus features pressure-side cleaners just don’t have. This includes the ability to clean above-ground pools and in-ground pools, a scrubbing brush at its front, and an electric motor to help propel it in the direction it needs to go in. 

The Paxcess Pool Cleaner also has intelligent programming, which means you can place it into the pool and set it to clean every one, two, or three hours. All you have to do is plug it in and watch it get to work. 

Some of the user reviews for the Paxcess Pool Cleaner were negative.  Despite averaging a score of four out of five stars, some users claimed that the sponge rollers left black marks over their pool floor and sides and scuff marks as the robotic pool cleaner scaled the sides. However, it is worth noting that this wasn’t the case for all users. Plus, the Paxcess is a great price for a pool cleaner that’s robotic.


What is a pool cleaner and does every pool need one?

A pool cleaner makes light work of restoring your pool water back to its clean and sparkly self. Pool cleaners suck up all of the dirt and debris that finds its way into the water. Whether it's twigs, stones, sand or leaves, the best pool cleaners use their suction power to travel across the pool floor and vacuum up the unwanted debris. 

The best pool cleaners can save you time, money and effort. They can also ensure you have a clean looking pool all year round and that the surface and pool floor is dirt-free. 

All you have to do is set a pool cleaning schedule and stick to it. It’s handy to note that some of the more sophisticated models can also be used to chemically treat your pool too. Many of the top pool cleaning brands have been providing pool cleaners for years. 

Kreepy Krauly was the first brand to create the first pool cleaner. But the likes of Paxcess, Polaris and Pentair are a handful of the other major well-known brands in the world of water solutions.


What makes a good pool cleaner?

Suction power
If your pool is exposed to a lot of debris, such as leaves from surrounding trees and dense landscaping, a pressure pool cleaner is more effective than smaller pressure side-suction cleaners, which are lighter and lack the power of a pressure cleaner. Consider the size of your pool, and what types of debris it’s prone to – whether it’s nearby trees, animals, or something else. Find a pool cleaner that can handle the corresponding size and quantity of debris.

Pressure cleaners can handle larger pieces of dirt and debris that fall into the pool. However, they require more suction and must be used with a booster pump. Some have debris bags with multiple chambers, or ones specifically made for fine particles like silt, not for sticks or larger debris.

Booster pump
Each pool cleaner model specifies whether it has an internal booster pump or requires an external one. Even if the vacuum has an onboard booster, you still need to have a booster line to connect it to. 

If it requires an external booster, you need to contact your pool professional to have one installed to operate the machine, which adds to the overall cost of the device. 

However, booster pumps do make your pressure pool cleaner more effective overall. They can make for a faster cleaning session, more consistent power, and can even reduce wear and tear on the cleaner.

Compatibility 
Most pressure pool cleaners don’t work in an above ground pool. Look for a pressure side-suction cleaner instead. Most pool vacuums are designed for 8-foot deep ends and a surface area of 10 x 10 feet. If your pool is larger than that, get a hose extension so the pool vacuum can reach all corners of the pool. If you have a vinyl liner, the manufacturer should specify if the pool vacuum is suited for that type of surface. Some rotary brushes can damage vinyl or tile.

Agility
It’s important that your pool cleaner can run autonomously, so you’re not stuck monitoring it for several hours. You should ensure that the cleaner you choose has a long enough hose for your pool, or at least that it allows you to customize the length of it as needed. The best pressure pool cleaners should easily be able to handle the various terrains and locales within your pool, be it stairs, walls or any other curves or corners.

Pool cleaners that are equipped with tires that have deep treads or front-wheel offer great mobility, and are less likely to get stuck. This means they are ideal choices if you want to leave the cleaner unattended. Some units struggle or are completely unable to properly access and clean those areas, so be sure to choose a device that best suits your pool’s unique design.  

The quantity of jets a pressure pool cleaner has also greatly affects speed and mobility. Though thrust jets serve a dual-purpose for loosening stubborn dirt and sucking in debris, they can also affect the speed at which the cleaner moves and the direction it moves in. These jets are where water that the cleaner has already processed exits. Good pressure pool cleaners also have an in-line back-up valve, which can help remove it if it gets stuck.


Benefits of using a pressure pool cleaner

A pressure pool cleaner is a time saving device that will allow you to spend a greater amount of time playing or relaxing around your pool rather than cleaning it. Some cleaners even allow you to set up an automated cleaning schedule that can run one or more times per week, ensuring that your pool is always clean and ready for use. 

Additionally, out of the three types of pool cleaners – pressure, suction, and robotic –  a pressure pool cleaner scores well across cleaning power, energy usage, and most importantly, price. These pool cleaners can generally handle most pool and debris sizes.

In addition to cleaning your pool, pressure cleaners also help distribute filtered, clean water. Pool cleaners that come with their own debris bag collect dirt, leaves, acorns, and other detritus, then carry it around while it cleans instead of leaving it for your pool’s filter to handle. This can likely save you money in the long run when it comes to pump and filter maintenance.

Pressure pool cleaners are fairly easy to repair. Many common issues can be resolved by you with minimal troubleshooting. Most manufacturers have installation manuals, user manuals, FAQs, and other informational resources on their website.


Downsides of using a pressure pool cleaner

Most pressure-side pool cleaners need a separate booster pump to run, although this is not always the case. Your pool’s booster pump is what gives some of these pool cleaners access to constant high pressure, which is what can make a real difference in removing stubborn dirt from your pool. Alternatively, you can use your pool’s existing pressure line, although that may not offer quite as much pressure.

Another downside to pressure side pool cleaners is additional costs. Even though pressure cleaners may not cost as much as their counterparts, they can incur other costs, especially if you don’t already have an existing booster pump. You may also need to pay for installation, additional hose, or added pressure.