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

Last Updated: April 14, 2021

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.

The 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]...
5,962 Customer Reviews
Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Robotic Pool [Vacuum]...
  • Hello, free time! Let the Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus robotic vacuum cleaner take over your pool...
  • The clean you need without the hassle. The Nautilus CC Plus was designed to clean your pool,...
  • Ditch the pumps and hose. Unlike the energy hogs that are pressure and suction cleaners, Dolphins...

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.

Click here to see our Top 5 Suction-Side Pool Cleaner Picks

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...
203 Customer Reviews
Hayward PHS41CST AquaNaut Suction Pool Vacuum...
  • V-Flex technology provides maximum power at any flow and handles any type of debris without clogging
  • Patented adjustable roller skirt maintains constant suction on uneven surfaces and obstacles
  • Multiple pre-programmed steering sequences ensure complete pool coverage

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 Side Pool Cleaner
4,922 Customer Reviews
Polaris Vac-Sweep 360 Pressure Side Pool Cleaner
  • Powered by triple jets and advanced cleaning technology
  • Works in all in-ground pools of any size and shape.Tail Sweep PRO Compatible
  • Sweeps, scrubs, and vacuums the bottom and walls of your pool.If they are low or the wheels are not...

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 See-Thru Pool Vacuum Head/ Triangular,...
2,982 Customer Reviews
Milliard See-Thru Pool Vacuum Head/ Triangular,...
  • EASY CLEANING – Milliard’s See-Thru vacuum head is weighted so it sinks right to the bottom of...
  • 7 SOFT BRUSH SETS – The wide 11” cleaning surface comes with 7 sets of nylon bristles that are...
  • UNIVERSAL FIT – The vacuum port fits standard 1.25” and 1.5” vacuum hoses and the handle has...


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.