How to Keep Leaves Out of Your Pool

Written by Michael Dean
May 10, 2023

leaves in a pool skimmer net

There’s nothing like spending the morning cleaning your swimming pool to relax in its crystal-clear water only to find that it had already filled back up with leaves by the time the afternoon rolled around. Aside from the discomfort of swimming around leaves, fallen leaves in pools clog the drain, bring insects into the water, and prevent your pool filter and pump from being effective at cleaning your pool water.

Thankfully, there are some handy tips to help keep an excessive amount of leaves from entering your pool. Let’s get started.

Main Takeaways

  • To prevent excessive leaves from getting into your pool, you should pull out your winter pool cover, buy a mesh cover, consider a leaf net cover, revisit your lawncare, plan your landscaping, and build a retaining wall.
  • To remove leaves from your pool,  use a leaf rake, a leaf vacuum, your skimmer, a leaf trap, a skim-it pool cleaner, and/or Phosfree.

How to Prevent an Excessive Amount of Leaves from Getting in Your Pool

Leaves tend to be the biggest issue for swimming pool owners during autumn, and it can be alarming how far they can travel. Below are my top tips for keeping the bulk of your lawn’s fallen leaves away from your pool.

Pull Out Your Winter Pool Cover

One of the best ways to prevent leaves from getting into your pool is by creating a physical barrier. Winter pool covers are hardy for holding mounds of leaves that get heavy when wet.

The good news is that you don’t have to manually pull a winter pool cover on and off your pool. By using an automatic system, you can easily roll it on and off.

That said, there are two accessories that you may want to add to your winter pool cover technique: A leaf net and pool cover pump, which will help trap excess leaves and ensure dirty water doesn’t enter your pool when you remove the cover.

Buy a Mesh Cover

Mesh covers have a significant advantage over winter pool covers—you don’t have to worry about rainwater and heavy leaves sagging them down.

Like a winter pool cover, you’ll need to clean off the leaves on top of your mesh cover before you remove it. You can use gadgets like a pool brush or water hose.

The downside to mesh covers is that smaller debris will seep through the mesh and into your pool water. However, mesh covers are incredibly advantageous when you compare this to the alternative of not covering your pool, allowing mounds of leaves to reach the water.

Consider a Leaf Net Cover

Yes, I’m still on a pool cover kick here because they’re the most effective method for keeping out leaves. The nice part about leaf covers is that you can use them independently or in conjunction with your winter cover for an added attack against leaves entering your pool.

Many people prefer leaf net covers over the other options mentioned here because they’re lightweight, making it easy to remove them and put them back on between each swim.

As a bonus, leaf net covers can help keep UV rays from reaching your pool water. That way, you won’t spend as much money on chlorine.

Revisit Your Lawn Care

Leaves can travel far, but even so, most of the leaves in your pool are likely coming from your yard.

To prevent excessive leaves from entering your pool, keep your trees trimmed, especially if there are branches that hover over or near your pool. You should also remove dead branches, which can injure your pool’s lining.

Another lawn care tip is to use a bag when you mow your yard. That way, dried grass and cut-up leaves won’t fly into your pool afterward.

Plan Your Landscaping

Don’t worry; you don’t have to have a barren landscape around your pool. Instead, a little thought in planning the landscaping around your pool goes a long way toward reducing the number of leaves that fall into your pool.

For starters, I recommend planting or using potted plants with large leaves that don’t flower or produce fruits. The following are excellent examples of foliage to grow near your pool:

  • Tropical trees
  • Dogwood
  • Shrubs

An extra benefit of shrubs is that they may help catch some leaves before they make it to your pool. For more tips on plants, head over to my pool landscaping guide.

Build a Retaining Wall

There are many approaches to building a retaining wall around your pool to keep out leaves. For starters, you can put the retaining wall around your entire pool, or if there’s a particular direction where most leaves reach the water, you can build a wall only on that side.

Materials are another aspect to consider when building a retaining wall. You can use items such as concrete blocks, wood or iron fences, and even pool storage boxes.

Alternatively, if you’d like a more natural look, you can opt for a wall made from shrubs. Just keep the shrubs trimmed and cleaned to reduce the amount of shrub debris that could get into your pool.

How to Remove Leaves from Your Pool

I don’t know whether you’ll view this as good news, but you’re not alone – many pool owners struggle to manage excessive leaves. As a result, many tools are on the market to help you remove them. Below are some of my favorite options.

Leaf Rake

You no doubt already have a skimmer net for your pool. A leaf rake attaches to the same pool pole but has a broader, deeper net for scooping leaves. It’s also durable, so you don’t have to worry about breaking it as you pull up pounds of soggy foliage.

As you likely know, leaves don’t stay in their large form for long when they land in water; they break down into pieces, creating an even larger mess for your pool.

The great thing about leaf rakes is that they have a rubber rim. That way, they scoop and hold small particles better than your standard skimmer net. That said, a little skill goes into using a leaf rake—you want to go fast enough to hold in what you collect but not so quickly that you push the debris around.

Leaf Vacuum

Leaf vacuums (also called leaf gulpers or leaf-eaters) are a fun and effective way of scooping up large quantities of leaves, especially those on the bottom of your pool.

To use a leaf vacuum, you’ll attach the device to your garden hose. Pressure then uses jets to push all your leaves into a leaf collection bag.

Utilize Your Skimmer Suction

Lowering the main drain suction of your pool skimmers will help give those skimmers more suction. That way, your pool can more effectively take away leaves on its own without you needing to remove them from the surface constantly.

That said, if you have excessive leaves in your pool, the skimmer baskets will fill quickly, and you risk clogs. For this reason, it’s essential to monitor your skimmers closely, empty your skimmer basket, and supplement them with the other methods discussed here.

You can also supplement your main skimmer with a robotic pool skimmer that acts like an automatic vacuum and picks up debris from the water surface.

Leaf Trap

Instead of purchasing a leaf vacuum, you can instead modify the regular manual pool vacuum you may own.

Leaf traps are canisters that attach to standard pool vacuums, allowing you to vacuum for a longer time before emptying the canister.

If you’ve tried to vacuum your pool without a leaf trap, you probably know what it’s like to stop every couple of minutes to empty the canister, causing your pool maintenance to take longer than necessary.

Skim-It Pool Cleaner

If you plan on using a manual skimmer to help remove leaves in your pool, the Skim-It Pool Cleaner is an accessory that you can attach to the inside of your pool skimmer. It works like a spring curtain rod, as it helps your skimmer reach farther.

By doing so, the Skim-It corrals debris, pushing the leaves into your basket—it’ll help you save both time and frustration.


Unfortunately, leaves aren’t your only problem if they’ve spent a lot of time in your pool water. Leaves are rich in phosphates, a substance that spawns algae growth.

As a result, you may find a layer of algae building up on your pool floor and walls. Many different substances are on the market to control phosphate in pool water, but I recommend Phosfree because it is a natural substance—not an algaecide.

Even if you use a mesh or leaf pool cover, applying an anti-phosphate substance to your pool water is still a good idea, as any organic matter seeping into your pool will increase its phosphate content.

Get My Free Pool Care Checklist

Download my free, printable pool maintenance checklist to help you accomplish regular pool care tasks for any type of swimming pool.

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Final Thoughts

The fact that you want to resolve your leaf issue has a positive impact beyond making the water more comfortable to swim in—too much leaf buildup can harm pools over time, and people who don’t maintain them reduce their pool’s lifespan by 50% or more.

By implementing the strategies here, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying clean, nearly leaf-free water. Your pool will thank you, and so will your body as you float around relaxing after all your hard work.

Questions? Let me know.

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