How to Vacuum a Pool (Above Ground & Inground)

Written by Michael Dean
June 22, 2023

manually vacuuming a swimming pool

An important part of pool maintenance is cleaning the pool. While your filtration system should help keep your pool clean, to really extend the life of your pool and the pool system, you should aid it by vacuuming the pool. If you do not have an automatic pool cleaner, manually vacuuming the pool should be a regular part of your pool maintenance schedule.

In this article, I will explain how to use a manual vacuum and answer some common questions. This process applies to above ground pools and inground pools, no matter which pool type you have.

Main Takeaways

  • Before you vacuum your pool, brush your pool surfaces thoroughly to dislodge all the algae, gunk, and debris.
  • To vacuum your pool, attach the vacuum head to the telescopic pole, attach the hose, insert the hose into the skimmer, and start vacuuming!
  • After you vacuum, let the debris settle for a few hours, and then vacuum again. After that, brush the pool one more time and let the filtration system take care of the rest!
  • Automatic pool cleaners can be a great option if you don’t want to manually vacuum your pool.

Supplies You Need To Manually Vacuum Your Pool

Here is a list of supplies you will need to vacuum your swimming pool manually:

  • Telescopic pole to attach equipment to
  • Vacuum head
  • Skimmer attachment for vacuum (also called a skimmer vac)
  • Pool vacuum hose that can extend all around the pool
  • Pool brush

What To Do Before You Vacuum Your Pool

Before you vacuum your pool, you’ll want to brush the sides and floor. Algae will generally stick to the surfaces of the pool, so brushing will aggravate the particles and make it easier to remove them later with the vacuum.

Vacuuming can remove algae, but most manual vacuums struggle to pick up smaller particles. I recommend using pool flocculant to gather smaller particles that make the water cloudy. Flocculant will clump smaller particles together and float to the bottom of the pool, making it much easier for the vacuum to pick up the debris and remove it from the swimming pool.

If you have an algae outbreak or a lot of cloudy water that you’re cleaning up, use the “waste” filter setting on your multiport valve. This setting will route the dirty water past your filter and through the waste port. For cartridge filters, just remove the drain plug and attach a backwash hose. Since you’ll be removing a lot of water from the pool (it’s not going through the filter and cycling back into the pool), your pool water level will go down and you’ll need to replace it with fresh water as you’re vacuuming the pool.

Finally, if you have a DE or sand filter, make sure that your pressure isn’t too high. Backwash the filter before you get started if it’s above the normal range.

How To Vacuum a Pool

Now that you have brushed the pool and used pool flocculant, if necessary, it is time to set up your manual pool vacuum. Manual pool vacuums are usually pretty simple pieces of equipment, so setting them up for use shouldn’t be too difficult.

Here are the steps to vacuum a pool manually:

  1. Open the telescopic pool rod
  2. Attach the vacuum head
  3. Attach the hose
  4. Insert the pool hose into the skimmer
  5. Start vacuuming
  6. Vacuum in the shallow end and work your way to the deep end of the pool
  7. Let the debris settle and vacuum up the rest

Step One: Open the Telescopic Pool Rod

The first step is to open your telescopic pool rod to the length needed to vacuum your pool. It should generally be about five to six feet longer than the depth of your pool, so for an 8-foot pool, you should use a thirteen to fourteen-foot pole.

Step Two: Attach the Vacuum Head

Attach the vacuum head to the end of the telescopic pole. Make sure the tabs are pressed down, then slide the telescopic pole into the slot until the tabs click into place in the holes on the telescoping pole.

Step Three: Attach the Hose

Attach the hose to the pool vacuum and submerge the contraption and all of the hose into the water. Place the other end of the hose against one of the return jets and wait until bubbles stop appearing at the vacuum end. Make sure to fill the entire vacuum hose with water to prevent air bubbles from forming.

Step Four: Insert the Pool Hose Into the Skimmer

Finally, either insert your pool hose with a skimmer plate (also called a skimmer disk or vacuum plate) into the pool skimmer or remove the skimmer basket and insert the hose directly into the skimmer inlet. Once the hose is connected, you should notice constant suction from your pool vacuum.

You can turn off the main drain suction line if you want to increase suction.

Step Five: Time to Start Vacuuming!

Now it is time for the real work; let the vacuuming commence! Manually vacuuming your pool is no easy task. Especially with high suction, you are in for quite an arm workout. Manually vacuuming also takes a long time, so I don’t recommend using a manual vacuum unless it is truly necessary.

Step Six: Start In the Shallow End

You should always start in the shallow end and work your way deeper along the pool floor because debris is more likely to make its way down to the bottom of the pool towards the deep end. Take your time as you push the vacuum around – this is not a race. Slowly push the vacuum along the pool floor and pay attention to the surfaces to ensure that you effectively remove all debris.

Step Seven: Let the Debris Settle and Vacuum Up the Rest

More than likely, vacuuming will leave your pool murky because of all the disturbed debris floating around the pool water. If this happens, give the water a couple of hours to settle and come back to vacuum the rest later.

What To Do After You Vacuum Your Pool

Once you have vacuumed the pool, wait a few hours for the stirred-up particles to settle, and go over the pool again with the vacuum.

Then disassemble the manual vacuum by removing the vacuum head and hose and draining the remaining water in the hose.

Brush the pool a final time to clear up any remaining particles. The remaining debris will likely get sucked through the main drain once you turn the circulation back on.

Clean out your skimmer and pump strainer basket, and backwash if you have a DE filter. The filter will be quite dirty after vacuuming.

The final step is to turn the pool filter and pump settings back to normal (using the multiport valve) and ensure the main drain is turned back on.

Once that’s all done, good job! You have successfully vacuumed your swimming pool.

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Non-Manual Pool Vacuum Options

Of course, you won’t always have to use a manual pool vacuum. In fact, most of the time, you will likely use an automatic pool cleaner. These require much less manual work. You only need to set them up and let them run independently. Here are some of the best non-manual pool vacuums for inground and above ground pools.

Robotic Pool Cleaners

Robotic cleaners are the most self-sufficient option you can purchase. Although they are expensive to buy initially, the time they save you is priceless. Not only do they pick up debris on the pool’s walls, floors, and water level, but most models will also scrub the walls, meaning you will not need to manually brush the pool as often.

To maintain these pool cleaners, you only need to empty the vacuum bag when it fills with particles.

They need to be connected to electricity, so you must ensure your cord is long enough to reach an outlet or have access to an extension cord.

Suction Side Pool Cleaners

Suction side pool cleaners are cheaper than robotic systems but still quite efficient. They do not scrub the pool walls and are not as self-sufficient as robotic cleaners, but they will move around the pool by themselves and pick up debris as they go. Thus, you do not need to be there while they vacuum the pool. They will connect to the pool pump and filter with a hose like a manual vacuum.

Pressure Side Pool Cleaners

Pressure side pool cleaners work similarly to suction cleaners, but use a filter bag and run off the return line. They are self-contained, unlike suction-side pool cleaners, so I recommend investing in a pressure-side cleaner or a robotic cleaner over a suction-side cleaner.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should you vacuum your pool?

I recommend vacuuming your swimming pool at least once a week. Doing so will maintain a high standard of cleanliness in your pool. Robotic cleaners make this weekly task much easier for you as a pool owner because they won’t take too much time. But keep in mind an overly dirty pool may need a manual vacuum.

What’s the fastest way to vacuum a pool?

Vacuuming your pool is not a quick chore; this will usually take some time. If you are in a rush to have the pool cleaned and ready to be used, manually vacuuming is your best bet. Although it may be more work, it takes less time than an automatic vacuum.

Can vacuuming remove algae and bacteria?

When you vacuum your pool, you only remove larger debris that can be sucked out of the water. Algae and bacteria can still survive in the water. The only way to kill these microorganisms is to shock the water with chlorine. However, vacuuming is essential before shocking the water because it removes larger particles, allowing the chlorine to focus on the much smaller contaminants.

Questions? Let me know! Vacuuming is essential for your pool cleaning routine and swimming pool maintenance.

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