If you’re a pool owner that wants to turn their backyard into a beautiful oasis, you need to start with crystal clear water.
While treating your pool is essential, vacuuming is also a crucial step. This removes the large debris that bring bacteria to your pool. Doing this step manually is often the most effective and budget-friendly route to go. But how do you get the job done right?
Here, we cover everything you need to know about manually vacuuming your pool, so you can keep it looking great week after week.
How to Set Up a Pool Vacuum
The first thing you need to do is set up the mechanism you’ll be using to vacuum.
You’ll need the following supplies:
- Vacuum head
- Telescopic pole
- Flexible hose
- Vacuum/Skimmer plate
Now that you have your supplies, you can set up the vacuum:
- Attach the pole to the head. This will ensure you’ll be able to easily retrieve the vacuum if needed before you attach the hose.
- Connect one end of the hose with the top of the head. This is where the debris will travel from the head to your skimmer.
- Lower the head (with the pole and hose connected) to the bottom of the pool.
- Grabbing the other end of the hose not connected to the head, hold it up to the return jet (where water returning from your filter enters the pool). Hold it as if you’re going to attach it to the jet, but they don’t actually need to be touching.
- With water entering the hose and pushing out the air, you should see bubbles from the head. When they stop, the hose is free of air, and it’s ready to be connected to the skimmer.
- If you don’t have a skimmer plate, remove your skimmer’s basket and put the hose in the suction hole. Use your hand to keep water inside the hose and avoid air entering. If you have a skimmer plate, connect the hose to it and place the plate over the basket, creating a tight suction.
How to Manually Vacuum Your Pool
Now that the vacuum is ready, you can start cleaning! Use long, slow strokes across the pool’s surface. Too fast, and you’ll simply stir up the debris rather than vacuum it up. Let there be some overlap as you make your strokes to ensure you get every inch. Don’t forget to get the corners as those can be a favorite hiding spot for algae.
In-Ground vs. Above-Ground Vacuuming
The vacuuming process doesn’t change much, whether your pool is above or below the ground. The biggest thing to keep in mind is that for in-ground pools, you’ll want to start in the shallow end and work your way down to the deep end.
How Filters Affect Manual Vacuuming
Your filters are crucial for removing debris and pushing out fresh, clean water.
There are three filters you likely have:
- DE (Diatomaceous Earth)
Sand and DE filter in much the same way. This means that after vacuuming, the debris you’ve cleaned will be in the filter, sitting in the sand or DE powder. To get rid of the debris and maintain the filter’s effectiveness, you’ll need to backwash it after each vacuum.
Note: Most sand and DE filters have different settings. Read our detailed guide to learn what setting to vacuum your pool on.
For cartridge filters, you need to pull the cartridge out after vacuuming and rinse it off with fresh water.
What To Do After Vacuuming
Your pool looks much better than before. You’ve backwashed your sand/DE filter or rinsed your cartridge filter. You’re all done, right?
There are a few more steps before you call it a day. Here’s what you need to do:
Take Care of Your Equipment
Your vacuum equipment is waterproof, but that doesn’t mean it’s meant to sit in pool water forever or let the pool water remain on it while it sits in storage.
If you want your equipment to last for years and avoid investing in frequent replacements, you’ll need to take proper care of it after the job is done. This may seem tedious, especially if you’re vacuuming weekly, but you’ll be glad when your hose isn’t regularly giving out on you.
Your pool is filled with chemicals, particularly chlorine. Chlorine breaks down metal, even if exposed for short periods of time. If you take your equipment directly from the pool to storage, the chlorine will weaken your equipment, and it won’t last as long.
To avoid this, simply remove your equipment from the water, lay it out, and rinse it with fresh water from your hose. From there, it’s ready to go into storage. It’s a small extra step, but it will go a long way in protecting your investment in your equipment.
Empty and Clean the Skimmer
Once you’re done, you don’t want any old debris or any that was just vacuumed up sitting in your skimmer. You’ve done the work — now you want to start with a clean slate. So before you do anything else, ensure that your skimmer basket is completely free of any debris.
A good way of doing this quickly is removing the bracket and using a garden hose to wash out any stubborn debris.
Test the Water and Treat
Once you’ve rid your water of debris, this doesn’t mean your pool is ready for swimming. Killing the bacteria and balancing the water’s ph are two tasks you must accomplish before declaring your pool “open”.
Once everything has been vacuumed, break out the test strips. Depending on the results you get, treat the water to achieve the ideal ph balance (between about 7 and 7.6).
Alternatives to Manual Pool Vacuuming
You may need to know how to vacuum a pool manually, but what you might really want to know is, “how can I avoid spending my summer vacuuming?”. And we get it — you want to spend time enjoying your pool, not just constantly cleaning it. Thankfully, there are alternatives to the manual vacuum method.
A very popular alternative is purchasing an automatic pool vacuum. As you shop, you’ll find automatic options with various features to fit every budget. However, there are three general categories that automatic pool vacuums fall into:
- Robotic. These are the most expensive, but for a good reason. These are self-contained machines that just need an energy source, whether plugged into an outlet or cordless.
- Pressure Side. These rely on the water pressure from your filter pump. These are similarly self-contained but do require a booster pumper as well.
- Suction. These are typically the most affordable of the automatic models. Because they depend on suction, they move randomly and put the gathered debris into the filter (which could cause extra strain on your filter). But these are an excellent option for those looking for a way to supplement their manual cleanings.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a Manual Pool Vacuum Better?
Automatic vacuums will cost you a pretty penny, but they do a great job while saving you an hour or two of cleaning. But are they really better than cleaning manually?
While automatic vacuums do an excellent job and can be an excellent tool for maintaining your pool, vacuuming manually can often provide better results. There are multiple reasons for this:
- The dirtier the water is, the less effective the automatic machine will be. It also doesn’t do as well with algae.
- Lower quality automatics may not successfully get harder to reach spots like around jets, behind stairs, or corners. When cleaning manually, you can ensure you get every nook and cranny.
- Automatics do take longer. If you’re looking for the job to be done quickly and willing to do the work, you’ll clean up faster than an automatic.
- When you just need a specific spot done, it’s better to have a manual vacuum on hand.
However, all this being said, automatic vacuums are well worth the investment for running between manual cleanings and making your job easier. If possible, consider investing in both a manual and an automatic for the best results and easier yet effective cleaning.
How Often Should I Manually Vacuum My Pool?
The more often you clean, the easier the job will be when you pick up your cleaning equipment. To avoid a big job waiting for you next time, it’s best to clean about once a week.
Of course, the water won’t turn brown and full of leaves if you miss one week of cleaning. However, regular cleaning ensures the best results and keeps you from letting it sit dirty too long by building a weekly habit. Part of the beauty of a private pool is to avoid the health hazards of public ones. But this benefit is only guaranteed when it’s regularly cleaned.
How Long Does Manual Pool Vacuuming Take?
The length of time it takes to vacuum will depend on both the size of your pool and the vacuum head. The larger the head, the more surface area you can cover with each stroke. And of course, the more surface area you need to cover, the longer it will take as well. Each session will also take more or less time, depending on how dirty the water is.
Small pools often require less than an hour of your time. However, those pools on the larger size will need closer to double that. You also may be slower starting out as you discover the angles and techniques that work best for you. And not to mention that each session will only make you stronger — think of it as a free workout! So the more you do it, the faster you can get the job done.
Keep Your Pool Clean by Hand
Convinced that a manual vacuum is the best way to go? Be ready to commit some time and effort to ensure it’s done right. However, if you follow this guide, you’ll succeed in creating the pool of your dreams.
Of course, if the time or labor required is overwhelming for you, remember that this isn’t the only option. Whether you prefer to spend the money on a professional or invest in an automatic vacuum, there are ways to have a clean, healthy pool without standing there with a pole for an hour or two.
No matter which method you choose, return to this guide whenever you need a refresher on how to vacuum a pool manually, so you’re never in doubt about how you can maintain safe, clean water for hours of fun in the sun.
About the Author
Stefan Schulz is the founder and owner of PV Pool Cleaner. He spent his college years working at Niagara Pools and Spas, one of the largest Swimming Pool and Hot Tub Dealers in the Eastern United States.
Today, he utilizes his background, experience as a pool owner, and the resources of his digital marketing agency, Orpical Group, to generate informative and engaging content for pool owners everywhere.