How Often You Should Vacuum Your Pool

 In Pool Maintenance

As pool season kicks into full blast, your inground pool will be seeing more action than ever. Which means you’ve got to make sure it’s properly cleaned if you want it to last all summer long. 

Pool cleaning and maintenance can take a lot of different forms. From balancing your water levels to scooping out dropped leaves and from winterizing in the offseason to shocking. But there are other ways you can keep your pool clean and operational. Pool vacuuming, especially with automatic, self-cleaning vacuums, are a great way for a hands-off cleaning approach. 

Vacuuming your pool is great for getting rid of unwanted debris, mud, and algae. If you’ve got dogs that enjoy taking a dip, vacuums will help dog hair from clogging pool filters.

But, before you head out and buy the first pool vacuum you see, you’ll want to make sure you understand how they work so you can choose the one best fit for you. 

Types of Pool Vacuums

A swimming pool vacuum will clean out debris that falls into your pool. While your pool filter will catch a lot of the dirt, it will not catch it all, which is where a vacuum comes in. There are two main types of vacuums, automatic and manual. 

Manual Pool Vacuums

Manual vacuums are ideal for very dirty pools that have not had a deep clean. Robotic pool vacuums are great for maintaining a clean pool if it’s already relatively clean. 

But often self-cleaning vacuums aren’t equipped to handle a very dirty pool with lots of debris. So if you are cleaning out your pool for the very first time, consider getting a manual cleaner or contracting a professional pool cleaning service to get your pool back to a state of clean. 

One common question we see about manual cleaners is: how can I vacuum my pool with a shop vac? And yes, you can feasibly vacuum your pool with a Shop Vac. You’ll need to purchase a special pump for your Shop Vac, you’ll need to keep it safely away from the pool, and you’ll have to empty the tank many times throughout the process. 

Using a Shop Vac isn’t recommended by many pool professionals and there are other, affordable, manual pool vacuums you can use instead. 

Automatic Pool Vacuums

Automatic, or robotic vacuums, are self-cleaning machines that run on electricity to clean your pool floor and lower pool walls. These automatic machines offer the same type of cleaning you get from a manual vacuum, but they take out most of the manual work. 

There are also solar powered “skimmers” that float along the surface of your pool scooping up any floating debris, but these won’t offer you the scrubbing power of a true pool vacuum. 

There are several different styles of automatic pool cleaners:

  • Suction side cleaners great for those on a budget, great for medium and large debris pickup
  • Pressure side vacuums uses water jet pressure to move throughout the pool, great for medium and large debris pickup
  • Robotic cleaners don’t run on pool circulation but on electricity, great for small debris and silt

Pool vacuuming is necessary for inground vinyl or gunite pools. Both types of pool vacuums (manual and automatic) can be used for either pool type and used for fresh or saltwater pools.

clean grecian gunite pool

How Often Should You Vacuum Your Pool

There are a few factors to consider when setting a cleaning schedule for your pool. There are four main times to vacuum your pool: spot cleaning, seasonally, excessive usage, regular maintenance.

  • Spot Vacuuming should be done on an as-needed basis, like after a summer storm or very windy day that causes a lot of debris to fall into the pool. 
  • Seasonal Readiness like when you open for the season or are preparing for winter storage, are both great times to vacuum. If you are thorough enough in closing your pool for winter, the less you’ll need to do to open in the summer. 
  • Excessive Usage of your pool will cause more debris to flow into your pool. Consider excessive usage a large party or a week of consecutive usage. The more people you have running in and out of the pool means more feet carrying dirt in. 
  • Regular Maintenance will often be once a week, unless you are a pool owner with heavy usage. Getting on a weekly cleaning routine will make vacuumings faster and help keep algae from sporing. 

Vacuuming Your Pool

There are two main ways to vacuum your pool: vacuum to waste or vacuum to filter and backwashing.

Vacuuming to Waste

Setting your pool vacuum to waste allows you to bypass the filter/cartridges and sends debris right into the waste line.  

When you have a lot of filter clogging debris in your pool you’ll want to use the vacuum to waste option. Filter clogging debris means dirt, silt, and other small particles that will wear your filter out quickly. 

Depending on the type of vacuum and filter system you have, your settings for waste vacuuming will look different. 

For those with a multiport valve you’ll want to use the “waste” or “drain” setting. 

For those with a push-pull valve it will depend on the type of filter you have. DE filters and Sand filters are the two most common filter types and each have their own settings. If you aren’t sure what filter type you have or how to set your vacuum to waste, reach out to a certified pool technician.

Vacuuming to Filter and Backwashing 

Using standard settings with a filtered vacuum is the most common way to vacuum a pool and what you’ll most likely want to do for upkeep and maintenance. 

As you vacuuming, the filter will catch all dirt, debris, algae spores, etc. Backwashing is the process of cleaning out your filter to prevent buildup. Once the vacuum is done, you’ll want to reverse the flow of water into the waste line and let all the dirty water flow out onto the ground or into a drain. 

Run the backwash until the water runs clear. You can do this process on a self cleaning pool vacuum or a manual vacuum.

Using a Leaf Trap

Leaf traps are an additional part you can buy for both manual and self-cleaning vacuums. A leaf trap is critical for those who will be sucking up leaves, sticks, and acorns. Using a leaf trap will prevent these large debris items from clogging up the lines of your vacuum. 

Brushing Your Pool

Regardless of the type of vacuum you choose, you will want to brush your pool regularly to ensure your vacuum can get all the dirt and scum off the pool floor. 

The vacuums can only do so much, they can easily pick up debris and silt from around the pool, but they aren’t meant to scrub the pool floors first. And much like the floors in your home, after continual use, dirt and silt get worn into the floor and you need a good mopping (in this case brushing) to get all the dirt loose. 

For an effective pool brushing session make sure to focus on hard-to-reach places, like behind ladders, on steps and in corners.

Shocking Your Pool

Vacuuming should always be done before you shock your pool. Shocking your pool will help clear up dirty water and clear out algae growth among other things but it will not get rid of any silt contributing to the foggy waters. 

By giving your pool a good vacuuming before shocking you increase your chances of getting cleaner, clear water after the shocking if over. 

Pool Vacuum Maintenance 

Just as you need a vacuum to maintain your pool, you also need to maintain your vacuum. The two easiest things you can do to make sure your vacuum stays in top shape is to not let it run continuously and not leave the vacuum in the pool. 

How Long to Run a Pool Vacuum

If you have a manual vacuum, you’ll run it as long as it takes for your to vacuum your pool. If you have an automated vacuum, it will run anywhere between two and six hours depending on your pool size. 

An automatic vacuum should never be programmed to run continuously, as it will wear out the motor, filter and interfere with other scheduled pool maintenance. 

How Long to Leave a Vacuum in the Pool

You should remove the vacuum as soon as it is done with the cleaning cycle. Aside from the fact that the pool vacuum, with it’s long hose and cords, will get in the way of swimming, the plastic material vacuums are made out of aren’t meant to be kept submerged in chlorine and other chemicals. After a long period of time, the plastic might start to break down, causing malfunction and expensive repair. 

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