How to Vacuum a Pool Manually



There’s no doubt about it, pool maintenance is a chore. Even the phrase, “vacuuming a pool manually” makes me tired and keen for a nap. However, this is one of those important chores that staves off algae growth, removes debris and other floaties, keeping your pool in great shape all year round. 

Manually vacuuming your pool requires a bit of effort but it’s not actually the Herculean labor it might seem like at first. Today we’re going to walk you through the process step by manageable step because maintaining a pool that is sparkling clean and safe for swimmers is the goal that makes it all worthwhile.

But What If I Have An Automatic Pool Cleaner?

Even if you have an automatic pool cleaner and think that none of this applies to you, think again. Automatic pool cleaners are a great help, but they’re not magical. They’re a great tool, but they’re not 100% effective yet. 

Even with the top of the line models, you’ll still need to know how to operate your manual vacuum to spot clean those hard to reach spots. 

So until Elon Musk invents the new self-cleaning pool, you may have to use a bit of elbow grease.

What You’ll Need

First, you’ll need a good attitude, a not-so-windy day, and a good pair of sunglasses. You’re going to be outside for a while but that’s okay, you’re just working on your summer tan. 

Before you get started, let’s gather the equipment you’ll need to do the job.

  • A pool vacuum head
  • A telescopic pole to attach to the vacuum head
  • A vacuum hose long enough to reach every corner or side of your pool
  • A vacuum plate (if needed)
  • A scrub brush to attach to the telescopic pole

Don’t worry. You’re not in this alone. Your pool filter is going to be a big help here and we’ll walk you through it step-by-step. First, we need to figure out what type of pool filter you’re working with.

Have Your Pool Filter Lend a Hand

Let’s start by determining what kind of filter you have.

Is it a massive behemoth with all the bells and whistles? Or is it a simple little pump with an on/off switch? 

What type of filter you have is going to make a big difference in how we go about manually vacuuming your pool.

If You Have a Multiport Filter…

If you have a high-end fancy pants filter, chances are it’s going to have multiple ports. That’s really good news for you. 

Multiport Filters have a setting called “waste”. When set to this configuration, the water will be pumped directly out of your pool instead of through your pump and filter. This is a big deal because if you’re sucking up dirt, leaves, and debris, there’s the potential of it jamming up your pump.

The “waste” setting bypasses your filter and pump and just shoots it right out of the pool. The only issue here is that water is going out of your pool for good. While this is great for getting all that gunk out quickly without involving your filter in the process, you’re going to lose a fair bit of pool water as you go.

You can either refill your pool to your desired water level when you’re all done, or you can keep the garden hose running while you work to save time.

Since every pool filter is different, it’s a good idea to check your user manual to find out the exact procedure for the “waste” setting on your make and model.

Quick Tip: Just remember, with old water going out and new water coming into your pool using this method, you’re going to need to check your chem levels to balance your pool chemistry when you’re all done. Adding and removing water can throw the system way off-kilter. 

If You Have a Two-Position Valve Filter…

If, on the other hand, you have a two-position valve filter (the simpler model), you’re not going to have the option of a “waste” setting. In this case, you’ll need to either backwash your pump periodically to keep the pump from getting clogged, or you can use a vacuum plate.

A vacuum plate is a connection for your vacuum hose that fits directly over your basket strainer. Normally the vacuum hose is plugged directly into the inlet underneath the strainer basket. This bypasses the strainer completely. 

The vacuum plate can suck up all that gunk with the strainer basket still installed. This stops the big pieces from gumming up your pump system. 

Whichever filter you have, it’s important that you set your filter up before you start vacuuming the pool. This will allow your filter to compensate in preparation for vacuuming your pool and lend a big-time helping hand to you in the process.

How To Do It (Step-By-Step)

Step 1: Assemble Your Pool Vacuum

  • Ensure the pump and filter are in the ON position and running properly.
  • Attach the vacuum head to the telescopic pole.
  • Attach one end of the hose to the vacuum head.
  • Fill the vacuum hose with water.

Before you connect the vacuum hose as directed in Step 2, it’s a good idea to prefill the hose with water. Why? Because this helps preserve the life of the pump by preventing air bubbles from circulating through at the outset.

Air bubbles can be hard on the impeller of water pumps. It’ll still work if you plug it directly into the intake, but it’s going to be rough on the lifespan of your pump. An easy way to fill your hose is to simply hold one end over the pump output.  

Step 2: Direct Connection or Vacuum Plate?

Did you figure out which filter you have? This is when you get to decide which way you’re going to go. Remember, if you have a multiport filter, you can use the direct connection with the filter on “waste” mode. 

If you have a two-position valve filter, you may want to use the vacuum plate to use your basket strainer as a buffer, adding another layer of protection for your filter. 

Step 3: Vacuum Your Pool

Now for the fun part. Blast some tunes, listen to a podcast, and probably wear a hat. 

Slow and steady wins the race here. You don’t want to try and power through as quickly as possible, because you’ll just end up stirring up all the dirt into the pool. If that happens, you’ll just be out there in a few hours after the dust has settled to do it all over again.

Go slowly and take your time. It’ll save you effort in the long run.

Start it off simple at the shallow end of your pool. Practice long, regular strokes, slightly overlapped at a steady pace is the most efficient way to go. 

Keep an eye on your pump’s pressure gauge. If you notice the pump pressure spiking or dropping erratically it may be time to take a break and backwash your system (unless you’re using “waste” mode, then this won’t be an issue). A quick flush should reset your pressure and let you get back to vacuuming. 

Step 4: After You Vacuum Your Pool

Great work! You’ve successfully removed all of the dirt, debris, and even yucky algae growth from your pool. I’m sure you’re probably ready to crack open a nice, cold, relaxing beverage but before you do, there’s just one more step.

Let’s get everything put away and all of your systems reset before clocking out for the day.

  • Disassemble the vacuum head, telescopic pole, and hose, draining any excess water
  • Attach your pool brush to the end of the telescopic pole to do one final scrub of the sides of your pool, removing the last bits of dirt, algae, or debris.
  • Remove any debris from your pump’s strainer basket

If you have a multiport filter, make sure to switch your filter back to its “filter” setting if you used the “waste” option and use your garden hose to fill your pool up to its regular water level.

If you have a two-position valve filter, it’s time to empty the pump’s filter basket, removing any debris that got collected there. Next, backwash your filter to clean that bad boy out. We’re starting out fresh with a shiny clean pool and want everything in tip-top shape.

No matter which filter you have and whether or not you need to add fresh water to your pool, it’s a really good idea to finish off the day by testing your pool water and rebalancing the water chemistry. 

Alternative: Going Automatic

You’ve scrubbed and vacuumed all summer long but now you don’t have time to do it manually anymore because you’ve got Popeye-sized forearms and have entered several bodybuilding competitions. 

That’s alright because it’s 2020, baby. There’s a robot or a machine that’ll do it for you. 

Okay, maybe not 100% automatic, but these cleaners will be constantly circulating and cleaning your pool water, like some kind of robot shark vacuum hybrid, making your next manual scrub down so much easier. 

You have your Roomba bot, your Alexa bot, so why not a pool bot? If you decide to go futuristic for pool cleaning, you’re going to have several options to choose from. There are three types of automatic pool cleaners out there.

1. Robotic Pool Cleaners

Think of it as an underwater Roomba, if you will. These are exactly what they sound like. Simply plug in R2D2 and watch it spin around your pool, sucking up everything it runs over. Easy peasy… just not so much on your wallet. 

These Mars Rover-looking contraptions have the most advanced features and the highest level of cleaning power. Complete with spinning brushes, large debris holds, wall cleaning functions, and even anti-submarine torpedoes… okay, maybe not that last one, but expect the robotic pool cleaners to come with all the bells and whistles that make your life so much easier. 

Robotic pool cleaners are awesome but they’re pricier than some of the other options out there. You usually get what you pay for when it comes to high-tech gadgets, so go big or go home. These appliances can be great time-savers while you’re relaxing with the family or working on your tan this summer.

2. Pressure-Side Pool Cleaners

These are pretty neat. Pressure-side pool cleaners run off the return line from your pump so all of that water pressure getting pumped back into your pool is actually put to good use. These work similarly to electric pool cleaners, but here it’s all done mechanically using the jet stream as a propulsion system. 

These guys can scrub, vacuum, and move around your pool all on their own. They usually require filter bags and sometimes separate connections to get them all set up perfectly. If you don’t feel like shelling out the dough for a complete robotic cleaner, this is a fantastic alternative. 

3. Suction-Side Pool Cleaners

Suction-side pool cleaners get plugged into the same spot as your vacuum. A suction-side pool cleaner works exactly like a manual vacuum, but it’s designed to roam around your pool free-range-style, automatically picking up any debris it can find. 

It’s not nearly as efficient or as effective as manually vacuuming your pool, but it could mean the difference between spending an entire afternoon cleaning versus a 15-minute spot clean while you’re preparing for a summer backyard pool party.


There you have it, now you’re armed with all the knowledge to get that pool sparkling clean, without damaging or gumming up your pool pump and filter. 

Although it sounds like a drag, manual pool vacuuming can be very therapeutic and the perfect chance to catch up on all of your downloaded podcasts you’ve been meaning to get to. If you’re one of those people that don’t find it therapeutic, however, then you should definitely check out some of the automatic cleaning options.

Either way, your pool never looked so good!

Categories: Pool Care, Pool Maintenance