How To Use & Where To Buy A Manual Pool Vacuum

blue manual pool vacuum being administered by a homeowner wearing shorts and a tee shirt in the shallow end of a pool

Historically speaking, when it’s time to remove debris from the floor of your pool, there are only a few reasonable options.  In this article we’ll review some of the standard ways to remove debris from virtually any swimming pool, with a heavy focus on the use of a manual pool vacuum.  We’ll briefly touch on some alternatives to the manual pool vacuum. However, this article is designed for those who want to use the traditional manual pool vacuum to remove debris from the pool.

When To Use Pool Brush Vs. Manual Pool Vacuum

First, if the debris is heavy, like small pebbles or sticks, you might be able to brush it into a pile with the pool brush.  Most of the time however, the debris is made of a mixture of leaves, pine needles, dust, and other light debris. When brushing, if the debris starts to fly up at the slightest hint of the broom, it’s definitely time for the manual pool vacuum. Otherwise, you simply mix the debris back into the water instead of sweeping it up into a nice pile for removal. This means you’ll need to wait for the debris to settle back down to remove using the manual pool vacuum.  

If you can sweep the debris into a neat little pile, you still need to get it out.  This will lead you to either putting together the manual pool vacuum, or switching the brush for the skimmer leaf net.  The manual pool vacuum is often the only way to get the majority of the debris out of the pool.  Yes, if you want to spend some money and want to eliminate the manual labor of a manual pool vacuum, you can spring for one of the robotic pool cleaners.  

What Do You Need For A Manual Pool Vacuum?

When using a manual pool vacuum, you’ll first need a vacuum hose, a telescoping pole for your pool size, either an 8’ x 16’ pole, or 7’ x 21’ pole.  Just a quick side note on poles.  Don’t get into the ‘bigger is better’ mindset with pool cleaning poles.  The larger the pole, the more unwieldy and heavy it’ll be.  Make sure you get a high quality pole. However, don’t bother with a longer pole if you have a smaller above ground pool.  Unless you want the extra exercise that is.

Once you have the pole and the hose, you’ll need a vacuum head.  Manual vacuum heads have come a long way.  There used to be only one type.  The traditional manual vacuum head is still a good setup for most gunite pools, and the standard in the industry. Have you bought a gunite pool in the last 50 years? If so, your startup kit likely contained a vacuum head. It may have even looked something like this Fibropool Professional.

FibroPool Professional Flexible Swimming Pool Vacuum Head
  • Generous cleaning area measuring 14.4″x10.5″x2.25″ provides a more efficient cleaning experience. Flexible, thermoplastic body hugs every curve and…
  • 6 integrated weights assure a consistent seal on all pool surfaces for superior cleaning power
  • Vacuum suction port connects to a standard 1.5″ hose for convenience, no proprietary accessories necessary!

Best Pool Vacuum Head For Above Ground + Vinyl Liner Pools 

Keep in mind however the traditional gunite pool vacuum doesn’t have any brushes, and is primarily designed for use in gunite pools.  If you have an above ground or vinyl pool, the Milliard Deluxe Pool Vacuum Head would be a better option. The Milliard Deluxe head is weighted. 

Milliard Deluxe Pool Vacuum Head/Weighted Triangle Shape/for Inground and Above Ground Swimming Poools (Blue, Grey,…
  • Easy Cleaning – Milliard’s Deluxe vacuum head is weighted so it sinks right to the bottom of your pool and stays there. The triangular shape makes…
  • Specialty Corner Brushes – unique angled bristle sets are placed at the three corners of the triangular head. These brushes sweep right along the pool…
  • Universal Fit – the vacuum port fits standard 1.25” and 1.5” vacuum hoses and the handle has spring loaded locking clips making it easy to attach…

At first this sounds counter intuitive, more weight to move around, right?  Well yes, but you also don’t need to try as hard to maintain contact with the floor or walls of the pool when you use it. The weight causes the head to sink onto the floor surface as opposed to float to the top. The Millard deluxe is great for any pool which needs a brushing during the vacuum. That happens be just about every vinyl or above ground pool out there.

One of the competitors to the Milliard Deluxe Pool Vacuum Head is the Crepro Triangular Vinyl Pool Vacuum Head.  This vacuum head also has brushes, and it feels a bit easier to run along the base of a vertical wall.  Between the two however, we’d stick with the Milliard Deluxe.

How To Set Up A Manual Pool Vacuum

When first setting up a manual pool vacuum head for use, you’ll want to determine whether you have a dedicated vacuum port, or if you’ll be using your skimmer.  In some pools there’ll be a dedicated vacuum port for you to plug your hose into. These have become rare over the years as the risk of entrapment has become more well known.

Once the vacuum port door breaks, if you forget and leave the vacuum port valve open, you could potentially be stuck to the wall of the pool.  Always disable the dedicated vacuum line whenever the vacuum port breaks until you can get the vacuum port wall fitting replaced.

How To Manually Vacuum Pool

You might be removing the skimmer net and plug into the pipe below or you could be plugging your hose into the vacuum port. Either way, you first want to attach your vacuum head to the telescoping pole. Then immediately attach the hose to the vacuum head.  Then, before plugging the hose into the skimmer or vacuum port, completely flood the vacuum hose with water.  Do this by pushing the manual pool vacuum head toward the floor of the pool with the pole. 

blue and white manual pool vacuum underwater

Once the hose is completely flooded, you can plug into the skimmer or wall port, and activate suction.  You may need to turn a valve at the equipment in addition to turning the equipment on.  If it is your first time hooking up the vacuum, don’t be afraid to contact the company who built the pool. Alternatively, you can find a local pool service professional to walk you through it.

Then, you simply vacuum the pool. There’s not much science here other than starting in the shallower part of the pool. Then you just work your way to the deep end. Try your best to never let the vacuum head out of the water during vacuuming.  This will draw air into the system, and cause pump cavitation.  Pump cavitation will reduce the efficacy of the vacuum. Furthermore, it could potentially cause the pump to lose prime.  

How To Prevent Clogging Your Pool Vacuum

If you find you have a lot of debris and your filter is clogging, you really ought to consider adding a Waterco cyclonic pre-filter to your equipment pad. These catch larger debris using centrifugal force, and can be blown out periodically.  These are great for catching debris that is too small to be caught by your pump basket, but large enough to be affected by centrifugal force. Make sure when plumbing the pre-filter in, you install a bypass if you have a DE filter.  Installing a pre-filter should always be done by a pool professional.

Manual Pool Vacuum Alternatives

Let’s say you like the idea of a manual pool vacuum.  However, you want the tool many pool professionals use to manually vacuum pools without sending the debris back to the filter.  These are also the Hammerhead Pool Vacuums.  While these are great machines, they are overkill for almost ever homeowner. Unless your backyard resembles a water park, you won’t need this machine.  You are probably better off with a robotic pool cleaner like the Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus

Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Robotic Pool Vacuum Cleaner — Wall Climbing Capability — Top Load Filters for Easy…
  • The Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus robotic pool vacuum cleaner features powerful wall climbing capabilities to scrub the floor and walls of your pool no…
  • Get your pool exceptionally clean with the easy-access, top load fine filter basket. The fine filters remove debris from your pool for crystal-clear…
  • Cleaning your pool has never been easier. With the Dolphin’s plug-and-play system, just plug your robot in, drop it into the pool, and turn on the…

Manual Pool Vacuum Summary

Now you understand what a manual pool vacuum is along with pros and cons. If you have one, you also have a step by step guide on how to use it. We always recommend the robotic pool cleaners for how much time they’ll save you. Hopefully you understand what items you’ll need to assemble a manual pool vacuum. Lastly, if your filter is clogging, consider a pre-filter upgrade.