Vacuuming your pool weekly is important for the overall health of your pool. It not only removes unsightly debris, but it also helps in preventing algae buildup. There are hundreds of cleaners to choose from, and they can be automatic, robotic, or manual. Whichever cleaner you prefer, every swimming pool owner should have a handheld pool vacuum in their toolbox.
Since every pool has individual needs and pool owners have different preferences, we listed the pros and cons of each handheld pool vac to help you choose the correct model for your pool.
Best Handheld Vacuums (2023 review)
- Budget: Pool Whale Upgrades Pool Spa Mini Jet Vacuum
- Best seller: Pool Blaster Max Cordless
- Premium: Pool Blaster Water Tech Leaf Vac
- Best suction: WYBOT Handheld Pool Spa Vacuum with Telescopic Pole
- Easy to use: Intex Handheld Rechargeable Vacuum
Handheld Vacuums Compared
Here are our top five handheld pool vacuums, each with unique features for different pool conditions.
Easy to Use
Types Of Handheld Vacuums
Knowing the average condition of your pool and what type of debris your pool collects is important for picking out the right handheld vacuum. Some handhelds are best at picking up big debris, while others are good at picking up everyday sand and fine sediment.
Battery Powered Handheld Vacuums
There are two types of battery-powered handheld vacuum cleaners. Some portable pool vacs take:
- Rechargeable Batteries
- Disposable Batteries
The rechargeable batteries take roughly 2-4 hours to charge and will give your cleaner 1-3 hours of power before recharging.
Disposable battery-powered cleaners take up to 8 double A batteries and can last up to a month before they need to be replaced, depending on how long you use the vacuum.
Manual Handheld Vacuums
Manual vacuum heads get suction power from the pool’s filtration system and trap the debris in a mesh bag or canister. Your pool’s size, shape, and finish determine the best manual head. Brushes are better for vinyl and fiberglass finishes because they are softer on the finish and won’t scratch it.
Garden Hose Powered Vacuum
As the name suggests, a garden hose pool vacuum gets its suction power from a garden hose. These are the easiest vacuums to use and are effective.
Simply take the vacuum head and connect it to the garden hose and connect your telescoping pole to the other end of the vacuum head. The water from the hose provides the suction needed for vacuuming.
Why Choose A Handheld Pool Vacuum?
The main reasons to choose a handheld portable vac are:
- Better control over the cleaning process and;
- The price point.
If you have an unscreened outdoor pool that catches a lot of debris, buying an automatic cleaner may be necessary. A handheld vacuum is the best option if your pool is maintained weekly and doesn’t catch too much debris.
Other reasons for choosing handheld are:
- Ease of use & convenience (many models don’t need hoses)
- Better at algae removal
- Doesn’t put added stress on the filtration system
In terms of price, handheld vacuums are usually cheap. You can buy several handheld vacuums for the same price as one automatic cleaner. Don’t get me wrong, automatic vacuums are great and have a purpose. But I would start with a smaller investment and see if a more expensive model is necessary.
For an average size pool chemically balanced, manually brushing and vacuuming for less than 30 minutes a week is a pretty good deal. The other point is that you have better control over cleaning with a manual vacuum head. You can add some elbow grease for a stubborn stain, get into nooks and crannies, and brush the sediment off the stairs better with a handheld vacuum. Many automatic pool cleaners get stuck on stairs or won’t climb.
What Do You Look For In A Handheld Vacuum?
There are several things to look for when choosing a handheld vacuum. The finish of your pool is important, as well as the amount and kind of debris you have. The primary things to look for are:
- Brushes (type and amount)
- Shape of the vacuum head
Suction power is important because that determines how much debris you can remove. A vacuum head with good suction will also save you time when cleaning.
Brushes loosen the debris from the pool’s surface, which the vacuum will pick up. A handheld vacuum with decent brushes means you won’t have to brush the pool beforehand. If you have a fiberglass or vinyl finish, you will need softer bristles as opposed to stiffer ones so they don’t scratch the finish.
The shape and size of the vacuum head is also important. For instance, a round or oval pool will benefit more from a triangular-shaped head to reach into corners. Any head wider than 14” should only be used on larger, rectangular pools because larger heads can’t get into the corners of smaller pools.
Weights are a key factor to look for because they keep the vacuum head submerged, especially in deeper pools. Lighter vacuums tend to float a little, making it harder to clean the pool.
Best Handheld Pool Vacuums Reviewed
1. Best Budget: Pool Whale Pool Spa Mini Jet Vacuum
- Cost-effective option, priced below $40
- No pump or power needed, operates with garden hose
- Ideal for small above ground & inflatable pools, spas, hot tubs
The Pool Whale Pool Spa Mini Jet Vacuum is an affordable vacuum head at under $20. It gets suction power from a garden hose, similar to an automatic cleaner that hooks to the filtration system and has as much suction power as a battery-powered vacuum.
The head connects to the hose with a pull-release valve, creating a venturi effect that sucks the debris into a mesh bag. The consensus of my research is that this is an effective cleaner but not very durable and breaks within a few months.
- Push button operation
- It picks up fine sediment and bigger debris
- It doesn’t last too long because of weak construction, but hey, for less than $20, it’s worth the risk
2. Best Seller: Pool Blaster Max Cordless
- Effectively cleans pool edges & acts as a spot cleaner
- Great for pools, spas and hot tubs
- Cordless & up to 1 hr battery life
The Pool Blaster Max Cordless is a popular handheld cordless pool vac used on any pool finish. The newest model has a motor upgrade, which increases the suction power and makes it easier to maneuver.
It’s durable and backed by a one-year warranty, a high selling point for most buyers. Pool Blaster also has a customer service department.
Instead of a mesh bag, the Pool Blaster has a filter bag inside a debris container that is easy to clean. It has a battery life of one hour and a recharge time of 3 hours.
It tends to float off the bottom in the deep end, but it is a great handheld vacuum.
- Has a good battery life
- Easy maneuverability due to the swivel head connector
- Doesn’t have strong suction, which is most noticeable in larger pools
- Floats a little in deep pools
3. Premium: Pool Blaster Water Tech Leaf Vac
- Great for leaves, seeds & twigs
- Reliable & trusted best seller
- Cordless & hoseless - works with batteries
The Pool Blaster Water Tech Leaf Vac is an attractive vacuum head with a ton of good features at an affordable price. The battery life is a staggering 3 hours, and is powered by 8 AA batteries.
It has suction power and can pick up larger debris like leaves and twigs. It comes with a one-year warranty, so even though it’s a little more expensive than other models, it’s worth a shot.
- Great for picking up large debris like leaves and twigs
- Long battery life
- Doesn’t pick up small sediments like dirt and sand too well
4. Best Suction: WYBOT Handheld Pool Spa Vacuum with Telescopic Pole
- Cordless & lightweight design
- Perfect for hot tubs, small pools, kiddie pools
- Lasts up to 60 mins with one charge
The WYBOT Handheld Pool Spa Vacuum is my favorite vacuum head on this list. It’s a no-frills, efficient cleaner that cleans well. It is the second most expensive on the list, but Wybot backs up its product with a 30-day return and a one-year warranty.
I have used this vacuum before and liked the power and smooth operation. It has a one-button start, like a commercial cleaner, and a swivel head for the telescopic pole, which makes it easier to maneuver in the pool. All in all, this is a great vacuum that is operator friendly.
- Cleans small sediment, large debris, and algae
- Comes with two vacuum heads
- The battery only lasts 1 hour after a 4-hour charge
5. Easy to Use: Intex Handheld Rechargeable Vacuum
- Great for spas, kiddie pools, small above ground pools
- Includes 2 interchangeable vac heads, telescoping pole & rechargeable battery
- Lightweight, easy to use & no hoses
The Intex Handheld Rechargeable Vacuum is a lightweight yet durable vacuum that makes cleaning your pool a breeze. It comes with two easily changeable vacuum heads, a telescoping pole, and a rechargeable battery. As with most vacuums, it will only operate when fully submerged, but unlike a lot of similar models, the Intex has an automatic shut-off switch that shuts it off when it’s not submerged. This is a safety feature that protects the motor from burning out.
- It can pick up fine silt due to a disk filter
- The debris canister is easy to clean
- I’ve seen a few complaints about the battery charger not holding a charge after 6 months or so, but the majority of customers have been satisfied with this product
How Do Handheld Pool Vacuums Work?
Handheld vacuums are lightweight cleaners where the head attaches to a telescopic pole. Pump-powered units attach to your pool pump through the skimmer. Other models are battery-operated, with some being rechargeable.
The debris gets trapped in a mesh bag or canister, which saves your pool filter from getting too fouled. The bag or canister should be cleaned after every use because it won’t be able to trap debris if it’s full.
Handheld vacuums are manually operated and attached to a telescoping pole, just like a skimmer net or a pool brush. Or you can hold it directly with your hand.
Your pool should be vacuumed weekly if you don’t have an automatic cleaner. If done regularly, vacuuming with a handheld vacuum will only take 15 or 20 minutes.
Which Is Better: A Handheld Vacuum or An Automatic Pool Cleaner?
While the answer to this question is subjective, a handheld vacuum head is better than an automatic pool cleaner in terms of scrubbing and price. Most automatic cleaners do not have brushes, meaning the pool still needs to be brushed once a week manually because an automatic cleaner can only pick up so much debris without brushing.
A robotic cleaner has scrubbers, but only a few pricey robotics can clean the walls, stairs, and bottom.
Handheld pool vacs are manually operated, and you have full control over the cleaner. This means you can scrub in more concentrated areas, vacuum the stairs, and reach those hard-to-reach areas that most automatic cleaners cannot.
There is no comparison in price, either, as manual vacuums cost a fraction of the price of a robotic cleaner. You can get a manual cleaner that lasts for years for less than $200.
Automatic cleaners have many moving parts that wear out due to use and chemical imbalances in your pool, and these parts are expensive to replace.
To be honest, you can buy a handheld vacuum that does a decent job for less money than buying 4 replacement bearings for an automatic cleaner. I’m not opposed to automatic cleaners, but if you keep your pool chemically balanced and brush and vacuum it once a week, you don’t need an expensive robotic cleaner.
Frequently Asked Questions About Handheld Vacuums
Do handheld vacuums work?
Handheld vacuums work very well, especially in smaller pools and those with vinyl or fiberglass finishes. Many handheld models have better suction than automatic cleaners and can get into corners better. In terms of cleaning versus price point, you can’t go wrong with a handheld vacuum.
What debris can a handheld pool vacuum pick up?
Some models are geared toward picking up bigger debris like leaves and twigs, while others are geared toward picking up fine sediment like sand. Some mesh bags are finer than others which means they can hold sediment and sand. Mesh bags with bigger holes can only retain bigger debris.
Are handheld vacuums good for small pools?
Handheld vacuums are a great choice for small pools because you can reach areas that an automatic cleaner may not be able to. A model with brushes is the best option because it will brush and vacuum at the same time.
Are handheld vacuums good for large pools?
Some handhelds can clean large pools efficiently, but many are underpowered. The biggest issues are weight and capacity. The deeper a vacuum goes, the more weight it needs to stay on the bottom. It will float up without adequate weight and not clean the bottom properly. If you’re looking for a handheld vacuum for a large pool, ensure the handle is long enough to reach the deepest end and the head is properly weighted to keep the vacuum on the bottom.
How much do handheld vacuums cost?
Handheld vacuums range in price from $18 to over $200. Higher prices don’t necessarily mean better quality. What’s important is your pool’s individual needs. Most likely, you can find a quality vacuum for less than $50, as long as you know what your pool needs in terms of debris accumulation.
How do I use a handheld vacuum?
Most handheld vacuums hook up to your skimmer and a telescoping pole. Some models hook up to a garden hose for power. And others have their own bag for collecting debris.
Pool vacuums only operate when they’re fully submerged. Make sure you don’t turn on your vacuum unless it’s in the pool, or you can damage the motor.
If your vacuum does not have brushes, manually brush the pool toward the drain before vacuuming to stir up the debris. Once submerged in the vacuum head, let it sink to the bottom. Then, sweep back and forth with overlapping strokes to get the whole surface. Make sure to clean the walls, floor, and the stairs.
Final Thoughts On Handheld Vacuums
Every pool owner should have a handheld vacuum, even if they have an automatic cleaner. Handheld vacuums offer a lot for a little bit of money and are easy to use.
When it comes to handheld vacuum heads, there are several varieties to choose from and hundreds of models, so it’s important to know what your pool needs are before you purchase one.
Handheld vacuums are versatile, lightweight, and user-friendly. Our list makes up the best on the market now in terms of cost, efficiency, and durability. Every pool has unique needs, and these vacuum heads cover them all.