Home » How to Vacuum a Pool With a Filter or a Pump

How to Vacuum a Pool With a Filter or a Pump

Vacuuming your pool is one of the best ways to remove not only the gunk on the bottom of the pool, but also the microscopic algae spores that have failed to be captured by your pool’s filter system and are, as a consequence, lurking in your pool water just waiting to blossom into life.

In this guide, we walk you through how to vacuum your pool, pool filter settings and how to set up your pool vac.

The process is pretty straightforward.

Swimming Pool Cleaner

How Often Should I Vacuum the Pool?

You should aim to vacuum your pool at least once a week. Skimmers are only capable of removing leaves, dirt, and debris that are floating. Most debris that enters a pool floats for 3-4 hours, but after that, it sinks to the bottom.

Manually vacuuming your pool means you can pick up leaves, fine dirt, sand, flower blossoms and any other debris that has ended up on your pool’s floor. It’s one of the best ways to clean your pool.

If your pool is full of mud and dirt, you should follow our guide:
How to Clean a Pool Full of Mud or Dirt (Quickly)

What Equipment Do I Need?

  • A telescopic pole. We recommend this strong pole here.
  • A vacuum hose pipe. We recommend this hose here.
  • A vacuum head. There are 2 types: heads for concrete or tile lined pools which are equipped with wheels; heads for vinyl lined pools which have brushes. We recommend these Vacuum Heads here.

How to Set Up Pool Vacuum (Using Skimmer)

Setting up a pool vacuum is similar for most pools and filters. Grab your pool hose, telescopic pole and vacuum head. here’s what you need to do next:

1. Attach the Vacuum Head

Take your vacuum head and the end of the hose and connect the two together. Some heads accept both the 1.25 and 1.5 inch pool hoses. Make sure you have the appropriate size hose for your vac head.

2. Attach a Pool Pole

Most pool poles are a standard diameter and should fit a standard vac head. Telescopic pool poles come in different lengths. They’re usually around 6 or 8 ft and extend to around 16 ft.

When you attach the pole, align the locking mechanism on the vac head with the hole in the side of the pole. It’s a spring-loaded plastic or metal round “knob” that pushes in.

3. Flood the Hose Pipe With Water

Submerge the hose and allow it to flood with water. The point is to remove trapped air that may otherwise be drawn into the pump and create an air block.

Pro tip: hold the hose next to the return outlet to quickly fill the hose with water.

4. Attach the Hose to Skimmer or Suction Port.

If your pool has a dedicated suction port, attach the hose to it. You’ll find this on the pool wall. Careful not to attach it to the return jets.

If your pool doesn’t have a dedicated vacuum port, you can use the skimmer to vacuum the pool. With most skimmers, you need to remove the basket in order to attach the hose.

In addition, you’ll need a special skimmer vacuum plate that fits inside the skimmer. The vacuum plate will need to be specific to your skimmer type.

Once you have this, put the skimmer vacuum plate in the skimmer and fit the hose to the top of it.

How To Vacuum the Pool with a Sand Filter

1. Remove Large Leave or Debris.

Before you begin to vacuum, use a scoop net to remove any particularly large leaves or debris that might otherwise block the vacuum head or hose pipe or even the impeller of the pump.

If the pump impeller blocks up, the circuit breaker may shut off.

2. Set Up the Pool Vac

We detailed how to do this above. But if you missed it, connect your pool hose and pool pole to your vac head. Submerge them in water and fill up the hose with pool water then connect the hose to your skimmer or vacuum port.

3. Switch on the Pool Pump

If you have a multiport valve, select either the “filter” or “waste” setting. Use the waste setting if your pool is particularly dirty.

For pools with a push-pull valve, move it to “filter”.

Now switch on the pool pump.

4. Vacuum the Pool

Using the telescopic pole, move the vacuum head slowly and deliberately across the bottom and sides of the pool.

Use long slow strokes and don’t be tempted to rush. Rushing this will just stir up the dirt that has settled on the bottom. The result is you’ll need to wait for it to settle again.

5. Backwash the Filter

It’s a good idea to backwash your pool filter if your pool was particularly dirty.

Turn the pump off and the multiport valve to the Backwash position. The sand inside a sand filter system blocks debris, dirt, and oil. The backwash reverses the flow of water and expels the dirty water via a waste line into the ground or drain.

Turn on the pump and backwash for 2 minutes or until the water in the sight glass (located on the filter) runs clear. Use the rinse setting for 30-60 seconds after backwashing. Debris or dirty water pumping back to the pool is something that can happen if you skip the rinse step.

You want to also keep an eye on your filter’s psi, and backwash if the pressure is 5-10 psi above normal.

6. Clean the Skimmer

With the pump switched off, close the skimmer valve, and empty the filter skimmer basket. When you’re finished, reopen the skimmer valve.

It’s important to clean out the skimmer as this will restrict the water flowing to the pump. Which could mean your pump has no pressure. Or low pressure.

7. Reset the Filter Valve to Filter and Turn On the Pump

After you’re done, with the pump switched off, put the filter valve back into the “filter” position and switch your pump back on to filter the water.

You’re all done vacuuming and should have a clean pool!

How To Vacuum the Pool with a DE Filter

If your pool uses a diatomaceous earth (DE) filter, the following are the steps.

1. Proceed with Steps 1-7, Above.

8. Replenish DE Powder. Usually, this is done via the skimmers. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

We recommend this replacement Diatomaceous Earth (DE) filtering media.

How To Vacuum the Pool with a Cartridge Filter

If your pool uses a cartridge filter, the following are the steps.

1. Proceed with Steps 1-4, Above.

8. Rinse Clean the Cartridge. Turn off the pump, remove the cartridge from its housing, and rinse/hose it off. Once cleaned, replace the cartridge, and turn the pump back on.

How to Vacuum the Pool Without Using the Filter

If your pool filter system includes a multiport valve, it is possible to vacuum the pool by-passing the filter entirely and send the vacuumed water directly to the drain.

This is both desirable and advisable when the pool contains a particularly high level of dirt, and especially when the water has an algae problem. Live algae easily passes through the filter media and re-enters the pool. And the same goes for dead algae following a shock treatment.

A typical multiport system has 6 different settings – Filter, Backwash, Rinse, Circulate, Closed, and Waste.

1. Proceed With Steps 1-5, Above.

6. Turn Off the Pump.

7. Turn the Multiport valve setting to Waste.

8. Turn On the Pump.

9. Turn Off the Other Skimmer Valves. If you have more than one skimmer, turn off the valves to all but the one into which your vacuum hose is plugged.

10. Close the Main Drain Valve So it is Half Open.

11. Vacuum the Pool. Move the vacuum head slowly and deliberately across the bottom and sides of the pool.

12. Turn Off the Pump.

13. Disconnect the Hose Pipe from the Skimmer or Dedicated Suction Port. After disconnecting, you can dismantle the vacuum equipment.

14. Empty the Pump Basket. Close the skimmer valve that your hose was attached to, then empty out the pump basket. When you’re finished, reopen all the skimmer valves and reopen the Main Drain.

15. Reset the Filter Valve to Filter and Turn On the Pump.

Note: because vacuuming to waste flushes water straight out of the pool, you may need to top up the pool water when you’ve finished. In this case, you need to test and correct the pH and chlorine balance. Click here for a guide on different ways to test your pool water.

Recommended Products

Pool Vacuum Heads

Pool Vacuum Hose

Telescopic Pole

Swimming Pool Water Testing Strips

Swimming Pool Water Liquid Test Kit

Pool Chlorine

Sand Filter Replacement Sand

Diatomaceous Earth (DE) Filtering Media.

Are you interested in saving time cleaning your swimming pool? You might like to read our article How to Clean a Pool: A Time Saving Guide.

And further reading:

How to Get Sand Out of a Pool

Beautiful Swimming Pool

9 thoughts on “How to Vacuum a Pool With a Filter or a Pump”

  1. while vacuuming my pool the dirt seems to be coming out back into the pool making it cloudy. What am I doing wrong? I have done it before without issue.

    • Make sure the multiport valve on your filter is set to “Filter” or “Waste”. If it’s set to “Recycle” this could be the problem. If the pool is particularly dirty, set the valve to “Backwash”. This will ensure the dirt doesn’t run through the filter and goes straight to waste.

      Another thing you can try is to backwash the filter before vacuuming.

      If you’re still having trouble, there may be a problem with the multiport valve. The gaskets can go inside them or the valves can break.

  2. It’s important to note that this type of filter system is not suitable for cleaning pools with a lot of debris or algae, and that your water level is going to drop, so be sure to add water back in.

  3. I am vacuuming my Intel above ground pool with sand filter. On which setting to I turn dial to while vacuuming. ? And also do I leave the pressure water inlet open or in lock position when vacuuming. I am not getting any suction out of my vacuum. Why? Please help.

  4. I am also looking for help with this same situation. My pool does not have a skimmer either and the two inlets pulling water into the pump have screen covers as well.

  5. Generally, I don’t read article on blogs, but I wish to say that this write-up very forced me to check out and do so! Your writing style has been amazed me. Thanks, very nice article.

  6. I have a Summer Waves above ground pool with a sand filter. The intake has a filter screen attached to the part on the pool wall and cannot be removed. There is no skimmer. Help!

  7. Hi there,
    I was wondering if you could tell me where you found the white attachment between the hose and the manual cleaner head? I have zodiac hoses which refuse to connect with the manual pool head.

  8. I think it’s interesting that you need to turn off all of the pumps before you vacuum the pool. Our neighbors have a pool, and they have been cleaning it for weeks now. I will have to see what they are doing to it, and if they are vacuuming it.


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