Shopping for a handheld pool vacuum?
You’ve come to the right place.
What Are Handheld Pool Vacuums?
Most pool vacuums today are automatic. That means they clean the pool on their own once you set them up.
However, handheld pool vacuums are quite the opposite. You have to push them around the pool yourself. They then use an internal battery, power connection, or the pool’s pump to generate suction and pick up the debris.
The main advantage of handheld pool vacuums is their price point. They are comparatively much cheaper than most automatic vacuums.
Most handheld pool vacuums are also easier to set up, especially those that don’t need to be connected to the pool system with a hose.
Electric rechargeable handheld pool vacuums generate lots of suction and do a better job cleaning the pool compared to many automatic vacuums that connect to the pool pump.
What’s In This Buying Guide?
Table of Contents
In this in-depth buying guide, we recommend the best handheld pool vacuums for different types of pools. Most of these handheld pool vacuums are rechargeable and impressively energy-efficient.
We also explain the different types of handheld pool vacuums and how to choose the right vacuum for your pool.
If you are shopping for an affordable pool vacuum (whether handheld or automatic), see our reviews of the best budget pool vacuums.
And if you are shopping for a pool vacuum specifically for your Intex Pool, see our favorite Intex pool vacuums.
Best Handheld Pool Vacuums
Pool Blaster Catfish Ultra
- Our top pick
small to large
Pool Blaster Water Tech Max
- Best for in-ground pools
Fine to large
- Best for above ground pools
Fine to large
- Best non-electric for above ground pools
Medium and large
- Best pool vacuum head
Fine to large
Pool Blaster Leaf Vac
- Best leaf vacuum
The Pool Blaster Catfish Ultra is the best handheld pool vacuum for most swimming pools, both above ground and in-ground.
It packs a high-capacity battery, produces plenty of suction for a thorough cleaning, and is very easy to operate. It’s also cheaper than most automatic pool vacuums.
One of the best aspects of handheld rechargeable pool vacuums is how easy they are to set up.
You don’t need to connect any hoses or run a power cable. You can get to work immediately cleaning the pool.
Though the Pool Blaster Catfish Ultra still requires manual navigation (using the included 4’ pole or a standard pool pole), it’s super easy to use.
You just push it along the pool floor slowly. The wide 10.5” vacuum head allows you to clean a large pool quickly.
The Catfish Ultra generates a surprising amount of suction (more than hose-connected vacuums), which picks up leaves, bugs and other debris. It also has vinyl-safe brushes to loosen debris stuck on the pool surface.
The debris is collected in a reusable filter bag that’s easy to remove and clean.
The lithium-ion battery in the Pool Blaster Catfish Ultra is good for about 45 minutes of cleaning. That’s plenty of time to clean a large in-ground pool. Recharging takes 4 hours.
Issues & Limitations
The main issue with the Pool Blaster Catfish Ultra is that it only picks up large debris like leaves. Fine debris such as algae and sand remain in the pool for the pool filter to deal with.
If you struggle with a lot of fine debris like sand, dust, silt and algae in your pool, the Pool Blaster Catfish Ultra is probably not the right pool vacuum for you.
The Pool Blaster Catfish Ultra is best for: Pool owners looking for a powerful and reliable rechargeable handheld pool vacuum.
Avoid if: Your pool gets lots of fine debris like sand. The Pool Blaster Catfish Ultra won’t be effective.
Our top pick for in-ground pools is also from Pool Blaster. The Pool Blaster Water Tech Max packs more power, a wider vacuum head, a bigger battery, and a larger filter bag.
It’s perfectly suited to cleaning large in-ground pools.
The Pool Blaster Water Tech Max is a heavy-duty upgrade to the Catfish Ultra. It’s actually a commercial-grade pool vacuum meant for use on large in-ground pools.
To clean larger pools, it comes with a bigger battery that provides a 1hr runtime. The vacuum head is also wider at 12.75”.
The powerful motor generates lots of suction, enough for the vacuum to pick up all kinds of debris from the pool. Vinyl-safe brushes on the underside of the vacuum loosen algae and dirt stuck to the pool surface.
To handle all that debris, the Water Tech Max has a bigger filter bag. And unlike the Catfish Ultra, the filter in the Water Tech Max captures all debris sizes from fine sand to large leaves.
So, whether you struggle with the wind blowing sand into your pool, or pool-side trees dropping leaves in the water, the Water Tech Max pool vacuum will help.
Despite the bigger battery, the Water Tech Max takes just 4 hours to recharge.
Issues & Limitations
If you are on a budget, the Pool Blaster Water Tech Max may not be what you are looking for. It is significantly pricier than other handheld pool vacuums, including the Catfish Ultra.
But it’s worth it, especially for homes with large swimming pools.
The only complaint from customers is that the charger can be a bit problematic. It doesn’t stay attached to the vacuum. Customers had to improvise and come up with a way to keep the charger plugged in.
The Pool Blaster Water Tech Max is best for: In-ground pool owners looking for a rechargeable handheld vacuum that cleans well and collects all kinds of debris.
Avoid if: You are shopping for a budget vacuum.
The Intex 28620EP rechargeable pool vacuum is suitable for Intex pools and any other above-ground pool.
It has a 50-minute runtime, enough to clean small and medium-size above-ground pools several times
The Intex rechargeable vacuum is nowhere as powerful as the Pool Blaster models. But it cleans just as well, picking up everything from fine sand to large leaves and twigs.
The secret is to move slowly. Move the vacuum head over each inch of the pool floor, letting it suck up leaves, sand and other debris.
The brushes under the head also loosen whatever dirt and algae is stuck on the pool floor.
The filter bag fills up quickly, so you’ll need to empty it regularly, especially if your pool is dirty.
You’ll receive a 7.8ft long telescopic shaft with the Intex vacuum. That’s long enough for smaller above-ground pools. For bigger pools, the Intex cleaner also has a pole adapter to attach a standard pool pole.
You can run the Intex rechargeable vacuum for 40-50 minutes before the battery dies. Most customers say they can clean their Intex pool a few times before they need to recharge it.
Recharging takes 8-10 hours, twice as long as a Pool Blaster.
Issues & Limitations
The main limitation of the Intex rechargeable vacuum is speed. Because the motor, and thus suction, is not very powerful, you have to move slowly to pick up leaves and debris.
That’s why we recommend the Intex vacuum for smaller above-ground pools. You can clean a large pool (by attaching a longer pole), but it’ll take too long to cover the entire pool.
If you have a large above-ground pool, the Pool Blaster Catfish Ultra is a better choice.
The Intex 28620EP rechargeable pool vacuum is best for: Owners of small and medium-sizeabove-ground pools looking for an affordable and reliable handheld cordless pool vacuum.
Avoid if: You have a large pool.
The PoolSupplyTown jet vacuum cleaner works the same way as automatic pressure pool cleaners. The main difference is that you have to push it around the pool yourself using the included 4’ pole or a longer pool extension pole.
Another big difference is that the PoolSupplyTown jet vacuum cleaner can work off the pressure of a garden hose. You do not need to hook it up to your pool pump via the return port.
It comes ready with an adapter to attach a garden hose. The water pressure from the hose creates a venturi effect in the cleaner, which generates a vacuum and sucks debris.
Note that you need quite a bit of pressure from your garden hose to create strong enough suction.
The PoolSupplyTown jet vacuum comes with a mesh bag that holds debris sucked by the cleaner.
Issues & Limitations
Vacuuming with the PoolSupplyTown jet cleaner is slow going. It takes some time to clean even a small pool.
That’s why we recommend it only for small above-ground pools. It’s especially great for kiddie pools. Trying to vacuum a large pool with it will take forever.
Also, note that the PoolSupplyTown jet vacuum cleaner adds new water from the garden hose to your pool. This can overflow the pool and affect chemical balance.
Another issue with the PoolSupplyTown vacuum is that it doesn’t pick up fine debris like sand and silt. The mesh bag only captures leaves, bugs, twigs and other debris.
The PoolSupplyTown jet vacuum cleaner is best for: Anyone looking for a cheap non-electric handheld vacuum for a small above-ground pool, spa, hot tub or pond.
Avoid if: You have a large above-ground or in-ground pool. An electric pool vacuum is a faster way to clean a larger pool.
The best non-electric budget handheld pool vacuum for in-ground pool owners is a pool vacuum head. One of the best ones in the market is the Milliard See-Thru pool vacuum head.
You connect it to your pool’s suction port and attach a standard pool extension pole.
The Milliard See-Thru pool vacuum head is a manual suction vacuum for in-ground pools.
It generates suction from your pool pump. So, you need to connect it to your skimmer or suction port using a vacuum hose (not included).
Then you attach a standard pool pole that you use to push it around the pool. As it moves over the pool floor, it vacuums up debris, including leaves, bugs, sand, silt and algae.
Rows of vinyl-safe nylon bristles scrub algae and grime off the pool surface and guide it towards the vacuum port.
The see-through design of the Milliard vacuum head is really handy when you are cleaning the pool. You can see dirt underneath the vacuum, and it’s easier to see where you are going.
The triangular design is also great for cleaning along the pool walls and in corners.
Issues & Limitations
The Milliard See-Thru pool vacuum head doesn’t have as much suction power as one of the Pool Blaster electric vacuums.
So, you have to move slowly to make sure it picks up everything. It’ll take longer to cover an entire pool compared to using an electric handheld vacuum.
The other limitation of the Milliard vacuum head compared with cordless vacuums is that it relies on your pool pump and filter.
You have to turn on your pool pump every time you vacuum, which results in higher electricity consumption.
Unlike cordless vacuums that come with a filter bag, the Milliard vacuum head directs all the debris it collects to your pool filter. You have to clean your pool filter more often and probably replace it sooner than if you were using a vacuum with its own filter.
The Milliard See-Thru pool vacuum head is best for: In-ground pool owners looking for a cheap non-electric handheld vacuum.
Avoid if: You prefer the speed and power of a cordless rechargeable pool vacuum.
If you struggle with leaves and other large debris in your pool, get the Pool Blaster Water Tech Leaf Vac
It’s designed specifically to pick up leaves, bugs, twigs and other debris from the pool floor. You can also use it as a skimmer to pick debris floating in the water.
The Pool Blaster Leaf Vac runs on eight AA batteries, so there’s no need to mess with hoses.
The Pool Blaster Leaf Vac spins a small turbine to create suction. As you move the vacuum over the pool floor (using a standard pool pole), it sucks leaves and other debris through the vacuum and an attached filter bag.
The bag captures leaves, twigs, and bugs. It’s big so you can vacuum for a while before you need to empty it.
The Pool Blaster Leaf Vac also doubles up as a skimmer. You just need to flip it upside down then move it over the surface of the water. It’ll pick up any leaves floating on the pool.
The filter bag only captures large debris. If you also have lots of sand and silt in your pool, we recommend getting Pool Blaster microfilter bags. They can capture finer debris.
Because the Pool Blaster Leaf Vac runs on batteries, it’s super easy to set up. You don’t need a garden hose or vacuum hose. Simply attach a pool pole, turn on the turbine and plunge the vacuum into the pool.
A new set of eight AA batteries gives you about three hours of runtime. For most pool users, this translated to 1-2 weeks of leaf vacuuming before they had to put in new batteries.
Issues & Limitations
The main complaint from customers is regarding the battery compartment of the Pool Blaster Leaf Vac. It’s not watertight.
It leaks water inside, causing corrosion and damaging contacts. After some time, the vacuum stops working.
The easiest way to stop this is to open the battery compartment after every vacuuming and remove the batteries. Leave the compartment to dry completely before you close it back up. But do not put the batteries back in until the next vacuuming session.
The other issue with the Pool Blaster Leaf Vac is the ongoing cost of the batteries. It uses lots of batteries – eight to be precise – which give you two weeks of vacuuming at most. Over time, the cost of buying batteries can add up.
Handheld Pool Vacuum Buying Guide
Why Buy a Handheld Pool Vacuum Over Other Kinds
The main advantage of handheld pool vacuums over other types of pool vacuums is cost. Most handheld pool vacuums cost less than even the most affordable automatic vacuums.
If you are not ready to spend hundreds of dollars on a pool vac, a handheld vac is a good choice.
The other reason to choose a handheld pool vacuum is suction power. This applies specifically to battery-powered cordless pool vacuums.
They are usually more powerful than most automatic pool vacs.
Handheld pool vacuums are also super easy to set up since there are no hoses or power cables involved.
Having their own power and filter is also good for your pool and pocket. You don’t have to keep the pool pump running when cleaning, and the pool filter will last longer.
How Do Handheld Pool Vacuums Work?
All pool vacuums work by generating suction.
Some handheld pool vacuums do this using your pool pump. They connect to the suction port and use the force of water leaving the pool to suck the debris.
Others use the pressure of water in a garden hose. The water creates a venturi effect that sucks debris.
But most handheld pool vacuums are battery-powered. They use a motor to generate suction, which picks up debris in the pool.
Unlike automatic pool vacuums, handheld pool vacuums have to be operated manually. You connect it to a pool pole and push it around in the pool to vacuum.
Types of Handheld Pool Vacuums
Cordless Electric Handheld Pool Vacuums
These are the most popular handheld pool vacuums. Cordless vacs are powerful, easy to use, and you can quickly vacuum a large pool.
They also do not rely on your pool pump or filter.
On the downside, they are pricier than non-electric vacuums.
Non-electric Handheld Pool Vacuums
A non-electric pool vac is a great option if you are on a budget. It’ll not be as powerful as a battery-powered vac, but it can still pick up lots of debris.
There are several types of non-electric pool vacs. There are the basic ones that run off the pressure of a garden hose. These are ideal for small above-ground pools.
Then there are vacuum heads that connect to your pool suction port to generate more suction. These are great for larger pools.
What to Look For in a Handheld Pool Vacuum
Electric vs. Non-electric
We’ve discussed these two types of handheld pool vacuums above.
To summarise, an electric handheld vac is the best option if you want speed and power. An electric vac has more suction, so it picks up a lot of debris quickly, making it easier to vacuum a large pool.
A non-electric handheld pool vac is the best option if you are on a budget and don’t mind taking longer to vacuum the pool.
Type of Debris
Next, check the type of debris the pool vacuum picks up.
Most handheld pool vacuums have no trouble picking up the larger stuff like leaves, bugs and twigs. But some struggle with finer debris like sand and silt.
If you mostly struggle with sand, dust or algae in your pool, get a handheld pool vac that can deal with this kind of debris.
With some pool vacs, all you need to do is buy a separate fine filter bag to improve the cleaning of sand and fine debris.
If you want a cordless handheld pool vacuum, check how much vacuum time you’ll get out of it.
For a powerful vacuum, 45 minutes to an hour is enough to vacuum a pool 1-3 times before you need to recharge it.
If the vacuum uses replaceable batteries, you should get at least a couple of hours out of each fresh pack of batteries. This translates to a week or two of vacuuming sessions
Easy to Set Up and Use
If you want a handheld pool vac that is a breeze to set up and use, go with a cordless one. The only thing you need to connect is an extension pole, and you are good to go.
Non-electric pool vacs need hose connections that can be tedious to set up in some cases.
The best handheld pool vacuums don’t just vacuum the pool; they also scrub the pool surface to loosen stuck-on dirt and algae.
While you still need to use a pool brush now and then for a deep clean, a pool vac with bristles reduces how often you need to deep-scrub the pool.
How to Use a Handheld Pool Vacuum
Check the manual for how to set up the pool vacuum.
All kinds of handheld pool vacuums need to be connected to a pole. Most come with a short pole (usually 4ft long) that’s only suitable for small pools.
For the best vacuuming, we recommend attaching a standard pool pole. It’ll give you better reach.
Next, check whether you need to connect any hoses. For a cordless pool vacuum, you don’t. For other pool vacuums, you connect either a vacuum hose to the pool pump or a garden hose.
Now you are ready to vacuum. Lower the vacuum into the pool and push it along the pool floor.
Make sure you are moving slowly enough for the vacuum to pick up debris. If the vacuum has a filter, don’t let it fill up too much, affecting the vacuum’s performance.
After vacuuming, remove the vacuum and empty the filter bag. Use a hose to remove all debris from the filter.
Allow the vacuum to dry completely before storing it. For rechargeable vacuums, recharge it immediately, so it’s ready to use the next time.
Pros and Cons of Handheld Pool Vacuums
Handheld Pool Vacuums: Frequently Asked Questions
Do handheld pool vacuums work?
Though they are cheaper than automatic pool vacuums, handheld pool vacs work just as well, if not better, than their automatic cousins.
Cordless pool vacuums are especially good since they generate lots of suction.
How long does it take to vacuum a pool by hand?
It depends on the size of the pool and the kind of pool vacuum you are using.
With a cordless pool vacuum, it can take as little as 20 minutes to cover a standard size residential pool.
With a non-electric pool vacuum, it can take 20 minutes to an hour to vacuum a pool.
Do handheld pool vacuums remove algae?
Most handheld pool vacuums have bristles that can loosen algae from the pool surface. However, a pool brush will do a much better job if you have lots of algae or a concrete or plaster pool.
You can then use a handheld pool vacuum to pick up the loose debris and algae.
What happens if I do not vacuum my pool?
Your pool filter and pump cannot take out all the dirt and debris in the pool. So, if you don’t vacuum the pool, sand, algae, leaves, and other debris will accumulate.
This makes the pool dirty and forces you to use a lot of chemicals to keep the water sanitary.
It can also clog your pool filter and affect how well your pool pump works.
If not vacuumed for a long time, dirt, algae and scale buildup can stain and damage the pool lining.