Few people enjoy vacuuming their swimming pool, but it’s an important maintenance task that limits the growth of algae and allows the chemicals in the water to work more efficiently. Alternatively, robotic pool vacuums operate much like robotic cleaners for the home, allowing you to set up sensor boundaries and choose the cleaning cycle.
The best automatic pool cleaners scrub pool surfaces of any shape with the push of a button, or operate on a weekly cleaning cycle. When you’re ready to swim, your pool surfaces will be clean and ready.
We tested the following robotic pool cleaners in both above-ground and inground pools in real-life conditions. We used them in chlorine- and salt-based systems. We cleaned the pools after our trees shed leaves, flowering bushes scattered petals across the surface, and animals washed their meals and themselves off at night, leaving their remains in the morning (we see you, raccoons, frogs, and iguanas!). We even gardened next to the pool and had our dogs swim in it after rolling in said garden beds, filling the pool with dirt and pet hair.
We had these robotic cleaners in service during sunny days that turned into rain and rainy days that turned into sun. We left the LED pool lights on at night so that insects were attracted to the water. Finally, we also swam while the pool cleaners were active to make sure that they weren’t dangerous, creeping up too quickly on our toes or eating the loose parts of bathing suits when we weren’t looking. (Some of us have had an unfortunate experience or two with a robotic floor cleaner and a dog’s, er, tail.)
To that end, consider the best robotic pool cleaners listed below to find the one that works for your swimming pool.
- BEST OVERALL: Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Robotic Pool Cleaner
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Paxcess Cordless Automatic Robotic Pool Cleaner
- UPGRADE PICK: Polaris 9650iQ Sport Robotic Pool Cleaner
- MOST VERSATILE: Dolphin Escape Robotic Pool Cleaner
- BEST FOR ABOVE-GROUND: Dolphin E10 Robotic Pool Cleaner
- BEST FOR LEAVES AND GUNK: Dolphin Premier Robotic Pool Cleaner
- BEST FOR INGROUND: Aqua Products EVO 604 Robotic Pool Cleaner
- BEST FOR SMALLER POOLS: Aqua Products Sol Inground Robotic Pool Cleaner
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Robotic Pool Cleaner
Before you choose a robotic pool vacuum to better maintain your swimming pool, take the time to consider a few parameters to help guide your purchasing decision.
Pool Floor Material
One of the most important points to consider when choosing a robotic pool cleaner is the pool’s floor type and material. If that sounds basic, remember that swimming pool floors can be flat, rocky, irregular, or sloping.
Once shoppers consider the floor type, they should identify if they’re dealing with fiberglass, vinyl, tile, gunite, or plaster pools. Not all robotic pool cleaners work with all floor materials. In fact, some robotic cleaners can damage certain types of floors, so shoppers should make sure they choose one rated for their pool floor’s specific material.
The shape of a pool plays a key role in robotic pool vacuum options. If the pool is round or rectangular with no irregularities, shoppers will easily find a robotic pool cleaner that scours every inch without fail (with the exception of stairs or bench seats). Another basic consideration is whether the pool is inground or above-ground. Robotic pool vacuums that can clean the sides of a pool are great for inground pools but can put too much stress on the wall of above-ground pools.
Look a bit further and you’ll find many manufacturers pack their cleaners with advanced smart features that use artificial intelligence to learn the layout of a pool so they clean efficiently and quickly. If shoppers have a custom pool with rising slopes, built-in bars, and sharp angles, they’ll want to consider a cleaner with more advanced features that may include deflecting mechanisms, gyroscopic mobility, and scanning software.
The size of a pool is another major factor to consider when choosing a robotic pool vacuum. Every robotic cleaner comes with an extension cord, and length is important. The required extension-cord length for a small 20-foot pool will be much shorter than for a 50-foot pool. Also, the pool size determines the speed at which the robotic pool cleaner will do its job.
A pool cleaner rated for a 30-foot pool can clean that pool in just 2 hours, but if shoppers try to use the same pool cleaner in a 50-foot pool, they’ll find that the extension cord isn’t long enough to complete the job. Even if the cord was long enough, the robotic pool cleaner would take twice as long to complete the cleaning and may not have the storage capacity to hold the collected debris.
Wheels and Treads
Robotic cleaners typically use rear propulsion to drive them through the water, but without the right wheels and treads, this propulsion system is severely limited. Try to find robot pool cleaners that feature wheels capable of gripping the slick pool floor. Wheels with rubber treads are common for above-ground robotic pool vacuums because they move easily across the bottom of the pool, completing cleaning cycles in no time.
For the robotic pool cleaner to tackle the dirt and grime on walls, its wheels should be designed with distinct tread patterns that allow the robotic pool vacuum to retain its position and balance on the side of the pool while propelling itself forward. Consider a robotic cleaner that uses long, tank-style treads, because these treads are always in contact with the pool surfaces.
Automatic pool cleaners function best if shoppers also consider the type of debris in their pool. That will depend on the landscape, climate, and geographic location. These all contribute to the type of dirt, sand, pollen, seeds, leaves, flowers, twigs, and bugs that drift into the pool.
For example, if a yard is filled with trees, a robotic pool vacuum with a large filtration basket that doesn’t fill up too quickly is best. If dirt, sand, and pollen are the main types of debris in a yard, robotic cleaners with ultrafine filters that capture dirt from the water are ideal. Remember, the more debris in the pool, the more stress experienced by the pool’s filtration system.
Programming, Scheduling, and Accessories
Not all robotic pool cleaners live up to their technological potential and require owners to start them manually. Some of the best robotic cleaners allow owners to set a daily or weekly cleaning cycle for their operation. The cleaner can either stay in the pool or be removed and put back in time for the scheduled cleaning.
If owners want the cleaner to stay in the pool, they should consider the power source. Is it waterproof or water-resistant? Does it need to be plugged into an outlet to use or is it rechargeable? Does the robotic pool vacuum come with a caddy so that the excess cord can be wound up, saving someone from tripping on it? Or does that caddy cost extra? These are all important accessories.
Some of the best robotic pool cleaners now have Wi-Fi capability so that owners can pair them with their smartphone, Alexa, computer or another device. If owners prefer to clean the pool while they’re not in it, they might prefer a robotic cleaner with this technology.
Our Top Picks
The best robotic pool cleaners listed below were chosen for quality, price, and customer satisfaction to help you find the right model for your pool.
The Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus Robotic Pool Cleaner uses dual scrubbing brushes and a large filtration system to clean and collect leaves, twigs, dirt, pollen, and other debris in just about 2 hours. Schedule the automatic pool cleaner to run every day, every other day, or every third day.
That said, we didn’t want to keep this (or any) robotic pool cleaner in the pool without a caddy to hold the excess cable, as we have dogs to chase around the yard and could easily trip. Additionally, the power supply is not waterproof but rather water-resistant. We got interrupted by a thunderstorm halfway through the 2-hour cleaning cycle and didn’t feel comfortable leaving the unit outside to get completely soaked. A cover is also sold separately.
On a separate note, the robotic cleaner has wall-climbing capabilities to clean inground swimming pools up to 50 feet in length. We love how the pool cleaner reverses itself at the top of walls. It actively scrubs with strong suction, sucking up all kinds of debris like a bottom-feeding fish. We also really like that this cleaner can be used on all types of pool floors without issue and has a tangle-free swivel cable to let it freely circulate, which it will do even while swimmers are in the water.
- Pool type: Inground
- Cable length: 60 feet
- Cleaning time: 2 hours
- Capable of climbing walls
- Large filtration system is suitable for sticks and leaves
- Can be used on all pool-surface types, including gunite or plaster pools
- Can schedule cleaning weekly
- Does not have smartphone capabilities
- May become stuck on steps
- Power supply is water-resistant but not waterproof
Get the Dolphin Nautilus robotic pool cleaner at Amazon, Walmart, or Pool Warehouse.
Keep the pool clean and reduce the risk of accidental electrocution by making the switch from a corded robotic pool cleaner to the Paxcess cordless robotic pool cleaner. Instead of having a power cord that creates a tripping hazard at the side of the pool, users only need to worry about pulling the vacuum out once it has completed a 60- to 90-minute cleaning cycle.
When testing this robot, we followed the instructions to allow up to 6 hours to charge fully. Once fully charged, the unit was easy to use and it did a good job of picking up debris and leaves. This unit promises to dock poolside once the battery is low, and we did notice that the unit stopped near a pool wall around the 80-minute mark. This made it easy to scoop the unit up as it did not die in the middle of the pool. However, because it is cordless, we had to use a skimmer on a long pole to retrieve the unit.
When charging for a second cleaning, we noticed it took about 5.5 hours to charge fully. The unit did clean our 24-foot round above-ground pool within the cleaning cycle, so one charge is sufficient to clean the pool. Those with larger pools will require a second charging for one cleaning. This unit is more suited for smaller pools for this reason.
- Pool type: Above-ground
- Cable length: No cable
- Cleaning time: 60 to 90 minutes
- Cordless functionality improves movement
- Reduced risk of accidental electrocution with battery
- Automatically docks poolside when the battery is low
- Safe for all pool types
- Takes 4 to 6 hours to charge
- Maximum 15-degree slopes
Get the Paxcess robotic pool cleaner on Amazon.
As long as the premium price doesn’t hurt your wallet too much, this high-quality robotic pool vacuum by Polaris is easily one of the top products on the market for suction, propulsion, efficiency, and user control. Not only can the pool cleaner climb the walls and sense the top, it also goes up and down steps and bench seats without an issue. This is due to the four-wheel-drive system that improves the traction, control, and stability of the device. We actually found it fascinating just watching it move—it’s fairly entertaining. It’s like having a model amphibious vehicle.
The robotic cleaner is Wi-Fi compatible, allowing users to connect directly to the vacuum through the iAquaLink app on their smartphone or to Amazon Alexa. Alexa is a better option if swimmers are using the pool at the same time, given that phones tend to overheat and/or don’t like getting wet.
The pool cleaner has a 70-foot power cable, so it is suitable for pools up to 60 feet. Pool owners can customize the cleaning time to their preference, which we think is a great option. Sometimes, just a little touch-up is needed when guests are coming and there’s no need for a whole cycle run-through.
Just make sure to pay attention to the dirty-canister indicator so that the vacuum can be emptied and cleaned when necessary. If owners have a tree that sheds lots of little leaves, a dog that rolls in the dirt and then jumps in the pool, or kids that track in sandbox residue—as we do—you’ll want to vacuum and dump the filter often.
- Pool type: Inground
- Cable length: 70 feet
- Cleaning time: Customizable
- Handles walls, stairs, and bench seats with ease
- Wi-Fi and Amazon Alexa compatible
- Caddy included
- Dirty-canister indicator
- 4-wheel drive improves control and stability
- High price
- Caddy cover not included
- Customers complain that it’s hard to replace broken parts
Get the Polaris robotic pool cleaner at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Leslie’s.
Many robotic pool cleaners don’t work on above-ground pools, but the Dolphin Escape Robotic Pool Cleaner is designed specifically for them. This robotic pool cleaner does not climb walls, but it cleans pool floors made from gunite/plaster, vinyl, and fiberglass in pools up to 30 feet in length.
The machine has dual scrubbing brushes, and the large-capacity filter traps all sizes of debris during the 90-minute cleaning cycle.
The Dolphin Escape was extremely easy to set up—it was up and running in less than 5 minutes. To activate the 90-minute cleaning cycle, simply push the button on the power adapter. The button will then light up blue to indicate the vacuum is cleaning. Once finished, the vacuum stops and the light turns off. This unit is also electrical, which means there’s no waiting for it to recharge.
Keep in mind that the power adapter is not waterproof, so it cannot be submerged or left out in the rain. When testing, we were able to easily set it on our pool filter or pool deck.
The only downfall we found for this unit was the difficulty in taking it out of the pool. The vacuum stops after the 90-minute cycle, which means it sometimes stops in the middle of the pool. Owners can gently tug on the power cord to pull the unit toward them and then lift it out of the pool. It is quite heavy when it’s full of water, so to pull it onto the deck or over the pool wall, we had to allow it to drain.
- Pool type: Above-ground/inground
- Cable length: 40 feet
- Cleaning time: 1.5 hours
- Quick 1.5-hour cleaning cycle
- Remote-start function
- Can be used on all pool surface types, including gunite or plaster pools
- Cannot climb pool walls
- Electrical adapter is not waterproof
Get the Dolphin Escape robotic pool cleaner on Amazon.
Smaller above-ground pool owners who have beautiful landscaping: This one’s for you. A high-suction vacuum made for above-ground pools up to 30 feet long, this robotic pool cleaner with two filter options will clean the water of all debris no matter what shape the pool is, including rectangular, oval, kidney, or round. Its uniquely angled tread, which features a small wheel in front and a larger wheel in back, allows it to maneuver into tight spots.
We loved how easy the machine is to use. It’s quite literally “plug and play.” Once connected to the power unit (which is connected to the outlet on the opposite side by a 40-foot cord), simply drop it in. It’s lightweight to take out to the pool, but we found it heavy to haul back out. The cord becomes a nuisance without a caddy, which isn’t included.
We appreciated how fast the cycle works, and we especially admired how easy it was for the top-loading filter basket to be cleaned. It really grips the floor, allowing for intense scrubbing with its front brush. The biggest negative trait we found was that it couldn’t climb walls. But if users do some minor manual brushing first and use this consistently, the results are excellent.
- Pool type: Above-ground
- Cable length: 40 feet
- Cleaning time: 1.5 hours
- Great for pools with landscaping around them
- Lightweight when out of the water
- Good for unusually shaped and small-size pools
- Quiet and efficient
- Does not come with a caddy
- Cable is on the shorter side
- Cannot climb walls
Get the Dolphin E10 robotic pool cleaner at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Walmart.
Overhanging trees and bushes can look great around the edges of a pool, but plants drop leaves, twigs, dirt, and other organic debris into the pool, clogging the filtration system and increasing algae growth. Some landscaping might not even be a choice; for instance, the live oak that hangs over our pool is a protected species and can’t be removed. To keep our pool looking great anyway, we use this Dolphin Premier robotic pool vacuum to clean up sticks, twigs, leaves and even bits of acorns. This will help extend the life of the pool’s filtration system.
The vacuum comes equipped with multiple debris-collection systems, including micro-filtration cartridges for fine dust and dirt, standard-filtration cartridges for the usual pool debris, and oversize leaf-collection bags to clean and collect large organic debris efficiently. We found them easy to switch in and out.
This automatic pool cleaner has a 60-foot power cord that’s suitable for up to a 50-foot pool. Additionally, it can climb walls, scrub tile lines, and vacuum whether it’s going forward or backward—which is more than we can say for our house vacuum.
Owners can schedule operation daily, twice per week, or three times per week. However, it does have a relatively long 2.5-hour cleaning cycle. And while it can be used with a remote, the remote is sold separately, as is the caddy and cover. For such a pricey machine, we thought these items should be included. Still, it is exceedingly efficient in terms of carbon footprint, costing about 5 cents per hour to run, and has a 360-degree cable swivel. In the end, we didn’t have to worry about our energy bill or a tangled underwater mess to unweave.
- Pool type: Inground
- Cable length: 60 feet
- Cleaning time: 2.5 hours
- Can climb walls and really scrub those tile lines
- Large filtration system suited for sticks and leaves
- Multiple debris collection types with 3 different filter options
- Schedule cleaning daily, twice, or 3 times per week
- Remote control is available but sold separately
- Caddy and cover sold separately
- Long (but inexpensive) cleaning cycle
Get the Dolphin Premier robotic pool cleaner at Amazon, Walmart, or PoolBots.
With front-and-back cleaning brushes and powerful suction, this robot is a great way to get those walls really clean. We could see just from looking at its treads that it’s designed to climb—and it does, gripping like a mini monster truck all the way up to the waterline. With a dual-traction motor, terrific swiveling motion, and rear water-flow outlet, it moves around obstacles and reverses at edges, sucking up the scum and debris into the top-loaded 4-liter filter the whole time. The only thing it doesn’t do, we realized, is traverse stairs. We still had to clean those by hand, sweeping the leaves off them and into the cleaner’s path.
What we liked best about this cleaner is having a choice of two cleaning cycles. During a low-debris week, we only needed to use the 1.5-hour cycle for the cleaner to inhale the debris and brush the floor. On a week with more debris, we used the full 2.5 hours to do a heavy-duty clean of the walls and floor.
Ideal for any kind of surface, including vinyl, fiberglass, gunite, pebble, and tile, this robotic pool cleaner can cover a pool up to 50 feet in length, which was more than enough for us. Like other automatic pool cleaners, this connects to an electrical outlet, and using an extension cord is a dangerous no-no. Fortunately, we found that the 60-foot tangle-free cable made this very easy.
Of course, the downside, we discovered, is that you then have lots of cord to wrangle when you want to take it out of the pool. On the upside, this is a lighter unit than most, weighing only 15 pounds, and is easy to drag from the water.
- Pool type: Inground
- Cable length: 60 feet
- Cleaning time: 1.5 or 2.5 hours
- Really climbs walls and swivels
- Tangle-free cord
- 2 cleaning cycles
- Will not climb pool steps
- Pricier than similar pool robots
- Lots of cord to wrap
Get the Aqua Products Evo robotic pool cleaner at Amazon, Walmart, or In the Swim.
Smaller pools are fashionable now; pool companies and homeowners alike have figured out how to fit them into foliage-heavy spaces. The downside is that smaller rectangles, plunge pools, and the like still need to be cleaned regularly, especially during the end of summer, to keep them from being overrun with organic debris.
This charming little automatic pool cleaner does the trick even if owners contract a service to do the heavy lifting of adding salts or chlorine. Inexpensive yet effective, the vacuum offers a lot of suction power and great scrubbing action with its single brush. We were impressed by how much material it inhaled into its 3-liter top-loading basket, which was a breeze to unload and empty. The cycle runs long at 2.5 hours, but the machine senses its surroundings accurately. Swimmers can easily stay in the pool with it and not get eaten—or stay out of its path completely while it works and enjoy a cocktail.
To that end, though, we preferred staying with it, because it did ultimately have trouble cornering on the bench seats that are built into our pool. It also never quite made it over the top of the wall onto the shallow sundeck area. Its cable is also not completely tangleproof, we discovered, as it plays out toward the deep end. So it might need a nudge or two now and then.
- Pool type: Inground
- Cable length: 50 feet
- Cleaning time: 2.5 hours
- Climbs walls and scrubs waterline
- Easy-to-clean top-loading debris basket
- Cleans all pool surfaces, including gunite or plaster pools
- Simple to operate
- Might get stuck on stairs or benches
- Doesn’t include caddy or cover
- Cord isn’t tangle-free
Get the Aqua Products robotic pool cleaner at Amazon, Walmart, or Leslie’s.
To keep inground pools clean and algae-free, the Dolphin Nautilus robotic pool cleaner is an excellent option with its powerful suction and an efficient cleaning cycle. However, if you are looking to maintain an above-ground pool, the Dolphin E10 robotic pool cleaner is both an affordable and effective choice.
How We Tested the Best Robotic Pool Cleaners
To put together this list of best robotic pool cleaners, it was necessary to research more than 30 products extensively to determine the standout features and shortcomings of each robotic pool vacuum. We paid close attention to the cable length, swimming pool type, and pool material, as these three factors could be used to determine the situations a product was best suited to tackle.
We also considered the overall cleaning time of a standard cleaning cycle as well as the ability to schedule or remotely control the cleaning cycle and function of the pool vacuum. Any products with special features that improved efficiency or user convenience were preferred over similar models that lacked these qualities or functions.
In the end, we physically tested the above products with the following considerations in mind: how easy they were to set up and operate; whether they could stay in the swimming pool or had to be removed; what size pool they could handle; how energy-efficient they were; and whether they could be used as primary or supplemental tools.
The Advantages of Owning a Robotic Pool Cleaner
Regularly cleaning a swimming pool is a must, though it’s a time-consuming and tiring chore. A robotic pool vacuum does the work for you in about 2 to 3 hours.
Regular cleaning will also prolong the life of a pool because it removes dirt and debris more efficiently than manual cleaning. Plus, an automatic pool cleaner captures debris that would otherwise become trapped in the filtration system. A robotic pool vacuum lessens the need for repairs and a swimming pool cleaning service, saving you time and expense. The following points sum up the benefits of robot pool cleaners:
- Robotic pool vacuums remove more dirt and debris from your pool than other cleaning methods.
- A simple-to-use automatic pool cleaner will also save you money on a professional cleaning service.
- The best robotic pool cleaners save you time and energy because most clean pools within 3 hours.
Still curious about how robotic pool cleaners work? Consider these frequently asked questions about robot pool cleaners and their answers.
Q. Do robotic pool cleaners pick up leaves?
Robotic pool cleaners do pick up leaves, though if you have a pool that gets a lot of leaves, it’s important to invest in a robotic pool vacuum that has a large filtration basket to prevent the pool cleaner from filling up before it can finish the cleaning cycle.
Q. Can you leave a robotic pool cleaner in a swimming pool?
You can leave the robotic pool vacuum in the swimming pool without experiencing immediate negative consequences, but the extended time spent underwater will wear out the cleaner faster than if you remove and clean it following the completion of its cleaning cycle. In addition, the power packs are not necessarily waterproof. They are water-resistant and could get damaged in heavy rains if not stored properly on a caddy with a cover over them. And they could still become damaged during tropical storms or floods.
Q. Can you use an extension cord with a robot pool cleaner?
An extension cord isn’t a good idea to use with a robotic pool vacuum because the connection between the extension cord and the robot can be pulled into the water. When a live extension cable is dropped into a pool it can shock anyone in the water, putting yourself and your family at risk of electrocution and drowning.
Q. How often should I use my robotic pool cleaner?
Robotic pool vacuums can run on a daily basis if the pool is heavily used. If the pool is not used every day, weekly cleanings should maintain your pool. It is best to keep the excess cable wrapped around a caddy whenever the automatic pool cleaner is in the pool to avoid inadvertently tripping someone.
Q. How do you maintain a robotic pool cleaner?
Robotic pool vacuums function like robotic floor vacuums. You must empty the collection bins, inspect the filters for damage, and clean robotic pool vacuums to keep them working properly. The brushes under the robot and the side brushes need regular cleaning to prevent the automatic pool cleaner from malfunctioning. Undertake any repairs only after referring to the product warranty. Keep the cable wrapped around a caddy and the caddy covered to protect the power unit whether it is in use or not.
Q. How long do robotic pool cleaners last?
On average, a robotic pool vacuum will last for about 5 years, though they can last longer if they are properly maintained and stored.