I Tested And Ranked The Best Pool Vacuum Robots For Leaves
I tested the best robotic pool cleaners for leaves. Even though they're pricey, I think they're worth the investment as they'll keep your pool free from leaves, twigs, algae and debris.
FYI, prices and ratings are accurate as of time of writing.
1. Dolphin Premier - Most Powerful Robotic Pool Cleaner
Top-rated: 2,509 ratings
Highlight: Powerful, dual scrubbing brushes forcefully attack tough dirt and debris to leave your pool floor, walls and waterline exceptionally clean in just 3 hours.
Helpful review: "This is an amazing little robot. We purchased the Dolphin Premier in early October to replace a Polaris pool cleaner powered by attaching to our pool filter equipment. As first-time pool owners, we have had several missteps in pool ownership, but this buy is NOT one of them.
- The oversized leaf bag is magic and is our go-to. It seems to pick up EVERYTHING from big items to the smallest of particles.
- We live in a mature neighborhood. Our yard, along with neighbors on each side have several large trees that all seemed to drop their leaves into our pool. The dolphin worked like a dream handling the seemingly never-ending dumping of leaves into the pool.
- We have 4 swimming dogs that are constantly tracking dirt and depositing their copious amounts of hair in the pool. The Dolphin has no issues picking up the hair and fine dirt. Only warning for those with dogs, or any two-legged family members that shed their hair, is to make sure you regularly check the impeller on the motor for hair wrapped around it. If you see any debris/hair, you can remove the impeller cover and easily clear the impeller. This will keep your motor safe from burning out.
- Our pool pump stopped working early January, and we are saving up to get a new variable speed pump. Over the past 2.5 months, the Dolphin has done a great job maintaining the pool better than I hoped, even without the pool pump being able to circulate normally.
- Our pool is in dire need of resurfacing, as the existing white plaster is original from when the pool was built 30 years ago. This has resulted in the plaster sloughing off into the water. Prior to the Dolphin, we were finding a lot of plaster deposits being mucked up in the DE Filter. The Dolphin seems adept at picking up the plaster, and we saw very little getting into the filter prior to the pump dying.
- We did not receive a remote control with our Dolphin Premier, so if that was standard, it was a miss in our shipment.
- We aren't big fans of the "cartridge" filter options. This seems to pick up less than a quarter the amount of debris than the oversized leaf bag when run over the same 3 hour time period.
- The Dolphin seems to get overheated more regularly these days. I am not sure if its because we have been highly dependent on it. The specs do advise that it can be run daily, thus I would imagine it shouldn’t be getting overheated like it is.
I would recommend spending extra money for a Dolphin with Bluetooth control for starting it, alerts, and a way to monitor/diagnose issues." — Wes Brown
Get it from Amazon now: $1,499.00 & FREE Returns
2. AIPER Seagull SE - Best For The Money
Top-rated: 11,330 ratings
Highlight: Say goodbye to wires thanks to the Aiper Pool Vacuum's 100% cord-free design.
Helpful review: "To start with, this is a fantastic pool cleaner. I bought a house last year that came with an above ground pool that I immediately disliked. Everyone said it would be a nightmare to maintain. but I decided to keep the pool this summer, and if it was in any way too much of a hassle, it would be gone by the next year. Turns out - pools are not that complicated! I got and kept the salt water clear and sparkling all summer with little to no work.
The only thing was the dirt and leaves at the bottom. It was a pain to clean that up ALL THE TIME!! And almost impossible to get dirt and sand. I had some other things that I could have used, but they were big and clumsy and took way too much time and didn't do a good job anyway. I found this little guy on Amazon, the price was not bad at all (considering everything for pools is an arm and a leg), so I gave it a shot. And we had a great summer. We swam together, we cleaned together, we basked in the sun together. It was all love and romance...until the end.
First, it does what it says it does, and it filled my little anxious heart with joy when I would look at my pool and there was no dirt or leaves skulking at the bottom.
I would check chemical levels, then plop it into the pool, and when family came for a visit they thought I'd hired a pro to keep my pool looking so amazing. This thing picked up leaves, it picked up just general dirt that got in, it picked up bugs that for some reason thought it was a good idea to drink salt water. If I'd had to treat for algae, I have no doubt he would have picked up the dead stuff. He got pollen, he got sand, he got small twigs... OK, bigger twigs were not his thing, but that's not his fault... My little friend was amazing and rarely complained about anything. I honestly was a care-free pool owner all summer, in part due to this little guy.
BUT, unfortunately, there is a but. Because it is made entirely of very plasticky pieces, I spent a lot of the summer worrying about breaking those pieces. The ones that clamp the bottom of the machine to the top part were really hard to open and close. I broke most of my nails trying to pry them open until I got a spoon from the kitchen and wedged it in the gap to pop those clamps open.
There were times I was trying to close them, though, where I was simultaneously pushing as hard as possible and trying to be gentle - because, as afore mentioned, these are plasticky pieces. I was terrified I would break those clips, the machine would not seal, and then it would all be over. But that didn't happen. Those dang tougher than my nails clips lasted all summer without popping off or cracking or anything. They were total champs, those clamps! No, I didn't even see the disaster coming.
One sad day, the machine was sitting out to dry and I gently scooched it over so I could place something where he was sunbathing. I didn't even lift or drop him, or kick him (I would NEVER). I was always really careful with him. But the nudge over did it. In that one terrible, heartbreaking moment, the plastic clips that hold the wheels in place - on three of the four wheels - SNAPPED. Little tiny pieces of plastic went raining down all over the place and when I picked the machine up, the wheels immediately made a run for it. No amount of searching would bring the teensy tiny little pieces back for gluing or any other options. I'd like to be dramatic and say my world collapsed, but to be honest, I was just really sad.
There were only a few weeks left to the pool season, so I ended a glistening summer without a proper pool vacuuming. The thing is, it's not parts that can be replaced, it's the actual plastic that holds parts in, and it's all one big piece underneath. So other than gluing them back on (which, quite frankly, I doubt would ever work), there's no way to fix them, or get new parts to replace them.
My guess is that the scooching was not the entire issue, they were likely getting more and more brittle or slightly banged up over the summer, without me realizing it. I was really careful to never bang it too harshly or be rough with it because - again - these are plasticky pieces. Plus, with a salt water pool, I expect there can be a little more wear and tear (though chlorine pools have a lot of harsh chemicals as well, so...who knows?). It was probably something coming that I just didn't see and had I been just a little more careful, wouldn't have happened.
So here I am, with a perfectly functioning machine that can't go anywhere. I'm not sure what the answer to this issue is, yet. I've had it for something like 8 months and it's been the light of my life... Well, I'm exaggerating, but it's certainly made my pool life better. However, with no way of using it again, I don't know what to do about it.
I think, generally speaking, it's pretty tough, but caution must be taken in his care. If you DON'T have one of these delightful orbs and are considering getting one - I say do it! It's worth every penny. BUT, and I think I've said this enough times now, because of those very plasticky pieces, be very, very careful and gentle with it.
Maybe find a nice soft bed type thing to place it on where it can dry out and not get banged about with other equipment and whatnot. I did let it dry in the sun for an hour or so before plugging it in to charge (always indoors). Maybe the sun was a bad idea? I don't know. It probably could have dried just as well in the shade.
As a first time pool owner, I was really muddling through it all. I have to say that the amount of money spent on chemicals and other cleaners was, quite frankly, mostly unnecessary. This was BY FAR the best purchase I didn't even think to make, until it popped up and there I was, totally in love with this little robot. I may upgrade to a "real" pool in the next few years, but I'm actually surprisingly content with this one." — Martha S. Raven
Get it from Amazon now: $299.99 & FREE Returns
3. Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus - Efficient 2-Hour Cycle
Top-rated: 13,638 ratings
Highlight: Easy to use and ideal for in-ground swimming pools up to 50 feet, this cleaner will leave your pool sparkling clean in just 2 hours.
Helpful review: "I bought this a month ago after researching a set of options (including the Dolphin Sigma and various other sub-$1000 robots). I wanted to give it a few weeks before I wrote a review and try it out, and I have to say I'm glad that I bought this robot, even at the higher price.
Getting going was pretty easy. Could this have used a better user manual? Sure, but I had it up and running in about 30 minutes. I wasn't sure how to "diagonalize" the float handle out of the box. I just tried it at max diag.
The controls (on the app) for setting a cycle, monitoring progress, etc. are fairly simple to use, and complete enough for everything I need to do. It is true that the "drive by app" feature isn't great -- it has a 2-second lag between command and actuation, but once you know that, you can get it to the place you want to go if you have a tough spot you want to hit manually. And you can start it from anywhere using your phone once it is tied into your WiFi. I start mine from the grocery store or wherever.
In terms of cleaning, this thing is really pretty excellent. Honestly, my pool has never looked so good with so little effort, and this in the dead of winter when my pool is typically full of leaves, twigs, dirt, and other assorted muck.
This robot has probably saved me about 2-3 hours per week (if not more) of sweeping and vacuuming my pool, which is a 25K gallon in-ground rectangle with some curve-y sides. The 2.5-hour cycle I have been running once every other day seems to cover the entire thing.
The robot climbs walls pretty effectively and does wall cleaning. There are adjustments for the "float handle" for putting that in place to make the robot either "stay high" on the walls for extended time or not. I have put it on the highest setting, and it seems to "crawl" along the water line (cleaning as it goes) for about 2-6 feet on this setting. But most of the time it spends on the floor of the pool with forays up walls. I think that makes sense.
Both sets of filters seem to pick up fine dirt/sand, which I have a lot of, and I can't tell much of a difference.
Now, when it comes to leaves/twigs, this robot gets all of that stuff no prob.
Cleaning the filters, really simple and easy, takes 3-5 minutes every few days, way easier than what I used to do (pole-mounted vacuum, cleaning the sock filter a pain). I could probably clean these filters once a week or two, but I get a lot of stuff in my pool so I've been playing it safe.
It goes over raised drain covers no problem. I was considering the cheaper Dolphin Sigma model but there were some comments that that model would get stuck on top of the covers. I wasn't sure if this model would have the same problem, but it doesn't -- it goes right over them.
It also climbs curved concave and convex walls. This surprised me! I thought the laws of physics would preclude a concave wall climb, but somehow it has enough traction/suction to do just that. Nifty. The robot will climb up steps (especially the deeper ones that are more "table-like") and clean those. But not very often and not consistently every cycle. I find I have to sweep some fine grit off the steps about once every week or two." — Tom Cleaver
Get it from Amazon now: $899.00 & FREE Returns
4. Dolphin Nautilus CC - 3 Scheduling Options
Top-rated: 8,121 ratings
Highlight: Schedule the Nautilus CC to automatically clean your swimming pool each week using 3 settings (every day, every other day, or every 3rd day).
Helpful review: "Used it for about three weeks and want to share my thoughts to help those who are on the fence. Background: I have a kidney shaped pool measured 35’x15’. I have been using a Polaris 280 cleaner for about ten years, and this is the first time I use an electrical cleaner. Let's break it down:
- Packaging: nice and solid; there is a pack of booklets including quick start guide, FAQ, and warranty. Full menu needs to be downloaded online, but so far I don't find it necessary.
- Setup: very easy; basically there is no assembly required. I do recommend you to un-tangle the cable before you start to use it.
- Warranty: 24 months based on the warranty booklet included.
- Suction power: at first I wasn't impressed and almost returned it. Then I found out that after at most two cleaning cycles, the filtration basket caught up so much dirt/silt that the suction power went downhill quickly. You have to make sure you clean up the filtration basket after one or two cleaning cycles. The mesh around the filtration basket (this is the stock one coming with the cleaner, not the ultra fine one you can purchase separately) will catch very fine particles that I almost think is not necessary. If I buy another filtration basket, I will just get the regular one, or even a coarse one if available.
- Efficiency: it does a fine job cleaning my pool in two hours; I haven’t used it in the heavy seasons (I have lots of trees around the pool) so time will tell. It will save money on the electricity bill and maintenance on the booster pump for sure.
- Tips on cleaning of the filtration basket: opening the bottom of the basket will make your cleaning much easier. I think the Polaris 280 filtration bag (with zip) is easier to clean. Also, the cleaning bag of the Polaris continues to collect leaves/debris after many days, while the Dolphin Nautilus CC’s filtration basket needs to be cleaned very frequently (see my comments above in the “Suction power” section). It’s a minor inconvenience that I can live with. But I do want Dolphin to consider making a basket with coarse mesh (***Dolphin please read this***).
- Weight: the cleaner is heavier than the Polaris 280 but manageable; just let it stay at the water line for a few seconds so water can flow back to the pool, before you pull it out of the water.
- Cable tangling: this was one of my major concerns before purchasing this unit, but so far it’s been great. No tangling whatsoever. My observation is that the cleaner moves in such a manner that the blue cable/wire is not twisted. Again, my suggestion is to untangle the cable/wire before you put it in the water to start with.
- Scheduling: some other reviews have already mentioned this, but I just realized today that the weekly scheduler will ONLY work for ONE WEEK. After one week you need to schedule again. I can live with that.
- Convenience: another thing I like about the Nautilus is that I can easily remove it when kids are using the pool. With the Polaris they had to deal with it.
Overall, I like it so far. I've stopped the booster pump and removed the Polaris 280. I'd probably need to put the Polaris back during spring and fall when leaves are dumped into the pool. I will post updates. Happy pooling!!!" — Frank Crown
Get it from Amazon now: $649.00 & FREE Returns
5. Dolphin E10 - Best For Leaves And Pine Needles
Top-rated: 5,244 ratings
Highlight: Super energy efficient with an average operating cost of 5 cents per hour.
Helpful review: "I live in a "cottage community" named Kingwood, TX, just outside of Houston. I don't expect that to mean much to the average shopper, but it's important to note that Kingwood is marketed as "The Livable Forest". When it was being developed in the 60's, 70's, and 80's, great care was taken to preserve the trees in what had once been timberland owned by paper and wood companies. The foliage is very dense. There is no place in my yard or time of year when pine needles and leaves aren't constantly falling. We even have a sweetgum tree that drops little gumball-sized pinecones that are worse to step on than lego, especially barefoot, like you would be while swimming. Our pool is under constant assault. Raking every day was a hopeless exercise in futility. We bought a battery-operated "leaf blaster" that attaches to the end of a pole and vacuums the leaves into a net bag. When gumballs weren't jamming the impeller, it was such a huge job to vacuum, that the kids and I would take turns working and still be too tired to play in the pool when we finished the endeavor.
Worse, if the pool started to get algae, we couldn't see the bottom to clean out the debris. We would treat/shock/filter out the algae and discover a layer of leaves at the bottom, still covered in algae that would re-infest the pool as soon as they were stirred up by a rake or the leaf blaster, leaving us blind to continue removing them, and the maddening vicious cycle would continue. It's a 27' pool with two pump inlets, so adding skimmers to those helped catch a LOT of the leaves and debris before it sank to the bottom, but the skimmers can't catch everything and the cycle continued.
I asked a few neighbors, did a lot of online research, and sifted through hundreds of pool cleaning options (just watch what happens to your facebook timeline after you've googled it a few times). A highly-trusted colleague and friend bragged on and on about her Dolphin robot and the reviews were good, so I got hung up between the E10 and the more expensive Escape. The Escape purports to be able to climb walls and have better mapping of the pool surface (plus wifi/app controls, IIRC). I decided to save myself $200 and go with the cheaper E10.
NO REGRETS! It doesn't matter if the water is clear or not. Just drop it in, turn it on, and walk away. Come back in an hour, empty the basket, and start it again. Lather, rinse, repeat until the basket comes out clean. It picks up leaves, pine needles, GUMBALLS, and even small sticks! If algae rears its ugly head, we can be confident that there is no debris left on the floor of the pool before kicking it with only one treatment and shock.
It's not supposed to be able to climb walls, but it does occasionally go up the wall to the water line before backing back down. Reviewers complaining about it doing wheelies don't seem to understand how it works. This is how it reorients itself to change directions.
An external bag instead of a filter basket would be nice so that I could add a bigger one, but then the filtration might not be as good. This isn't much of a shortcoming, because the basket is extremely easy to remove and hose out. The screens can even be popped out of it for more thorough cleaning.
The power supply did fail on ours less than a year after we bought it but Maytronics, for their part, was great. They had me email some photos of the failing unit's behavior, asked a few simple questions, then sent me a new one without even asking that I return the old one (I'm a pretty technical guy, so I may try to fix it as a spare, should the new one die after the warranty expires).
I REALLY wish the wire had a swivel joint on the robot (it does swivel at the power supply, sort of). After a couple of cycles, the wire will be hopelessly wound up and tangled. It's not too much of a hassle to disconnect it from the power supply and untangle it, but it shouldn't be necessary. Some users have reported good results by putting foam pool noodles over the wire to prevent it from tangling. I may try that.
All in all, we have a huge above-ground pool in a notoriously hot environment with lots of trees. It's a perfect storm of conditions that can turn pool ownership into a nightmare. This robot changed our lives and was worth the expense." — Jay Finley
Get it from Amazon now: $568.47 & FREE Returns
6. AIPER Seagull 1000 - Upgraded Suction Capability
Top-rated: 3,043 ratings | 163 answered questions
Highlight: Easily remove the pool vacuum from the pool with the included floating rope. No need to get into the water.
Helpful review: "I purchased an Aiper Smart robot to clean the bottom of my inground pool. My pool maintainer was brushing the walls and adjusting chemicals. However, leaves and dust were accumulating on the bottom of the pool. I started searching for a traditional hose-connected water pressure powered cleaner. These types of cleaners are priced in the range of several hundred dollars to over $1,000. Therefore, I kept looking for an alternative.
During my search process, I noticed the existence of hose-less robot cleaners. This appealed to me because of a lower price range and the no-hose design. I selected the Aiper Smart cleaner largely based on some very positive reviews. Be aware that some video "product reviews" you may find on YouTube are nothing more than feeble attempts by shameless competitors to slam the Aiper product in favor of theirs. After using this product, I wrote this review.
Why I purchased this product
1. Reasonable price
2. No-hose design
3. Preponderance of highly favorable customer reviews
1. No-hose design. This means that you won’t have daily problems with a hose getting hung-up or tangled. You also won’t need to maintain a second pressure assist pump in your filtration system. That’s one less thing to worry about when it breaks/fails.
2. Autonomous design. This robot is self-powered with a rechargeable battery. Charge battery, drop in the water, 90-minute clean period, remove from pool, clean collected debris, repeat.
3. It is easy to open the debris collector and clean it with a simple garden hose.
4. The suction capability seems to be quite good. The robot was able to collect all leaves, sticks and other debris of reasonable size.
5. Dust. The robot has a broom (bristles) across its bottom. The combination of the brush and strong suction results in exceptionally effective cleaning of the dust at the bottom of my pool.
6. Coverage. I have what I would call a mid-size pool in somewhat of an ‘L’ shape. The robot uses a random back-and-forth technique that achieved full coverage of the bottom on both sides of the ‘L’. The steering nozzles can be adjusted to experiment with different patterns to get full coverage in your pool shape. I’m not sure if the robot uses an algorithm to get full coverage, but it sure does get full coverage in my case.
1. 6-hour recharge. This seems to be a long time to recharge the battery. However, you can recharge it overnight and won’t care how long it takes. The problem is when you want to get two full passes in one day. You’ll have to wait 6 hours for the charge in between passes. That’s just the way it is. You need to plan around these recharge periods.
2. Battery life. At this point, I have no idea how long the battery will operate until it will no longer take or hold a charge. I plan to use this robot hundreds of times in its life, and I would prefer the battery still work through all those charge cycles. I cannot find a product specification for this.
3. Replacement Parts. There are several parts of the robot I fear may fail over time. I have searched around on the company website and Amazon to see if replacement parts are available to replace failed ones. Nothing found. I prefer directions for replacement parts be prominently posted. Therefore, I have no confidence I will be able to get the parts when I need them. The user guide provides an email address for product support. I hope this will lead me to what I need at that time. But I believe the product comes with a two-year warranty.
4. Fragility. I am quite sure the robot would not survive undamaged from a drop at waist height or higher onto a hard ground like my cement pool patio. I expect lots of cracked body and wheel damage if this were to occur, unfortunately.
5. No walls. This robot will not clean vertical walls. I find this OK. The robot keeps the bottom so clean, all I have to do is brush the walls as an easy chore once a week.
I have been using my Aiper Smart Pool Cleaner for a full week now. I am very happy with my purchase and am very impressed with the cleaning results. I have discovered some concerns and limitations as enumerated above. For months, I have been struggling with dust, leaves and acorns at the bottom of my pool while relying on an incompetent pool maintainer. Now, my efforts have been reduced to keeping the robot running and lightly brushing the sides of the pool.
The pool looks spectacular now. Beautiful clear water is satisfyingly sowing off the blue colors of the pool. I spend hours staring at it. Overall, I recommend this product as per my experience above. By the way, I named the robot after my previous pool maintainer (Eduardo Jr.)." — Steve Schultz
Get it from Amazon now: $349.99 & FREE Returns
7. Dolphin Proteus DX3 - Huge Filter Basket
Top-rated: 3,265 ratings
Highlight: The Proteus DX3 will clean your pool in just 2 hours.
Helpful review: "After years of owning and repairing my trusty Kreapy Krauly, it just wasn't getting the job done. I was at the mercy of the pump's suction. Everything seemed to effect it... dirty filter sand, cracked hoses, worn out flipper, hose plate movement, and so on. That's why I began shopping for s replacement.
Being someone who loves gadgets and toys, I looked at the higher-end free standing models. At first, I looked at the Battery operated ones but worried about the customer complaints regarding not having enough charge to fully clean the pool. I then looked at the different "corded" models and worried about the small filters, since I have several trees and spend much time with the leaf skimmer.
The DOLPHIN Proteus DX4 doesn't have the filter panels like most of the basic cleaners. It has a large basket with a trap drawer that opens easily and takes less than a minute to clean and drop back in, which makes it ready to go again. I also worried about lifting the unit out of the pool.
Well, let me report that this 65 year old Arthritic patient handles it with ease.
I did purchase the Caddy and cover which allows me to wrap up the cord and protect it from the elements when not in the pool. Plus, it makes it easier to move out of the way so the patio doesn't look cluttered. I used to leave the Kreapy in the pool 90% of the time so that it would be ready when the pump came on, but we had to remove it when we wanted to swim. I only put this in for the purpose of cleaning, but I can leave it in if I don't get back to it.
One problem I have noticed is that the "Scrubbing Brushes" have loosened the mineral deposits left by our city's famous hard water, leaving behind a fine silt at the bottom of the pool. The included "Fine" filter doesn't trap it. They do offer an "Ultra Fine" filter that looks like the material from an auto air filter. It has done the job perfectly. Also, leaves that would clog up the suction cleaner are no problem for this gem.
All in all, this robot is a bit of an investment. But so far, I'm really happy with my extra leisure time not cleaning the pool. So I highly recommend it if you're looking for a dependable pool vacuum that gets the job done. It's not cheap, but it's not one of the pricier models." — Sasha Colbert
Get it from Amazon now: $649.00 & FREE Returns