Can I use a robot pool cleaner in my vinyl pool?
One of the questions we ran into a lot while putting together our robotic pool cleaner buyers guide was: What is the best robotic pool cleaner for vinyl pools? While everyone is comfortable with using robotic cleaners on more sturdy surfaces, there remains a little uncertainty when it comes to vinyl as there seems to be a fear that they may increase wear and tear and shorten the lifespan of a pool.
Well great news, while you may fear that a robotic cleaner will not be safe to use on a vinyl pool; the truth is that the majority of robotic pool cleaners are perfectly safe to use in a vinyl swimming pool.
The brushes on a robotic pool cleaner that spin furiously to lift dirt are usually made of soft rubber, as are the wheels or tracks that drive the robot. So excitingly, this means, is you basically have your pick of the bunch.
Coming up …
So with that said, which one is best? Well, a lot depends on your pool and your budget, as common sense dictates. So first off, let’s take a quick look at above ground pools.
Finding the best robotic pool cleaner for vinyl pools
Best robotic pool cleaner for above ground vinyl pools
In our best robot cleaners of 2019 we recommend 4 above ground pool cleaners, any of which will do a good job, however, the stand out was the Dolphin E10. Click here to find the best price on Amazon.
The E10 offers excellent cleaning performance for the price with many of the features such as tracks, smart nav and super-powered scrubbing brushes that you’d expect from models twice the price.
The one downside to this pool cleaning robot is that it is not designed to clean walls. In fact, you will struggle to find an above ground pool cleaner that does. However, we did notice many people who were reviewing the Dolphin E10 commented that it did, in fact, climb the walls.
If you really want your walls cleaned, an alternative option could be to buy a mid-range in-ground pool cleaner that will also work in above ground pools. One example would be the Dolphin Nautilus CC. Which we are coming onto in a moment.
You can read more about the Dolphin E10 in our review.
Obviously the Dolphin Nautilus as mentions above, but if you have a smaller pool and want a cheaper option, also check out the Aquabot Pool Rover Hybrid. The performance isn’t up there with the E10, but it is still a nifty little machine and a few $$s cheaper.
Best robotic pool cleaner for in-ground vinyl pools
So the first thing you have to consider is size, while a robot that is designed for 50-foot pools can clean a 20-foot one, you can’t take a pool robot designed for a 20-foot pool, let it loose in a larger pool and assume it will take longer, sadly it doesn’t work like that. So that said:
Best for Small to mid-size pools: up to 30 feet
If you have a smaller pool, we can’t look past the value offered by the Dolphin Nautilus CC. It has outstanding cleaning power while being up to 8 times more efficient when compared to many other cleaners. It also scrubs your pool walls (which is why it could be a good option for above ground), has smart clean technology and scheduling features so you can set and forget.
A couple of other small features I want to point out that are favorites of mine, even though they may seem inconsequential, but a lot of thought has gone into making it easier for the owner. The patented swivel cable means it won’t tangle up, so you don’t have to worry about that and the top-loading filter basket means you don’t have to fiddle under the robot to empty it, such a simple idea and it works.
The obvious thing that this robot is missing is the connectivity of remote control or Bluetooth, which enables manual control should you see a spot that the robot ’hasn’t managed to clean properly. But all in all, this robot offers outstanding value.
It’s worth noting if you are looking for a great value pool cleaner but have a pool over 35-feet, there is also the Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus available which is a similar robot, just beefed up for bigger pools and great value when compared to other cleaners in its size bracket.
Click here to find the best price for the Dolphin Nautilus CC on Amazon.
The Hayward SharkVac robotic pool cleaner can be a great value option. Hayward is another brand that builds quality products. While this robot doesn’t feature any “wow” features, it focuses on what it is built to do, which is clean your pool with minimal effort on your part.
Best for large vinyl pools: over 30 feet
Now our favorite pool cleaner of the moment is the recently reviewed Dolphin Sigma, it’s a beast of a cleaner with triple motor pawer and all the bells and whistles you could want. However, it carries the price tag to match, you can find the latest price on Amazon here.
The Sigma is designed for all pool types including granite and pebble, so while there is no doubt you will get a great clean, it may be a little bit of overkill.
For vinyl pools, you don’t need so much power so we’d recommend looking at the Dolphin Premier. It is a tried and tested unit with an excellent history and a few hundred $’s cheaper than the Sigma.
Did you notice the common link?
Now you may have noticed that our recommendations all come from Maytronics Dolphin range of robotic pool cleaners. Well, there is a good reason for that, pool cleaners are what they do, they have been doing them for years, and you can generally trust that when you are buying a Dolphin pool cleaner, you are purchasing a quality product backed by a warranty.
Typically when this is the case, a company will take advantage of its market position, charge too much, which then leaves the market open to competitors. However, the Dolphin robotic pool cleaner price isn’t inflated and still offers excellent value.
There are definitely some other brands worth considering, the Kreepy Krauly, for example, the aforementioned Blue Wave Aquafirst, which we awarded the best value to in our round-up. But generally, with a Dolphin, you can buy with confidence.
How to choose the right robotic pool cleaner
Let’s look at a few more things to consider before you settle on the right robot for you:
Size of pool
Make sure the robot you buy can handle your pool. As I mentioned earlier, while a robot that is advertised to clean pools up to 50-feet would have no problem with a 30-feet pool, it doesn’t work the other way. A common question is, why can’t I just leave it on longer? The main 2 reasons are the smart navigation won’t properly scan the pool to know where to clean, so a software issue. The other one (much more simple) is cord length. These robots need a power source, so the cable has to stretch far enough to enable complete cleaning.
It’s also worth mentioning that some models have a minimum depth requirement.
Pick the features that are important to you
As you’d expect, the more features you want, the more expensive the robot gets. At one end is the Dolphin Sigma at the other, the Aquabot pool rover and in between is about $1000. Some of the features to look out for in the higher end models:
- Remote/Bluetooth Control
- Cleaning scheduling
- Wall climbing
- Waterline scrubbing
- Stair cleaning
- Top-loading filter cartridges instead of bags
- Smart pool mapping
- Anti-tangle cable
So have a think about what really matters to you. If you spend a lot of the summer out of your house, attending kids baseball camps or out a lot for work, maybe one with automatic scheduling would be beneficial, so you know it will clean without any input, however, if you are home a lot, this may not be so important.
Another obvious consideration, how much to spend? While the initial outlay for a higher-end pool cleaning robot can seem quite a lot, often, the higher end ones are very efficient machines and cost very little to run.
Of course, look what other people are saying about a machine before you commit, a fantastic resource for this is Amazon. The reviews on Amazon are from real customers who give real honest feedback. As with anything, maybe take the very worst and the very best with a pinch of salt. Look to the middle ground and see what the average review looks like about the model you are looking at.
You wouldn’t buy a car made by Nikon, would you? They make cameras, other companies make pool robots, it’s good to stick to specialist brands. While I have said a lot about Dolphin in this article, it is worth pointing out the one thing they seem to struggle with is customer service. If you do have a problem, while they are happy to sort it, it seems making that initial contact can sometimes be a bit of a frustration for many people.
Be sure there is a warranty
Even the best robots can go wrong. In mass-produced products there will be the odd machine with faults, so be sure that the product has a solid warranty. All of the Dolphin models above have a minimum of a 1-year warranty as standard, the more expensive ones go up to 3-years.
So there you have it, our recommendations for the best vinyl pool cleaners you can find. Do you currently have a robotic pool cleaner? We’d love to know what model you have and how you are finding it, feel free to leave any tips for our readers in the comments below. Oh, also, have you named it yet?