Can I Use a Shop Vac to Clean My Pool? (Here’s How!)

Using a shop vac to clean your pool

Pool owners are anxious about cleaning their pools to replace dirty water, prevent bacteria growth, and prolong its life. Not every time will they have a pool vacuum at hand or other tools needed to clean the pool.

Shop vacs are great at cleaning up all kinds of dirt whether dry or wet and can be used to vacuum water but can they be used to clean large quantities of water like pools? Won’t they get damaged? And can shop vacs be used as water pumps?

These are some of the questions we will be attending to in this article. So in case, you have a pool that needs to be cleaned and you have been wondering if a shop vac will do a good job, keep reading!

Can I Use a Shop Vac to Clean My Pool?

A shop vac can be used to clean a pool. They are different from your regular vacuums as they can suck up liquids, which makes them good cleaning equipment for pools. They however need to be adjusted for vacuuming water first.

Warning: Liquids are a no-no for ordinary household vacuum cleaners because they could damage them. So cleaning your pet's urine, poop, soda, or water with vacuums isn't advised with a regular vacuum.

You can’t just pick up your shop vac and start cleaning your pond or pool with it. You will have to set it up to be able to do the job. We’ll discuss this in detail later in the article when we are discussing the proper steps of cleaning a pool with a shop vac.

Before that, let’s look at a few things you need to keep in mind if you are going to be cleaning your pool with a shop vac.

Things to Consider

1- Shop Vacs Are Slower

A shop vac is a great alternative if you don’t have a pool pump to drain and clean your pool. But it will take a longer time to do so, depending on the size of your pool.

Shop vacs have different capacities. If your shop vac has a 5-gallon container and you need to drain about 25 gallons of dirty water from your pool to clean it, then you will need to empty your shop vac 5 times.

If the drainage is far from your pool, then imagine the stress you will need to go through carrying your shop vac to drain 5 times before you are done.

The Solution

One of the ways to solve this problem is to get a shop vac with a larger capacity. There are shop vacs with bigger containers; about 15-gallon capacity and more.

If you already own one and it doesn’t have a large capacity, another way to solve this problem is to attach a hose to the drain valve.

2- Not All Shop Vacs Can Use a Drain Hose Connection

Attaching a hose to the drain valve can solve your limited capacity problem but not all shop vacs have a drain hose connection.

If yours doesn’t have one, you will have to manage the capacity and manually dispose of the dirty water as many times as needed.

In case your vacuum has this connection, then connect a hose to it that is long enough to reach the drainage or wherever you want to dispose of the water to make it easier to clean your pool.

Note that you can’t suck up water and drain it at the same time. Shop vacs aren’t built that way. You only drain through the hose when the vac is full and you have turned off the sucking feature.

Ensure the water from the pool isn’t too muddy. Shop vacs can’t handle sucking too much mud.

How to Clean a Pool with a Shop-Vac? (3 Steps)


Before we go into the method detailed steps of cleaning a pool with your shop vac, let’s first discuss how to prepare your shop vac for cleaning.

1- Empty the Shop Vac

Your shop vac must be empty before cleaning the pool. This makes the vac more efficient and also prevents it from getting filled quickly, especially if it doesn’t have a hose connection.

Make sure the container isn’t filled with leaves, sand, and other dry debris.

2- Remove the Filter

If you don’t want your shop vac’s filter to be damaged, remove it before cleaning your pool. This is because liquids are bad for filters.

There are however filters like the foam sleeve filter that are specially made for cleaning wet surfaces or large bodies of water like pools. They are necessary if your pool is extremely dirty.

Using these will prevent dirt and debris from getting into the shop vac’s motor and damaging it.

You should also remove the bag.

3- Cover the Vac Head

To prevent your shop vac from filling up quickly with water while cleaning your pool, you should use duct tape to cover the suction part of the vacuum head.

Don’t cover it entirely, you just want to reduce how fast it sucks up water. You don’t want your vac sucking up more water than the dirt in the pool.

Steps to Clean

STEP 1- Move the Vac

Before cleaning, get your shop vac as close to the pool as possible. This ensures the length of the hose is put to good use as that hose would be inside the pool, which will lengthen the hose that is available for use in the water itself.

It helps if you are going to be moving around the pool and not just cleaning a section.

STEP 2- Move to the Dirty Spot

Get as close as possible to the area you want to clean, especially if it is at the bottom of the pool. If you need to get hose extensions to make your hose longer, get them.

Entering the pool to get to the dirty spot is dangerous, just make your hose longer. Dip the hose into the water and place the vac head on the spot you want to clean and start vacuuming.

STEP 3- Clean and Empty Shop Vac

Pay attention to the sound of the motor as you clean. When it changes and the vac is not sucking much water anymore, the shop vac is full.

Turn it off and empty the vac and continue to vacuum if the pool is not yet clean.

Warning: Avoid turning the shop vac off with wet hands to avoid shock.You could dry your hands first or let someone else be in charge of turning the vac on and off.

If you continue vacuuming when the shop vac is full, the vac will become clogged and the motor could burn out.

If the dirt you want to clean is on the pool and not at the bottom, then there’s no need to dip the vac head into the pool. Just turn the vac on and skim the top of the pool with the vac head until the pool is clean or until the shop vac fills up.

If you’re using a shop vac with a pump feature, just turn the vac off and turn on the pump feature when it is full.

Let’s see in detail how to use these types of shop vacs to pump water.

Can I Use a Shop Vac as a Water Pump?

You can use a shop vac as a pump for your pool if it has that feature. Not all shop vac models can be used as water pumps and there is a great chance that yours can’t function that way.

Some models are built by the manufacturers to double as wet/dry vacs as well as water pumps, but they are more expensive. You will see “pump vac” written on the shop vac.

With this feature, you are saved from the trouble of carrying your shop vac many times until your pool is clean.

Steps to Use a Shop Vac as a Water Pump

STEP 1: Remove the lid of your shop vac pump, you will see a drain cap behind it.

STEP 2: Attach a “pump attachment” to it. If you don’t have one, you can easily get it in stores.

STEP 3: Now put the lid back on. You will see a pump valve beside the shop vac.

STEP 4: Remove the lid and attach a garden hose. Make sure the hose is long enough to reach where you want to dispose of the water you’ll be collecting. Now turn off the valve.

STEP 5: You can then proceed to suck up water. When the shop vac is full or almost full, turn the vac off. Then open the valve and turn on the pump. The water inside the shop vac will be easily disposed of.

STEP 6: When the shop vac is empty, close the valve and turn off the pump, then turn on the vac to suck up water again. Repeat this process until your pool is clean.

Note that you must have first removed the filter and bag before sucking up water with your shop vac.

If you have a plastic pool ladder or plastic steps in your pool, head over to this article for the steps you need to clean it.

Final Thoughts!

Shop vacs are quite versatile in their functions. Of their numerous functions, cleaning pools is one. They can be used to get rid of algae or other forms of dirt in the pool. They can also be used to drain dirty water from the pool.

Some shop vacs come with built-in pumps. These kinds of shop vacs can be used as water pumps to make it easier to dispose of water without having to carry the vac multiple times.

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