Alarming noises, suction pressure reduction, stagnant water, debris accumulation – These are all signs that something is amiss with your pool’s skimmer line. Fixing this problem requires pinpointing the exact location of the clog, using various methods to remove the obstruction and shocking the water after you clear the line.
If you’re lucky, time, extra chemicals and a service call are all you’ll spend. In severe cases, a clogged skimmer line can cause the pump to run dry. Without water to cool off the pump’s operating temperature, the pump will overheat. If it continues to run while hot, the pump will eventually seize, and you’ll have to replace it.
Though the pump’s strainer basket helps reduce the likelihood of clogs, large debris can overburden the basket. However, a leaf trap offers a simple fix to a potentially costly problem. By installing a leaf trap to the skimmer line when you’re vacuuming, the leaf trap’s canister will contain the large debris, keeping it away from the pump and filter.
Pool leaf traps are inexpensive and effective. They’re also easy to use and maintain. To help you choose a leaf trap, we’ve reviewed some of the most reliable models currently available. Additionally, we’ve provided you with a buyer’s guide that offers information on leaf trap installation, troubleshooting and more.
Best Pool Leaf Traps
Leaf traps are one of those must-have pieces of equipment as they take strain off the swimming pool’s filtration system. Some leaf traps are better built than others. Durability and easy accessibility are key factors in a leaf trap’s dependability, and we took both aspects into account when choosing the leaf traps on our list.
Pool Leaf Trap Buying Guide
Our buyer’s guide gives you easy-to-follow instructions on how to install a leaf trap. You’ll also learn the proper way to clean and maintain the trap as well as the features to look for in a leaf trap – durability is the most important followed by ease of use.
Even the most durable leaf trap can fail. Sometimes, issues such as leaking and sinking can occur. Luckily, these problems are easy to resolve. Our guide tells you how to solve these issues, so you won’t need to call in a pool pro to fix them.
Installing a Leaf Trap
The process of installing a leaf trap is simple – The only task involved is connecting two hoses. First, you must set up the hose that goes to the skimmer line. To do so, take off the skimmer’s lid and remove the basket and float valve. Next, feed the hose through the skimmer inlet and to the suction-line port.
Once connected to the port, attach the hose to your leaf trap. For a trap that lies horizontal, the skimmer connection is on the bottom. A trap that stands vertically will have the skimmer and vacuum connections on the top.
Before you connect the canister to your vacuum, submerge it in water to get rid of any trapped air. If the cartridge and bag/basket don’t come pre-installed, just drop them into the canister before you hold it under the water. Then, you can use your manual vacuum or run your automatic suction-side cleaner.
Characteristics of a Dependable Leaf Trap
Generally, you can’t go wrong by getting a leaf trap with a larger-than-average capacity. However, if your swimming pool is small or the debris load isn’t excessive, a standard-size canister will be sufficient. Don’t forget to consider the filtration rate. Leaf traps with a tight-weave mesh bag work better at capturing fine particles than a basket.
As we covered in the installation section of our guide, pool leaf traps come in two orientations – horizontal and vertical. Horizontal styles are easier to manage as vertical ones tend to tilt from time to time. In addition, leaf traps that create cyclonic action keep the debris moving inside the canister, which prevents clogs.
The overall body of the trap is also important. It should be made of impact-resistant plastic such as Lexan, and the plastic should be translucent to indicate the trap’s fill level at a glance. Canisters with a handle are easier to lift out of the water and clean, and twist-off tops last longer than latch-secured versions.
Although hoses and adapters only cost a couple of bucks, it’s convenient when the leaf trap manufacturer supplies all the connections. To use a pool leaf trap, you’ll need a female-to-female hose and a strainer connection hose. Ideally, the adapters should be universal, so you can use the trap with the vacuum or suction-side cleaner of your choice.
Cleaning Your Leaf Trap
Depending on the amount of large debris in your pool, the leaf trap will need to be cleaned out anywhere from every other day to once per week. To remove the debris inside the container, you must first take it out of the water. Then, detach the hose that connects to the vacuum or suction-side cleaner.
After you disconnect the hose, you need to dump out the water in the leaf trap. You can do this by either taking off the canister’s top or pulling the canister’s drain plug (if it has one). Then, remove the strainer cup or the filter bag from the leaf trap. Dump its contents and rinse off the collection cup/bag.
Reassembling the Leaf Trap
Once the bag or cup is clean, take a minute to look over the leaf trap’s parts to make sure there are no rips or cracks. If all components appear sound, simply slip the bag or cup back into the canister, taking care to ensure the plastic ring sits snug at the bottom of the canister top’s thread.
Next, you need to reattach the top. If it’s a twist-off top, screw it back onto the canister clockwise. If it’s a latch-style top, close the lid and secure the latch. Finally, submerge the canister to eliminate trapped air and connect the vacuum hose to the canister just as you did when you first installed the leaf trap.
Fixing Common Leaf Trap Problems: Air Leaks
You’ll likely encounter an air leak issue with your leaf trap at some juncture. Luckily, air leaks are easy to locate and fix. The first clue that air is leaking into the leaf trap is the presence of air bubbles in your swimming pool. Sometimes, a noisy pump is a sign of air in the line.
If the canister is a vertical-style leaf trap, check to see if it’s horizontal and correct its position if it’s not. Then, move onto the O-ring. Open the lid and look at the O-ring, which creates a seal to keep air out of the canister. If it’s worn or warped, replace it.
However, if the O-ring just looks dry, you should be able to lubricate it. Sometimes, you just need to remove trapped debris stuck in between the O-ring and the canister. As you’ve learned from the installation and maintenance sections of our guide, submersion before connecting the vacuum hose is key to preventing air leaks.
Fixing Common Leaf Trap Problems: Sinking Canister
You can install the leaf trap correctly, but you may encounter a situation where the canister won’t stay afloat. You can try to move its position between the pieces of hose. Sometimes, that fixes the issue.
If you experiment with the leaf trap’s location and it still sinks, there is a simple fix. Cut a pool noodle and slide it over the canister’s handle. If your leaf trap doesn’t have a handle, cut two small pieces and slip them over both connections on the canister.
Why Can’t I Just Use the Pump’s Strainer Basket?
The basket in the pool pump is designed to trap large debris, including leaves, twigs, pine needles and insects. However, the basket’s capacity is small, and it’s meant to be used as a stopgap, not a major filtration unit. With a leaf trap, you won’t overburden the pool pump, and you can clean your swimming pool more efficiently.
How Do I Clear a Skimmer Line Clog?
You may not always be able to clear a clog in the skimmer line by yourself. However, there is no harm in trying before you shell out money on a professional pool service company. You’ll need a drain bladder (they are cheap) and a garden hose to get the job done.
First, turn off the pool pump. Leave the skimmer valve open but close the skimmer and main drain intakes and take out the pump’s strainer basket. Connect the drain bladder to your hose and maneuver the bladder through the basket and into the pump intake.
Next, turn on the spigot and watch to see if any debris come out of the skimmer. Alternate holding a tennis ball against the skimmer port for 10 seconds once every few minutes to build pressure and remove the blockage. Once the blockage is gone, reassemble all the pump components and bleed air from the pool pump.
Do I Have to Use a Trap When I’m Vacuuming?
It depends on the type of debris you’re suctioning. If you’re mainly dealing with sand or dirt, it’s not necessary to hook up your leaf trap. However, we still recommend vacuuming with a leaf trap in place if it has a mesh bag that captures fine sediment. If you’re vacuuming large debris, a pool leaf trap is a must.
Pool Leaf Traps: Recap
Skimmer-line clogs are a real pain to remove. If not addressed immediately, your pool pump could overheat and seize. Sometimes, you can remove an obstruction on your own. Other times, you have to call in a professional to snake the line.
Leaf traps offer a simple solution to a huge problem. They take the stress off your swimming pool’s filter and pump, extending the lifespan of both components. You don’t have to be an expert to install, use or maintain a leaf trap. Plus, leaf traps are an inexpensive piece of equipment.
You can get a leaf trap with a large-debris-only plastic cup or one with a fine-and-large-debris mesh bag. Some leaf traps have a handle. There are leaf traps that stand up vertically and others that sit horizontally. Most leaf traps are compatible with a vacuum or an automatic suction-side cleaner.
However, not all leaf traps are made equally in terms of durability. The best leaf traps boast a strong, clear housing. Those with a handle are easier to maneuver, and canisters with a twist-off top are less likely to fail years down the road than leaf traps with a latched lid.