Leaves, twigs and large debris will inevitably find their way into your swimming pool. Organic debris will easily clog the pool’s plumbing system. They are also perfect fodder for algae. As leaves and twigs decompose, the chemical composition of the water gets out of whack, and you’ll have nasty surface stains on your hands.
In large quantities, leaves can overburden the skimmers. While a pool net is easy to use, removing leaves with this tool is time-consuming, especially if the swimming pool is large. As you move the net through the water, many of the leaves float out of the net’s path. In short, a skimmer net is inefficient.
When wet, leaves stick to everything, making them difficult to collect. However, a leaf eater sits on the pool floor, creating a vacuum that pulls leaves into its bag as you move the leaf eater with a simple pole. Some have wheels to help you move them. They’re lightweight and a breeze to assemble and maintain.
All pool leaf eaters are simple in design, and the ones we’ve reviewed were chosen primarily for their durable construction. Some are powered by a scientific principle called the Venturi effect while others run on batteries. In our buyer’s guide, you’ll find information about the different types of pool eaters and their features.
Best Pool Leaf Eaters
Pool Leaf Eater Buying Guide
The most common type of swimming pool leaf eater is made to hook up to a standard hose and pole. These leaf eaters use a sock bag to collect leaves and other debris, and some even have wheels to make navigation easier. If the pool floor needs a scrub, there are also leaf baggers with brushes on the head.
You have a few choices in terms of leaf-eater style. Some are equipped with a battery; others connect to a garden hose. There are even hard-canister leaf eaters that attach to a suction-side pool cleaner. Each one has its own set of pros and cons, but some are better for leaf collection than others
Common Pool Leaf Eaters
Leaf eaters are also known as leaf baggers. To create the pressure and vacuum action necessary for drawing in leaves, the leaf eater must be connected to a garden hose. While the Venturi suction collects debris, you can move the leaf eater around with a telescopic pole that you attach to the eater.
Often, traditional leaf eaters have multiple jets to boost their suction power. Many of these leaf eaters can pull double duty as a waterline skimmer. To use a pool-floor leaf eater as a surface skimmer, simply flip over the eater, push the bag into the water, lock the pole connector and guide the eater/skimmer along the surface.
Battery-operated leaf eaters are another popular choice. Like their Venturi counterparts, a pole is needed to move battery-powered models around the pool floor. Instead of a garden hose, there is a propeller. When you flip the power switch, a set of disposable batteries turn the propeller, which gives the leaf eater the thrust it needs to navigate your pool.
Uncommon Leaf Eaters
For those who are interested in a more automated way to collect leaves, there are suction-side leaf eaters. These leaf eaters gather debris in a plastic canister instead of a reusable bag; sometimes a bag sits inside the canister. The canister is in-line installed and uses the pool’s jets to create a Venturi vacuum pull.
Handheld leaf eaters are also available. In appearance, they mimic the look of a hand vac, but some have an integrated pole. These models run on the power of a rechargeable battery. Finally, there are elongated mechanical nets that attach to and jut out from recessed skimmers.
While the aforementioned leaf eaters have their benefits, they don’t have the debris capacity of traditional-style leaf baggers. Therefore, they can’t keep up with the demands of a large pool or heavy leaf loads. Although they can handle leaves and tiny twigs, handheld models are better suited for fine debris.
Container Capacity and Strength
Size and strength are the most important aspects of a leaf-eater bag. These bags range in diameter from 13 to 16 inches, and they stand anywhere from 24 to 34 inches tall. The wider and longer the bag, the more leaves it can hold, and the less time you’ll spend cleaning your swimming pool.
Bags are either made of polyester or nylon. Both materials are strong, but nylon is slightly more robust. However, polyester has the advantage of a faster drying time, which is helpful when you’re ready to put the leaf eater away.
The mesh of some bags is larger than that of others. For the purpose of leaf collecting, medium-sized holes are best because they allow the water to flow through the bag unimpeded even when it’s full. A drawstring keeps the bag attached to the leaf eater; however, the addition of a vacuum ring enhances the bag’s security.
Suction-side pool leaf eaters have different considerations. Their containers are constructed from various types of plastic – polycarbonate is a durable choice. A few models also have a mesh bag. For those leaf eaters, medium-sized mesh is still the best choice. Suction-side leaf eaters with a built-in filter are less likely to clog.
Pole Adapters and Handles
Venturi and battery-powered leaf have an adapter that connects to your pool pole. The leaf eater’s adapter is designed to fit the standard diameter for a pool pole, which is 1.25 inches. Suction-side models that have a mug-style handle are the easiest to pull from the water.
Pole adapters are either made of aluminum, chrome or plastic. Aluminum and plastic are lightweight. While plastic won’t corrode over time like aluminum will, plastic isn’t as strong. Chrome is the heaviest material, but it’s tough and rust-resistant.
Floor Head Features
Guiding a leaf eater is easy enough, but wheels make navigating the leaf eater practically effortless. Depending on the model, there may be two, three or four wheels – Those that swivel provide the freest range of motion. To prevent scuffs from forming on the floor and walls, look for a pool leaf eater with a protective bumper.
Some heads are lined with bristles, allowing you to loosen stuck-on leaves. You’ll also find that leaf eater heads come in different shapes. Round is the most common, but there are also angled and curved shapes, both of which are great for use in spas and free-form pools.
Garden Hose Features
As with the pole connector, the leaf eater’s hose adapter needs to be durable. Plastic won’t rust, but it doesn’t touch metal in terms of strength. The most durable hose adapters are made of brass. You also want to make sure the adapter fits your hose. One-half inch is the standard hose diameter – A universal adapter can accommodate other widths.
Even though pool leaf eaters don’t come with a garden hose, the hose you connect to the leaf bagger impacts its performance. Rubber hoses hold up better than vinyl ones, but they are heavier. The more plies (layers) a hose has, the stronger it will be.
The hose should be long enough to reach across your swimming pool; however, a hose longer than 50 feet should have a diameter wider than 0.5 inches to maintain the leaf eater’s suction. Always check the hose for kinks, leaks and tangles before each use.
How Do I Maintain a Pool Leaf Eater?
Leaf eaters are easy to maintain. To remove leaves from the bag, all you have to do is turn it inside out. Occasionally, you will need to replace the wheels and brushes if your leaf bagger comes with these parts. These tasks only take a few minutes.
Propeller-driven leaf eaters require a little bit more maintenance. You have to clear leaves from the blades from time to time. Those with disposable batteries need new ones after every few hours of use. If it has a rechargeable battery, you’ll need to plug it into a wall outlet.
Should I Use the Pole That Comes With My Leaf Eater?
It depends. The pool pole you use must be strong enough to support the leaf bagger. For those who have arthritis or weak upper body strength, weight is a concern. Aluminum is a great happy medium. It’s more durable than plastic, but it’s lighter than other metals.
The included pole often breaks down into multiple pieces. If there are only two or three reinforced joints on the pole, it should be okay to use. However, if the leaf eater’s pole has four or five joints and it’s made of plastic, stick with a separate telescopic pole constructed from metal.
Are Leaf Eaters Safe to Use in Above-Ground Pools?
Venturi leaf eaters are perfectly safe to use in above-ground swimming pools. If your leaf eater is equipped with wheels, detach the wheels before using it as they could tear the vinyl liner. Leaf eaters with brushes are also safe to use in an above-ground pool if the bristles are made of nylon.
Pool Leaf Eaters: Recap
While there are multiple kinds of leaf eaters, the most popular ones are those that operate on batteries and a propeller or a garden hose and Venturi suction. These leaf baggers are budget-friendly. They don’t need to be hooked up your pool to work, and some even have brushes for leaf loosening.
No matter the style of pool leaf eater you choose, durability is crucial. Plastic components won’t corrode or rust, but metal is often preferred for its strength. You also want to use a pool pole with as few joints as possible, and the leaf eater’s connector should fit the diameter of your garden hose.
Before you hook up the hose, examine it. If it has a kink, the leaf eater won’t be able to generate the vacuum pressure necessary for debris collection. The hose shouldn’t be overly long or too short, and a rubber hose is less likely to wear out from dragging along the floor of your swimming pool.
Don’t forget the bag – bigger is better in terms of capacity and mesh size. If your home sits on a heavily wooded lot, you can’t rely on your swimming pool’s skimmers to do all the work. When you don’t have the time or desire to manually skim your pool, a user-friendly leaf eater is the way to go.