Why is My Pool Cleaner Floating? Here’s the Fix

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Are you having issues with your pool cleaner floating? No matter the brand, whether it’s the Polaris, Dolphin, or Hayward pool cleaner, here are a few things that could be causing the problem and how to fix them.

5 Reasons Why Your Pool Cleaner is Floating

A pool cleaner generally works well, but some problems can allow the entire thing to float to the top of the pool rather than staying against the surfaces it should be cleaning. Here are 5 reasons why:

1. The debris bag is dirty

Your pool cleaner may be floating if its debris bag is dirty. The smallest microscopic debris or biofilm is enough to trap air inside the bag, causing the entire pool cleaner to float.

To fix the issue, try running the pool cleaner without the bag and check whether it floats or not. If it doesn’t, all you need to do is to clean the debris bag. Use warm water, mild soap, and a soft brush to clean the bag.

2. The head float is full of water

Your pool cleaner can also float if you hear water sloshing around in the head float. Replace the head float with a new one, which you can buy on Amazon, and your pool cleaner should stop floating.

The float head is an oval-shaped plastic piece on the back of pool cleaners. It’s an important part of a pool cleaner because it is designed to keep it on the ground. Replacing it is inexpensive and quick. All you have to do is slide it off and pop on a new one.

3. The cleaner’s RPM is not in the correct range

If the pool cleaner’s RPM (revolution per minute) is not in the correct range, it may float at the top of the swimming pool. Remember, a pool cleaner’s RPM should be between 28-31 RPM.

To check the RPM on your pool cleaner, make the single-wheel side tire. Turn the pump on, hold the pool cleaner below water level, and count how many revolutions there are in one minute. If the RPM is below 28 or above 32, this could be what’s causing your pool cleaner to float. 

If the RPM is below 28, here’s what you should do:

  • Check the filter screen in the in-line filter assembly for debris that restricts water flow.
  • Clean the skimmer, filter, and pump basket, clearing debris that restricts water flow.
  • Check the hoses and connections for leaks that cause loss of water pressure.
  • Check hose swivels for leaking or spraying. Verify flow direction arrow is toward the cleaner.
  • Remove the blue restrictor disk from the UWF.

If the RPM is above 32, here’s what you should do:

  • Replace the blue restrictor disk with the red restrictor disk.
  • Loosen the pressure relief valve until proper RPM is reached.

Remember, The pressure relief valve should only be adjusted when a restrictor disk is installed. By doing the steps above, you should be able to achieve the correct RPM range and stop your pool cleaner from floating.

4. The backup valve is broken

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Located at the front of most pool cleaners is a plastic, acorn-shaped piece called the backup valve. Its one and only job is to shoot a jet of pressurized water out of the unit once every three minutes to push the pool cleaner away from corners and ladders, which is an important aspect of a pool cleaner. 

When the backup valve is broken, it shoots water constantly, thrusting the pool cleaner to the surface of the pool. As a result, your pool cleaner is now floating, not sinking at the bottom. In some cases, the backup valve can cause the pool cleaner to run around in circles.

To check the backup valve, start your pool cleaner then bring it out of the water. If a constant jet of water keeps shooting out of the backup valve, then you’ll need to replace it or ask a certified repair person to fix it for you. Or, if you have the confidence, you can fix it yourself and save a few bucks.

5. The thrust jet is poorly positioned

On the back of your pool cleaner is a small, adjustable thrust jet nozzle. This nozzle emits a small but continuous stream of water to propel your cleaner across the bottom of the pool.

This nozzle is adjustable and, if turned in the wrong direction, allows the water pressure to flip your cleaner over or lift it off of the pool floor. For a simple fix, turn the unit off and lift it out of the pool.

Next, you want to check the nozzle and make sure that it points somewhere between the five o'clock and seven o'clock positions. You can then return the unit to the pool and resume cleaning.

Bottom Line

Now you know why your pool cleaner is floating. Either the debris bag is dirty, the head float is full of water, the cleaner’s RPM is not in the correct range, the backup valve is broken, or the thrust jet is poorly positioned.

Christopher White

I'm a freelance writer and editor for Cleaners Talk. I don't claim to be a cleaning expert, but I have 8 Roombas at home, including 2 robot mops. I love to tinker with them.