Which Direction Should I Point My Swimming Pools Return Jets?

The pool return at the liner of the pool.

The other day I was looking at the top of my pool and wondered if my pool is skimming the surface of the pool properly.  In that thought I was also asking myself what is the best direction the pools water return jet should be pointed toward to allow the best filtration of the water not just on top of the pool but for the overall operation of the filter.  I did some research and tests and decided to share this for others that have the same questions as I did.

To give your swimming pool the best filtration you should point your return jet away from your skimmer and downward to get the best circulation and filtration.  The top few inches of your pool is usually the dirtiest and for your pump to clean properly it is best to keep the water calm on the top of the water.

Now of course depending on what you are trying to accomplish at the exact time, you may want to point your return jet in a different direction.  I will go over a few benefits I have discovered and disadvantages of having your jets pointed down and up below.


There is some misconception about the best position to have your swimming pools jets placed.  Upward seems to be a very logical choice since it will create a whirlpool affect on the top of water where much of the debris is inside your pool.

This would also make one assume that it would cause the insects, grass, leaves and other particles on the top layer of the water to be swirled around so the skimmer would catch it.  This is however not true.


I did an experiment in the month of June when the cottonwood trees are horrible in my area.  The cotton gets blown off the trees and float freely in the air with a good amount falling inside my swimming pool.

  • I pointed my return jet toward the surface of the pool to swirl all the cotton and leaves that had blown into the pool.
  • It caused a decent swirl, waves and generated a nice whirlpool.
  • The increased tension on the top of the water and because of the continuous flow, the majority of the debris on top was moving too fast to make it to the skimmer.
  • This also caused much of the leaves and cottonwood to be forced more toward the middle of the pool instead of the sides where the skimmer is.
  • The upward jets position proved to not be the best at removing the particles from the top of the swimming pools water.


Having the return jet of you swimming pool pushing the water upward toward and above the water surface may not be best for filtration.

This doesn’t mean you may not want to do this from time to time.

A few reasons why the upward return position may be beneficial.  My kids actually love it this way when swimming and tend to turn it so that the water is more of a whirlpool, then calm.

  • Creates waves and motion on the surface of the water.
  • Can allow for a fun whirlpool experience when swimming inside the pool.
  • Rafts, floats and other toys will keep a flowing motion when on top of the water.
  • If your water temperature is warmer than you prefer, this is also a great way to try and cool down the water a bit.  It won’t be very much or fast and will cause evaporation, but can reduce the water temperature a few degrees over a night.
  • Causes chemicals in your pool to not last as long during water evaporation.
Return Jet Pointed UpwardReturn Jet Pointed Downward
Best position for filtration.X
Increases water evaporation.X
Reduces water temperature.X
Maintains more even water temperatures.X
Best water circulation.X
Calmer water on surface.X
Best for waves, whirlpool and swirls.X
Causes chemicals to dissipate qucker.X


At times you may choose to have the water jets push water toward the surface depending on the circumstances.  For the majority of time though, I would suggest having them point toward the bottom of the swimming pool.

This is going to allow for the best water circulation throughout your entire pool.  If your skimmer is close to your return, I would also recommend that you point the jets in the opposite direction of your skimmer.

Having your jets pointed away from your skimmer will help avoid having water currents obstruct the skimmer reducing its filtration. A few good reasons why your return jets should point toward the bottom of your swimming pool.

  • By pointing your return jets toward the bottom will allow for the best circulation as the jets will push the water down into the masses of your swimming pool.  When you have the jets pointing toward the surface it is usually only a few inches of water being affected and not stirring the majority of the deep ends.
  • This allows the surface of your pool to remain calm.  Your skimmer can only pickup debris in the pool that floats around the skimmer.  If the leaves and debris is moving too fast the skimmer will miss it every time.
  • The dirtiest part of a swimming pool is generally the first few inches of water.  If you are always having the dirtiest part of the pool in circulation, the skimmer does not have a chance to clean it properly.
  • Less hot and cold spots.  When you are circulating the bottom half of your swimming pool it will turn over more of your water giving you a more even temperature throughout the entire pool.
  • Reduce pump running time!  It only makes sense that if you are having your pool filtered in the best possible way, you can reduce your pumps run time which will also save you electricity.
  • Swimming pool ladders are not easy to vacuum under or around.  This is especially true for some of the more elegant ladders that have wider and bigger steps.  When you are circulating the water toward the bottom it will eventually allow the water to be moved around that is under these hard to get areas to prevent as much debris from laying beneath them.


Pool skimmer at the surface water.

The top 3 to 5 inches of your swimming pools surface is likely the dirtiest part of your swimming pools water.  This is in part due to how the wind adds particles into your pool all day long.

This is also the reason your skimmer is on the surface.  If it were in the middle of your pool, the dirtiest part of your pool would just get dirtier.

Leaves, grass, dirt and bugs will enter the surface of your swimming all day and will float on the top few inches until it sinks toward the bottom over time.

It may not always look this way either when you look at the bottom.

Remember though, that the leaves and dirt that has fallen to the poor floor is only on that floor.  Just 1/4″ inch above the floor the water is cleaner than that of your entire surface. This is the main reason having your return jets point toward the bottom is much more beneficial.

When your jets are swirling the dirty water around the surface all day, it will be harder for the skimmer to catch it on the unstable water surface.

This also could cause some of the debris to sink which is making the bottom of your pool dirtier each day.

If you have had some trouble with the way your pools pump has been skimming the surface of your swimming pool, try pointing your jets toward the deep end and see if you do not notice an improvement in your surface cleanliness. 


I talk about this and ways to improve your swimming pools circulation in another article I have written.  Click here for my top tips on improving water circulation. 

For the best filtration of your water and keeping your pool sparkling clean, backwash your sand filter frequently. 

If you are using a filter cartridge, check it often and spray it down in between filter changes. This will keep the flow of your water going through you pump and filter at maximum efficiency.

I recommend having the filter cleaned about once a week during the peak of swimming season. Also don’t forget to keep the skimmer baskets cleaned and washed out.

In areas that have a lot of cottonwood trees as I mentioned earlier may need to have this performed more than once per week.  They will cause the skimmer to get completely covered and reduce the flow of water and filtration performance.

Keeping your filter clean, the water flowing toward the middle and bottom of the swimming pool is simply one of the best ways to ensure proper filtration of your pool water.

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