How to Clean Your Pool Filter: Tips, Tricks, and More

Written by: Stuart Lockhart



Time to read 4 min

You have a gorgeous swimming pool in your backyard that’s an investment in your health and well-being. So, it’s essential to take care of it the right way. One of your swimming pool products that demands attention is your pool filter. It’s integral to your crystal clear, clean swimming pool.

In this article, we uncover how to clean your pool filter, looking carefully at the types of filters to ensure you understand how they work.

Types of Swimming Pool Filters

You’ll find three main types of pool filters:

All filters use filter media, and the material inside your pool filter tank traps the dirt. This is where the names for the types of filters come from (cartridge, DE, and sand). The type of filter you use depends on the size of your pool, your personal preference, and your budget. You’ll find pros and cons for each, and choosing is up to you.

The most important thing is having the right size filter for your swimming pool and keeping it clean so that it can remove dirt, contaminants, and other debris.

The Sand Filter and How to Clean It

The sand filter is the most common type of pool filter. It uses graded silica sand as the filter media. With a sand filter, the water enters the tank through a diffuser and then travels through the sand, trapping the debris, minute particles, and dirt between the grains of sand. Once the water reaches the bottom of your pool filter, it’s cleaned and returns to your swimming pool. 

Sand filters filter debris from about 20-40 microns (one micron equals 0.0015748) in size and do a great job trapping large debris. They aren’t quite as effective in filtering the tiniest particles, though.

Pros of Using a Sand Filter:

  • They are low maintenance.
  • Sand filters aren’t as expensive as cartridge and DE filters.
  • They can quickly filter large volumes of water.

Cons of Using a Sand Filter:

  • They aren’t efficient at filtering small particles.
  • You will waste water when backwashing the filter (to clean it).

Finally, you must clean your sand filter because debris builds up, increasing pressure inside the tank. Once your pressure gauge reads 8-10 psi higher than normal, you need to backwash. Backwashing flushes out the debris and returns the pressure gauge to normal. Here are the steps:

  1. Backwash the sand filter.
  2. Use a filter-cleaning solution.
  3. Backwash one more time.

The Cartridge Filter and How to Clean It

This type of filter uses paper-like cartridges for the filter media. If you purchase a cartridge filter, you can expect a pleated cartridge inside your tank to trap dirt, debris, and other particles. Water flows through your cartridge, trapping the contaminants, and then sends the clean water back into your swimming pool. It filters small particles at 10-20 microns, making it more efficient than a sand filter.

Pros of Using a Cartridge Filter:

  • It requires less maintenance.
  • This filter doesn’t require backwashing, so you save water.
  • It efficiently filters small particles.
  • It’s energy efficient.

Cons of Using a Cartridge Filter:

  • You need to replace it every two to three years.
  • It costs more upfront than sand filters.
  • It isn’t as effective at quickly filtering large volumes of water.

When cleaning a filter cartridge, remove and hose it off to remove the debris. You do this when the pressure gauge reads 8-10 psi higher than normal. Notably, its working ability drops each time you clean the filter. So, the more you wash it, the sooner you replace it. Generally, you need to change it every two to three years.

Here are steps to cleaning a cartridge filter:

  1. Remove the filter cartridge.
  2. Clean the cartridge using heavy water pressure.
  3. Reassemble the filter, open the valves, and bleed the system.

The Diatomaceous Earth Filter and How to Clean It

You guessed it – this filter uses diatomaceous earth for the filter media. Your DE filter has plastic grids covered with a plastic-like fabric. Protecting those grids is a layer of filter powder called diatomaceous earth that filters the contaminants. Once the water passes through the filter powder, the grids filter out five to eight microns of debris. 

Why so much more than the other types of filters? The DE is much finer than the sand, so that it can filter out fine particles. You need to add new DE powder every time you vacuum your pool, and then you need to backwash it. On occasion, you’ll need to replace the grid on the filter.

This is an exact filter, and it filters out the tiniest of particles. You’ll also find that this efficient filter can quickly filter large volumes of water.

Pros of Using the DE Filter:

  • It is the most efficient filter for small particles.
  • It quickly filters large amounts of water.
  • You’ll find it easy to replace the DE power.

Cons of Using the DE Filter:

  • You need to backwash the filter.
  • It requires regular maintenance.
  • You need to replace the DE powder.
  • It is the most expensive filter.

When cleaning your DE filter, you must backwash the debris from your filter once the pressure gauge is 8-10 psi above normal. In addition, you need to add fresh DE powder.

Here are steps to cleaning a cartridge filter:

  1. Backwash and drain the DE filter.
  2. Remove the DE filter manifold.
  3. Rinse the filter grid.
  4. Put it all back together.
  5. Add DE powder.

Final Thoughts on Pool Filters

Make sure you choose the correct size pool filter for your pool. Make sure it’s sized to match the power of your pump. If the pool filter is too small, you’ll constantly clean it.

To sum it all up:

  • Sand filters can filter large volumes of water, making them efficient for large pools. They don’t filter small particles as well as the other two filters.
  • Cartridge filters are more efficient with smaller particles than sand filters. They also maintain a consistent flow rate. This may mean more efficient filtration.
  • DE filters are the best at filtering small particles. They are adept at maintaining a consistent flow rate, too.

Finally, clean or backwash your filter at least once a month during the pool season. Do check your manufacturer’s paperwork for detailed instructions.

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