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How To Clean Your Pool Filter

Updated on July 17, 2008

What kind of filter do you have?

There are several different types of pool filters available . Many above ground swimming pools come with a sand filter, while the more common options for in-ground pools are cartridge or D.E. filters.

No matter what you have, your pools filter should have a pressure gauge on it showing an acceptable range of pressures before you need to proceed with these cleaning steps. You or your contractor would have set the little green and red pointers showing where your actual pressure should fall between. If your pressure pointer is below the green, that means you are loosing pressure somewhere and may have a leak. If it is above the red, then you have too much pressure in the pipes which causes stress on the mechanical equipment and joints in the piping which can lead to failure and leaks.

D.E. Pool Filter

Hayward Pro Grid D.E. Filter
Hayward Pro Grid D.E. Filter

Backwash A DE Filter

Backwashing simply means that we are reversing the flow of water through the filter, flushing out the dirt.

Most D.E. filters have a multiport valve with position options like "FILTER", "BACKWASH", and "WASTE/DRAIN" and "CLOSED"

A D.E. filter has filter grids inside the tank. You add the D.E. powder, which is actually microscopic skeletons of Diatoms or Diatomaceous Earth (hence D.E.), to the pools skimmer, it circulates through the pump into the filter and coats these grids. These diatoms act as tiny little sponges abnd trap the dirt as it passes through in the water.

To Backwash a D.E. Filter

Turn the pump off

Open the pressure valve air vent allowing built up air to flow out

Roll out the hose

By pressing on the multi-port valve handle turn from FILTER to BACKWASH

Run for 4-5 minutes or until the water runs out clear

Turn the pump off again

Rotate the multiport valve to the RINSE position and rinse for 10-15 seconds

Repeat the BACKWASH - RINSE a total of 3 times to ensure the filter grids are as clean as possible. BE SURE TO TURN THE PUMP OFF EACH TIME YOU CHANGE THE MULTI-PORT POSITION

Turn the pump off and turn the vlave position to FILTER Make sure you close the air vent on the top of the filter

Turn the pump on

Note the lower pressure

Roll your hose back up

The amount of D.E. you need to add back to your filtration system will depend upon the size and type of filter you have, so you may need to look at your owners manual the first time and make a note for yourself. Once you know how much you will need, slowly pour the powder down the skimmer which is closest to the filter.

Sand Filter for Pools

Hayward Pro Series Sand Filter
Hayward Pro Series Sand Filter

Backwash A Sand Filter

The sand bed in a sand filter can last 5-7 years, however you will have to periodically backwash the filter (usually about once a month) to rid it of debris.

Sand filters have either a multi-port valve like the D.E. filter or a slide valve. If yours has the multi-port valve, follow the instructions as noted for backwashing the D.E. filter above.

To backwash a sand filter with a slide valve

Turn off the pump

Unravel the hose

Twist the T handle and pull it up a few inches to unlock the plunger

Run for 4-5 minutes or until the water coming out of the backwash hose runs clear

Turn the pump off

Replace the T Handle by twisting and pushing to lock the plunger in place

Turn the pump back on

Make a note of the lower filter pressure

Basic Pool Maintenance-Cleaning Your Cartridge Filter

Cleaning A Cartridge Filter

Typically, if the pressure rises 10 psi from when you know the cartridge is clean, then it

is time to clean you filter. How many times you have to do this per year will depend on many different factors such as: where you live, how many months per year your pool is open, if your pool is enclosed or covered, if it sits under trees, etc.

You will need a high pressure nozzle for your hose-not a power washer. Hose off the large debris from the filter material. It's alright if the filter doesn't come out white, your real goal is to rid it of as much as possible without damaging the material.

Pool supply stores sell a trisodium phosphate cleaner to soak your filter in to get it really clean once a year.

Full Mechanical Set Up

Totally Hayward
Totally Hayward


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    • profile image

      keith 5 years ago

      If everyone conserved water we could feed africa. But I wanna swim so the de filter works well but you NEED quite a few other chemicals and the most valuabale trick is to reach your hand into your filter ( where the basket is placed) and feel for a tourniquet type of valve handle. This will regulate your water intake and possibly change your life.

    • profile image

      Brian C. 6 years ago

      Sand Filter or Cartridge filter???

    • profile image

      Pool Filters 7 years ago

      Very informative hub! Thanks for sharing. I have a DE filter for my pool, but its nice for other to have information to help them make the right choice.

    • profile image

      Amy Appleton 7 years ago

      These pumps can get so confusing for people installing themselves. Do you know any companies who do this for free?

    • profile image

      Kenny 8 years ago

      Great information. Properly maintaining your pool, down to the filtration, will keep it safe and healthy for everyone who takes a dip.

    • profile image

      Cleaning Your Pool Filter 8 years ago

      Pool owners can save money by backwashing their pool filter of course. A great idea is to soak the filter in sodium bifosphate. This will remove any oils that have accumulated.

    • profile image

      Brandon Howorth 8 years ago

      haha, yeah I like to see you throw away a $400-800 cartridge every month. Sand filter is the best way to go, I'm using zeobrite. It filters down to 3-8 mircons and it work better then a DE or Cartridge filter. Hey Frank, it sound like you have a broken lateral in your sand filter. How much sand has return to the pool? And how new is it?

    • profile image

      frank clark 8 years ago

      my sand fillter is kicking out sand into the swiming pool, it's a new pump and a new sand filter can you please help me, why this is apening

      thank you


    • profile image

      adammb 9 years ago

      Thanks for this useful info Rachel. The cartridge filter seems to be the easiest because over time if the filter gets too dirty you can just throw it away and get a new one. I've heard DE offers better filtration though.

    • Tommy B profile image

      Tommy B 9 years ago

      I really love the sand filter. The sand filter is easy to clean and did not cost a lot of money for the sand that went into the filter. The only problem with the sand filter is it need to be used at least every other day. This of course is not automatic like some people want in today world.