Clean a Pool Filter in 12 Proven Steps

Pool filters are important to keep your pool clean. While you can add chlorine and other chemicals to clean your pool, it is the pool filters that will actually remove these contaminants from the water. Without a quality pool filter, your water will stay dirty and you won’t be able to enjoy your swim.

If you want to continue enjoying swimming in your pool, maintaining your pool filter is essential. Having a clean pool filter is one of the most integral steps in its maintenance. If you’re confused and have no idea how to clean a pool filter, sit back and continue reading.

Things You Will Need

Before we tell you how to clean your pool filter, here are some things you need. Make sure to buy all the tools, solutions and equipment from a reliable source to ensure proper cleaning. The chemical solutions you buy must be safe to use on the type of filter you have.

There are three types of pool filters: sand, cartridge and diatomaceous earth (DE). The cleaning process of these filters is similar, although you will need to make small variations. You can buy a different type of solution for each type of filter or you can buy a solution that works well with every type of filter.

A Quick Overview of Types Of Pool Filters

Did you know that there are three common types of pool filters? They are sand filters, cartridge filters, and Diatomaceous Earth (D.E) filters. You need to understand them because they are different, and so are their cleaning procedures.

1. Sand Filters

Don’t let the pocket-friendly price tag stop you from buying this kind. Despite being cheap, it does its job as per the expectations as long as you maintain it correctly. They remain effective for a long time as well.

As days go by, the efficiency of the sand filters increases. After all, they usually have large pores that change over time due to the trapped debris, increasing its effectiveness. Eventually, that stops being an advantage anymore, and a need for a replacement arises.

Sand filters require a replacement between five and seven years after their purchase. They can capture particles as tiny as 20 to 30 microns. Since the hair measures 70 microns, you can imagine how effective the filter is.


  • It is easy to maintain
  • Its durability is remarkable since it can last for 5 to 7 years
  • It is also easy to maintain
  • You can boost its efficiency with other media


  • Water wastage during backwashing and rinsing
  • Least effective since it can capture 20 microns particles

2. Diatomaceous Earth Filters

How easy is it for you to pronounce the name of these filters? Most likely hard, and that the same when cleaning them. However, they are worth the trouble you go through when cleaning and pronouncing them.

That’s because D.E. filters are the most effective type. They are adequate to capture particles as small as 3 to 5 microns. It requires a lot of maintenance to explain why the type is not common in homes.

Failure to check them frequently may lead to losses. Do you want the filter to spoil under your watch and leave you with the burden of buying a new one? Of course not, which is why frequent checking and top-notch maintenance should be a priority.


  • The pool filters are pretty effective and can capture even 5 microns particle.
  • Cleaning is safe since no need for caustic chemicals.


  • It leads in terms of the maintenance it needs
  • It is also quite expensive

3. Cartridge Filters

Compared with the other two types, these filters are average in almost all aspects. For instance, they filter particles of up to 10 to 20 microns. The figure is lower than that of the sand filters but also higher than that of D.E. filters.

Consequently, its effectiveness is there between. As the name suggests, their filter medium is cartridges that are fabric-like and replaceable. Since they are easy to replace, they are a high recommendation and quite common.


  • Suitable for operating at low speeds
  • It wastes little water since it doesn’t require backwashing.
  • It is practical to trap even 10-micron particles.


  • It requires thorough cleaning within a short time.
  • It also lasts for 2-3 years.

Trisodium Phosphate (TSP) powder

This is the most important thing you will need to clean your pool filter. Trisodium phosphate powder or TSP has been around for a while, and it was a common practice to use it for general cleaning at home. Even today, TSP is one of the main constituents of any home cleaning solution.

It’s strong and works well with pool filters. It isn’t expensive and easily available in the market. It doesn’t foam and can be rinsed away with water. When it comes to pool filters, TSP does an amazing job of getting even the last speck of dirt. You’ll roughly need about 4.5 lb of TSP to wash the pool filter twice.

A major benefit of using TSP over regular cleaning soap is that it won’t lead to unending soapsuds.

Hydrochloric Acid

Hydrochloric acid is also known as muriatic acid. It’s a common cleaning product in every household and is great for maintaining your pool filter. It will keep your filter clean from iron, calcium carbonate and other minerals. It will even get rid of algae in the filter. You’ll need roughly one to two gallons for one round of cleaning.

Sand Filter Cleaner

You will require this cleaner if you have a sand filter. The concentrated formula of this cleaner will get rid of oils, organic contaminants and other minerals. If you cannot get hold of this type of cleaner, you can simply use TSP.

DE Filter Cleaner

You will require this cleaner if you have a DE filter. It does a similar job as a sand filter cleaner by getting rid of the gunk. It will help the filtration system work more efficiently and ensure its maintenance. If this type of cleaner is unavailable, you can use TSP.

Equipment and Tools

  • Measuring Cup: You’ll need a measuring cup to measure your chemicals. You don’t want to put too much or too little as that would risk inefficient cleaning. Don’t use the measuring cup in your kitchen and use a cup specifically meant for cleaning.
  • Trash Can or a Bucket: You’ll need to put your filter inside a trash can or a bucket while cleaning it to collect all the dirty water. Choose the size of your trash can or bucket depending on the size of your filter.
  • Paper Towels: You’ll need to wipe your hands quite frequently while cleaning. Keeping some clean paper towels with you is a must.
  • Ratchet: You’ll need a ratchet to slacken the housing’s retainer ring. A ⅜” drive ratchet will suffice.
  • Silicone Paste: You’ll need silicone paste to recondition the seal. If you don’t do this step, you might have to spend money in the future on replacing all the gaskets and rubber seals.
  • Hose Spray Nozzle: You’ll need a multi-function hose spray nozzle for your watering needs. It should come with a soft touch dial guard to change spray patterns.
  • Wrench: You’ll require a durable torque wrench for a leak-free result. It should have a high-contrast dual range scale that is easy to read.
  • 19-mm Socket: A socket is necessary for the retaining ring bolt. Depending on the size of your filter, you might need a bigger or a smaller socket.
  • Protective Gear: Wearing gloves is important while handling hydrochloric acid or you might burn yourself. You should also buy some safety glasses to protect your eyes.
  • Rubber Mallet: This is to remove the filter’s housing retaining ring if it gets stuck.

How Often Should You Clean?

If you’re confused about when you should clean your pool and how frequently, check the pool filter’s gauge. This is not something you should guess, your filter’s gauge will tell you. Measure the pressure of a clean filter. When the pressure increases by eight to ten PSI over that pressure, it’s time to clean your pool filter.

Your gauge will also have arrows pointing when it’s time for a cleaning. Roughly, you will have to clean your pool filter once a year. This duration can be longer or shorter depending on how frequently you use the pool.

If you have a small pool filter or your pool gets dirty often, you can hose down the filter with clean water and without chemicals every few months.

You can also open the drain valve on the bottom of the filter housing once a month. Close the pool’s output to get rid of any debris. This will flush out silt and other gunk accumulating at the bottom.

The Steps

1.    Disassembling the Pool Filter Housing

The first step to clean your pool filter is turning off the pump. Close all the outlet and inlet valves if your pump runs on an automatic timer. Remove the bolt holding the clamp together using a socket and a ratchet. You may need a rubber mallet to slacken the clamp.

Now you can remove the top housing and reveal all the filters. When you are removing the top, water will splash out so be careful. Make sure you don’t create a vacuum by opening the breather valve at the top. You can also first drain the pool filter housing.

Remove the top manifold and then remove the filters. You will have to remove the filter cartridge elements by applying a rocking motion while lifting it up.

2.  Rinsing the Pool Filter

Remove the filters and rinse them off. Use the garden hose with moderate pressure for rinsing. Avoid damaging the filter while rinsing by maintaining a 45-degree angle. Too much pressure at an inappropriate angle will damage your filter so be careful.

Angle the hose in such a way between the pleats that the debris is flushed out easily. Take a brush and carefully remove the small particles between the pleats left behind. This process will remove most of the dirt from the filter and minimize the cleaning in the later steps.

3.  The Cleaning Solution

This is the most important step to clean your pool filter. Fill a bucket or a trash can with clean water and add your cleaning solution of TSP to it. Measure the solution using a measuring cup. Only add the right amount of solution to the water as adding too much will harm your filter. Adding too little will not clean your filter properly.

One cup of TSP should be added to five gallons of water in the bucket. Put your filter inside the bucket and leave it overnight to soak. If it’s not possible to leave it overnight, you must let it soak for at least three hours.

If you don’t have TSP, you can use dishwasher detergent but the results won’t be as good. Similar to TSP, add a cup of detergent to five gallons of water in a bucket. Many dishwasher detergents contain TSP so they will do a satisfactory job of cleaning your filter, but you should still prefer using TSP.

Rinse off the filters with clean water once again the next day. This will get rid of any remaining debris left behind.

4.  Rinsing the Filter Housing

While the filters soak in the TSP solution, you can take advantage of the time and clean your filter housing meanwhile. Take the filter housing and rinse it properly using the hose. This will flush through the drain any accumulated dirt at the bottom.

Pour a cup of TSP through the filter housing to properly clean it. You should clean the outside of the housing along with the bearing surface of the clamp. This will minimize the cleaning later.

Reassemble the filter housing and fill it with clean water up to the brim. This will kick off the degreaser. You can use a rod to make sure it is mixed well and dissolved. Leave the filter housing for a few hours. Once a few hours have passed, drain out the fluid and seal it up.

5.  Recleaning the Pool Filters

Cleaning the pool filters once will not suffice and you will need to clean them a second time. Just follow the earlier steps a second time. If you feel your filters are clean enough after the first wash, you don’t need to repeat this process. This is only for extremely dirty filters.

6.  Acid Wash

The TSP solution will clean your filters of accumulated dirt but if your filters are filthy with a coating of calcium carbonate, iron, algae or any other mineral, a proper acid wash will clean it completely. Hydrochloric acid will make sure your filters are cleaned properly and will get rid of any remaining dirt too.

Before this step, make sure all the cleaning solutions have been completely rinsed off. The combination of TSP and hydrochloric acid may risk damaging your filters. Properly rinse off your filters with clean water before giving them an acid wash.

You need to mix one part of hydrochloric acid with 20 parts of water in a cup. Make sure you’re measuring the acid and water using a measuring cup. Hydrochloric acid can be dangerous so make sure you’re wearing protective gear while handling it. You need to wear gloves and safety glasses while doing this step of the process.

Ensure there are no children or pets around you while you’re cleaning. You don’t want to accidentally spill the acid anywhere where it might harm someone else. If any acid falls on you, rush to the nearest tap and wash it off. If you’re sitting by the pool, you can just put your hand in that water!

Once again, you need to leave the filters in the acid wash overnight or at least them soak for a few hours. After taking them out from the acid wash, rinse them off with clean water to get rid of all the acid and the filthy coating. Carefully dispose of the dirty water with acid wash as this water is harmful.

Before throwing it away, add some baking soda or ammonia. This will help neutralize the acid. If you don’t have these available, you can simply dilute the acid with more water. Pour it through the drain or any other safe location where it doesn’t pollute your surroundings.

7.   Hosing Once Again

You might be tired of hosing by now but you need to do it one last time. Wash away the filter once again using a hose. At this point, there should be no signs of dirt, algae or any other mineral between the pleats. The water dripping from the filters must be clean.

If it isn’t, that means you did not follow one of the previous steps carefully. This is nothing to worry about. You can simply pour TSP mixed with water once again.

8.  Reinstalling the Filters

Now that you have clean filters at your hand, you need to reinstall them in the pool filter housing. The bottom seal plate should be in its position while doing this.

9.  Lubricating the Seals

Checking the condition of the seals is important before reassembling the entire unit. If they’re broken or about to break, you need to replace them. If they are dirty, you need to clean them using silicone paste.

This will help with the resealing. The silicone paste is thick and strong making it particularly useful in these kinds of plumbing jobs. Clean the O-ring grooves as well if needed.

10.                    Reassembling the Pool Filter Housing

You need to reinstall the clamp and if the bolt threads need lubrication, apply a lubricant. You can use a torque wrench to do this step.

11.                      Cleaning the Pool

You don’t want to put your clean pool filter back in a dirty pool. The dirty pool in the water will irritate your skin. Before putting the clean pool filter back, consider cleaning your pool of dirty debris.

This will also ensure you have an accurate measurement of initial pressure in the filter housing. Clean the pool and refill it with clean water up to the proper level.

You can use a pool sentry to fill your pool. A good pool sentry will automatically maintain the right water level and can be attached to a hose. It will never overfill the pool and you don’t need any additional tools. This is a great tool if you’re forgetful and don’t want the water to overflow.

Make sure to open any pool valves that you closed previously for cleaning.

12.                     Pressure Management

Once both your pool and your pool filters are cleaned, it is the perfect time for pressure management. Turn the pump on while making sure there is no air vacuum inside the filter housing. There should be a steady flow of water from the manual air relief valve. If there is air inside, you’ll be able to tell from the stream of water.

If your pump has variable speeds, go for the highest pump speed. Note the pressure. When the pressure increases by eight to ten PSI over this amount, it’s time to clean again.

When Should You Replace Your Pool Filters?

You can clean your pool filters for maintaining them but they still will break down at some point. When the pressure refuses to go down even after cleaning the filters, it’s an indication that you need to replace your pool filters rather than just cleaning them.

Cleaning Different Types of Filters

How To Clean A Sand Filter?

Does your above-ground pool filter has a sand filter? If so, this is how to clean it correctly.

  1. First and foremost, turn off the pump. By doing so, the water will stop going through the pool filter right away.
  2. Once that’s over, change the settings of the filter multiport valve to backwash instead of letting it remain as a filter. The switch will reverse the water flow leading to a change of the filter’s working mechanism. A pool filter should pull contaminants from the water on a typical occasion, but it will start pushing them out due to the change.
  3. Turn the pool pump back on. Does it mean that the filter is clean? Of course not, which is why you need to turn it back off after 2 minutes. If you can see the wastewater, leave it on until it the water becomes clear.
  4. After turning the pump off, change the valve to a rinse setting before turning it on again. Let it stay on for a short time ranging between 1 and 2 minutes. Preferably, only turn it off once the water in the sight glass is crystal clear.
  5. Finally, switch the filter valve to the filter setting, followed by turning the pool pump on.

How To Clean A Diatomaceous Earth Filter?

On the other hand, if you have a D.E. filter, follow this procedure.

  1. Just like in the case of Sand Filters, turn the pool pump off.
  2. Next, drain the tank by removing the drain plug. Can you imagine the drain landing on you? It can be messy, which is why you need to avoid it at all costs. It is advisable to use a bucket to hold it to ensure that it doesn’t mess you big time.
  3. Look for the clamp and use a wrench to remove its nut upon locating it.
  4. Remove its lid before opening the tank.
  5. Remove the grids from the tray, and don’t leave the manifold behind either.
  6. Use a hose to rinse off the various grids until there is no debris or D.E. on them.
  7. Return the grids to the tray. Should you do it in any order? Yes, the first one should be the solo, small grid.
  8. Once in place, return the manifold as well.
  9. Close the tank before replacing the lid. Next, replacing its clamp and ensure that it stays secure and lovely.
  10. Place the drain plug back too. What happens when you turn the pool pump before returning it? Water will be everywhere within no time.
  11. Once the drain plug is in place, turn off your pool pump.
  12. After that, confirm that your filter tank level is at par with the recommended D.E. lbs.
  13. However, if that’s not the case, D.E. recharging becomes indispensable. Add recommended D.E. after creating a mixture of water and D.E. As you pour it down, do so at the nearest pool skimmer.

How To Clean A Cartridge Filter?

Follow these steps to clean your cartridge filter.

  1. The first step, turning off the pool pump, cuts across the board for apparent reason. So, do so even in this case since the type is no exception.
  2. Next, drain the filter tank by locating then removing its drain plug. You can choose to let the draining process go slowly or fast. For the latter, open the filter’s air relief which is usually on its top side.
  3. Draining makes it easy to locate the clamp, and once you do, use a wrench to loosen the nut.
  4. Remove the pool filter clamp before lifting its filter lid off. The move exposes the filter cartridges making it easy to reach them. Once you do, remove them.
  5. Start spraying the cartridges using a garden hose to remove debris. Preferably, do it from top-bottom lest you damage the cartridges or leave dirt behind.
  6. Put the filter lid back in place and ensure it stays intact by retightening the pool filter clamp.
  7. Return the drain plug before closing the air relief.
  8. Last but not least, turn on the pool pump.

Here are tips on cleaning cartridge pool filters include the following.

  • A filter mesh that’s not perfectly white doesn’t mean that the cartridge is dirty. All that matters is lack of built-up or debris.
  • A power washer can harm the cartridges.

To Conclude

Everyone enjoys a good swim in the pool but no one wants to swim in a dirty pool. A pool filter helps you in keeping your pool clean so you can continue lazing around in the cool water. A dirty pool can have millions of microbes that can lead to harmful diseases.

This is why it’s important to have a clean pool filter too. They are as important to a pool as are kidneys to a human body. With these instructions, you’ll be able to clean your pool filters and continue to enjoy swimming.

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