How to Clean a Pool Cartridge Versus a Sand Filter

A large pool filter

Your pool filter is working hard rain or shine to keep your water crystal clear. It’s time to show it some love! A little routine maintenance will help it do its job. Whether you have a cartridge or a sand filter, we have easy tips to keep them in great shape. You can also watch our Splashy Segment here!

Filter Cleaning is Essential Maintenance

Just like a car or furnace, your pool filter catches impurities as water passes through. It picks up containments like sunscreen and body oils. Dirt, insects, and plant debris, especially algae, won’t get past either. It also collects fine particles like iron and calcium. It’s even trapping bacteria!

To protect your filter performance, give it a good clean periodically. There’s a different method depending on whether you have a cartridge or sand filter.

Cartridge Filter

These filters are the most familiar to homeowners. They look like a giant version of a vacuum filter. They’re encased inside a hard cylinder.

We recommend this cleaning routine on a weekly basis. The caveat is if you are struggling with water quality, especially if it’s cloudy and not improving with balance treatments. Then try every day until the water clears up.

Step 1 – Safety

Your first action is to turn off the pool pump and bleed out excess pressure by turning the air relief valve. The reason is you don’t want components and electricity running while you are working. When you are finished, you’ll need to ensure pressure is correctly restored too.

Step 2 – Spray

Remove your filter and rinse with a garden hose. The goal is to blast off obvious grime. While you can use a pressure washer or even go to the car wash, don’t go overboard. Too much force can actually damage the filter.

Tip – back away from the dish soap! Even Dawn is off limits. You don’t want to create a foam bath in your pool. Only use cleaners made specifically for pool cartridges.

Step 3 – Soak

Is your filter super dirty because you fell out of your maintenance routine or went on vacation? For tough stains, soak overnight in a 5-gallon bucket and use a cartridge cleaner.

If you see any major cracks or no amount of cleaning makes a difference, it’s time for replacement. Cartridge filters typically last for 2 years with good maintenance. We always carry them in store, so swing by if it’s time for a new one!

Sand Filter

Sand filters are awesome because they last for a long time. In fact, you only need to completely swap out the old sand with a fresh supply every three years.

But in between, we suggest backwashing your sand filter once a week. It’s the same purpose as cleaning a cartridge filter – remove buildup to restore filtering efficiency. If you are 10 psi beyond your normal threshold, it’s also a good time to backwash.

Sand filter maintenance is a three-step process: 1) backwash, 2) add cleaner and let sit overnight, and 3) backwash again. We love Poolife’s Backwash Filter Cleaner, which we have in our store as well as new sand.

For more tips on how to make pool upkeep breezy: