How to Clean your Pool Filter for a Safe Swimming Experience

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One important part of making sure your water is safe to swim in is to make sure you have a clean pool filter.  It is a key piece of regular pool maintenance and makes the difference between your water being sparkly clean and murky.

It may be that you just got a pool or a new type of filter.  Or perhaps you’re new to pool maintenance.

Either way, you need to know how to clean your pool filter.  Without regular cleaning, your pool filter will not run efficiently, and you will have to replace it sooner than you might have expected.

Your pool filter is one of the key pieces of pool equipment.  It acts to make sure that your water is clean, and that dirt and other sediment is not getting in.

Just because a pool filter cleans the pool water doesn’t mean that it also cleans itself. You have to check from time to time if it is still working properly, is not clogged, and doesn’t have broken parts.

Typically, you will need to clean your pool filter once or twice per year when the pressure is 7-10 lbs. above normal.  However, don’t wait for that, since it may not register if you’re filter is in poor repair.

Of course, if you see cloudy water, that’s a clear sign that you need clean pool filter.

However, cleaning your pool filter does not have to be difficult – it mostly takes a can-do attitude, a bit of time and the right equipment!

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How to Clean Your Pool Filter – It Depends on Your Filter

There are three main types of pool filters: sand, cartridge, and diatomaceous earth.  Each type has different cleaning methods and requires different equipment.

Make sure you do your homework – know what kind of filter you have.  Of course, it’s always a great idea to look at your manufacturer’s instructions on how to properly clean and maintain your pool filter.

Sand filters use a technique called backwashing or reverse flow; it is the oldest and most economical system to keeping pool water clean. Cartridge filters come with most pools when purchased.

Diatomaceous Earth (DE) filters are the most efficient filters, and therefore, the most expensive.  Installing a DE filter means that you are enjoying the cleanest pool water possible.

clean pool filter

How to Clean Your Cartridge Filter

This is the easiest type of cartridge to clean, since you basically just need to remove the cartridge, clean it, and replace it.  However, there are some more detailed steps to follow and there is equipment that you will need.

What You’ll Need

  • Garden hose with a spray nozzle
  • Filter cleaner, such as HTH 67025 Filter Cleaner.*
  • Five-Gallon bucket (optional)
  • Lubricant or Silicone Paste
  • Replacement O-Ring (optional)
  • Replacement cartridge (optional)

*You can also use dishwasher detergent.  Just mix one cup for every 5 gallons of water.

Instructions

  1. Turn off your pool pump and filter system.  Make sure your filter is not on a timer and will not automatically turn on.
  2. Turn the air relief valve slowly to allow any excess air out.  This is usually located at the top of the filter.
  3. Remove any clamps or locking mechanisms that hold the filter together and remove the top of the filter.
  4. Carefully remove the filter.
  5. Inspect the filter for any wear and damage. If you see any wear or cracks, then it’s time to use your replacement cartridge.*
  6. Spray down your pool filter using your spray nozzle.  Make sure you spray between the pleats.
    1. If you’re having trouble cleaning the filter, there are cartridge cleaning tools that you can buy from your pool supply store.
  7. If the filter is really dirty, spray with a Filter Cleaner, following the manufacturer’s instructions.  You can also soak the filter in cleaner overnight in a five-gallon bucket.
  8. Check the O-ring on the filter tank and apply some lubricant.  Inspect it also and replace if it looks worn out.
  9. Rinse the cartridge and return it to the filter.   Replace the top and close the clamps.
  10. Turn your system back on.
  11. Open the air valve to release any excess air.  Leave it open until a steady stream of water is coming out.
  12. Make sure the system pressure is back in its normal range.

*Note: If you see any wear or cracks, make sure to replace your cartridge.  Even the smallest crack can greatly affect the filter’s performance.

If there is still stubborn dirt stuck on your filter, soak your cartridge in muriatic acid.  Mix one-part muriatic acid with twenty parts water.

See below for safety tips on working with muriatic acid.  Also, you want to add the acid to the water, not the other way around, since that will cause it to splash.

How to Clean Your Sand Filter

This is a little more difficult than cleaning a cartridge filter, but it still needs to be done.   At least once per year, you should also chemically clean your sand filter.

What You’ll Need

  • Backwash hose
  • Sand filter cleaner

Instructions

  1. Backwash the filter for 5 minutes to remove debris. Make sure your filter is not on a timer and will not automatically turn on.
  2. Turn off the pump and set it to “Filter”.
  3. Remove the strainer lid, pour sand filter cleaner into the strainer basket and replace the lid.
  4. Turn the pump on for a short while to allow the cleaner to pump to the filter.
  5. Turn off the pump and leave for at least 8 hours.
  6. Backwash the filter for another 5 minutes and turn the filter back on.

How to Clean Your DE Filter

You can clean a DE filter in a very similar way that you would clean a cartridge filter.  Or you can clean it very similarly to cleaning a sand filter.

You can remove the filter and clean it, much like a cartridge filter.  Or, when the gauge reads 10 psi above normal operating level, you can backwash the filter, like a sand filter.

You should also look for cloudy water.  In any event, you should clean your DE filter once a month.

It is truly a combination of the processes.

What You’ll Need

Instructions

  1. Backwash the filter for about 5 minutes to remove the debris. Make sure your filter is not on a timer and will not automatically turn back on.
  2. Turn off the pump and open the air valve.
  3. Remove any clamps or locking mechanisms that hold the filter together and remove the top of the filter.
  4. Open the filter and remove the filter manifold.
  5. Rinse out the tank with your garden hose.
  6. Spray the manifold and flush out all of the debris.
  7. If the manifold is still dirty, use a DE filter cleaner according to its instructions.
  8. Place the grids back into the filter tank.
  9. Add as much DE powder to the filter as the owner’s manual recommends.
  10. Remove the strainer basket lid and fill the basket with water.
  11. Lubricate the O-ring – again, checking for any wear and tear.
  12. Replace the lid and close the filter.
  13. Turn on the pool pump.
  14. Mix the DE powder with enough water to make a thin solution.  Pour that combination into the pool skimmer.
  15. Run the pool pump for at least 30 minutes.

What if my DE filter still isn’t clean?

What if your pool filter is still dirty? Then it is time to use muriatic acid.

This is quite dangerous – you are dealing with acid.  You need to be very careful and make sure you have safety precautions put in place.

What you will need

  • Muriatic acid
  • Garden hose
  • Five-Gallon bucket
  • Safety goggles
  • Safety gloves (acid resistant)

Instructions

  1. Backwash the filter for 5 minutes and turn the pump off.
  2. Open the air relief valve and let the water drain from the tank.
  3. Remove the latch holding the filter together and open the filter tank.
  4. Remove the manifold and remove the grids.
  5. Rinse out the tank.
  6. Use your spray nozzle to spray down the manifold.
  7. Put on the safety goggles and acid-resistant gloves and make sure you wear clothing that covers you.
  8. Dilute the muriatic acid in a 5 gallon bucket, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  9. Put the manifold, completely submerged in the water, and allow it to soak overnight.
  10. Rinse the filter grids and place them back into the filter tank.
  11. Add as much DE powder as the owner’s manual recommends.
  12. Lubricate the O-ring – again, checking for any wear and tear.
  13. Replace the lid and close the filter.
  14. Turn on the pool pump.
  15. Mix the DE powder with enough water to make a thin solution.  Pour that combination into the pool skimmer.
  16. Run the pool pump for at least 30 minutes.

As you can see, while not overly complicated, it is time consuming to make sure you have a clean pool filter.  With everything else that you have going on, it may be something that you may be tempted to skimp on.

However, don’t do it!  Having a pool filter that is not clean means you will not enjoy your beautiful pool, since the water will be cloudy.

Having a pool cleaning service can help, since someone else will be taking care of this for you.

Either way, to have sparkling, clean water, you’re going to want to make sure you have a clean pool filter.  Hopefully, this guide will help you!

More pool cleaning tips at YOUR tips:

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