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How to Really Clean a Pool Filter Cartridge

They look a lot like the pleated air filter in your car, but with a center chamber. Pool filter cartridges trap dirt as the water is forced through the pleated polyester. Whether you have an in-ground or an aboveground pool, filter cartridge elements work the same way, get dirty the same way, and are cleaned the same way.

There are many products that can help make your filter cleanings quick and effective. I’ll show you how they are used in combination to help make your filter last through as many as 15 to 20 cleanings or for as long as two to four years.

Dirty Filter Cartridges

First step is to remove the filter cartridge from your filter tank. After the lid is off, you may need to separate individual cartridges (if you have more than one) from a manifold assembly. After the cartridge is out, take a chair and, through the use of pressurized water, blast the dirt and debris out of the pleats of the filter cartridge.

There are several options for how to best spray clean your cartridge filter. You can either do it manually or automatically.

To clean a filter cartridge manually, you can use a garden hose or step it up a notch and check out these pool cartridge cleaning tools: Pool Filter Wand, the Filter Flosser, or the Water Wand Cartridge Cleaner.

These all follow the same principle: attaching to a regular garden hose and forcing the water into small pressurized jets. This allows for sharp streams of water to get in between the pleats for a faster, more complete cleaning. In addition, the Pool Filter Wand contains a heavy-duty brush to ensure that your filter is clean of all debris that may be lodged between the pleats of the cartridge.

I have heard stories of pool owners taking their filter cartridges to the car wash or using their own pressure washer to clean the pool cartridge. A little bit of pressure is good, but with too much pressure, however, the fibers of spun polyester can separate or develop small holes. Most filter cartridge manufacturers recommend that high-pressure cleaning not be used with pool filter cartridges.

To clean your pool cartridge automatically, you can use the Blaster Automatic Filter Cleaner. This handy contraption automatically spins your cartridge as it is thoroughly sprayed by jets of water. Its horizontal design allows for the dirt and debris to easily fall from the filter – avoiding the lodging that occurs in vertical cleaning. The Blaster can clean most filter cartridges in just minutes and is available in three sizes.

Whichever route you decide to take, the most important thing to remember is that patience and care are key. The more time you spend carefully cleaning your cartridge, the more dirt and debris you will be able to dislodge from the pleats of the filter. Remember, if you clean your filter cartridge thoroughly each time, it will be that much easier to clean next time!

Oily Filter Cartridges

Sadly, hosing them clean is as far as most people go to clean their filter cartridges. While the loose dirt and debris has been removed from the cartridge, there usually is a good amount of deposits still left on the cartridge that you may not be able to see. What I’m referring to are oils, grease and grime. Oily residues not only inhibit the filtering ability of the cartridge, but also make it easier for dirt to become deeply embedded within the filter pleats.

Two great options to dissolve this oil and scum are the Granular Filter Cleaner and Natural Chemistry’s Filter Perfect. These two options work the exact same way. They mix with water to create a concentrated cleaning solution that will dissolve oil and scale. Simply soak your filter in the solution overnight or for 24 hours after you have washed off all the loose dirt and debris.

While these products work the same way, Filter Perfect utilizes enzymes to dissolve the oils on the filter, while our granular product works more on mineral deposits. Once your filter cartridge is clean, rinse thoroughly with water and let it dry completely before reinstalling. For this reason, some pool owners buy an extra set of filter cartridges to keep the pool filtering while cleaning the other set.

We’re Done!

If you’ve followed these quick and simple steps you first blasted the loose dirt and debris off of your filter cartridge and then dissolved the hard-to-clean oil and scum. If you keep up with regular cleanings, your filter cartridges should last longer. When the time between necessary cleanings becomes shorter, about half as long as it once was, it's time to replace the filter cartridges.


In The Swim makes every effort to provide accurate recommendations based upon current ANSI/APSP/ICC-5 2011 (R2022) standards, but codes and regulations change, and In The Swim assumes no liability for any omissions or errors in this article or the outcome of any project. You must always exercise reasonable caution, carefully read the label on all products, follow all product directions, follow any current codes and regulations that may apply, and consult with a licensed professional if in doubt about any procedures. In The Swim assumes no legal responsibility for your reliance or interpretation of the data contained herein, and makes no representations or warranties of any kind concerning the quality, safety, or suitability of the information, whether express or implied, including, without limitation, any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.