How To Clean a Pool Cartridge Filter

Written by:  Danny Rhodehamel
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The purpose of a pool cartridge filter is to clean your pool water by capturing debris and decontaminates in the folds of the filter. With time these folds will become clogged, water will not flow thru the filter as easily, and pressure within the filter will increase. Operationally, with water flow down, you will not be turning you pool water as frequently and your pool decontaminates will start to build up. It's time to clean your filter. As a general rule of thumb, your filter should be clean at least once a month during the summer and every other month if your pool is operational during the winter. Although this description is specific to a Hayward cartridge filter, many of the steps can apply to other models of cartridge filters.

Tips & Warnings

Video

Things You'll Need

Step by Step

Step 1

The first step is to turn off the pool pump to stop the flow of water through the pool filter.

Step 2

Next you will have to relieve the pressure that has built up in the pool filter. Note the pressure on the pressure gauge. It will typically read between 15 - 20 psi. To relieve pressure turn the air relief valve on top of the filter counter clockwise. Water will spray out initially as you see the pressure on the pressure gauge go to 0 psi.

Step 3

To access the pool filter cartridge you will have to take the pool filter head off the top of the filter. Turn the locking knob counter clockwise until you feel the pool filter head is loose.

Step 4

Next lift the pool filter head off the top of the filter. It may be a little hard to lift initially as you break the O-ring seal between the two pool filter parts.

Step 5

With the pool filter head off, you will see the top of the pool filter cartridge.

Step 6

Lift the pool filter cartridge straight up to remove it from the pool filter body.

Step 7

Set the filter cartridge on the lawn and begin cleaning it with a garden hose. Use a full stray nozzle. A pressure nozzle may be too strong and will cause unnecessary wear on the pleated folds. When spraying, start at the top of the cartridge.

Step 8

Work your way straight down the cartridge to work the debris down and out the bottom of the pool filter cartridge

Step 9

Rotate the filter cartridge to the next section and starting at the top work your way down again to the bottom. Continue rotating until the filter cartridge looks clean. Check inside the folds to make sure all the debris has been removed.

Step 10

Some of the debris will have collected at the bottom. Spend extra time spraying out the bottom.

Step 11

When you've finished cleaning the pool filter cartridge, replace the cartridge by placing it straight down into the filter.

Step 12

It's always a good practice to lubricate the pool filter head O-ring before replacing the filter head. Lubrication will insure a better fit and extend the life of the O-ring. Rub a thin coat of lubrication on the outside of the O-ring.

Step 13

Replace the pool filter head on top of the pool filter. Position the top so that you can read the pressure gauge.

Step 14

When replacing the filter top, watch that the O-ring doesn't bulge out of its grove. This becomes more of a problem as the O-ring becomes older and stretches. If the O-ring is not set properly the top will not close correctly and water will spray out when the pump is restarted. The O-ring should be replaced if this is a recurring problem.

Step 15

Hand tighten the locking knob clockwise.

Step 16

Turn on power to the pool pump to repressurize the pool filter.

Step 17

The air relief valve should still be open. As the pressure builds, air will be released through the relief valve. When water starts to spray out of the valve, turn the valve clockwise to close it.

Step 18

Check the pressure gauge. It typically reads between 10 - 15 psi but this will vary according to the make of pool cartridge filter or its age. This value is your system's clean filter pressure. When the pressure is 8-10 psi higher, it's time to clean your pool filter again.

Comments (1 to 39 of 39)

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User: Inyopools

Filter soak - I would soak your cartridge filter in a TSP solution to get the embedded chemicals and debris out of the folds. See our guide on "How To Chemically Clean a Pool Cartridge Filter" for detailed instructions.

User: 

We're cleaning our filter to put it away for winter. Is there a home solution that we can soak it in?

User: Inyopools

experio - It sounds like your system needs to be primed. The system lines to the pump have air in them and your pump is not able to suck water into the pump. See our guide on "How To Prime a Pool Pump" for further instructions.

User: experio

Thanks for great instructions on cleaning the pool filter. I was able to do clean filters, but my problem is that after putting everything back, I started the pump, kept the air valve open - but it seems no pressure is building up at all. Left it running for 15-20 min, and still pressure reading shows 0 psi (no outflow of air/water from the air valve)... am I doing something wrong here? Should I be checking something else?

User: 

I have a 24' x 16' above ground pool that I've had problems with in terms of keeping the water chemistry balanced. Recently, I threw in apparently way too much Alkalinity Up (the container said I needed 7 lbs. for my size pool - I put in 5 lbs. but I guess you're not supposed to put it in all at once) and now the problems are worse! The cartridge filter got very clogged up with blue gunk...it is the same color as the liner! Is my liner dissolving because of the chemicals - into the filter (and who knows where else?) Help!!!

User: Inyopools

ellen - If the cartridges were filtering during those four year, four years is stretching the life or a typical cartridge. But try the TSP soaking for 24 hours. It is used to get the body and tree oils and general gunk out of the creases. Follow this up with a 10-1 muriatic acid soak for an hour to clean out the mineral build up. That should give you a much cleaner filter cartridge.

User: ellen

hi,
have an older pool with an almost unheard of filter - "modufilter", by the Wet Institute, and have finally found cartridge filters on-line that will fit. will it or will it not extend the life of the cartridge to do the TSP soaking? pool gets very little use and last set of cartridges were bought in summer of '09, so that's about four years. is that average life span or will they last longer if I TSP?
have many issues this year with cloudy water, dirty walls, sweep kind of poopy, but think all are probably due to the worn out cartridges. if not, may be back in touch. but would like your opinion of the TSP and longevity
thanks.

User: Inyopools

TRI-CLOPS - Some suggestions - If you are vacuuming very dirty water and it appears to return to the pool, check the cartridges. There is nothing in the filter to collect (and dispense) debris back to the pool except the cartridges. Make sure the cartridges are set correctly onto the bottom manifold. Check that there are no rips in any of the cartridges. Clean out the bottom of the tank. If you're vacuuming relatively clean water and it is returning dirt and debris back to the pool, have someone check your vacuum suction line. You may have developed a leak in this line that sucks in dirt when you vacuum.

User: 

I just bought a house with an in ground pool. It has a TRI-CLOPS filter system. I have researched and learned how to open the pool, had a water test done added chemicals etc. The problem I am having is when I try to vacuum the pool, it goes right through the filter system and blows debris and sediment, like a gray cloud right back into my pool. I can't get the water to clear up from being cloudy, so I am stumped?? ANy ideas??

User: Inyopools

Ahhhh - It sounds like your cartridge is getting clogged with whatever is suspended in the water. I talked to a filter rep and he suggested two partial solutions. Vacuum off the bottom for the denser particles. This all goes out the waste line - bypass filter if you can. Vacuum out 2-3 inches of water and refill. You may still have to keep re-cleaning your filter for a while but hopefully less often. Another suggestion is to use a TSP solution to help clean out the fine residue in the creases of the filters.

User: Ahhhh

I opened our pool a little early this season and the water was more green than our grass. I shocked and used algeside and the water turned blue in hours. Unfortunately it also got very cloudy. The ph was low so I added ph up and shocked again. The chlorine was low so i added enough to bring the levels good. Once the pool was balanced I added a clarifier. After all of this the water became quite milky. The main issue i am dealing with now is my pump runs really well for 7-10 minutes then slows to a stop. I take out the filter, spray it and replace it and the same flow, great for a few minutes then trickle to nothing. The same happens with a brand new filter. I have also checked all connections on both the pump and pool. I know its the cartriges getting clogged but it must be something clear or white because while i can see a slight change im color, they look almost like new. I have been going at this for about a week now anda kinda stumped. Thanks in advance.

User: InyoPools

mimi - Cartridges get clogged with minerals like calcium that don't rinse out with a normal hosing. Try soaking your cartridge with a TSP solution. TSP can be purchased at must local stores. Do not use muriatic acid as this tends to set the contaminates. If this doesn't work, you may have to purchase a new cartridge.

User: mimi

I just started cleaning my green pool (shock treatment, algaecide, etc). Ive cleaned the filter inside and out, did everything Ive read about, but everytime I put the filter back the pool intake stops pulling debris. I tested the pool without the cartridge and it pulls great, skimmer and all. Any suggestions??

User: InyoPools

Eval, Yes - the Fix-a-Leak manufacturers recommend pulling the cartridge filter and circulating water through an empty tank when using Fix-a Leak.

User: Eval

I have just cleaned my cartridge filters which were quite dirty but would like to know if it's ok leaving them out for a couple of days since I need to introduce "fix a leak treatment" prior to re installing cartridges.

User: InyoPools

artnum52 - Some of the extra chemicals used to clean a pool sometime coat the folds of a filter. Try soaking the cartridge in an diluted acid solution.

User: artnun52

When I clean and replace the cartridge on my filter, it goes right to 25 -35 lbs pressure. The filter is only 4 months old. I have had to hose it done 4 times in the last 2 weeks. The pool is not green, the water is fine. What could be sending the pressure up so quickly?

User: InyoPools

green pool - The chemicals you used to clear you pool may be clogging your cartridge. Try placing your cartridge in a weak solution of muriatic acid (1 part acid to 10 parts water) for 10 -15 minutes. Rinse well and let dry before reinstalling.

User: green pool

My pool was deep green when we tried to open it this year. I know we did not close it properly the year before. We could not get decent flow through our sand filter and the service company said the filter needed replacing and them pump was too small. We put in a new pump and a C900 filter. The pressure when a cartridge is new is about 10 PSI. WE clean it a few days later around 20. We can get the cartridge looking clean, but when I reinstall it the pressure is still around 20 psi. I've replaced the cartridge once already after less than a month. What else can I do?

User: InyoPools

kenjen - Try getting as much of the debris out of your pool with a hand net so it doesn't keep clogging the filter. Even so you are going to have to clean your cartridge filter repeatedly (like every day) until your pool is clean of the debris. Try shocking the pool a couple of time and add algaecide if the pool contains algae. Make sure your pool chemistry is under control. See our How To Guides for more information on cleaning up a dirty pool.

User: kenjen

recently i purchased a home with a pool. i never owned a pool before. been here 3 months and the pool is very dirty i noticed when we had the pump and motor on for long periods of time we had a large electric bill is that normal. i have a mytilus fmy cartridge filter NSF, challenger high head pump me plus pac fab 1, ac smith centurion switchless motor, model t104p3 24 hour dialtime switch, challenger pac-fab 1 hp self prime pump. i am not sure if previous also had a heater. i am not sure if all items where changed before move. should i upgrade everything

User: InyoPools

DLHall - Organic stains are difficult to remove. Try rubbing a Vitamin C tablet on a test spot. If that works, buy ascorbic acid to remove the stains.
,

User: DLHall

We were given a 4ft intel type pool. This pool had not been used for 2years and it was filled with black sludge/leaves.We have emptied out all the decomposed leaves and now are trying to clean out the stains. What is the best way to clean out this type of pool

User: InyoPools

Felix,
Sounds like your pool pump is right at the edge of generating sufficient water flow to run your pool vacuum. If you have the option, try shutting down the water from your main drain or skimmers while you are running your suction cleaner. If not, you may need a bigger motor.

User: felix gabriel

why do I have to clean my pool filter every day so the poll vacuum can work?

User: InyoPools

please help - If you are just reopening your pool that has a lot of debris in it, we recommend that you clean out as much as you can with a net before you start filtering the water. Otherwise you will be catching it all in you filter and having to repeatly clean it.

User: please help

I'm cleaning my pool it's seems that I'm cleaning the filter every 10 to 15 min is this normal? I just bought a new filter so i know it's not the filter could it be because the pool has a lot of debri?

User: InyoPools

Vegas - If your pool's pH and Hardness are not stable and you have a heater, these blue particles may be signs of your heater's copper pipes deteriorating.

User: Vegas

A month ago or so, our spa began getting these blue particles in it, as if something is breaking down. I cleaned the filter, and it was really full of this same blue stuff. (I replaced the filter less than a year ago) What could be the cause?

User: InyoPools

Wags, Your pool cartridge filter should last 3-5 years. The filter tank usually will last 10 -15 years unless it is cracked by inproper use or freezing.

User: Wags

My pool service cleans my filter monthly. Now they say that it needs to be replaced with a significant cost. How often does an in ground pool filter need to be replaced on average use?

User: InyoPools

Neesee - I assume from your discription that your bearings in your pump motor are bad. Filters don't usually make that much noise. Make sure your filter is large enough to handle the size of your pump. If it is too small, the pump will get overloaded. Also, when replacing your motor, always replace the shaft seal and check that your impeller is the right size and sound.

User: neesee

My filter howls. It was pefect all summer and I did clean it regularly. Now, I have cleaned it and cleaned it and it still howls. It's less than a year old and the old one did the same thing and was only about a year old too. Shouldn't one last longer than that? They cost an awful lot.

User: InyoPool

We would not recommend spraying the cartridge with undiluted bleach or shock. It may damage the cartridge. And besides it is probably unnecessary. If you have shocked the pool water to eliminate the algae, that treated water going through the cartridge should be sufficient to kill any algae on the cartridge.

User: smurf

In the event algae has arrived and after vacuuming I clean the filter , it there anything to spray on the cartridge , or soak it in to ensure all the algae id dead, Would it hurt , or help if I sprayed bleach or shock on to it before reassembling the filter?

User: Inyopools

Good point Poolguy. It wouldn't hurt to check and clean the inside of your filter tank as required.

User: Poolguy

Just wondering, isn't it also necessary to clean the inside of the filter? I know with mine I can often see additional debris being removed when I pressure wash the inside as well - then I give the outside another once over and it is nearly as clean as it was the day I purchased it.

User: jorge

Reading the step by step instructions how to clean filter is really helpful and clear enough to clean my own filter even though it is not same model. Its just very very helpful. Thank you for having this available. Helps to safe hundred dollars and also not to be led by hiring someone who might add to expenses unneedlessly. Again thanks for detail step by step process.

User: 

Very helpful information. My new home will have a pool, my first one, and I ma trying to understand what the pool needs to be maintained. Thanks,Chris

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