Getting DE Powder in Your Pool?

Few things are more frustrating than to see the very stuff that is supposed to be filtering your pool water leaking into the pool.  The common culprit involved in DE powder going back into your pool is torn grids but there are a number of other causes as well.  Here are a few things to check to help you troubleshoot this annoying problem.

Torn Grids

As mentioned above, this is probably the most common issue.  Over time, small tears can develop in the grid fabric and provideBlog Image - DE Grid (200 x 200) a gateway for DE to sneak into your pool.  Carefully inspect all grids ; the good news is you can replace individual grids so if you find only one or two with tears, you do not need to replace the entire assembly.

When you check the grids, also take a glance at the plastic collars where they attach to the manifold.  Even though the grid fabric might be intact, a crack in this small part would mean the entire grid needs to be replaced – sorry!

Some DE filters, like the Hayward Perflex, have “fingers” instead of grids.  These tube-like tentacles can also crack and require replacement.  Other parts to look at while you check the tubes are the bump shaft o-rings, diaphragm gasket, the top and bottom tube sheets, or possibly loose tube sheet bolts.

click here to find your replacement pool filter valve parts

Cracked Standpipe

Over time, the pipe assembly inside the filter tank can crack and leak DE.  Assess this part for any damage and while you’re there, check the associated o-ring.  If the o-ring shows signs of wear, it might not be sealing properly and should be replaced.

Worn ManifoldBlog Image - DE Manifold (200 x 200)

The manifold is the cross-shaped top piece that holds the grid assembly together.  There could be two issues here, either cracks in the manifold itself or a worn manifold o-ring.  Try your luck to see if you can get away with replacing just a small o-ring or have to spend a bit more to buy a new manifold.

Valve Damage

If all of the filter tank internals are in tiptop shape, the valve on the top or side of the tank could be your DE-leaking villain.  More specifically, the gasket inside the valve which can be cracked or worn through.  A common cause of damage to this part is the pool owner changing the valve handle position while the pump is running (you know who you are).

click here to find your replacement pool filter valve parts

Pump Suction Leak

Surprise!  Your DE filter could be entirely blameless while its sidekick, the pool pump, causes all the trouble.  A suction leak in the pump can push some DE into the pool via the skimmer or main drain when the pump is turned off.  If you’ve already exonerated your filter and valve from any blame, inspect the pump for a suction leak.  Some common parts to check are the lid o-ring, drain plug o-ring, and pump union o-rings.

If you still have an issue with DE in your pool after checking all of the above, you might need to have a pool professional come take a look.  For those fortunate enough to have found just a torn grid or two, please be sure to check out our guide How to Replace DE Filter Grids.

112 thoughts on “Getting DE Powder in Your Pool?

  1. not often mentioned that Hayward states in its manual than cloudy water can return through the water returns
    for 30 seconds after bumping. With a very dirty pool the clouds will be thicker Several pool companies have tried to insist that my grids or finger (therefore my filter) were bad.

  2. I am getting DE and dirt back into the pool. Grids are two years old and no rips or holes. Manifold is new. O ring on Standpipe is new, could not see any cracks in the standpipe, spider gasket in valve assembly is new. Just had the pool resurfaced and have been taking a lot of debris out of filter baskets. I am pretty sure the spa check valve has debris stuck in it as the spa will drain down unless I close the valve completely. I am going to take it out and check it. Will debris in the check valve cause the DE problem?

    1. Not likely, because the water would be routed through the filter before it comes back to the pool/spa. And if the filter is operating normally, the DE will be captured and will not pass through to the pool. You may need to have a technician come out and take a look at it because it sounds like you have covered everything else.

  3. Hello. I’ve been struggling to get my DE filter to continuously return water back to the pool. It’s seems to operate correctly for about 20 minutes then there is little to no water returning to the pool. I’ve noticed, when this happens I also see a reduced amount of flow in the pump. Please help!!

  4. My Cartridges
    are new within a few years. I replaced o ring also internally. It seems that there are no holes in cartridges. Any suggestions?

    1. I would not categorize DE grids that are a few years old as “new.” If you are just taking it on face value that the grids are only a couple years old and they wouldn’t rip, I’d say you are skipping the most likely answer.

      Like I said in the article and in a lot of the comments above, check the grids and the manifold for hairline cracks. Report back

  5. i asded De powder into the skimmer and filter instead of backwash. is this bad?, how can I get rid of the DE Thai it’s in the pool. is this harmful?

        1. It should not be breathed because it is not good for your lungs. Also, some areas have restrictions on ways your backwash it. But when applied and used properly, DE is not dangerous.

  6. I have a perflex de filter with all these fingers and when i backwash im still getting some discharge out jets and some de. any ideas, i dont have a multiport valve. I just open the bottom valve on filter to discharge.

  7. THIS IS A GREAT SOURCE OF HELP. I have a question.
    I have a slide backwash valve, Down is filtering, up is backwash. Barring the DE components (grid, manifold, etc), would it be possible the o-rings in the slide valve are going and allowing some DE into the pool?

    I hate to mess with it since I’ll bet it will be quite an effort to pull out the valve but something tells me theres trouble in there.

  8. I have a DE system. DE keeps getting in pool. I have replaced grids, manifold, and valve gasket. I have a polaris vac system that the filter keeps getting clogged with non DE material. What would next best guess be to check for DE and “other material” leakage?

    1. What do you mean by “other material?”

      The only other part I would suspect a leak is the side standpipe; the PVC pipe that runs vertically up the side of the grids into the manifold. If you have replaced the manifold, grids, and valve spider gasket, then that is the only other place that DE can slip by the filter. The standpipe might be cracked or the o-ring that seals the joint between it and the manifold may be warped.

        1. If you mean you have a Polaris system that draws unfiltered water into a separate pump and the Polaris system is becoming fouled by grass clippings, then you need to add a basket to keep large debris out if the Polaris.

  9. Just got my grids and manifold replaced and new multi port valve. DE will shoot out of the return jets for a couple minutes when pump first starts up and then runs ok. Having an issue where air is getting into the system somehow so not sure if it’s related (air bubbles coming out of return jets). Only thing I’m not completely sure about with the new filter grids is the standpipe o ring… it seems to be a little skinny so possibly not sealing well enough. Would that seem like the culprit?

    1. Air would need to be already in your filter for the standpipe o-ring to play any role in your jet’s air bubble problem. The normal culprit is an o-ring on the suction side of your pump; which is, from your skimmer, main drain, all the way to your pump’s strainer housing. The most common source of the air leak is the pump’s strainer lid o-ring.

      We have an article on this subject, have a read: Why Do I Keep Getting Bubbles In My Jets?

  10. Just rinsed off grids last night due to debris returning through jets, everything looks good. Noticed a leak on top of my Hayward pro-grid from pressure gauge. Is that what caused DE to enter pool through skimmer basket? Also, still have debris retuning through jets. Ready to fill pool with dirt and make a giant flower garden.

    1. A crack near the pressure gauge would not push DE to your pool. The parts of your filter restricting the release of DE powder are the grids, the manifold and the standpipe. The crack or rip should be in one of those spots.

    2. There is an air bleed valve under the pressure gauge on most filters. The valve has several o-rings. It will leak if the o rings are cracked. It will also leak if it was closed while spitting a water/de mix and de is preventing the o rings from sealing. Turn the pump off, remove the screw-in assembly. If de caked rinse it off, if the o rings are cracked or mashed flat, replace the o rings. For some valves the entire spindle complete with seals is a replaceable part, which is a good option for inexperienced people since they may pit tears in the o-rings while installing them. If you change the o-rings only, liquid dish soap is a good lubricant that rinses off well and won’t be absorbed into the rubber. Don’t use Vaseline or any petroleum grease, the rubber will soften and swell and fail rapidly.

    1. Run the in floor cleaning system and the filter. The in floor jets will stir the DE into suspension and it will be trapped by the filter. That said, DE shouldn’t be bypassing the filter.

  11. Not knowing when and where the tear to the spider gasket happened I could not tell you if the grids were properly charged. I would proceed by backwashing the filter again and then recharging, it takes the guessing game out of it. Or you could open the filter and check the grid coverage.

  12. I back washed the filter yesterday. (haward DE)
    Multi port valve.
    I recharged with DE. Made sure all looked good – pressure, water flow, leaks. All looked fine. I left pool area for a few hours and when I can back I had lost over an inch of water. Took multi port valve apart and the spider gasket was torn. The water was going into pool by returns and also going out the waste pipe. (Waste pipe goes underground and into woods so would not notice this immediately.
    I replaced gasket today and I am no longer loosing water. My question is this: when I added the DE after back washing – would it have gone to the grids as normal or did it escape out the waste pipe? I have been running the filter all day and the pressure has maintained at 18 psi.

  13. Hello, when I started to recirculate my pool to shock, de shot in the pool. I have never seen that happen on recirculate. I just replaced my grids 2 months ago. Thank you for your time.

    1. The problems mentioned in the article would still apply, check the grids, manifold, and valve (spider gasket and spring) to make sure everything is good to go. Report back with what you find, if anything.

  14. I recently replaced the entire grid and manifold unit on my pentair filter. I also checked all o rings in the stand pipe and the pump itself. Lubed everything and all looks good. Also checked my backwash valve. It seems I am still getting de back in pool, and it is definitely coming from the returns, not the skimmer or main drain. I read the article and can’t seem to pinpoint any more possible issues. Any thoughts?

  15. Question: if the pool water has a lot of DE in it causing cloudiness, is it dangerous to swim in? I’ve read that DE powder is dangerous. Thanks!

    1. DE is a fine powder that can be hard on the lungs. AFAIK you aren’t at any risk from DE in the pool water. I would assume it can irritate eyes and misconstrued membranes, so it depends on what you do in the pool. That much said, the same bypass that’s returning DE to the pool is returning unfiltered water to the pool. It’s easy to mistake an algae bloom for a DE leak, and if you have a DE leak you can have algae at the same time. You can also have a bacterial bloom, but if the sanitizer level is good a bacterial bloom is unlikely.

      1. DE is dangerous if inhaled as it can clog airways. DE can be digested without side effects.

        As mentioned above, the cloudiness may also be algae bloom, so I would test the water’s chlorine levels before replacing parts.

        The first thing would be to just fix the issue on why there is DE in your pool. Replace the torn grid or cracked manifold and vacuum the DE cloud.

  16. I just replaced valve and now de going back in to pool. Gad previously replaced manifold and a few grids.

    1. Unfortunately, it sounds like you’re going to have to break down the filter again to find the new gap. My search would begin with the grids you did not replace last time.

  17. Hello. I have a Doughboy 12×20 above ground pool. I had to replace the original DB motor because it wasn’t working properly with a new Hayward Pro. I turned it back on, the pressure filter said psi 20 and DE was spilling out and is on the floor of the pool. Do you think I should get a new Hayward filter system or replace the old systems grids etc… Can you actually run the DE at psi 20, swim, and operate it when its releasing DE into the pool?

    1. The PSI of each pool set up is going to vary; I couldn’t tell you if that is a super high PSI for your filter or not. But you can take a look at your filter’s documents to reference any pressure level tolerances provided by the manufacturer.

      If you upped the power of the pump, then it may be a good idea to up the filter as well. Normally, when you buy a pump and filter pack on a new pool, the units are mated together to for optimal flowrates, an updated/upgraded pump may be pushing your old filter past its capabilities. A good DE filter to consider is the Hayward DE Perflex EC40AC

  18. OK, interesting scenario. I have a chlorinator and check and replace the chlorine tabs weekly. When I open the chlorinator and then reclose it and turn the filter back on, DE shoots out through the air jets! What can be the cause?

      1. sustained until all the air gets out of the line. Im assuming air gets in when the chlorinator is open. the system is also higher then water level.

        1. First impressions, the issue, seems like a torn grid or a cracked manifold. I am not sure why the DE is only coming out when air is present. If I were to venture a guess, I would say there is something funky going on with the internal air bleed of the filter. The only way to know for sure is to open up the filter.

        2. Hi Matt, did you ever find out why it was shooting de out of the jets? Did you fix the problem? Having the same problem here

    1. Most bloggers and pool companies claim that if you see DE returning to your pool, its probable that your grids are torn.The Hayward owners manual on page 5, in its explanation of ‘CLEANING” states that the filter needs to be cleaned (backwashed) when pressure goes up 10psi in 24 hours, OR WHEN CLOUDY WATER RETURNS TO THE POOL FOR LONGER THAN 30 SECONDS (bumping)
      “Cloudy water ” is not defined, but the implication is that cloudy water can be expected upon starting the pool,at least for a short time.
      Assuming that “cloudy water” is DE at least in part , that fact should be pointed out in the “PROBLEM” section which indicates that
      DE leaking back into the pool through return lines is from broken grids or broken plates or other fairly serious problems.If your pool is quite dirty, that 30 seconds of cloudy water returning INTO YOU POOL WILL LOOK LIKE A STORM OF TISH going into your pool. You will surely believe that all of your grids or fingers have dissolved completely. Check you grids, if they appear ok, bump often backwash several times shock, brush and be patient Don’t do what I did and rush to buy a new filter, because some pool guy told me I had bad grids.

  19. Hi – I replaced all the grid and switched to cellulose fiber and now i have my pool covered in cellulose fiber, i don’t understand why this is happening. Any help is appreciated.

  20. I just replaced my pump and now I’m having problems with the filter pushing De back in the pool. My old pump was not running very well but I had no issues with the de. I’ve cleaned everything out and there is not problem with the grids or pressure could the pump be to good and pushing it back in the pool

    1. The addition of a new pump would not cause DE to bypass grids. If DE is entering your pool, the usual culprits are torn/damaged grids or a cracked manifold. Re-examine these parts of your filter.

      1. DE returning to my pool even though I have replaced all grids, new manifold and the O-ring on the stand pipe is fine. Also replaced spring in multi-port valve. DE returning with pump on and off. HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!

        1. The only other thing in the housing of a DE filter that may leak DE is the standpipe. The standpipe is the pvc pipe that runs up the side of the DE grids. It could be cracked or the o-ring that sits at the top of the standpipe could be warped or missing.

    1. Hello Debbie, set your multiport valve to the regular filtering mode, then use a hose to vacuum the DE at the bottom of your pool. The filter grids should catch the DE like they should have on the first try.

  21. I had broken grids so I replaced them…the broken grids allowed the d e.powder back in my pool…my pool has a layer of powder on the whole bottom…when I replaced the grids the water was running clear until I started vacuuming the pool…all the powder started to come back in the pool…what can I do to fix this problem.

    1. Tough situation you are in but I have two suggestions. First is the tried and true method of 24/7 filtering/backwashing to rid yourself of the DE. I use a poolbrush to agitate the settled DE on the pool floor every few hours so make certain it gets filtered out.

      Or use the more direct method, vacumming your pool with your multiport valve set to waste; this will rid your pool of the DE for good and will also alert you of deeper issues if you still see DE entering your pool.

  22. Excellent article. As a pool service professional, those are all the issues I look for when diatomaceous earth is getting past the filter and disturbing water clarity in the pool.
    Thank you,

    1. Mike thanks so much for the nice comment and helpful advice. I took a look at your website and you have a lot of great pool info. thanks for sharing and we would love for you to actively participate in our Blog.

    2. I have a Hayward 24 DE filter and just replaced it but I still have DE going back into my pool after I backwash it and some dirt and DE at times when I vacuum …what’s the problem??

        1. I changed all of my o-rings, I changed the DE grids so they are brand new, no cracks in the filter. There is water coming out even when I am not backwashing. What does this mean?

          1. Just to clarify, did you change the spoke spider gasket in the filter valve? That is the number cause of backwash leaks?

            Another option for be a bad diverter spring in the multiport valve. Does the valve handle have more of a jiggle than it used to?

          2. Yes it is more loose than before. I also did not replace the spider gasket. Would you recommend I just switch from DE to Sand? I would rather just buy a new filter as opposed to continuing to fix this one.

          3. Yes, that would be the next step. The diverter should be firmly planted to the base of the valve or you will get stray going through the wrong ports. Your loose diverter may be allowing water to bypass your filter grids.

    3. OK so HOW please to remove the DE that has settled at the bottom of a pool? When I vacuum, it disturbs the settled DE and creates a cloud dust that cannot be vacuumed! me needs help! Thanks!

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