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DE filters are the best at catching smaller particles and removing them from the water. However, it’s the more expensive option of the three varieties of pool filters.

Filter sand is the cheapest option, but it’s not as effective at removing smaller particles from the water. As water passes through the filter media, it gets lodged and clean water returns to the pool. The finer the filter element the cleaner your water gets.

However the more smallest particles get stuck in your media, the harder it is to clean. We’ll help you navigate which is best for you and your pool needs!

What’s the Difference Between a Sand Filter, Cartridge Filter, and D.E. Filter? 

Pool filters work to keep your water clean by collecting particles from the pool water and expelling them from the filtration system. Sand filters are the most common form of filter system since the pool sand is easily accessible and efficient at removing water contaminants.

Although, a sand filter isn’t the only kind of pool filter you can get on the market. Other common, but less popular pool filters, include cartridge filters and diatomaceous earth (D.E) filters. In order to understand which is right for your to get we need to discuss microns and how pool filters remove microns from the water.

A micron is a method of measurement that refers to the size of particles in pool water. Micron sizes range rather wildly, but most pool filters base their filtering abilities on a scale of 3-35. As a way to measure this range, the human eye can only see down to a micron size of 35, so most impurities are invisible to the naked eye.

However, as the tiny particles build up in the water they will make your pool look cloudier.

D.E. filters are the most effective at removing even the tiniest water impurities. This type of pool filter can remove particles as small as 3 microns. While this probably sounds great, a D.E. filter is an expensive pool filter and isn’t as widely available as the other two varieties.

In comparison, cartridge filters and sand filters remove particles between 10-20 microns. They’re sufficient at removing particles, but won’t necessarily get your pool crystal clear like a D.E. filter.

How Do You Clean Pool Sand Filters? 

There are two basic ways of determining whether your pool sand filter needs to be cleaned. The best way is to check the PSI pressure gauge and see if the reading is higher than it was it should be when the filter sand is clean.

Second, if your pool water is cloudy or filled with debris, it’s probably time to clean your filter sand. Basically, this indicates that your filter is no longer properly removing particles because it’s filled with contaminants and particles.

To clean your sand filter, follow these simple steps:

  1. Turn off your pool pump
  2. Attach backwash hose
  3. Turn the filter valve from filter to backwash
  4. Let the filter backwash for 1-2 minutes (it could take as little as 30 seconds, but let it run until the water runs out clean)
  5. Check the sight glass if your filter has one to confirm the water is clean
  6. Switch the filter off again and change the setting to rinse
  7. Let your filter rinse for 30 seconds to a minute
  8. Turn off the filter again and switch the setting back to the filter setting
  9. Let the filter run for a few hours

Sometimes, the filter sand needs to be replaced. If your filter still isn’t cleaning your pool water as it should, or the pressure gauge still has a high reading, you should change the medium in the sand filter. Most sand filters use either a silica or glass sand which you can find at pool stores, home improvement stores, and hardware shops.

How Do You Clean Pool Cartridge Filters? 

Cartridge filters use the least amount of water since you don’t use the backwash system to clean them. Depending on your pool size, your pool filter can have between 1-3 cartridge filters.

Cartridge filters have fins that collect the debris as the water passes through the system. This means backwashing them won’t really do any good. Therefore, to clean a cartridge filter, you need to remove the cartridge and rinse it with the garden hose.

Follow these steps to clean your cartridge filter:

  1. Turn off your pool pump
  2. Remove your filter cartridge (or filter cartridges if you have more than one)
  3. Spray the cartridges with a hose until the debris is cleaned off
  4. You might need to spray the cartridges with a cleaner depending on how dirty they are
  5. if you need to use a cleaner, we recommend using a chlorine-based spray to avoid contaminating your swimming pool water with other chemicals
  6. Once the pool filter cartridges are clean return them to the pool filter
  7. Run the filter for a few hours

Cartridge filters are an excellent choice for the environmentally minded. They’re less wasteful and collect more debris and contaminants than sand filters.

How Do You Clean a Pool D.E. Filter? 

A DE filter is the most effective pool filter type. DE filters use a substance known as diatomaceous earth, which is actually the ground-up bits of fossil fragments from single-celled organisms.

Since this isn’t as easily accessed or widely available as sand, it makes this variety more expensive. However, the smaller particles of earth also make it much more effective at clearing pool water.

Clean a DE filter is similar to both sand and cartridge filters. In fact, it’s basically a combination of both filter systems.

Follow these basic steps to clean your diatomaceous earth filters:

  1. Turn your filter system off
  2. Turn the valve from filter to backwash
  3. Attach the backwash hose or use the drain setting if your filter has it
  4. After backwashing, open the air release valve and let the filter sit for a few minutes
  5. Remove the DE cartridge from the filter tank ( you may need to unscrew or unhook the clamps. Refer to your user’s manual before attempting this)
  6. Spray the grid and manifold with water and DE cleaner if necessary
  7. Replace the old DE powder with fresh DE powder

You’ll need to replace your DE powder if the water looks cloudy and backwashing the filter isn’t fixing the issue. You don’t always have to change it out every time you backwash the system, however. Diatomaceous earth filters are not cheap, and you’ll want to be careful before deciding to replace them.

Which Pool Filters Clean the Pool the Best? 

DE filters are the best at cleaning your pool. Pool owners who have high levels of contaminants in their water, whether from use or local water supply issues, may want to invest in a DE filter.

However, in most cases, a DE filter isn’t really necessary. A cartridge filter is second best and requires very low maintenance in comparison to sand and DE filters.

There isn’t really a right or wrong answer to which variety is best for you. The type of filter you select should reflect your individual needs, financial abilities, and time constraints.

Which Filter Variety is the Easiest to Clean? 

The filter that’s easiest to clean is definitely sand. While it might require more water than the other two, it’s the cheapest pool filter and easiest to clean. Simply letting your filter system do its job is basically all you need to do to clean the sand.

The other types of pool filters require more hands-on cleaning. Filter cartridges, like those in DE and cartridge, need to be cleaned and the filter grid washed regularly. The filter grids aren’t hard to clean, but the cleaning process is more involved and time-consuming.


The most expensive filter media is DE powder. It’s expensive because it is harder to find, due to it being ground-up bits of ancient fossils. However, it will do the most thorough job of keeping your pool water clear!

The most affordable filter media is sand. Of the three options, sand, cartridge, and DE, sand costs the least and is the easiest to clean. But it’s not as efficient at cleaning the water.

If you want to learn more about how to clean your pool filter you can check out our article on backwashing your filter!