8 Steps for Cleaning a Pool Cartridge Filter

To enjoy your swimming pool to its fullest potential, you want to keep your pool water clean of debris and impurities. Routine pool care and maintenance will ensure that your pool water stays sparkling clean. One of the first tasks you’ll want to make part of your pool care routine is cleaning the pool filter. A pool filter will collect everything from dirt, bugs, hair, body oils, bacteria, and sunscreen. Cleaning the filter will ensure that your pool water not only looks clean but stays sanitary and healthier for your skin.

In addition, your pool’s pump may have to overwork when the filter becomes too dirty, but a clean pool filter will reduce stress on your pool equipment. A well-maintained pump and filtration system will have a longer life expectancy and increase energy efficiency. 

Fortunately, cleaning a cartridge pool filter is a relatively easy maintenance task that you can do yourself to improve the quality of your pool water and protect your investment. This step-by-step guide will walk you through how to clean your cartridge filter. 

When is it Time to Clean Your Pool Filter? 

You will know it is time to clean your pool filter when the filter gauge shows that the pounds per square inch (PSI) is eight to ten PSI higher than normal for your filter. Your owner’s manual will have the correct PSI range, but you should also know the normal PSI range when your pool’s cartridge is brand new or has recently been deep cleaned. 

Items You’ll Need on Hand

You will need to have a few household items on hand. A few replacement items may be necessary depending on age and wear. 

  • Gloves (optional)
  • Garden hose
  • Spray nozzle
  • Commercial filter cleaner
  • O-ring lubricant 
  • Replacement O-ring (if necessary)
  • 5-gallon bucket (if necessary)
  • Soft bristle brush (optional)
  • Muriatic acid (optional) 
  • Replacement cartridge filter (if necessary)

Also, having your owner’s manual readily available is helpful. If you cannot find your original manual, look for a digital version online. 

Steps to Cleaning the Cartridge Pool Filter 

Cleaning your cartridge filter yourself can be accomplished in a few basic steps. It is important to note that these are general instructions for cleaning cartridge filters, and your filter may require slightly different methods. You may wish to consult your owner’s manual or find an online video tutorial to verify that you clean the filter elements according to the recommended cleaning method for your specific brand and model. 

1. Shut down the system and bleed the air

Before starting, you may want to put on gloves. They can protect your hands from accumulated dirt and grime and any filter cleaner you opt to use. 

First, turn off the pool’s pump and filtration system. Then, locate the air relief valve. You will usually find it on top of the filter. Turn the air relief valve slowly to release air pressure from the filter. Attempting to open the filter tank while there is pressure in the system could damage the filter or even cause injury.

2. Removing the filter cartridges

When removing the filter cartridge, you need to remove the clamp that secures the lid. Typically, modern filter tanks use an O-ring to hold the top and bottom together, and you can press down on the release tabs and turn counter-clockwise. For older model filters, you may need to remove metal clamps first. If you are unsure how to remove the clamps, now is the time to check your owner’s manual. 

After removing the clamp, carefully pull the top section of your filter tank off. Next, remove all of the cartridge elements. A single, large cartridge element should lift straight out of the tank without the need to unfasten any attachments. However, if your model contains multiple, smaller filter elements, you may need to unfasten the attachments to remove them correctly. 

3. Check cartridges for wear and tear 

Regular pool maintenance will ensure that a quality pool cartridge filter lasts three to five years. However, environmental factors in your yard and the frequency of pool use can affect its lifespan, warranting an earlier replacement. You should always inspect cartridges for damage and wear. Look for cracks in the plastic, tears in the pleats, or any other signs of damage. If you see any type of damage, it is time to replace the cartridge. You want to ensure it can efficiently filter your pool water. 

4. Remove debris and silt

Make sure the spray nozzle is attached securely to your garden hose. Use a spray setting that is strong enough to wash away debris and spray the cartridge thoroughly. Start at the top of the cartridge and carefully work toward the bottom. Then, turn the cartridge upside down and repeat, ensuring you get between the pleats as you spray. 

An alternative method to the garden hose and spray nozzle is to use an air compressor. The concentrated stream of air can remove most dirt and debris, which can save you some water during the cleaning process as well. 

5. Deep cleaning time

After you remove larger debris with your garden hose, you will need to deep clean the filter. Finer, stickier substances such as sunscreen, body oils, and algae will likely have remained. This grime will continue to interfere with the filter’s efficiency, so you should take the extra time to deep clean the filter to ensure optimal performance. 

You can use a commercial cartridge cleaner or pool degreaser for deep cleaning. Depending on the brand, you may find these as separate products or combined into a single product. Following the manufacturer’s instructions, spray the product onto the cartridge, and leave it on for the entire time recommended. If your cartridge is extremely dirty, you may opt to soak it in the filter cleaner overnight in the 5-gallon bucket. After using the filter cleaner, use a soft bristle brush to scrub noticeably filthy areas lightly. Be cautious not to press too hard or tear the filter, and keep in mind that excessive brushing can wear down cartridge material. Finally, use your hose to rinse the filter clean. 

6. Mineral Removal 

This step will not be necessary for all pool owners. However, if you are cleaning your filter and notice rough, white blemishes on it, you likely have mineral build-up. This is caused by high amounts of calcium in your pool water. Mineral deposits are more common in areas of the country with hard water. The mineral deposits can clog your filter and compromise your filter’s permeability. Check your owner’s manual to ensure it does not advise against using muriatic acid, otherwise, this chemical can be diluted to clear mineral build-up.

When using muriatic acid, wear appropriate protective gear and follow instructions carefully. In a bucket, mix 30 parts of water and one part of muriatic acid. Place the cartridge in the acid bath. If you notice fizzing, it is the calcium reacting with the acid. Allow the filter to soak an additional fifteen minutes after the fizzing stops. As always, rinse your cartridge thoroughly with water. 

7. Reassemble the filter

Before returning the cartridge filter, check the O-ring on the filter tank. If it is dry-rotted or looks worn out, you need to replace it. However, if it still appears in good condition, apply a silicone-based lubricant to extend its life. Return the clean filter to the filter tank, replace the filter top firmly, and close the clamps. 

8. Check the pressure

Turn the air release valve back to the closed position. Turn on the pump. You want to make sure everything is functioning correctly. Open the air valve to release excess air. Water should consistently spray out of the valve if there is no air. Next, check the filter pressure to ensure it is within the ideal range for your filter when it is clean. If you notice the PSI is incorrect, it may just mean that you replaced the filter incorrectly. Make any adjustments necessary to ensure your PSI is in the normal range. 

Pool care is critical to keep your investment safe and functional

A pool is a high-quality investment, and it is essential to perform regular maintenance if you want it to run optimally all season. A routine pool cleaning schedule, the right maintenance procedures, and quality pool tools and supplies will make your investment go even further. ProTuff Products, with our lifetime guarantee, will help you get the job done right. In addition, properly caring for your pool will save on pool costs in the long run by preventing malfunctions or overworking the pump.

Of course, a clean filter means cleaner water and more pristine pool water is an invitation that most cannot resist. Contact us if you have questions about your ProTuff tools or questions about maintaining your pool. We know you have worked hard to make your pool a relaxing environment to enjoy with family and friends, and we want to help you keep it clean and welcoming all season long. 



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