How to Clean a Pool Filter Cartridge: A Clear Guide

Updated July 1, 2021
Man working on swimming pool

When it comes to how to clean a pool filter cartridge, it can be a little tricky the first time. Don't worry though, it's not anything you can't handle. But just in case you are worried, get a step-by-step guide for how to clean your pool filter cartridge easily.

Step-by-Step Guide to Cleaning a Pool Filter Cartridge

Pool filter cartridges are commonly found in above-ground swimming pools, and this type of pool is very appealing to families who cannot afford the money, space, or time that comes with an in-ground pool. Above-ground pools are also great for those who do not want the permanency of a traditional pool. However, while these are a bit less maintenance, you still have to clean and maintain them. Check out the steps to getting your pool filter cartridge looking like it was brand new.

Step One: Gather Your Supplies

The first step in how to clean a pool filter cartridge is grabbing your supplies. Having these on hand is going to make the process of getting your filter cartridge in tip-top shape so much easier.

Step Two: Turn Off the Pump

If you've never owned a pool with a filter cartridge before, turning off the pump is key. Why? Because if you don't, water comes shooting up at you, and the filter might too. Therefore, you always want to make sure you shut everything off first. It can be dangerous if you miss this step.

Step Three: Release the Air From the System

Once the pump is turned off, you can pull the little valve on the top to release the air. You'll want to pull or turn this slowly to give the air ample time to release.

Step Four: Pull Out the Filter

Once the air is released, you can safely uncap and pull your pool filter cartridge out. Expect the filter to be pretty dirty. It might have grass on it, algae, dirt, and more.

Step Five: Rinse the Filter Off

Before you begin to clean the filter, you need to see what you are working with. Take the hose and spray the big chunks off the filter. Spray the water at an angle to the pleats on the filter to help lift the gunk off. However, if you have the filter cartridge cleaner tool, put it on your hose and use this to get right into the pleats.

Step Six: Check the Filter for Damage

After you give it a good spray down, you can check it over for any damage, rips, holes, and tears. Cartridges can be used for quite a long time, but they do go bad after a few seasons. Typically, they can last for one to two years, but checking them for damage when you clean them is important.

Cartridge pool filter

Step Seven: Soak the Filter

If you have an extremely dirty filter, then a spray down isn't going to be enough to get all the dirt, grime, and gunk off it. In that case, you need to grab a cleaner. There are several soaks that you can create to clean a pool filter. Each one works a bit differently. However, remember to outfit yourself in gloves, a mask, and goggles when doing the soak in pool chemicals like chlorine and acid.

Pool Cleaner Soak

Follow the instructions on the package of the cleaner to create a pool filter cartridge solution.

  1. Douse the filter in the solution and cap the bucket with an airtight lid.
  2. Most large buckets can hold more than one filter if you have a pool with multiple filters.
  3. The soaking solution will kill any bacteria or microorganisms that are trapped inside the filter.
  4. Leave the filter soaking in the solution for the recommended time on the package.

Chlorine Soak

When it comes to a chlorine soak for your pool filter, you need to make sure you get pool chlorine and not cleaning chlorine. The strength of these two cleaners is different.

  1. Follow the instructions on the container for mixing the chlorine soak.
  2. It's important to follow the instructions carefully because too much chlorine can corrode your filter.
  3. Insert the filter and cap the bucket.
  4. Allow the cartridges to sit in the mixture for about 6-12 hours.

White Vinegar

If you have a lot of calcium build-up on your pool filter cartridge, then you might consider giving it a good white vinegar soak. When it comes to white vinegar, you can do a straight white vinegar soak for heavy calcium or a 1:1 soak with water.

  1. Add the white vinegar to the bucket.
  2. Add your pool filter cartridge.
  3. Seal the bucket and let it soak for a day or so.

Muriatic Acid

If your cartridges are just a nightmare with gunk and minerals, then you might try to clean them with muriatic acid.

  1. Create a 1 part muriatic acid to 20 parts water mixture.
  2. Add the pool cartridge.
  3. Allow it to soak for 10 minutes.
  4. Flip if it wasn't able to cover the entire cartridge and soak for another 10 minutes.

Step Eight: Check Filter Tank

While your filter is having a nice soak in your preferred cleaner, you can take this time to check out your filter tank. Check the O-ring to ensure that it's still in good condition and see if it needs to be lubricated.

Step Nine: Final Rinse

After you've let your filters soak for the recommended amount of time in the cleaners, it's time to give them a good rinse.

  1. With the lids on, agitate the filter in the bucket.
  2. Safely pull out the filter.
  3. Use the garden hose sprayer or filter cleaner attachment to spray all that broken-down dirt and algae off the filter.
  4. If any remnants of gunk are still stuck to the filter, you might want to give it another soak in your preferred mixture.

Step Ten: Allow the Filter to Dry

Before putting your filter back into the pool, let it dry. Put it out on a line or leave it on a porch to allow the filter pleats to completely dry. Once dry, give it a little shake to see if any remaining dirt or debris comes out.

Step Eleven: Put the Filter in the Tank

Now that you've got the filter completely clean, you can put it back into the tank. Remember to put the cap on and seal it. Then it's time to get swimming.

family plays in swimming pool

How Often Should You Clean Your Filter?

There isn't any straight answer when it comes to how often you should clean your pool filter cartridge. However, with normal use, you should expect to clean it about every three months. You might also want to consider cleaning it if your filter isn't working as well as it should.

Tips and Tricks for Cleaning Your Filter

Keep the following tips and tricks in mind to promote a safe and effective pool cleaning experience.

  • Chlorine and acid are very strong and can cause harm. Be careful not to spill or splash, and always restrict the access from children.
  • You can keep your buckets of chlorine and acid sealed tightly for reuse. Once the formulation is mixed, you can use it several times as long as it is stored tightly and safely enough to preserve the effectiveness of the chemicals.
  • Remember to add chemicals to the water, rather than water to the chemicals. This is both safer and more effective.

Pool Filter Cartridges Cleaning

Cleaning a cartridge pool filter can be a bit tricky if you have never done it before. However, now that you've got a step-by-step guide, you won't go wrong. Now get cleaning that pool!

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How to Clean a Pool Filter Cartridge: A Clear Guide