Is A Pool Filter Cartridge Cleaner Worth It?

Is A Pool Filter Cartridge Cleaner Worth It?

Cartridge filter systems are one of the main styles of pool filters that are commonly used by pool owners. One major advantage they have over other common styles (sand filters and D.E. being the other two) is that cartridge filters require no regular backwashing.

Cartridge filters need rinsing every so often to clean the cartridges themselves and wash out the contaminants they have collected. A filter cleaner further removes oils and other contaminants that simply rinsing with a hose may not.

A cartridge filter cleaner is typically a liquid sold in a bottle that gets added to a bucket of water to soak cartridges to clean them properly. We’ll explain full steps below and how it helps to deep clean your cartridges.

How Cartridge Filters Are Cleaned

How do you know when to clean your filter cartridges?

The two best ways to quickly check:

  • Pressure gauge: Familiarize yourself with the pressure gauge on your filter. Pressure increases as the cartridges get full of debris. Filters can vary but 8 Psi – 10 Psi is normal for a clean cartridge filter. When the Psi is higher than 25, it’s usually a sign that cartridges need rinsing.
  • Water returns: Put your hand in front of a water return in your pool with the pump running. A weak water flow can indicate the cartridges are dirty. This assumes you don’t have another problem such as a water leak and that the valves are fully open.

Cartridge filters usually need rinsing perhaps one to two times per pool season. You shut the pump down, release the pressure, open the filter housing, remove the cartridges and rinse them out with a garden hose. Filter models can differ so follow the manufacturer’s instructions when taking the filter housing apart.

You want to wash all the individual cartridge pleats that have collected debris from the pool water.

You can wash out the filter housing too as it will often collect sand and other debris that settles to the bottom. There is usually a screw valve at the bottom of the housing that you can remove to wash away all the junk sitting at the bottom. Over time, it can get quite dirty mostly with sand and perhaps dead worms.

The problem is that simple rinsing of cartridges may look sufficient, but there might be many contaminants that remain. Over time these will negatively impact filter performance.

How A Cartridge Filter Cleaner Helps

A pool filter cartridge cleaner can be a helpful tool for keeping your pool water clean and clear. Over time, the filter cartridges in your pool can become clogged with debris, which can lead to reduced water flow and decreased filtration efficiency. This can result in cloudy water, algae growth, and even bacterial infections.

Oils and pollen can stick to the pleating of your cartridges and your garden hose’s water spray might not remove all of them. You might not even see contaminants that remain after you’ve rinsed cartridges.

So adding a filter cleaner to your cleaning regimen can help to remove more contaminants from them.

How To Use A Cartridge Filter Cleaner

Here are the general steps for using a bottle of cartridge filter cleaner for your pool:

  1. Turn off the pool pump: To begin, turn off the pool pump. Then open the pressure release valve to begin to depressurize the housing. Follow the instructions on your filter model.
  2. Remove the cartridge filters: First remove the filter housing. Then remove the cartridges filter from the filter housing, and rinse off any loose debris or dirt with a hose. Give the cartridges a really good cleaning before using the filter cleaner. Basically, I’d give the cartridges the same quality cleaning you’d normally do.
  3. Mix the cartridge filter cleaner: Follow the instructions on the bottle of cartridge filter cleaner to mix the solution with the appropriate amount of water in a container large enough to hold your cartridge(s). I use a clean garbage bin because my Sta-Rite filter has one very large outer cartridge and a smaller inner one.
  4. Soak the filter cartridges: Place the filter cartridges in your bucket. Ensure the cartridges are completely covered with water. You might need more than one bottle of filter cleaner.
  5. Let it soak: Allow the filter cartridges to soak for the recommended time (usually up to 12 hours) to allow the cleaner to dissolve and loosen any remaining debris or dirt.
  6. Rinse the filter cartridges: After the soaking time is complete, remove the filter cartridges from the bucket and rinse it thoroughly with a hose to remove any remaining debris and the cleaning solution.
  7. Reinstall the filter cartridge: Once the filter cartridge is clean and dry, reinsert it back into the filter housing and reassemble the housing according to model instructions. Turn on the pool pump.
  8. Run the pump: Run the pump for at least several hours to ensure that the filter is working properly and that the water is circulating and filtering effectively. Remember that if you’ve had the cartridges soaking for up to 12 hours, you haven’t filtered or produced chlorine during this time so you need to catch up.
  9. Repeat as needed: Depending on the condition of your pool and the frequency of use, you may need to repeat this process every few months or more often to keep your filter cartridges clean and functioning properly.

Always follow the specific instructions on the bottle of cartridge filter cleaner you are using, as they may vary slightly between brands and products.

In terms of when to soak the filters, I do it overnight since the pool isn’t being used and the sun is down, so chlorine requirements are lower at that time.

Here's example of a common type of filter medium found in Hayward systems for example. Two long thin pleated filter cartridges.
Here’s example of a common type of filter medium found in Hayward systems for example. Two long thin pleated filter cartridges. These two look new because once they start getting used, they won’t be white for long.

Ingredients Commonly Found in Cartridge Filter Cleaners

The specific ingredients in a cartridge filter cleaner for a pool can vary depending on the brand and type of product you are using. However, most cartridge filter cleaners contain a combination of chemicals that are designed to dissolve and remove dirt, debris, oils, and other contaminants from the filter cartridges.

Some of the common ingredients found in cartridge filter cleaners include:

  1. Surfactants: These are compounds that help to break down and emulsify oils and other organic materials on the filter cartridge.
  2. Oxidizers: These are chemicals that help to remove bacteria, algae, and other microorganisms from the filter.
  3. Acids: Some cartridge filter cleaners may contain mild acids, such as citric acid or hydrochloric acid, to help dissolve mineral buildup and other deposits on the filter.
  4. Enzymes: Some filter cleaners contain enzymes that help to break down organic matter on the filter and improve its overall performance.
  5. Chelating agents: These are chemicals that help to remove metal ions and other contaminants from the filter.
  6. Alkaline builders: These are chemicals that help to neutralize acidic compounds on the filter, which can help improve its overall performance and lifespan.

Final thoughts

A cartridge filter cleaner is a relatively cheap way to potentially extend the shelf life of your cartridge mediums. A bottle is much cheaper than having to prematurely replace the cartridges, that’s for sure.

A quart or 1L bottle of filter cleaner is about $10 so even if you need 2 bottles for a mid season filter cleaning, it’s a cheap way to ensure better water filtration.

Final word: Can you use a high pressure washer to rinse the cartridges? It’s recommended that you avoid using one as it can damage the pleating.

Carl Mueller

I bought a home with a salt water pool in 2006 and soon realized the benefits over traditional chlorinated pools. On this website I'll discuss all the tips and tricks I've learned over the years. I'll also help you troubleshoot various problems with pools in general and ones specific to salt water pools that I've experienced personally!

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