Your pool filter is essential for keeping your pool water safe and clean. There are several types of pool filters. One of these is a diatomaceous earth or DE filter. In this article, we’ll describe the steps for cleaning a DE filter.

DE Filters vs Other Types of Pool Filters

Whether you already have a pool and filter or are doing research on your options, it’s important to know the pros and cons of different types of filters. There are three main varieties of pool filters.

  • Sand Filters — These filters use sand to filter the pool water. Sand filters are inexpensive and relatively easy to maintain. However, they don’t filter as effectively as the other types of filters.
  • Cartridge Filters — Pool water passes through a filter element in the cartridge. You need to replace the cartridges every two to three years. Cartridge filters are able to filter smaller particles than a sand filter. However, they are also more expensive.
  • DE FiltersDE filters use diatomaceous earth, which consists of fossilized algae, to filter pool water. These filters are more effective than sand or cartridge filters, though they are also the costliest of the three.

Benefits of DE Filters

There are pros and cons to every type of pool filter. The following are the top benefits of DE filters.

  • They can filter particles as small as 2 microns. By comparison, sand filters can only filter up to 25 microns while cartridge filters collect particles as small as 15 microns. DE filters are many times more effective than cartridge or sand filters. The filtering capacity of any filter varies depending on the size and model.
  • They are energy-efficient. DE filters use much less pumping power than other types of filters. This type of filter will help you save on energy bills.
  • They are convenient. It’s fairly simple to add diatomaceous earth powder to the filter as needed.

While DE filters are a good investment for the above reasons, they do require a certain amount of maintenance. One of the most critical actions you need to take is to regularly clean your DE filter.

How to Know When It’s Time to Clean Your Filter

A common question pool owners have is how often should you clean your pool filter? This depends on several factors such as how often you use your pool. It also helps to maintain the proper pool chemistry. Keeping the right pH will help to keep the water cleaner.

Some pool owners clean their filters on a regular schedule, such as every month or every two to three months. However, it’s better to simply keep an eye on your system’s pressure gauge. If the PSI (pounds per square inch) is 8 to 10 above the normal reading, it’s time for a cleaning, but not before.

Clean too often and you’re simply losing efficiency. Clean too infrequently and you might be causing undue stress to pool equipment by allowing the pressure to rise too much.

Ideally, watch your PSI relatively closely for a while and mark on the calendar when you end up cleaning the filter due to that 10 PSI raise. After a while you’ll begin to see a pattern regarding approximately how long that takes, so you don’t have to keep quite as watchful an eye on the PSI gauge.

Equipment to Have Close By

To keep your pool at its best, you need the right equipment. It’s more convenient to stock up on the supplies you need before you need them so you’re always prepared. Our 7 Pool Tools you Can’t Go Without is a good place to start. However, you’ll need some special equipment for cleaning your DE filter.

Safety Gear

Diatomaceous earth can cause irritation to the skin and eyes when handled. Use a chemical mask, gloves, and safety goggles for protection. You will also need protection when handling substances such as muriatic acid and DE filter solution for deep cleaning.

Garden Hose

You’ll need a garden hose to wash the filter.

Backwash Hose

This hose is used to run the wastewater to a safe place such as a storm drain or sewer. Be sure to check local regulations for dumping dirty pool water. If your pool has a dedicated waste line, you won’t need to use a backwash hose.

A Wrench or Screwdriver

You may need a wrench to loosen the bolt on the filter’s clamp when you take it apart to clean it. For some models, you’ll need a screwdriver to loosen the screws.

Diatomaceous Earth

You’ll need to add fresh DE powder after cleaning. DE is used for several purposes and is available in different grades. Be sure to buy a high-grade quality DE made for pool filters.

A Large Bucket

A 5-gallon bucket will allow you to mix the DE with water.

Muriatic Acid

Muriatic acid, which is a diluted form of hydrochloric acid, is a solution used for cleaning. This is only needed for annual deep cleaning, used to remove debris from the filter grids.

DE Cleaning Solution

This is another product for deep cleaning the filter grids annually. These solutions generally come in a spray bottle so you can saturate the filter grids to remove grime.


This rubber ring, which prevents leakage from the tank, can last up to 7 years. However, backwashing and regular usage can wear them out more quickly. It’s good to have extra O-rings in case you need to replace one.

Cleaning a DE Filter: Step By Step

The following instructions are for regular cleanings, which are typically done every one to three months. Afterward, we’ll include instructions on doing an annual deep cleaning.

Turn Off the Pump

Always remember to shut off the pool pump. To clean the filter, you’ll need to change the settings on the multiport valve. If you don’t turn the pump off first, you risk doing serious damage to your system.

Connect the Backwash Hose

If your pool doesn’t have its own waste line, you’ll need to hook the backwash hose to the waste port on your filter. Make sure the wastewater will be released in a safe and legal spot.

Set the Multiport Valve to Backwash

With the pool filter off, adjust the setting on the multiport valve to Backwash.

Turn the Pump On

Let the filter backwash for at least three minutes or until the water turns clear. You don’t want to backwash for too long. Five minutes, at most, should be sufficient.

Turn the Pump Off

Once the backwashing is complete, turn the pump off again.

Let Excess Water Drain From the Tank

Open the air release valve and remove the drain plug, which allows any remaining water to drain from the tank.

Clean the Filter

Remove the clamp. You may need a wrench or screwdriver to loosen the bolt or screws holding things in place. Pull the lid off. Use a flat tool to pry it off if necessary.

Remove the manifold and remove each grid. Wash them thoroughly with a garden hose and be sure all debris is removed. Rinse out the inside of the tank as well. As you’ve already removed the drain plug, water will drain out.

Replace the Filter

Place the manifold and grids back into the tank. At this point, you should also clean and lubricate the tank’s O-ring. If this ring is torn or damaged in any way, it should be replaced. Put the filter tank lid back in place, making sure it’s secure.

Return Valve to Filter Position

Before adding fresh diatomaceous earth, you will have to return the valve to the “filter” setting. Then turn the pump on.

Add DE

After cleaning the filter, you have to add fresh diatomaceous earth. The amount you need depends on the size of your filter, so you should consult the manufacturer’s manual, website, or customer service if you’re not sure how much to add.

Put on your chemical-resistant gloves and mask before handling DE to avoid skin or eye irritation.

Mix the DE in a bucket with water to create a semi-liquid consistency, thin enough that it can be poured easily. You will then pour the mixture into your pool’s skimmer so it’s sucked into the system by the pump. Keep the pump running for at least 30 minutes to ensure the DE is absorbed.

Annual Deep Clean

It’s recommended that you clean your DE filter every one to three months. However, the system benefits by doing a deep clean annually. The filter grids accumulate mineral deposits, oils, and other debris that remain even after a normal cleaning with a hose. To perform a deep clean, do the following.

  • Perform all the steps of a typical cleaning: turn off the pump and take the filter apart.
  • Soak the filter grids in a solution of muriatic acid and water. The solution should be a 5:1 ratio of muriatic acid to water. Soaking the grids for at least an hour will remove mineral deposits and other debris. Afterward, rinse the grids thoroughly with a hose. Wear your protective gear when handling this solution as muriatic acid is harmful to the skin and eyes or if inhaled. Muriatic acid is effective for removing mineral deposits.
  • Apply a DE cleaning solution. These solutions are widely available and are effective for removing stains and oils. The DE filter cleaner will usually come with a sprayer that you can attach to the bottle. Spray evenly to coat the elements and then rinse clean.

Essential Resources For Pool Maintenance

To keep your pool in great condition, you need to provide it with the right type of maintenance, which includes cleaning your filter. ProTuff has a wide selection of products and resources to help you get it right.

Our Pool Maintenance Guide covers everything you need to know about maintaining your pool all year long.
When you own a pool, you need to invest in a variety of things to keep your pool up and running, safely. Some of these, such as pool insurance, a fence, and the cost of permits, may not be obvious to new pool owners. See our guide to hidden pool costs so you are prepared for all these less obvious expenses.

To learn more about our many products and educational resources for pool maintenance, contact us.

Disclaimer: Pool ownership and maintenance is very complicated, and we know every situation is unique. While we’ve done our best to cover the best practices here, we encourage you to reach out to ProTuff directly at with any specific questions you may have.

A Step-by-step Guide for Cleaning a DE Pool Filter
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