If you own and maintain a pool, you should know that cleaning your DE pool filter is as important to your pool’s maintenance as adding chemicals and other must-do tasks such as brushing walls and bottom surfaces.
It’s no wonder because as your pool pump runs, the entire liquid contents of your pool is meant to pass through your DE filter grids and back into your pool, hopefully cleaner than when it left.
It goes without saying that having clean DE filter grids is integral to this process!
Adding chemicals to your pool to help break down contaminants and dissolve other small matter along with backwashing your filter regularly, will make your DE filter cleaning capabilities more efficient and help the DE filter parts last longer.
In addition, there is one crucial task that should be done regularly: a thorough DE filter cleaning.
This article discusses how to clean your DE filter grids effectively so that your pool stays clean and your DE filter parts (and pump!) stay happy.
By the way, if you’re not sure you have a DE filter cleaning system, the easiest thing to do is check the labels on your filter tank in your pool equipment area. It should say D.E. or Diatomaceous Earth somewhere. If yours says cartridge or sand, then those are entirely different!
What You Need for DE Filter Cleaning
Here is a list of helpful items to have ready before setting out to clean your DE filter grids and parts.
Some are necessary, while others are entirely optional.
You’re bound to get a little wet and possibly in contact with filter gunk. (optional)
Old towels or heavy rags:
This is helpful if you want to wipe down the filter tank and other parts or pipes. (optional)
It’s important to keep your DE filter tank’s O-ring (between the lid and tank) lubricated so the lid comes on/off easier.
Garden hose and sprayer:
This is the key to cleaning your DE filter grids and fingers. Have a good sprayer that isn’t too hard to trigger, so your hand doesn’t get tired!
As you spray off your DE filters, the run-off needs to go somewhere. In most cases, it can be good fertilizer for your lawn or garden. If you have drainage in your yard, that would be better; otherwise, you don’t want to be standing in the same place too long where it can become swamped. More on this below.
Depending on how dirty the DE filters are, this project may take a couple hours or more. Plus some DE filter parts can be difficult to remove and replace, so a cool head is helpful!
Nice, sunny day:
You definitely don’t want to do this in the rain! Good light also helps you catch all the nooks and crannies of your filters as you clean them by hand.
Your filter’s manual:
Since brands and models can vary, not all of the information in this article will match or pertain to your particular setup. So, it will be nice to consult your manual if available. Visit manufacturer’s sites such as for Hayward filters or Pentair filters for more information. (optional)
Ok, let’s get started on how to clean a DE filter!
Step 1: Remove DE Filter Tank Lid
Believe it or not, this is can be a difficult step when doing DE filter cleaning. Getting the lid back on can be even more challenging, but more on that later!
The lid obviously fits over your tank tightly and is held down by the pressure inside your DE filter cleaning system.
To remove the lid properly and safely, you need to outsmart it.
Next, loosen(but don’t remove – this is important!) the lid’s collar or clamp. If you have a screw-down version, loosen the screws.
Now, turn on your pump. The pressure from the water should “pop” the lid loose but not off – that would be dangerous to say the least.
Completely undo the collar or clamp from the tank, lift off the lid and set it aside.
Step 2: Remove DE Filter Grids to Be Cleaned
At this point, you now see for the first time the DE filters to be cleaned.
Don’t be alarmed if you see a lot of yucky stuff in there. It all comes off pretty easily and your filters will look like new again soon!
Depending on your model you’ll need to loosen and remove a manifold on top of the collection of filters.
Then, with two hands (preferably gloved for a better grip as the grids may be slimy), grab the filters one-by-one and carefully lift out.
Often, unseating them from their connections below is more about just the right move and pulling straight up rather than bruit force.
Try different techniques if you meet resistance, then stick with what works. Never force anything too hard or use tools, as this could damage parts–trust me, these things aren’t cheap!
As you pull, release and lift out each filter, set them aside either by stacking or leaning them up against a stable object.
You may want to consider placing them in an empty trash bin to keep them contained, as they may be dripping with gunky liquid. When you’re ready, move your filters to an open area where you can hose them down.
Step 3: Thoroughly Wash and Clean DE Filter Grids and Parts
The easiest way to get the gunk out of your DE filters and rinse out most stains is with a garden hose.
You’ll definitely want to use a sprayer and have good water pressure, although a pressure-washer type intensity is not necessary.
Using common sense, simply spray down the enter surface area of each DE filter grid until it’s clean. If you don’t have an easy place for the runoff to to go, i.e. a large area of lawn or garden space or an irrigation drainage system, you can try spraying down each grid in a large trash or yard bin.
Tip: be sure to spray from both the outside (as the water flows through the filter when in operation) AND from the inside out, as in the case when you backwash filters.
Run the water down the appropriate openings and let it pour out of the filters.
Note: Be careful not to bang or let heavy-pressure sprays hit the plastic grids within the filters. These aren’t as strong as you might think and can actually break apart irreparably.
Soak your filters for a deeper cleaning:
As you thoroughly spray and clean the DE filter material, you may notice some spots that appear clean, but are stained a light brown or brownish green. Again, this depends on how long it’s been since cleaning your DE filters or how much algae your pools normally has.
Nevertheless, oils, such as from sunscreens, get caught up in the filters and may not come off easily. One recommendation for this is to use a DE filter cleaner to penetrate and remove stubborn stains. Products such as this usually require an overnight soaking in a large bucket or can to get the filters cleaned.
They may not brighten up perfectly, but a good cleaner can help get oily, greasy remnants off and prolong the life of your equipment.
Step 4: Replace Clean DE Filter Grids
When you’re ready (and satisfied your DE filters are as clean as they can get!), bring them back to your filter tank.
You do not need to let them dry. Before placing them back into the tank though, it’ll be a good idea to rinse out your filter tank.
This is done by putting it in “Backwash” mode (pump off) and running your hose down into the tank until it is clean of all mucky water and other debris.
Now, simply pop each of your clean DE filters back into their positions, then replace the manifold as it was when you removed it.
Step 5: Replace DE Filter Tank Lid
This step can be tricky because in many cases you need to ensure the lid is properly aligned, and you need a tremendous amount of pressure to “pull” the lid back into place.
Some keys to remember are to ensure your pool filter tank’s o-ring is clean and adequately lubricated with a silicone ointment. If the O-ring is cracking or damaged in any way, be sure to replace it.
Here’s the trick on how to get the filter lid back on:
Set your lid evenly on the top of the tank. Ensure that your manual air-relief valve is closed. Since it many cases, it’s impossible to just press or push the lid back down, we need to create the pressure to suck it down.
We do this by turning on the pump to your pool system and letting the tank fill up with water up until the level is about an inch from the brim. You’ll need to lift the lid slightly to check this.
As quickly as possible, turn off your pump and ensure the lid is resting evenly on top.
As the water in the tank starts to drain back into the pool it will create a vacuum near the top of the tank. This vacuum’s force will literally suck the lid down, over the o-ring and down into place.
Don’t worry if it takes a couple tries to get this just right. When you’re successful, reconnect your tank’s collar/clamp and tighten it down. You’re done!
Be sure to add back in the appropriate amount of D.E. filter powder since your filters have been completely cleaned of it.
How Often Should I Clean My DE Filter Grids?
This all depends on a few factors. As with any pool or spa, if you use it a lot, then there’s that much more contaminants to be caught in the filter.
If you remember to backwash at least once a month during the usage season, you may be able to get by with a once per year filter cleaning.
If, however, you live in an area where you potentially use the pool year round or you have a lot of foliage around your pool, you’ll need to do it at least every six months.
And of course, if you skimp on pool chems, have frequent algae growth that you’re constantly brushing, then you’ll need to clean your DE filters more often such as every 2-3 months.