Cartridge filters are the most common and best pool filters systems. They offer easy cleaning, reliable micron density, and simple maintenance procedures.
However, far too many cartridge filters are on the market to know which is best for your pool. Choosing the wrong filter can result in algae blooms, broken cartridges, and more.
The best pool filter cartridge is the Pentair Clean & Clear 320 Filter. This durable filter is designed to withstand direct heat and up to 120 GPM. It includes a one-year warranty, four high-quality cartridges, and an adjustable pressure gauge. You can use it with any in-ground equipment pad.
Depending on your situation, you might prefer one of the following best pool filter cartridge instead:
- If you have a large pool, try the Hayward SwimClear 525 Filter.
- Those with small in-ground pools should get the Pentair Clean & Clear 150 Filter.
- The best option for above-ground pools is the Intex Krystal-Clear Filter.
- If you deal with constant algae, opt for the Hayward SwimClear 425 Filter.
- The top pump-filter combo is the Hayward XStream Above-Ground Filter.
- For a user-friendly setup, get the Jandy CS200 Filter.
In this post, I’ll break down what you need to look for in a new cartridge filter and give a review for each of the abovementioned filters. Enjoy!
What to Look for in a Pool Cartridge Filter
Choosing the right cartridge filter can make your pool much easier to maintain. Cartridge filters are easy to clean, but they often come in sets. Some filters have four cartridges; others have one or two. Numerous variables determine how well your filter cleans the water and handles the pump’s pressure.
Here’s what you need to know before choosing a cartridge filter:
- Square footage: Regardless of its media, every pool filter has a square footage capacity. The square footage determines how much pool the filter can clean in a designated time. If your filter is too small, it won’t clean the pool; if it’s too big, you’ll have spent too much on it.
- Unions and plumbing: Some filters are designed for in-ground pools, whereas others are for above-ground pools. Check the unions if they’re made for corrugated plastic or PVC pipes. Never choose a filter with copper plumbing (they’re extremely rare and completely useless with modern pool plumbing).
- Gallons per minute: Much like the filter’s square footage, the GPM relates to the pool’s gallon total. This metric determines how much water goes through the filter each minute. If the filter’s GPM is too low or too high, you won’t get enough filtration, and the water will look cloudy and dirty.
These three factors play a significant role in your chosen cartridge filter. Let’s take a deeper look at each of these details below to help you understand what to keep an eye out for.
Choose a cartridge filter with square footage that’s about 100 sq. ft. per 10,000 gallons. This ratio will help you get a sizeable filter to handle the incoming pressure and debris without breaking the bank. However, you can go overboard if you deal with a lot of algae, pets, people, and natural debris in the water.
Here’s a brief range recommendation for each filter square footage:
|Pool Gallon Total||Minimum Square Footage||Maximum Square Footage|
|5,000||50 sq. ft.||100 sq. ft.|
|10,000 gallons||100 sq. ft.||150 sq. ft.|
|15,000 gallons||150 sq. ft.||250 sq. ft.|
|25,000 gallons||250 sq. ft.||450 sq. ft.|
|35,000+ gallons||350 sq. ft.||550 sq. ft.|
If you don’t want to get the highest square footage recommendation available, you could pair your filter with a pool vacuum for algae. Fine mesh filters trap all sorts of debris, lowering the contaminants that get into the filter.
Using a pool vacuum can make your cartridge filter last much longer. It reduces the chances of wear and tear ripping the pleats, and shredding the bands.
Pro Tip: Always ensure your pump’s GPM is close to the filter’s GPM. If the pump’s GPM is higher than the filter’s GPM, it could send the pressure gauge much higher than it needs to be. This isn’t much of an issue if you have a variable-speed pump since you can lower the RPMs, thus reducing the GPM.
Unions and Plumbing
There are two things your new cartridge filter has to have when it comes to the unions and plumbing:
- The unions need to be the right size for the plumbing. For example, if you have 2-inch PVC pipes, the unions must be big enough to fix them. You’ll need an adapter if they’re too small or too big. Union adapters limit the water flow, so I recommend against using them if possible.
- Your cartridge filter needs to have the right plumbing. If you have PVC pipes, the unions need to fit them. If your equipment pad uses corrugated plastic hoses, you’ll need the correct size and bands. It’s nearly impossible to fit PVC to corrugated plastic hoses without leaking water everywhere.
In-ground pools usually have PVC pipes, whereas above-ground pools typically have corrugated plastic hoses. There are some exceptions, but they’re few and far between. Very few pool filters can be used with PVC or corrugated hoses; They usually work with either/or. You typically can’t change your pool’s plumbing since it depends on the suction and return lines.
Another thing to consider is the filter’s union orientation. Some unions are right next to each other, while others are on opposite sides of the filter. Some unions are on top; others are on the bottom. While this feature is rarely a deal-breaker, it can help you choose between two filters with similar features.
For example, the Hayward SwimClear series has unions with one on top of the other. This orientation makes it easy to plumb if you have a small equipment pad. On the other hand, the Pentair Clean & Clear series has unions on exact opposite sides. This orientation is better for those who want a neat, easy installation.
Gallons Per Minute (GPM)
A cartridge filter’s gallons per minute (GPM) shows how much water it can filter each minute. This number is often multiplied by 60 to determine how efficient it is over an hour. For example, a 100 GPM filter can clean up to 6,000 gallons per hour. If you have an 18,000-gallon pool, filtering all the water will take three hours.
The filter’s GPM is crucial for removing algae, dissolving chemicals, and ensuring you run the pump long enough. I often suggest people run their pump enough for one to two full cycles each day during the summer. However, one cycle daily during the winter is enough for most swimming pools.
Your filter’s GPM should match the pump’s GPM. These numbers don’t have to be exact, but a close match is preferred. The good news is that you can get a high-quality variable-speed pump to adjust the RPMs and GPM to the desired total. Depending on their speeds, variable-speed pumps can push hundreds of gallons per minute or less than 50.
Remember these GPM facts:
- The filter’s size doesn’t always determine the GPM.
- Some filters can handle high GPM but not a lot of PSI.
- Always choose a filter that can cycle the pool’s gallon total within five to six hours.
- I’d suggest steering clear cartridge filters with a GPM below 100.
Without further ado, I’ll dive into the best pool cartridge filters below!
Our Top Choices
- Best Overall: Pentair Clean & Clear 320 Filter
- Best for Large Pools: Hayward SwimClear 525 Filter
- Best for Small In-Ground Pools: Pentair Clean & Clear 150 Filter
- Best for Above-Ground Pools: Intex Krystal-Clear Filter
- Best for Pools with Algae Blooms: Hayward SwimClear 425 Filter
- Best Pump-Filter Combo: Hayward XStream Above-Ground Filter
- Best User-Friendly Filter: Jandy CS200 Filter
Best Overall: Pentair Clean & Clear 320 Filter
The Pentair Clean & Clear 320 Filter is my top choice because it includes four high-end cartridges and a footprint similar to all other Pentair filters. The high and low suction and return lines make it fit into almost any equipment pad easily. It also has a secure body band to prevent the filter from leaking.
Pentair designed this cartridge filter will all pool sizes in mind. It comes in multiple sizes, all with the signature Pentair beige appearance. This durable fiberglass exterior is designed to withstand years of direct sunlight without leaking or corroding. Furthermore, many parts are universal, making it easy to find replacements.
The company provides a one-year warranty with this filter, though I doubt you’ll need it. My experience with the Pentair Clean & Clear series shows it’s one of the most reliable filters. It’s hard to find a comparable quad-cartridge filter for such an affordable price. Cleaning this filter is as easy as removing the band, spraying the cartridges, and replacing the band.
Bottom Line: The Pentair Clean & Clear 320 Filter is my top choice and will likely be for many years. It’s beginner-friendly while maintaining expert-level cleaning and filtration. The high-sitting pressure gauge is easily read and has an adjustable meter. It tells you when it needs to be cleaned, removing all guesswork.
|Square Footage||320 sq. ft.|
|Gallons Per Minute||120 GPM|
- Includes four high-end cartridges per filter
- Comes with an adjustable pressure gauge
- Adds a one-year warranty for replacement parts and repairs
- Very easy to install compared to other quad-cartridge filters
- Only needs to be cleaned once every couple of months
- The kit doesn’t include unions, so you must buy them separately if necessary.
Best for Large Pools: Hayward SwimClear 525 Filter
The Hayward SwimClear 525 Filter is a tank of a filtration system. This bulk filter is a quad-cartridge setup, much like the previously mentioned Pentair filter. However, it can filter up to 525 square feet, making it ideal for the biggest pools on the market. It can be used for residential and commercial pools without a problem.
One of my favorite features of the Hayward SwimClear series is the union placement. The inlet and outlet unions are right next to each other, making it extremely easy to plumb into your equipment pad. The unions are labeled to prevent confusion and help you know how the water flows through the filter.
Unlike most high-capacity cartridge filters, this one isn’t much bigger than the average setup. The low-profile design keeps the filter manageable, preventing you from having to bear hug the filter lid to remove it. You only need a pipe wrench to remove the body band and clean the filters with a garden hose.
Bottom Line: The Hayward SwimClear 525 Filter is the top choice for people with large swimming pools because it can handle a higher GPM and RPM than anything on the market. This filtration system is easy to clean, clears the pool in a few hours, and doesn’t need cartridge replacements more than once every few years.
|Square Footage||525 sq. ft.|
|Gallons Per Minute||150 GPM|
- Can handle the biggest swimming pool pumps on the market
- Close union placement makes it very easy to install
- Maintains a low-profile design for simple management and maintenance
- Filters up to 150 gallons per minute (9,000 gallons per hour)
- Large, high-quality cartridges only need to be replaced once every three to five years
- It’s far too large for most small to mid-sized pools.
Best for Small In-Ground Pools: Pentair Clean & Clear 150 Filter
If you have an in-ground pool at or below 15,000 gallons, I recommend the Pentair Clean & Clean 150 Filter. This filter is small enough to fit on almost any equipment pad but packs a punch. The tall, bulky cartridge pulls countless particles of bacteria and debris from the water in less than an hour each cycle.
The Pentair Clean & Clear 150 Filter is a single-cartridge version of the previously mentioned Pentair 320 Filter. Rather than four 80 sq. ft. cartridges, it uses one massive 150 sq. ft. cartridge. However, it provides the same bands and pleats for high-quality filtration. You can pair it with a water clarifier for up to four times the cleaning power.
I often recommend the Clean & Clear 150 Filter to beginners because it’s straightforward. The pressure gauge is on the left side, and the air relief valve is on the right. Twist the ergonomic valve to release all the air from the system without harming the pressure gauge. The separated design is unique and prevents the gauge’s glass cover from breaking.
Bottom Line: It’s hard to go wrong with any Pentair Clean & Clear filter. The company’s 150 sq. ft. cartridge filter is the perfect fit for small in-ground pools, though it can be used with above-ground pools that use PVC plumbing. The pressure gauge and air relief valve are also designed with the customer in mind.
|Square Footage||150 sq. ft.|
|Gallons Per Minute||150 GPM|
- Perfect for pools up to 15,000 gallons
- Easy to clean the cartridge and remove air bubbles from the system
- Comes with Pentair’s reliable manufacturer warranty
- Filters an impressive 150 GPM (much higher than most small filters)
- Narrow, sleek design lets you plumb it into almost any equipment pad
- Uses low-sitting unions that can be difficult to reach in crowded equipment pads
- Comes with a plastic body ring that’s not as durable as the band on other Pentair filters
Best for Above-Ground Pools: Intex Krystal-Clear Filter
Intex makes several swimming pools and high-quality above-ground equipment. The Intex Krystal-Clear Filter is a compact, low-profile, beginner-friendly filter that gets the job done. This filter can clean most small pools within two hours despite its small size. It has a massive 1,000 GPM rating.
This cartridge filter uses corrugated plastic hoses and metal rings to fit into the plumbing. You can also use the provided plastic clamps to prevent leaks and cracks. You can set the built-in timer between two to ten hours for an automatic daily filtration setup. There’s also a manual option if you don’t want to run it every day.
This compact filter has a built-in motor, removing the need for a pump. Remember that it’s made for pools of around 500 to 1,000 gallons. However, this unique combo saves space and energy. You can also choose from a variety of sizes ranging from 330 GPM to 2,500 GPM, depending on your pool’s gallon total.
Bottom Line: The Intex Krystal-Clear Filter is a top choice for small above-ground pools. It doesn’t have the same muscle as bigger filters, but you don’t need more than this filter if your pool is smaller than 1,000 gallons. Set the timer and enjoy this hands-free filter for your above-ground pool.
|Square Footage||N/A (designed for inflatable pools)|
|Gallons Per Minute||1,000 GPM|
- Compact filter-pump combo is ideal for blow-up pools
- Uses small single-use filters that don’t need to be cleaned often
- Filters up to 1,000 gallons per minute with a powerful motor
- Budget-friendly price doesn’t overshadow the pool’s cost
- Comes in a wide variety of sizes
- You have to replace the cartridge once every two to four weeks.
- The provided plastic clips are fragile (I suggest metal clamps).
Best for Pools with Algae Blooms: Hayward SwimClear 425 Filter
The Hayward SwimClear 425 Filter is my top suggestion for people with algae blooms and organic matter in their pools. This filter is ideal for pools between 25,000 to 35,000 gallons. However, you could use it with a 20,000-gallon pool with tons of dirt, pet hair, pollen, and other natural debris nearby.
The simple quad-cartridge setup is my favorite part of the SwimClear 425’s design. Removing the body ring reveals four identical cartridges with a durable manifold to hold them in place. Remove the manifold, spray the cartridges, and place them back into the filter’s body. Cleaning this high-end filter takes less than 15 minutes.
Much like most other filters in Hayward’s SwimClear series, this one has the unions right next to each other. You don’t have to worry about making complex plumbing configurations. You’ll also enjoy the air relief lever that doesn’t require touching or scratching the pressure gauge. Everything on this filter is designed to last.
Bottom Line: The Hayward SwimClear 425 Filter removes algae like no other filter. It’s durable, long-lasting, and great at clearing the pool in less than a day. Flip the small pressure lever to get rid of all of the air in the plumbing for seamless, high-quality water flow.
|Square Footage||425 sq. ft.|
|Gallons Per Minute||150 GPM|
- Comes with four durable, high-quality cartridges
- Easy to install into your pool’s plumbing
- Separate pressure gauge and air relief valve prevents unwanted damage
- Durable filter tank withstands direct heat and pool chemical exposure
- Includes all of the necessary unions, gauges, etc.
- Fiberglass gets itchy after about 5 to 7 years of use.
Best Pump-Filter Combo: Hayward XStream Above-Ground Filter
If you’re looking for a high-end pump-filter combo that can handle a lot of PSI and GPM, try the Hayward XStream Above-Ground Filter. This impressive combo combines Hayward’s reputable, long-lasting cartridge filter designs with a top-of-the-line pump. The pump is a 1.5 HP PowerFlo Matrix, which is one of Hayward’s best sellers.
One of the best features of this filter is that you don’t need special tools to remove the body ring. It has textured handles to help you pull it off when the pump isn’t on. Remove the lid to reveal and clean the cartridge, then seal it until it can’t turn anymore. This setup has a built-in pressure gauge and a pressure relief nozzle.
You can use this setup with PVC or corrugated hoses, making it extremely unique. Almost every filter and pump on the market is only compatible with one or the other. Each cartridge is designed to get evenly coated rather than concentrating and damaging the bands or pleats.
Bottom Line: There aren’t too many pump-filter combos that compare to this one. The XStream series offers multiple sizes of GPMs, RPMs, and PSI capabilities. Furthermore, it offers debris baskets, long-lasting air relief valves, and unique locking mechanisms to prevent leaks and the need for tools.
|Square Footage||150 sq. ft.|
|Gallons Per Minute||120 GPM|
- Compatible with corrugated plastic hoses and PVC pipes
- Includes a 1.5HP pump and a 120 GPM cartridge filter
- Easy locking mechanism prevents the need for pipe wrenches
- Low-profile design makes it easy to maintain and clean the filter
- Available in multiple sizes to accommodate any above-ground pool
- Built-in pressure gauge can’t be removed, which means you have to replace the whole upper body if it breaks
- Small pump basket needs to be cleaned frequently
Best User-Friendly Filter: Jandy CS200 Filter
Jandy’s CS200 Filter is an excellent choice for those who don’t want complex designs. Whether this is your first pool filter or you don’t want to spend too much time plumbing and cleaning the cartridge, this could be the perfect match. It has a long, narrow body that makes it much easier to handle than bulky filter bodies.
Perhaps the best feature of this filter is that it has a tall cartridge. The debris evenly coats the cartridge, preventing too much debris from hitting one spot over another. You won’t have to deal with broken bands, torn pleats, and damaged plastic nearly as often. Furthermore, the locking ring seals everything without a washer.
The CS200’s UV-resistant tank is designed to withstand heat, chemicals, and direct sunlight for several hours each day. It’s made to last as long as the internal components, which means the only thing you’ll need to replace on a schedule is the filter (which typically lasts between three to five years). The universal pressure gauge can be replaced with any top-down meter.
|Square Footage||200 sq. ft.|
|Gallons Per Minute||125 GPM|
- Made with durable materials to prevent frequent replacements
- Includes a large drain to remove all of the water from the filter in minutes
- Uses a childproof locking clip to keep the body ring from opening on accident
- Maintains a narrow profile to fit into almost any equipment pad
- Comes in multiple sizes ranging from 100 sq. ft. to 250 sq. ft.
- Comes with a plastic air relief valve, but you can replace it with a metal one
- Uses high-low unions that could be challenging to plumb into the equipment pad
Other type of pool filter
Best pool filter sand
Here is a brief overview of the three main types of pool filter sand and their advantages and disadvantages.
Silica pool filter sand is the most common and affordable type of pool filter sand. It is made from ground quartz and has rough edges that help trap dirt and debris in the water. Silica sand can filter particles as small as 20 microns, about 0.0008 inches. However, silica sand may also clump together and clog your filter over time, requiring more frequent backwashing and replacement.
Zeolite pool filter sand is a natural mineral that comes from volcanic rock. It has a higher filtering capacity than silica sand, as it can capture particles as small as 10 microns. Zeolite sand also can bind with chloramines, byproducts of chlorine that irritate your eyes and skin. Using zeolite sand, you can reduce the chlorine needed to sanitize your pool. However, zeolite sand is more expensive than silica sand and may need to be replaced more often.
Glass pool filter sand is a recycled product made from crushed glass. It is the most effective pool filter sand, removing particles as small as 3 to 5 microns. Glass sand also prevents algae growth and bacteria buildup in your pool, as it does not absorb any organic matter. Glass sand is also eco-friendly and lasts longer than silica or zeolite sand. However, glass sand is the most costly pool filter sand and may be harder to find in some areas.
Best sand filter for above ground pool
A sand filter is a good choice for an above ground pool, as it can keep the water clean and clear with minimal maintenance.
Here are some features of the Intex Krystal Clear Sand Filter Pump. It’s the best above ground pool filter.
- It has a flow rate of 2,800 gallons per hour and can handle pools up to 24 feet in diameter.
- It has a 6-function control valve lets you switch between filtering, backwashing, rinsing, recirculating, draining and closing the system.
- It has a built-in timer that allows you to set the operating hours of the pump.
- It has a 25-foot power cord, two 1.5-inch hoses, and a strainer basket that catches large debris before reaching the sand filter.
Best way to clean pool filters
Pool filters are essential for keeping your pool water clean and clear. However, over time, they can get clogged with dirt, debris, and algae, which can reduce their efficiency and cause problems for your pool. To maintain your pool filters in good condition, you should clean them regularly by following these steps:
- Turn off the pool pump and disconnect the power supply.
- Remove the filter cartridge or element from the filter housing.
- Rinse the filter with a garden hose to remove loose dirt or debris.
- Soak the filter in a bucket of water mixed with a filter cleaner product for the recommended time. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and wear gloves and eye protection when handling the product.
- Rinse the filter again with clean water to remove any residue from the cleaner.
- Let the filter dry completely before reinstalling it in the filter housing.
- Turn on the pool pump and check for any leaks or signs of damage.
You should replace your filters when they show signs of wear and tear, such as tears, cracks, or holes. A clean and well-functioning pool filter will help you enjoy your pool for years.
What are the best pool filters?
Choosing the best pool filter for your swimming pool is an important decision that affects the water quality, maintenance costs and energy efficiency of your pool system. There are three main types of pool filters: sand, cartridge and diatomaceous earth (DE). Each has advantages and disadvantages, depending on your pool size, usage and budget.
What are the features of the best pool filters?
If you are looking for the best pool filters, you must consider several factors affecting their performance and durability.
Some of the features that you should look for are:
- The type of filter media: There are different types of filter media, such as sand, cartridge, diatomaceous earth (DE), and glass. Each has advantages and disadvantages, depending on the size and type of particles you want to remove from your pool water. Sand filters are the most common and affordable but require frequent backwashing and may not catch very fine particles. Cartridge filters are easy to maintain and trap smaller particles but must be replaced regularly. DE filters are the most effective in filtering out microscopic debris, but they are more expensive and require special handling of the DE powder. Glass filters are a newer option that offer similar benefits as DE filters, but with less maintenance and environmental impact.
- The size and flow rate of the filter: The size and flow rate of the filter determine how much water it can process in a given time. A larger filter can handle more water and provide better filtration, but it also costs more and takes up more space. A smaller filter may be cheaper and more compact, but it may not be able to keep up with the demand of your pool. You should choose a filter that matches the size and capacity of your pool pump and the volume and turnover rate of your pool water.
- The ease of installation and cleaning: The best pool filters should be easy to install and clean, without requiring too much time or effort. You should look for a filter with a simple design, clear instructions, and convenient features such as pressure gauges, drain plugs, air relief valves, and handles. You should also check how often you need to clean or replace the filter media and how easy it is to access and remove them.
These are some of the features you should look for when choosing the best pool filters. You can find the one that suits your needs and budget by comparing different models and brands.
What are the benefits of using the best pool filters?
Pool filters remove dirt, debris, bacteria and other contaminants from the water, ensuring it is clear and healthy. The benefits of using the best pool filters are:
- They reduce the need for chemicals. By filtering out impurities, pool filters help to balance the pH and chlorine levels of the water, which means you don’t have to add as many chemicals to keep it sanitized. This saves you money and protects your skin and eyes from irritation.
- They extend the lifespan of your pool. Pool filters prevent algae, mold and other organisms from growing in your pool, which can damage the surface and equipment. They also prevent clogging and corrosion of the pipes and pumps, which can cause leaks and malfunctions. By using the best pool filters, you can avoid costly repairs and replacements in the future.
- They enhance your swimming experience. Pool filters make the water more comfortable and enjoyable to swim in. They eliminate odors, cloudiness and discoloration, which can affect your mood and confidence. They also improve the circulation and aeration of the water, which can have a soothing effect on your muscles and joints.