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Buying guide for Best pool cartridge filters

If you have a cartridge filter for your pool, it's only a matter of time before you will need to replace the cartridge that’s inside. Although you will need to purchase the right size cartridge for your filter, that's not all there is to the process. In order to do what is best for your pool, you will need to learn a little bit about pool cartridge filters.

There may be things you are doing on a daily basis that are diminishing the effective life of your pool cartridge filter. It's important to know how to best care for that cartridge to get the most out of it. It's also vital to be able to identify the difference between having a cartridge that just needs a cleaning and having one that needs to be replaced before it causes costly damage to your system.

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The best way to extend the life of your cartridge filter is to clean it regularly.

Finding the right fit

A cartridge filter performs the essential function of cleaning the water in your pool. In order to do this, the dirty water must pass through the pleated fabric so the debris is removed from the water. If you do not filter your pool water, it won't be long until your water turns green. (To keep your pool even cleaner, take at look at our reviews on the best pool covers, pool skimmers, and automatic pool cleaners.)

The cartridges in a cartridge filter system are tube-shaped, and they stand upright in your filter tank. Depending on your system, you may have one or several filters inside that tank. The dirty water fills up the tank and flows through the cartridges to the center of the tube. The filtered water exits the bottom of the tube and is pumped back into the pool.

When replacing a cartridge, it’s essential to get one that is the exact same physical size. This includes height, outer diameter, and inner diameter. If the cartridge is too large, it simply won't fit. If the cartridge is too small, unfiltered water may be slipping by, which means your pool will shortly turn green. Additionally, it is important to remember that a cartridge is basically stiff polyester fabric and plastic, so the pressures exerted on a cartridge that doesn't fit properly could easily crush or crack that cartridge, making it useless.

When purchasing a replacement cartridge that isn't an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) cartridge, be sure to double-check the measurements. If they aren't exactly the same as the cartridge you are replacing, keep looking.

Other considerations

Besides being certain that you have the proper-size cartridge, there are a few other aspects you'll want to consider.

  • OEM vs. generic: There are two types of pool cartridges that you can purchase: an OEM cartridge or a generic cartridge. Typically, an OEM model is more durable, but it is also considerably more expensive.
  • Material: The material used to manufacture the filter's fabric is spunbond polyester, usually Reemay. The four-ounce fabric is better than the three-ounce fabric. Reemay is also resistant to chemicals and is easy to clean.
  • Pleats and surface area: The pleats are the folds in the filter's fabric. The more pleats your pool cartridge filter has, the greater the surface area will be. The greater your surface area is, the longer your filter will last because there is additional room to collect particles.
  • Bands: Cartridge filters have bands that encircle the cartridge and help hold the pleats in position. The more bands there are, the more durable the filter will be.
  • Inner core: Along with the bands, the inner core is crucial for providing the integrity of your cartridge filter. The stronger its inner core is, the more durable your filter will be.
  • End caps: Usually, the end caps have an open hole in the center, giving them the appearance of a flattened blue doughnut. Some models may feature a different design. If this is the case, simply match the design style to be certain your new cartridge filter has the proper end caps. The end caps are places where manufacturers can skimp on quality, and you might not notice it until your cartridge cracks, so be sure to purchase a cartridge with sturdy end caps.
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Did you know?
Cleaning your cartridge filter too often can be just as bad for your system as not cleaning it enough. Wait for the pressure to increase 8 to 10 psi above normal to determine the optimum cleaning time.

Pool cartridge filter prices


If you venture below the $20 threshold, you will find disposable filter cartridges that last about two weeks and are designed for smaller aboveground pools. At the lower end, from around $20 to $60, the cartridges are mostly budget filters for larger pools; these might not last for a full swimming season.


In the $60 to $100 range, you will find cartridges with better build quality, often with a larger square footage of filtering material. This type is more likely to last longer than a single season.


When you go above $100, you are either getting an OEM cartridge, a specialty cartridge, or a multipack, which contains two or more pool cartridges.

When should you replace your cartridge?

Unfortunately, at some point in a pool cartridge filter's life, there will come a time when the cartridge will need to be replaced. It is far more important to look for signs of wear and tear than it is to count the hours of usage. The following are some of the giveaways that let you know it's time to replace your cartridge:

  • High water pressure: When the running pressure of your pool filtration system starts to climb and doesn't come down after a deep cleaning of your cartridge, that can be a sign that the cartridge needs to be replaced.
  • Cracked end caps: If the end cap on either end of your cartridge has turned brittle and cracked or chipped, that cartridge should be replaced immediately to keep pieces from breaking off and damaging your system.
  • Torn pleats: The pleats do the filtering. If the fabric is torn or has a fuzzy appearance, the effectiveness of your cartridge has been compromised, and it should be replaced.
  • Crushed cartridge: When the inner structure of your cartridge has been compromised, your filter will look a bit like a crushed can. If this happens, it's time to replace your cartridge.
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To help lessen the amount of oil and lotion passing through your filter, consider purchasing an oil-absorbing sponge for your pool.


Q. What are the pros and cons of having a cartridge filter?

A. A cartridge filter is the most environmentally friendly filter option, as you do not need to backwash, which discharges chemicals into the environment and wastes water. Additionally, a cartridge filter works almost as well as a D.E. filter, so you will have remarkably clean water if you just keep your filter clean. That maintenance, however, is where this type of filter falls a little short. In order to work at peak efficiency, cartridges must be cleaned regularly, and that process is rather involved.

Q. How often should I be cleaning my pool cartridge filter?

A. There is no set answer to this question. It depends on usage and other factors. For instance, the more people who swim in your pool, the more oils, sunscreen lotion, and dirt will enter your system, and the more frequently your filters will require cleaning. The best strategy is to carefully monitor your system pressure. When it begins to creep up significantly, 8 or 10 psi (pounds per square inch) above normal operating pressure, then it is time to clean.

Q. How do I clean my pool cartridge filter?

A. After shutting down your pump, closing the valves, and removing the filter, you just need to carefully hose the pleats off. Using a specially designed filter-cleaning tool can speed up the process considerably, but cleaning is not a job that you should rush. Careless cleaning can damage the fabric or your filter, making it wear out more quickly.

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