All swimming pools need a good filtration system to keep the water from becoming cloudy, dirty, and unsanitary. The type of pool filter you choose will determine its purification effectiveness, maintenance needs, and cost.

There are three types of pool filters available, each with its advantages and disadvantages: sand, cartridge, and diatomaceous earth. In this article, we’ve broken down some of the pros and cons of each to help you choose the best filter for your swimming pool. 


How Do Pool Filters Work?

In order to get the most value from your pool filter, it helps to know how a pool filtration system works.

The filter is part of the plumbing system of the pool. Water is pushed through the pool filter and any dirt and debris that has found its way into the pool is trapped in the filter. The clean water continues back into the pool through an outlet pipe. 

A filter runs for 6 to 12 hours a day, depending on the type of filter and how much the pool is used. So, as long as the filtration system is turned on, the filter works to keep your swimming pool clean and safe for swimmers.

The specific type that you should use depends on how much maintenance you want to perform and what your goals are for your filtration system. 


Types of Pool Filtration Systems

With any swimming pool, you need to make sure you have the right type of filter to help keep your pool sufficiently clean and free of debris. Here is some more specific information about the three types of filters available as you decide which pool filtration system is best for your pool.

Sand Pool Filter

sand pool filter | types of pool filters | pool filtration

This filter uses sand as a trap for dirt and debris as these things pass through the filtration system. The longer the filter is used, the denser and more effective the sand becomes. In fact, the sand won’t need to be replaced for 5 to 8 years. 


– The sand is easy to switch out when it’s time to replace it.

– It’s the oldest and simplest type of filter so many swimming pool owners are familiar with this system. 

– A sand filter is compact, affordable, and easy to maintain.



– Regular backwashing is needed with a sand filter. 

– Due to newer technology, other filters offer even better filtration, especially of smaller particles. 


Cartridge Pool Filter

catridge pool filter | types of pool filters | pool filtration

A cartridge pool filter does filter out even smaller particles than a sand filter. With this type of filtration system, the pool water is pushed into a tank that has a skimmer that gathers larger debris. Then a secondary basket filters out smaller particles, after which the water flows into a polyester filter. This third filter catches any dirt or other particles remaining.


– Does remove smaller particulates from the pool water compared to a sand pool filter. 

– Unlike a sand or DE filter, cartridge filters do not require backwashing. Thus, saving a significant amount of water.



– More expensive than sand filters.

– The cartridge does need to be cleaned frequently. 


Diatomaceous Earth Filter (aka DE Pool Filter)

DE pool filter | types of pool filters | pool filtration

A diatomaceous earth filter, often also referred to as a DE pool filter, mainly consists of the fossilized remains of aquatic organisms. This material naturally absorbs impurities in water, even microscopic particles. The diatomaceous earth is dissolved in water and then passes into a polyester grid covered with fabric that traps the diatomaceous earth. The pool’s water is filtered as it passes through the diatomaceous earth and the fabric-covered grid.


– DE pool filters do last a long time.

– Effectively filter out microscopic particles as small as two to three microns. 



– The diatomaceous earth particles can be dangerous to humans if inhaled.

– Requires the most maintenance of the three types of pool filters.

– Cleaning this filter can be a challenge. 

– The cost of a DE pool filter is the highest compared to the other two types. 


Choosing the Best Pool Filtration System for Your Pool

pool filtration system | types of pool filters | how do pool filters work

The information we’ve broken down above on the three types of pool filtration systems can help you decide which one you are most comfortable using. As you can see, each of the three–sand, cartridge, or diatomaceous earth–has its advantages and disadvantages, and only you can make the decision for your pool.

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Pool School Videos provides clear, concise information on how to properly take care of your pool. You simply won’t find this level of information anywhere else.

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