Here Are the Best Pool Filters for Clear and Healthy Water

The Hayward W3EC40C92S Perflex DE Filter is our top pick

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Best Pool Filters

The Spruce / Sabrina Jiang

A pool filter is a must-have component of any pool setup, as it helps keep your water clean and sanitary throughout swimming season. While researching the best pool filters, we considered factors such as their filtration medium, maintenance requirements, and effectiveness on different types of contaminants. We also consulted a pool expert for his insight.

Our top pick is the Hayward W3EC40C92S Perflex DE Filter, which comes with a 1-horsepower pool pump and uses diatomaceous earth to efficiently remove contaminants of all sizes from your pool’s water. 

Here are our picks for the best pool filters. 

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Hayward W3EC40C92S Perflex DE Filter with 1HP Pool Pump

4.8
Hayward W3EC40C92S Perflex DE Filter with 1HP Pool Pump

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Removes all-size contaminants

  • Compact

  • Uses less power

  • No backwashing needed

  • Compatible with saltwater pools

What We Don't Like
  • Vague assembly instructions

What do buyers say? 90% of 300+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.

For above-ground pools, you won’t find a better filter than the Hayward Perflex DE Filter. Its 1-horsepower pool pump delivers a flow rate of 40 gallons per minute, and it uses diatomaceous earth (D.E.) to remove microscopic dust and pollen particles from your swimming pool. This filter is significantly smaller and lighter than most sand filters, using just 4 pounds of D.E., and it’s also extremely easy to maintain, as no backwashing is needed. 

This filter features the brand’s Flex-Tube system, which efficiently reuses D.E. powder to form fresh cleaning surfaces. You can activate the tubes using the filter’s bump handle, which causes the tubing to purge any dirt and powder—that’s all the maintenance required. The filter is designed to operate with less resistance than conventional units, meaning it can clean more water with less power, and it works well with chlorinated and saltwater pools. 

Type: D.E. | Pool Type: Above-ground | Pool Capacity: 19,000 gallons | Dimensions: 25.9 x 16.4 x 28.9 inches | Flow Rate: 40 GPM

What Is Diatomaceous Earth?

Diatomaceous earth (D.E.) is fossil fuel against pests. Derived from the skeletons of tiny aquatic creatures, it is found in silica deposits mined from the bottoms of bodies of water. D.E. is turned into dusts, pastes, and liquids that effectively control pests by drying out the necessary fats and oils of their exoskeletons. It's used in a wide variety of products, including pool water filters. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration classifies D.E. "generally recognized as safe."

Best Budget: Intex 1000 GPH Krystal Clear Cartridge Filter Pump

intex-above-ground-filter
Courtesy of Walmart.

Type: Cartridge | Pool Type: Above-ground | Pool Capacity: 6,000 gallons | Dimensions: 10.62 x 10.62 x 15 inches | Flow Rate: 16.6 GPM

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Simple installation

  • Multiple sizes available

  • Easy to maintain

What We Don't Like
  • Shouldn’t run for more than 8 hours/day

If you have a small above-ground pool, the INTEX C1000 Krystal Clear Cartridge Filter Pump is an extremely budget-friendly option to keep your water clean. It’s available in several sizes, with flow rates ranging from 330 gallons per hour to 1,500 gallons per hour, and the filter uses cartridges to remove contaminants from the water. All you have to do is swap in a new type A or C filter cartridge every two weeks or so, making this system extremely easy to maintain. 

To set this filter up, attach the hoses and plug it in via the 25-foot power cord. (It’s worth noting that the hoses are 1.25 inches, so you need an adapter if your pool has 1.5-inch hose fittings.) The filter's air release valve lets you remove any air trapped in the filter chamber. Its Hydro Aeration technology mixes air into your pool water for improved clarity and increased negative ions for freshness. The filter's one limitation is the manufacturer doesn’t recommend running it for more than eight hours a day—but that's still plenty of time to clean a small pool. 

What Our Experts Say

"A rule of thumb for pool filter size is to look at the swimming pool size in gallons. If you've never calculated this before, take some measurements. The formula is length x width x average depth x 7.5 for rectangular pools. For oval pools, change the multiplier to 5.9." –R-jay C., Customer Care Representative at In The Swim

Best for Small Pools: Doheny's Cartridge Filter, 25 sq ft System with 3/4 HP Pump

Doheny's Cartridge Filter, 25 sq ft System with 3/4 HP Pump

Courtesy of Amazon

Type: Cartridge | Pool Type: Above-ground | Pool Capacity: 12,000 gallons | Dimensions: 25 x 23 x 12 inches | Flow Rate: 73 GPM

What We Like
  • Durable construction

  • Extra-large cartridge

  • Built-in pressure gauge and relief valve

  • Includes high-efficiency pump

What We Don't Like
  • Hoses not included

The Doheny's Cartridge Filter System is ideal for smaller above-ground pools with less than 12,000 gallons of water. It’s compact in size and includes a .75-horsepower high-efficiency pump that offers a flow rate of 73 gallons per minute. The filter is made from long-lasting thermoplastic material that can withstand the elements, and it uses an extra-large non-woven cartridge that delivers improved water clarity, longer filter cycles, and maximum water flow.

This reasonably priced filter system has a top-loading ring-lock lid where you insert the cartridge; a pressure gauge and release valve eliminate built-up air pressure. Plus, the fastening locking system prevents the lid from sticking. The system features a 1.5-inch threaded connector, but hoses aren’t included, so you need to purchase them separately. The pump is CSA and ETL certified, and it plugs in via a standard three-prong 6-foot cord connection.

What Are CSA and ETL Certification?

CSA Group tests and certifies many global leading brands to confirm that they comply with applicable U.S. standards written by ANSI, ASME, ASSE, ASTM, ASFE, UL, CSA, NSF, and more. The ETF mark, from Intertek, is the fastest growing safety certification in North America and is featured on millions of products.

Best for Large Pools: Hayward W3S310S Pro Series Side Mount 30" Pool Sand Filter Tank

Hayward W3S310S Pro Series Side Mount 30" Pool Sand Filter Tank

Courtesy of Leslie's

Type: Sand | Pool Type: In-ground | Pool Capacity: Any size | Dimensions: 32 x 32 x 48.3 inches | Flow Rate: 98 GPM

What We Like
  • High flow rate

  • Corrosion-proof material

  • Self-cleaning under-drain system

  • Large pressure sand/water drain

What We Don't Like
  • Valve sold separately

  • Expensive

The Hayward W3S310S Pro Series Side-Mount 30" Pool Sand Filter Tank is designed for extra-large in-ground pools. It uses a whopping 500 pounds of sand to filter contaminants out of your water with a flow rate of 98 gallons per minute. The colorfast six-position Hayward Var-iFlo control valve (sold separately) lets you tailor the filter function. 

Several unique features on this large sand filter make it easy to use. For instance, a self-cleaning lateral underdrain system provides smooth, efficient flow and balanced backwashing, and an integrated sight glass lets you see when backwashing is complete. A top diffuser provides even distribution of water over the sand media, and a large pressure sand/water drain allows for faster winterizing and servicing. 

While this filter system is expensive, it’s a convenient option for large in-ground pools and should last for many years if taken care of properly.

Best for Above-Ground Pools: Blue Wave Sandman Sand Filter System with 1.0HP Pump

Blue Wave Sandman Sand Filter System with 1.0HP Pump

Courtesy of Amazon

Type: Sand | Pool Type: Above-ground | Pool Capacity: 15,000 gallons | Dimensions: 18 x 18 x 30 inches | Flow Rate: 60 GPM

What We Like
  • Includes high-efficiency pump

  • Corrosion-resistant tank

  • Large, easy-clean debris pot

What We Don't Like
  • Hose adapters often required

The Blue Wave Sandman Sand Filter System is ideal for above-ground pools up to 15,000 gallons. It uses traditional sand media to remove contaminants of all sizes from your swimming water, and the included 1-horsepower high-efficiency pump offers a flow rate of 60 gallons per minute. The system features a molded one-piece polyethylene tank that resists corrosion from the elements, and it comes with most components needed for setup, including a base, connection hoses, clamps, and fittings—basically everything except for the sand! (Speaking of sand, this pool filter requires 110 pounds of it.)

The filter's extra-large hair and lint pot make it easy to clean out large debris, and the top-mounted multi-port assists quick and easy backwashing. The only thing to keep in mind is its hoses are larger than average, so you may need an adapter to attach them to your pool’s hose connection.

Best for In-Ground Pools: Rx Clear Radiant 24 Inch Sand Filter System

Rx Clear Radiant 24 Inch Sand Filter System

Courtesy of Amazon

Type: Sand | Pool Type: In-ground | Pool Capacity: 33,000 gallons | Dimensions: 24 x 43.7 inches | Flow Rate: 84 GPM

What We Like
  • Suitable for large in-ground pools

  • Includes high-performance pump

  • High-capacity sand bed

  • Built-in sight glass

What We Don't Like
  • Hoses sold separately

  • Poor installation directions

The high-capacity sand bed in the Rx Clear Radiant Sand Filter System captures more debris and extends filter cycles, leaving your in-ground pool crystal clear. You can use this system, which includes a 1-horsepower pump and a 24-inch tank, with pools up to 33,000 gallons—roughly 20 x 40 feet (about the area of three school buses combined). It offers a flow rate of 84 gallons per minute, and the one-piece molded filter tank requires 300 pounds of sand for operation. 

This filter system has a six-position multi-port valve, as well as a built-in sight glass for backwashing, and a two-piece strainer basket to capture large debris. A pressure gauge lets you know when backwashing is required, and you can also use it with the brand’s Clear Luster Filter Media, which is lighter than sand and requires less maintenance. 

Before you install this filter system yourself, familiarize yourself with filter setup, as the included instructions are fairly sparse. Additionally, the filter lacks included connection hoses, so you need to purchase them separately. 

Best for Large Debris: Doheny's Sand Filter System, 19 in Tank with 1 HP Pump

Doheny's Sand Filter System, 19 in Tank with 1 HP Pump

Courtesy of Doheny's

Type: Sand | Pool Type: Above-ground | Pool Capacity: 19,200 gallons | Dimensions: 32 x 29 x 20 inches | Flow Rate: 40 GPM

What We Like
  • Multiple sizes

  • Extra-large debris basket

  • Easy-open ring lock connection

  • Available with or without pump

What We Don't Like
  • Poor directions

If your pool ends up with a lot of larger debris, such as hair and leaves, Doheny's Sand Filter System has an extra-large debris basket with a clear twist-off lid, allowing you to easily see when it needs to be emptied. This filter system is available in three sizes, and you can buy it with or without a 1-horsepower pump—ideal if you already have a pool pump. The 19-inch tank requires 175 pounds of sand for operation, and you can use it with above-ground pools up to 19,200 gallons. 

This filter system comes with the filter, pump (if selected), filter-to-pump hose, and system base, but it can be challenging to set up if you’re not familiar with filter assembly. It features a top-mounted, six-position dial value, and the easy-to-open ring lock connection on top of the tank gives you access to the sand bend. The pressure gauge lets you know when backwashing is needed, and a built-in sight glass allows you to see when the water is clean.

Best Cartridge Filter: Hayward XStream Cartridge Filter and Pump System

Hayward XStream Cartridge Filter and Pump System

Courtesy of Amazon

Type: Cartridge | Pool Type: Above-ground | Pool Capacity: Up to 33-foot round | Dimensions: 29.6 x 21.6 x 37.3 inches | Flow Rate: 120 GPM

What We Like
  • Suitable for large above-ground pools

  • Works with flexible or rigid plumbing

  • Safety catch prevents lid over-tightening

  • Low maintenance

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive replacement filters

Cartridge filters are gaining popularity because of their low-maintenance design. The Hayward XStream Cartridge Filter and Pump System is a top choice for above-ground pools up to 33 feet in diameter. This cartridge filter has an impressive flow rate of 120 gallons per minute, and it comes with a 1.5-horsepower Hayward PowerFlo Matrix pool pump. You can use the system with flexible or rigid plumbing, giving you more installation options, and the large cartridge size more effectively removes debris and contaminants from your pool’s water. 

This system comes with mostly everything needed for installation, including a pressure gauge, filter base, hoses, hose adapters, and hose clamps. Its Easy Lok ring allows you to easily remove the cartridge from the filter tank, and a safety-catch on the lid prevents overtightening, which could damage the tank. While the system costs more than other above-ground pool filters (especially when you factor in the cost of replacement cartridges), the benefit is it’s extremely easy to maintain and provides superior filtration for your pool.

Best Cartridge Replacement: POOLPURE PLF120A Pool Filter

POOLPURE PLF120A Pool Filter

Amazon

Type: Cartridge | Pool Type: N/A | Pool Capacity: N/A | Dimensions: 4 x 4 x 23.25 inches | Flow Rate: N/A

What We Like
  • Multiple sizes available

  • More affordable than branded cartridges

  • Works with multiple filter brands

  • Easy to rinse and reuse

What We Don't Like
  • Not suitable for all cartridge filters

Replacement cartridge filters can be quite expensive, especially if you buy them from the manufacturer. The POOLPURE PLF120A Pool Filter is a third-party product designed to fit a variety of cartridge filters, including models from Hayward, Unicel, Clearwater, and more. It also comes in a variety of lengths to fit different size filters—carefully measure your existing cartridge to ensure you find a replacement that fits properly.

These cartridges are made from the brand’s trilobal filtration fabric, which is designed to catch more dirt as water passes through. Additionally, you can rinse off the cartridge every two weeks to extend its lifespan, allowing you to go longer between replacements. The filters are NSF/ANSI certified, and while they’re not cheap, they’re often much more affordable than comparable branded products.

What Are NSF and ANSI?

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is a private, non-profit organization that administers and coordinates the U.S. voluntary standards and conformity assessment system. ANSI works in close collaboration with stakeholders from industry and government to identify and develop standards- and conformance-based solutions to national and global priorities. NSF (originally the National Sanitation Foundation) is a global, independent organization that facilitates development of public health standards, testing, auditing, and certifying products and services.

Final Verdict

To efficiently clean your above-ground pool, we recommend the Hayward W3EC40C92S Perflex DE Filter (view at Amazon), which uses D.E. to capture contaminants of all sizes and is significantly smaller than most sand filters. It comes with a 1-horsepower pool pump and can be used on pools up to 19,000 gallons. If your pool is less than 6,000 gallons, the INTEX C1000 Krystal Clear Cartridge Filter Pump (view on Amazon), is extremely easy to maintain but can’t be used for more than eight hours a day.

What to Look For in a Pool Filter

Filtration Media

There are three common styles of pool filters that you’ll encounter today: sand, diatomaceous earth (D.E.), and cartridge. Sand filters are arguably the most popular style, as they’re affordable and do a good job removing large and small debris from your pool’s water. However, they often require hundreds of pounds of sand and regular backwashing for efficient operation. 

Diatomaceous earth filters work similarly, except they use a different filtration media. D.E. is made of crushed sea shells and the fossilized remains of aquatic organisms called diatoms, and captures much smaller particles than sand, leaving your water extremely fresh and clean. Additionally, these filters are typically smaller than sand models. 

Finally, cartridge filters use replaceable cartridges to filter contaminants out of your water; these round filters are quite similar to those used in many vacuums or air purifiers. They’re typically made from a non-woven fabric, with hundreds of pleats to capture more debris. They're popular thanks to their low maintenance needs. 

Size

It’s essential to find a filter that’s an appropriate size for your pool—if you get one too small, it doesn't effectively clean all the water. If you get an oversized model, you likely end up with higher energy bills than necessary. Filters are often sized based on the water capacity they can handle, so you need to figure out how many gallons of water your pool holds.

Additionally, it’s important to select a filter designed for above-ground or in-ground pools. There are typically several differences between these models, including their maximum flow rate, self-priming abilities, and ability to handle air in the filter.

Maintenance

All pool filters require some level of maintenance, but certain styles are more tedious to take care of. For instance, most sand filters need to be backwashed once a week for efficient operation. D.E. filters, on the other hand, often can go 4 to 6 weeks without backwashing. Cartridge filters don’t require backwashing, but you may have to wash their filters every few weeks and buy replacement filters periodically. 

Durability

If you plan to leave your pool filter outdoors all year round, it’s essential to select a model that can stand up to the elements and climate. Filters should be made of durable, weather-resistant materials. If you live somewhere with cold winters, look into the winterizing process to see how much work you need to close your pool in the fall. 

FAQ
  • How does a pool filter work?

    Pool filters are actually fairly simple devices. "Your pump pulls the pool water from the skimmer(s) on the pool wall and the main drain(s) on or near the bottom of the pool," explains R-jay from In The Swim. "The water flows through the pump to the filter, which removes dirt, debris, and (if the filter is good) bacteria." From here, clean water is then pushed back out into your pool. 

  • How long do pool filters typically last?

    If cared for properly, most pool filters last 5 to 10 years. However, you may have to more frequently replace certain components such as O-rings, gauges, and clamps. 

  • How do you determine the size and type of pool filter that you need?

    Most pool filters are labeled with the water capacity they can handle. You need to calculate the volume of water in your pool, then select an appropriately sized filter. It’s really a matter of preference, as all three styles can be used on most pools.

Why Trust The Spruce?

This article was written by Camryn Rabideau, a freelance writer and product tester for The Spruce. While researching pool filters, she spoke with a customer service representative at In The Swim, a pool supply store, for insights on what to look for when purchasing a pool filter and how to use one effectively. She used this information when evaluating various models, looking at information such as their filtration media, flow rate, maintenance requirements, and durability. She also prioritized models that come with a matching pool pump, which are necessary for filter operation.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. "CFR - Code of Federal Regulations Title 21"U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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