What Are Pool Filter Balls? Do They Really Work?

Written by Michael Dean
January 11, 2024

pool sand filter

Pool filter balls are a recent development in the swimming pool industry—an exciting new alternative to traditional filter media typically used in pool filtration systems. These are a reusable, eco-friendly alternative to conventional options such as sand, DE, and cartridges and offer a more efficient way of maintaining clear pool water.

I will be discussing what they are, how to use them, how to clean them, and their pros and cons in comparison to other filter media, so strap in.


Main Takeaways

  • Pool filter balls replace the sand in sand filters.
  • You can expect to pay roughly $15 to $40 for a 3-pound batch of filter balls.
  • They can filter contaminants as little as 5 microns.
  • While easy to install and maintain, they may lose their efficiency over time.

What Are Pool Filter Balls?

A type of filter media used in sand filters to trap dirt and debris, pool filter balls help keep your swimming pool clean. They essentially comprise polyethylene or polypropylene (and such recycled and recyclable materials) and come in a range of sizes ranging from 0.5 to 1.5 inches in diameter. They offer improved water clarity as well as lesser maintenance effort from your side.

Do Pool Filter Balls Really Work?

Yes, they do work. Here’s how:

The water in the pool is pumped through the filter tank and comes into contact with the pool filter balls. The irregularity of the shape, the large surface area, and the subsequent maze-like effect of the balls trap debris and contaminants of all sorts, such as hair, dead skin cells, hair, algae, dirt, and silt. Along with particulate matter, the filter balls also absorb substances such as lotion, chloramines, heavy metals, and organic compounds.

The result? Clear and sparkling blue water!

How to Use Pool Filter Balls

If you’ve acquired pool filter balls and need a quick rundown on how to set them up for first-time use, it’s pretty simple. Here’s how to use them:

Step One: Turn Everything Off

Turn off the pool pump and system, then locate your filter housing.

Step Two: Remove the Sand

Open the filter housing up and clean out the filter sand, especially any sand particles that might be jammed in the lower underdrain laterals—these distribute water evenly and are usually located at the bottom of the tank. Hose it down.

Step Three: Add the Pool Filter Balls

Add the pool filter balls. You just need to empty the packet into the housing. They are soft, and you can press them down but avoid overcrowding. Generally, you’ll need just 1 cubic foot or around 1 pound of pool filter balls to replace 100 pounds of sand.

Step Four: Replace Everything

Replace the control valve or the lid of the tank lid and secure the pump housing.

Step Five: Rinse the Filter Balls

Rinse the new filter media for 2 minutes to flush out any loose debris from the filter balls. Once that’s done, follow it up by backwashing them for 2 minutes to remove any residual debris.

Step Six: Filter Your Pool!

Now, it’s time to set your equipment to filter mode. And your pool filter balls are now ready to use.

Keep an eye on the pressure gauge of the filter. When the pressure increases by around 5 to 8 psi above your normal range, it’s a good indication that you need to clean the filter balls.

How to Clean Pool Filter Balls

Depending on how dirty your pool gets and how much use it gets, you may need to clean your pool filter balls every two to three weeks. There are three different methods to do so.

Method One: The Basic Rinse and Squeeze

  1. Grab a bucket, a garden hose, a mesh laundry bag, and a pair of gloves.
  2. Turn off your pool pump and system, then remove the filter balls from the filter tank. 
  3. Place the pool filter balls in the mesh bag, then spray them with a strong stream of water. Hose them down to remove loose debris and dirt.
  4. Once the initial rinse is done, take each pool filter ball out of the bag and rinse it down further with the hose, then squeeze it gently to remove excess grime and oils.
  5. Place the rinsed and squeezed pool filter ball in the bucket. Repeat with all other pool filter balls until they’re all clean and the water runs clear.
  6. Dry them out completely.
  7. Then, return them to the filter tank.

Method Two: The Deep Soak and Clean

  1. Turn off your pool pump and system, then remove the filter balls from the filter tank.
  2. Fill a bucket up with hot water, and add a mild laundry detergent, one suited for delicates.
  3. Submerge pool filter balls in the hot, soapy water.
  4. Allow them to soak for 20 minutes to loosen stubborn dirt and grime.
  5. Fish the pool filter balls out of the water, change the water in the bucket, and rinse them in the clean water.
  6. After thoroughly rinsing, squeeze the filter balls gently to get rid of excess water.
  7. Once clean, dry them out completely. Then, return them to the filter tank.

Method Three: The Washing Machine

  1. Turn off your pool pump and system, and remove the filter balls. 
  2. Pop the pool filter balls into a mesh laundry bag and place them in the washing machine.
  3. Use a gentle cycle with cold water—add a mild laundry detergent. Do not spin-dry them.
  4. When the cycle is finished, squeeze each pool filter ball gently to remove the excess water.
  5. Spread the filter balls out on a clean towel in a sunny spot to dry them out.
  6. Finally, return the pool filter balls to the tank when dry.

Pool Filter Balls vs. Other Filter Media

So, now that you know just how efficient pool filter balls are, you may wonder if it’s time to switch to this filter media. Well, to give you a better idea, let’s compare pool filter balls with other filter media!

Pool Filter Balls vs. Sand

Of course, the main comparison to make is between pool filter balls and sand since filter balls can effectively replace sand in a sand filter.

Filtration Efficiency

Pool filter balls have excellent filtration efficiency and can capture particles as small as 5 microns. In comparison, sand, while effective, only filters down to the 20- to 40-micron range.

Maintenance

Being lightweight, pool filter balls are much easier to handle, carry around, clean, and maintain. In comparison, sand is heavier, making it a bit more cumbersome to work with, especially when it comes to cleaning it.

Cost

Pool filter balls are reusable and relatively inexpensive. You can buy a 3-pound bag for $15 to $40. And remember, you only need 1 pound to replace 100 pounds of sand! Sand is arguably less expensive. 100 pounds of sand is roughly $60.

Pool Filter Balls vs. DE

What about a DE filter? DE filters are the most effective type of filter, but how does it compare to pool filter balls?

Filtration Efficiency

Pool filter balls are as effective as DE filters when it comes to filtration efficiency. Both filter media can capture very tiny particles up to 5 microns. For comparison, the human eye can only see up to 35 microns!

Maintenance

Pool filter balls are easy to clean and maintain, and there is a generous period between cleaning sessions. In comparison, while DE filters might also have to be cleaned just once a month, the process is cumbersome since you will need to add fresh DE powder after each backwash to maintain optimal filtration.

Cost

Pool filter balls are definitely cheaper initially and cheaper to maintain than DE. Unlike DE, there is no need to constantly top up the pool filter balls after every backwash. This maintenance really adds up in cost over time.

Pool Filter Balls vs. Cartridge

Cartridge filters are a popular choice for many pool owners, so how do they compare to pool filter balls?

Filtration Efficiency

Pool filter balls can capture particles as small as 5 microns and have excellent filtration efficiency. Cartridge filters can capture particles down to 10 to 15 microns, which is pretty good as well!

Maintenance

Being small and lightweight, pool filter balls are super easy to clean and maintain. Plus, when cleaning the filter balls, you can simply pop them in the washing machine. In comparison, cartridge filters take up a lot of room, are cumbersome, and need to be properly cleaned every couple of months.

Cost

Both pool filter balls and cartridge filters barely have any ongoing costs. They simply cost money when you initially purchase them and again when they need to be replaced every couple of years. As you might be able to guess, however, filter cartridges cost much more than pool filter balls, with a single cartridge replacement by Hayward costing around $70.

Pros and Cons of Pool Filter Balls

Here are the main advantages and disadvantages of pool filter balls.

Pros

  • Pool filter balls are easy to install, easy to handle, and fairly lightweight.
  • Pool filter balls are reusable and easy to clean when needed.
  • Pool filter balls don’t get your pool as dirty as sand does.
  • They can save you a lot of money in the long run!

Cons

  • Pool filter balls may degrade over time with exposure to water and pool chemicals.
  • Pool filter balls aren’t designed to work optimally with all kinds of pool filters.
  • Although durable, reusing does tend to reduce their effectiveness.

Need Some Maintenance Help?

Send me a message! I can answer any of your pool maintenance, equipment, or other questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do pool filter balls last?

Pool filter balls can last up to several years before needing replacement. It is possible for some brands to last for around 5 years or more with proper care and maintenance.

How much do pool filter balls cost?

Although this varies depending on the brand, material, quantity, and retailer, you can expect to pay roughly $15 to $40 for a 3-pound bag of filter balls.

Are Pool Filter Balls Worth It?

I’d say, yes, pool filter balls are definitely worth the hype! They’re super easy to install and use. Plus, they’re incredibly efficient! That said, before you make the switch, make sure you have the right filter system to accommodate them.

Do you want to ask more questions about pool filter balls or other types of pool filter media? Get in touch! I’m happy to answer.

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