The Best Swimming Pool Filters

Enjoying a pool through summer (and other seasons) requires a bit of preparation. After a day or two, your pool can become cloudy, dirt can settle on the bottom, and algae can even begin to grow. But how can you find the best pool filter for your needs? We have the answers here.

The Best Pool Filter Options

Here are the top six best pool filter options, no matter what type of pool or pump you have.

Hayward W3S220T ProSeries Sand Filter

⭐ Best High-End Sand Filter

For many pool owners, sand filters offer an efficient way to achieve a sparkling clean pool. And with Hayward’s W3S220T ProSeries filter, you can have it, too. We like the Hayward ProSeries Sand Filter because it’s relatively low maintenance while keeping your pool looking its best.

The backwash function is handy—no need to get messy—and the upkeep is practically nil. You will need quite a bit of sand to get started, however. Most units need hundreds of pounds of sand, which you may not be able to purchase online.

But once the system is in use, you won’t regret hauling bags of sand around, since they last such a long time. And in terms of performance, you can’t beat this high-end filter.

Hayward W3S220T ProSeries Sand Filter, 22-Inch, Top-Mount
  • BALANCED FLOW & BACKWASHING: The Hayward ProSeries 22-Inch Top-Mount Filter features efficient, multilateral underdrain assembly with 360°...
  • MAXIMUM FILTRATION: Integral top diffuser ensures even distribution of water over the entire sand bed for optimal use of filtration area
  • ALL-WEATHER PERFORMANCE: Unitized, corrosion-proof filter tank is molded from rugged polymeric material, delivering dependable performance in any...
  • EASY OPERATION: 6-position Hayward VariFlo control valve with easy-to-use lever-action handle lets you quickly dial in the right valve/filter function
  • RAPID WINTERIZING: Large pressure sand/water drain is always ready for quick winterizing or servicing

Research Score: 4.0 / 5

  • Effectiveness: 4
  • Capacity: 4
  • Compatibility: 4
  • Installation: 4
  • Price: 5


  • Top-mount diffuser
  • Corrosion-proof, rugged polymeric tank
  • Six-position valve control
  • Large pressure drain for winterizing/servicing
  • Uses sand filtration


  • Easy to maintain/service
  • No cartridges to replace
  • Mess-free backwash feature


  • Must purchase sand separately (additional investment)
  • Instructions can be difficult for users new to sand filters

Hayward W3DE3620 ProGrid D.E. Pool Filter

⭐ Best DE Filter for Smaller Pools

Even small pools need a high-power pool filter, and Hayward’s W3DE620 Pro-Grid D.E. is an excellent option. It’s easy to open and service the filter, and the rugged design means it will last for years.

We like the visual indicators that tell you when it’s time to run the backwash process, too. When you place the filters, you reset the pressure indicators, and they’ll indicate when the pressure drops due to clogs.

One potential drawback is that the filter uses DE, and in some instances, that can pose a health hazard. In short, you don’t want to breathe in the dry form, and you won’t want to swim in your pool if DE is leaking into it. However, as long as the DE stays in the filter, all is well.

Hayward W3DE3620 ProGrid Diatomaceous Earth Pool Filter, 36 Sq. Ft.
  • HIGH-CAPACITY FILTER: The Hayward ProGrid 36 sq. ft. diatomaceous earth filter offers superior performance, efficiency and water clarity
  • MAXIMUM EFFICIENCY: High-impact grid elements provide up-flow filtration and top-down backwashing for maximum efficiency
  • DURABLE DESIGN: Durable, glass-reinforced copolymer construction ensures corrosion-free durability and withstand the elements
  • EASIER TO USE: Easy-access clamp assembly provides simplified service and maintenance

Research Score: 4.1 / 5

  • Effectiveness: 5
  • Capacity: 3
  • Compatibility: 4
  • Installation: 4
  • Price: 4


  • Glass-reinforced copolymer construction
  • One-piece clamp to access the interior for maintenance
  • Manual air relief valve
  • Up-flow filtration
  • Uses DE (diatomaceous earth)


  • Easy access for servicing
  • Visual indicators show when it’s time to clean
  • DE filters super-small particles, getting the water exceptionally clear


  • You must purchase the valve separately
  • You must handle DE cautiously (don’t breathe it in or swim in DE-filled water)

Hayward W3C17502 SwimClear Plus Cartridge Pool Filter

⭐ Best Cartridge Filter for Large Pools

Getting a larger pool clean presents a unique challenge. But with Hayward’s W3C17502 SwimClear Plus system, you can keep the water sparkling all season. You’ll have multiple connection options, which is helpful for a range of plumbing scenarios, and the durable base and body are easy to install.

Filter cartridges lift out for cleaning or replacement, and you won’t need any fancy tools or hardware to install or maintain your Hayward SwimClear Plus filter. However, you will likely need some thread sealant to ensure a watertight fit on the connectors.

Hayward W3C17502 SwimClear Plus Cartridge Pool Filter, 175 Sq. Ft.
  • ROBUST DESIGN: The Hayward StarClear Plus 175 sq. ft. pool filter features an extra-large single-element cartridge for additional durability and...
  • EASIER TO CLEAN: Single-knob design securely fastens filter head to tank without clamps or bolts
  • WON'T CORRODE: Single-piece injection molding for base and body provides added strength for reliable, corrosion-free performance
  • EASY TO USE: Filter head rotates for easy access to the cartridge, gauge and manual air relief valve
  • VERSATILE INSTALLATION: FIP (1½" and 2") and SKT (2") connections offer plumbing versatility

Research Score: 4.2 / 5

  • Effectiveness: 4
  • Capacity: 4
  • Compatibility: 5
  • Installation: 4
  • Price: 4


  • Single-element cartridge
  • Locking knob to attach the filter head (no hardware required)
  • Rotatable filter head for easy access
  • Injection-molded base and body
  • Flexible connections (1 ½” or 2” FIP or SKT)


  • Connections for multiple plumbing setups
  • Durable construction
  • Compact size with high capacity


  • Plastic filter body can break down in sunny conditions
  • No drainage valve

Intex Krystal Clear Filter Pump for Above Ground Pools

⭐ Best for Above Ground Pools

With above ground pools, you may not want to invest a lot in your summer setup. Still, you need effective filtration to keep the water clean, and Intex’s Krystal Clear Sand Filter Pump is an excellent fit. It’s both a pump and a filter set that you can start using as soon as you plug it in.

We like the convenience of a filter pump, especially for temporary pool setups, but this one does come with a manufacturer note not to run it for more than eight hours at a time. That said, eight hours is probably plenty of time to keep smaller pools sparkling clean.

Intex Krystal Clear Cartridge Filter Pump for Above Ground Pools, 1000 GPH Pump Flow Rate, 110-120V with GFCI
  • Easy to use - simply replace the old cartridge with a new one every two weeks, Double insulated pump
  • The number on the actual item seen in the image is 637R, is the component part number that corresponds to the individual part for the system and this...
  • Air release valve for air trapped inside filter chamber.we do not suggest operating the pump for more than 8 hours per day
  • Suitable for Intex pools up to 6,000 gal with 1.25in (32mm) diameter hose fitting
  • Works with 15-feet Easy Set, 15-feet Metal Frame, or 18-feet by 10-feet Oval Frame pools. the hoses are 1-1/4 so if you need 1-1/2 you need an...

Research Score: 4.0 / 5

  • Effectiveness: 3
  • Capacity: 4
  • Compatibility: 4
  • Installation: 5
  • Price: 5


  • Cartridge filter pump
  • Uses Type A or C filters
  • For pools up to 6,000 gallons
  • Air release valve
  • Hoses, clamps, and filter included


  • Pump and filter system combined
  • Plug in and go
  • Compatible with above-ground pools and can modify for pools without filter inlets


  • Filter requires replacing every two weeks
  • Manufacturer recommends eight hours of run time, max

XtremepowerUS 75141 Inground Pool Sand Filter

⭐ Best Value Sand Filter Pump

If sand filtration is a must-have for your pool maintenance, XtremepowerUS’s sand filter system might be an ideal fit. Compatible with both in- and above-ground pools, the sand filter offers a multi-port for filtering, backwash, winter, re-circulation, closed, rinse, and waste modes.

The different modes help make winterizing and cleaning straightforward, though the small opening for sand can make filling and removing sand a challenge.

The one-piece molded tank is durable and easy to set up—but it does hold 300 pounds of media sand, which you’ll need to source separately.

XtremepowerUS 24" Above Inground Swimming Pool Sand Filter System 7-Way Multi-Port Valve Pool Filter up to 29,400 Gallons with Stand
  • The Filter are perfectly engineered to provide optimum flow rates that promotes clean water quality
  • 7-Way multi port provides for easy use and quick back-washing (Filter, Backwash, Winter, Re-Circulate, Closed, Rinse and Waste)
  • This filter keeps the sand height level to expose water to the maximum sand surface level possible for optimum filtration, consistent performance, and...
  • The core of these systems is the one-piece blow-molded tank that sits atop a universal base that accepts most pumps. Also includes a top mount, with a...
  • With a threaded connections, a filter base and user's manual. Includes 7-position valve, this tank holds 300lbs of media sand; Overall Dimension:...

Research Score: 4.6 / 5

  • Effectiveness: 5
  • Capacity: 4
  • Compatibility: 5
  • Installation: 4
  • Price: 5


  • Filters up to 29,400 gallons
  • Seven filtration settings
  • Holds 300 pounds of sand
  • One-piece tank


  • All-around strong filtration for a range of pool sizes (both above and in-ground)
  • Multiple settings for filtration, backwashing, etc.
  • Easy to install


  • Small opening can make changing out the sand complicated
  • You may need additional O-rings or thread tape to install

Blue Wave 120-Square Feet Cartridge Filter System with 1.5 HP Pump

⭐ Best Pump/Filter Combination

Both energy-efficient and powerful, Blue Wave’s cartridge filter system/pump combination is the ideal fit for many in-ground pools. No matter the size of your pool, the superior flow rates of this pump/filter setup will keep it clean and fresh.

We like that each system comes with a one-year warranty and the fact that you can remove the cartridges for cleaning or replacement in a snap. Just turn the spin lock, and you’re in.

One thing to keep in mind is that the manufacturer’s warranty specifically states not to use the filter with an extension cord. However, the lack of an on/off switch also complicates things, so you may want to invest in a timer setup to simplify pool maintenance.

Blue Wave 120-Square Feet Cartridge Filter System with 1.5 HP Pump
  • 1.5 HP high output UL listed pump
  • Extra large cartridge filter
  • Rugged polymer tanks with integral base; Fittings and clamps
  • Two 6-ft connection hoses; Two slide valves for easy cleaning
  • Not legal for sale in California

Research Score: 3.8 / 5

  • Effectiveness: 4
  • Capacity: 3
  • Compatibility: 4
  • Installation: 4
  • Price: 4


  • Pump/filter combination
  • Extra-large cartridge filter
  • Two slide valves
  • Corrosion-resistant polymer construction


  • Easy access to replace cartridges
  • One-year warranty
  • Energy efficient


  • Not available for purchase in every state
  • No on/off switch; must unplug to power down

Recap: The Best Pool Filters

Our Research Criteria

Not sure where to start when it comes to buying a pool filter? No worries. Here are the research criteria we use to determine which filters are the best for each category. Let’s start off with the different types of filters you can choose from, then we’ll head into the other rating criteria that made up our research scores for each of our top picks.

Filter Materials

Cleaning the water in your pool is the primary function of a filter. But how does it work? When your pump comes on, it circulates water through the pool filter, cleaning it with a range of media.

Most pool pumps use one of three filtration methods: sand, diatomaceous earth (DE), or cartridge. Each method has a wide range of effectiveness depending on the filter model, so we judged effectiveness as compared to other filters in the same category. Effectiveness accounted for 30% of our overall score. If you’re not sure which type of filter to get, head over to my sand vs. cartridge vs. DE filter comparison.

Sand Filters

Sand filters circulate water through a canister with pounds of sand inside. Like it does underground, sand filters particles out of the water, preventing debris and soil from clouding up your pool water. The finer the sand, the smaller the particles (microns) it can clear from the water. The standard sand used in most filters in #20 silica sand which grabs size 20 microns and larger.

However, a lot of pool owners are opting for some sand alternatives to help improve filtration efficiency. You can add D.E. powder after backwashing or replacing your sand, or replace your silica sand entirely with ZeoSand or filter glass. ZeoSand is made from zeolite, a mineral that is really good at capturing small contaminants – and you only need about half as much as you do silica sand. Filter glass is fine recycled glass with a negative electrical charge that attracts positively charged particles like iron and magnesium that you want to filter out.

If you look at the sand particles close up, you’ll notice lots of tiny rough edges on each one, which helps grab microns and prevents them from running into your pool water. Over time, those rough edges erode and your sand needs to be replaced.

Unfortunately, because the sand is so heavy, it’s often tough to purchase online. However, if you can snag free shipping for your sand filtration system, that will obviously go a long way to cut down on cost.

Diatomaceous Earth Filters

A DE pool filter contains a special type of sedimentary rock that has silica deposits in it. Diatomaceous Earth filter tanks contain rods or “fingers” that are covered in DE powder, which is made from tiny fossilized pieces of diatoms, a single-celled alga.

With DE, you can filter out microscopic-sized particles of stuff from your pool water. Plus, these filters tend to take up less space than alternative types.

You can buy DE at most hardware, pool supply, and livestock feed stores. Household uses for DE also make it a handy substance to have around—you can use it to control insect infestations and deworm animals.

Of course, you need to handle DE carefully, as it can be harmful if you breathe it in or swim in a high concentration of it.

Cartridge Filters

Cartridge filters use similar technology to air filters, incorporating materials like polyester fiber into cartridge units. The material filters out debris and particles as small as 10 microns, which is more effective that your standard #20 silica sand.

Cartridges are available online and in most retail stores, making them accessible no matter how many you go through. You will need to deep clean them at least once every few months (possibly more depending on the size and condition of your pool) and replace them every 2 to 3 years. Generally, a cartridge filter needs to be cleaned when your pool filter pressure gauge reaches 8-10 psi above its normal level, after major rain storms, and when opening and closing the pool. I have a full article on when to replace your filter cartridge, so be sure to give that a read for more details.

Filter Capacity

While some filter setups are ideal for pools of all sizes, others can only filter a set number of gallons of water. If you have a 25,000-gallon inground pool, for example, you’ll want a filter with a higher capacity – a filter that accommodates 6,000-gallon pools won’t work out. Filters are measured in gallons per minute per square foot.

Make sure to match your filter with the right size pool pump and how many gallons per minute (GPM) it can process. Your filter should be rated at the same level or higher as your pool pump. You can use our pool pump size calculator to figure out the right model for you.

And regardless of capacity, you will need to replace your filtering medium occasionally, which affects the overall ‘capacity,’ too. For example, you may need to change out cartridge filters more frequently than sand filters (depending on performance).

Ranges in capacity accounted for 20% of our overall ratings score.

Pump Compatibility and Pressurization

Filters are typically compatible with a range of pumps and water pressure levels. But in some cases, you might find that a filter isn’t effective at cleaning your pool water. It’s common for a filter to reduce water pressure slightly, but a huge dip after installation could mean your filter is not the right size for your pool or pump.

Compatibility accounted for 20% of our overall score for each filter.

Standalone or Pump and Filter Unit

While some filter units are also pumps, many are standalone units that tie into the pool’s plumbing system. We recognize that not every pool owner has the same type of system or needs—which is why we’ve included a range of options on our list of recommendations.

In general, if you already have a pump, you won’t want a pump/filter combination. But if you are replacing an existing system or are just starting out, consider whether a combo unit is the most efficient for your pool size, type, and setup.


We also looked at how easy each filter was to install and replace after months and years of use. Some systems are more complicated than others, so we looked for standardized markings on the filter, easy instructions to follow, and total time to replace. Installation accounted for 15% of our scores.


Of course, price was also a consideration for us and should definitely be factored into your decision based on your budget. Generally, DE filters are the most expensive, cartridge filters are the least expensive, and sand filters are somewhere in the middle. Price and value accounted for 15% of our scores for each filter.

And that’s about it. Questions? Let me know.

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