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The 8 Best Pool Filters of 2024 to Maintain a Clean Swimming Pool

Hayward’s XStream Above-Ground Pool Filter Pump System is the standout pick.

Doheny's Pool Pro 16-Inch Sand Filter System

Better Homes & Gardens / David Hattan

While having a pool is undoubtedly an enjoyable luxury, keeping it clean and swimmable is no mean feat. A good pool filter is a must for any pool owner, since it’s designed to remove particles such as dirt, dust, and algae providing you with a clear and healthy swimming environment.

Three main types of pool filters are available: cartridge, sand, and diatomaceous earth (DE). The type you opt for, however, largely depends on the size of pool you have, as well as your budget.

To learn about important factors we should take into consideration when shopping around for the best pool filter, we spoke to swimming pool professional, Dan Dougher of the pool blog, Above-Ground Swimming Pools Know-it-all. Dougher has more than 36 years of experience in the industry, has installed/built more than 6,000 pools in his career, and owns a pool maintenance business in Central Florida.

“Each filter type has pros and cons,” Dougher says. “How well the filter works is based on its micron rating (the particle size that the filter can retain), ease of use/maintenance, and how available parts are when needing repair.”

Dougher explains that, apart from when it comes to in-ground or above ground pool filters, your pool type doesn't matter as all filters work the same way regardless. “The size of the pool's pump, however, should be matched to the size of the pool,” he says.

Key Terms to Know

  • Gallons Per Minute (GPM): Gallons Per Minute (GPM) is used to measure a pool filter's flow rate. and refers to how much water can move through the filter pump per minute.
What We Researched
  • Filter Type: The best pool filters feature either a sand, cartridge, or diatomaceous earth filter. Each serve the same function but enact different filtration methods.
  • Pool Type: We considered if the pool filter was better suited for either an above-ground, in-ground pool, or both.
  • Flow Rate: We considered the flow rate of each pool filter, keeping in mind that it would ideally turn over all of the pool's water in eight to 10 hours.
  • Installation and Maintenance: While researching the best pool filters, we noted if they are easy to install, as well as the required maintenance.

Best Overall

Hayward Pool Filter Pump System

Hayward W3CC15093S XStream Pool Filter Pump System


Why You Should Get It
  • It has a 120 GPM flow rate and is ideal for pool’s with a capacity of 15,000 gallons.

Keep in Mind
  • Replacement filters are rather pricey.

According to the pros, high-quality cartridge pool filters—like this Hayward W3CC15093S XStream Pool Filter Pump System—are commonly considered to be the best pool filters around for above-ground pools. This is because they require very little maintenance, are easy to install, and offer superior filtration.

The XStream has a fantastic 120 GPM flow rate, and a powerful 1.5 HP pump. It quickly and effectively removes debris and contaminants from pool water and can be used with both rigid and flexible plumbing.

This pool filter system comes with a pressure gauge, hoses and adaptors, clamps, a filter base, and all the fittings so you can get started on installation immediately. It also features a safety catch that will prevent you from over-tightening it and causing accidental damage.

There’s an Easy Lok ring which opens in one turn for insertion and removal of the cartridge, and easy access to any of the internal parts. The pool filter comes with a 6-foot cord which means you may have to arrange an extension if your pool is further out on a deck, for instance.

The filter is large, enabling the unit to equally distribute the contaminants through the filter, ensuring thorough cleaning for healthy and clear water.

The replacement filters are more expensive than other filters on our list, but because this is a quality and reliable pool filter system, it’s our top pick.

Product Details: Dimensions: 37.3 x 21.6 x 29.6 inches | Filter Type: Cartridge | Pool Type: Above ground | Recommended Pool Capacity: 15,000 gallons | Flow Rate: 120 GPM

Best Budget

Intex Krystal Clear Cartridge Filter Pump

Intex 28637EG C1000 Krystal Clear Cartridge Filter Pump


Why You Should Get It
  • This features an affordable filter cartridge that’s easy to install, clean, and maintain.

Keep in Mind
  • It’s not ideal for larger pools as it can only run for eight hours a day.

Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t have crystal clear pool water that’s healthy enough for the whole family to enjoy those sunny days. The Intex 28637EG C1000 Krystal Clear Cartridge Filter Pump is designed for smaller pools as you can only use it for eight hours a day.

However, for a pool with 6,000 gallons of water or less, this is more than enough time to get plunge-worthy swimming water. For even smaller pools, there are smaller pumps available starting from 330 GPH that are even more economical.

Maintenance consists of replacing the cartridge in the filter every couple of weeks, and it’s compatible with both type A and C cartridges. It has a 25-foot power cord and is extremely lightweight at just 6.8 pounds.

If any air gets trapped in the pump, this is easily rectifiable by utilizing the unit’s air release valve. You will, however, need an adaptor if you need a 1.5-inch hose fittings as this model comes with 1.25-inch hoses and screw fittings.

It comes with one replaceable filter cartridge, and an aeration technology inlet fitting—an innovative feature that improves the filtration by making finer particles clump together and fall to the bottom of the pool instead of floating around in your swimming space.

It also increases the negative ions on the surface for even fresher water. Keep in mind, this purchase doesn’t come with a plunger valve or outlet fittings, and partial assembly is required. However, it does come with a one-year manufacturer’s warranty. 

Product Details: Dimensions: 10.62 x 10.62 x 15 inches | Filter Type: Cartridge | Pool Type: Above ground | Recommended Pool Capacity: 6,000 gallons | Flow Rate: 1000 GPH

Best Splurge

Hayward ProGrid DE Pool Filter

Hayward W3DE6020 ProGrid DE Pool Filter


Why You Should Get It
  • This filter is a great pick if you have a large in-ground pool and need an efficient and long lasting filtering system.

Keep in Mind
  • You have to buy the valve, which is an additional cost on top of an already expensive pool filter.

Those with extra-large in-ground pools need an effective water filtering system that won’t struggle to clean all the water in a day. Hayward’s W3DE6020 ProGrid DE Pool Filter is made for the task and can take on pools of 57 gallons with ease.

It’s a high-capacity, highly efficient DE filter and pump combo system and while it is an investment, it’s a quality purchase. This filter is made from extremely durable materials (glass-reinforced polymer) and is corrosion proof and weatherproof.

It has a rapid-release air valve that you can manually turn—only a slight quarter-turn of the valve’s lever will easily get rid of any trapped air.

The one-piece flange clamp keeps the top and bottom aligned, is heavy-duty and tamper-proof, and fastens tightly, though it is easy enough to release so you can access all the filter’s internal components when you need to. It’s also compatible with slide and multiport valves.

It comes with two-inch full-flow internal pipes, and the base is low profile so you can quickly remove the grid nest. You’ll have to buy the valve separately, and it’s compatible with the SP0740DE, SP0710XR50, SP0715XR50, and SP0410X502S models.

It comes with a one-year manufacturer’s warranty, is easy to maintain, and is one of the best pool filters for in-ground pools you can buy.

Product Details: Dimensions: 23.1 x 24.6 x 47.8 inches | Filter Type: DE | Pool Type: In-ground | Recommended Pool Capacity: 57,600+ | Flow Rate: 120 GPM

Best Sand

Doheny's Sand Filter System

Doheny's Pool Pro 16-Inch Sand Filter System


Why You Should Get It
  • It’s effective at catching larger debris.

Keep in Mind
  • It’s only compatible with certain types of sand.

If your pool is surrounded by trees and plants and you never remember to bring out the pool cover, you may feel like you’re fighting a losing battle against all the fallen leaves, petals, pollen, and other debris that manage to make its way into your pool.

This 16-Inch Sand Filter System from Doheny's Pool Pro is designed especially for the task of filtering larger debris thanks to its large basket. This basket has a see-through lid that twists off easily so you can see when it’s getting full. 

This pool filter comes with a one HP pump, a base, a hose, and a pressure gauge so you can see when you need to backwash the sand. There’s also a glass window for you to monitor the water’s cleanliness.

If you already have a pool pump, this filter is also available for purchase without one. Maintenance is a breeze thanks to its easy-access drain plug, and there’s a six-position valve with a flange clamp to make sure it’s securely sealed. 

It has a 40 GPM flow rate, and if the 16-inch is not suitable for your pool, it also comes in 14-inch, 19-inch, and 24-inch versions. The 14-inch, however, does not have a sight glass and has a four-way valve. The hoses come with the filter, but there’s only a two-foot power cord which may mean you’ll need an outdoor extension cord.

It needs about 50 pounds of sand, but it’s only compatible with AquaQuartz #20 silica sand #5451, ZeoSand #4429, or Aqualoon #7832.

Product Details: Dimensions: 17 x 17 x 33 inches | Filter Type: Sand | Pool Type: Above ground | Recommended Pool Capacity: 16,800 gallons | Flow Rate: 40 GPM

Why You Should Get It
  • This is a small, energy efficient, and effective pool filter that removes contaminants of all sizes and doesn’t need backwashing.

Keep in Mind
  • It’s only for above ground pools.

If you’re looking for a good DE filter for your above-ground pool, the Hayward W3EC40C92S Perflex Diatomaceous Earth Filter Pump System is one of the best you can find. It has a one HP pump that churns water at a flow rate of 40 GPM, and it’s compact and lightweight, too, since it only has 4 pounds of diatomaceous earth powder.

This filter can filter even the smallest of debris and dust particles to provide you with clean, clear, and healthy swimming pool water. It clears cloudy pool water within 24 hours, and although it has a higher price tag, its durable and reliable.

When it comes to maintenance, as opposed to other pool filters, the Perflex DE doesn’t require any backwashing. The only thing needed is to activate the system’s special feature that activates the tubes in order to get rid of any dirt.

Another great thing about this filter is that it uses less resistance than other similar models which means it's more energy efficient, too. 

In addition, you can also use it if you have a saltwater pool. This filter is designed for installation below the water level and gravity-fed water on the side of the intake. There’s no cover for it (it can handle being outdoors perfectly fine), and it comes with the hoses and clamps and practically everything you need for installation.

Product Details: Dimensions: 25.9 x 16.4 x 28.9 inches | Filter Type: Diatomaceous earth (DE) | Pool Type: Above ground | Recommended Pool Capacity: 19,000 gallons | Flow Rate: 40 GPM

Best In-Ground

Rx Clear Filter System

 Rx Clear Radiant Complete Sand Filter System


Why You Should Get It
  • It features a pressure gauge which lets you know when it’s time for backwashing.

Keep in Mind
  • It doesn’t come with the hoses and can’t be shipped to California or Florida.

If you’ve been scouting around for a high-quality in-ground pool filter, you may have realized that most of the best pool filters on the market seem to be made for above-ground pools. (We had the same problem.)

However, the Rx Clear Radiant Complete Sand Filter System is the best pool filter for those with even larger in-ground pools of up to 33,000 gallons. It has an impressive flow rate of 84 GMP and offers longer filter cycles that can catch and thoroughly filter even more debris, small and large. 

This is an all-in-one system that includes the pump, tank, and filter. It’s easy to use, and its one HP capability makes it a powerful unit that’s economical to run. It features a six-position multi-valve port, and it has a see-through screen so you can monitor the sand.

The included pressure gauge will let you know when it’s time for backwashing, and there’s a two-piece strainer cover and a pool filter basket. It even comes with a three-year warranty. You will, however, need to purchase the hoses separately since it doesn’t come with them.

The unit has a large sand bed that can hold 150 pounds of sand to help catch debris, and it can hold six boxes of the Rx Clear Luster Filter Media. Though this sand alternative is optional, it can filter particles as small as five microns, and just 1.5 pounds of the media is equal to 50 pounds of sand.

It provides a longer life span, won’t clog the filter, reduces bacterial growth, and can even be cleaned in the washing machine. It also requires less backwashing than sand, so it’s definitely worthy of consideration.

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

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


Why You Should Get It
  • It comes with a pump and is made from a durable and sturdy weatherproof thermoplastic.

Keep in Mind
  • It doesn’t come with hoses.

The Doheny's Pool Pro Cartridge Filter is the best pool filter for smaller pools. This cartridge filter has a smaller pump with 0.75 HP, and is made with a non-woven material for a maximum flow rate of 73 GPM. It can filter pools of up to 12,000 gallons, and comes with a six-foot power cord, a pressure gauge, release valve, and a 1.5-inch connector. 

The filter’s construction is impressively hardy and made from a long-lasting and weather-proof plastic so you won’t have to worry about it being out without a cover.

Both the pump and cartridge elements are top-loading with ring-lock lids that seal tightly and prevent them from getting stuck. The filter lid has a pressure gauge and a release valve for releasing any accumulated air pressure. 

The pump is rated at 115 Volts/60 Hertz and has CSA (Canadian Standards Association) and ETL (Edison Testing Laboratories) certificates, meaning that its been tested to, and is compliant with, the North American safety standards set out by associations such as ANSI (American National Standards Institute).

The filter and pump are available in different sizes if this is too small for your pool. If you don’t need the pump, you can also purchase the filter only (it doesn’t ship to California though). The hoses don’t come with the unit so you’ll have to buy them separately, although you do get a 1.5-inch threaded/quick connector.

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

Best for Large Pools

Hayward ProSeries Sand Filter

Hayward W3S310S ProSeries Sand Filter


Why You Should Get It
  • It has a self-cleaning system and can be used for freshwater or saltwater.

Keep in Mind
  • You have to buy the valve separately.

It may be expensive, but it only makes sense to have to splash out a little extra if you want crystal clear water in your extra-large swimming pool. The Hayward W3S310S ProSeries Sand Filter is the best pool filter for plethoric pools as it has a flow rate of 98 GPM which can turn over the water in a 47,000-gallon pool in just eight hours.

The W3S310S model is a side-mount filter, but, depending on how your plumbing is set up, there’s also a top-mount version, the W3S310T. It needs 500 pounds of pool filtration sand and it’s recommended to check the sand level every six months. 

The filter has a self-cleaning system which evenly distributes the water for optimal backwashing and provides an efficient flow. It can even be used for a natural pool, like a large pond. Its extremely durable construction is corrosion- and weather-proof.

There’s an inspection cover that gives you quick access to the filter, and a water drain that quickly gets rid of any water for maintenance or winterizing. It doesn’t come with the 6-position Hayward VariFlo control valve, but you can purchase the 1.5-inch or 2-inch valves separately.

Product Details: Dimensions: 32 x 32 x 48.3 inches | Filter Type: Sand | Pool Type: In-ground | Recommended Pool Capacity: 40,000+ | Flow Rate: 98 GPM

The Bottom Line

As the standout choice for the best pool filter, Hayward’s W3CC15093S XStream Pool Filter Pump System is easy to install and maintain and has a powerful pump that can help clean the water at a flow rate of 120 GPM. It’s a reliable pool filter that’s made for pools of up to 15,000 gallons, and it is made from durable materials to help withstand natural elements. 

What to Know About Pool Filters Before Shopping

Filter Type

There are three main types of pool filters available. “When shopping for a filter type, users should learn about all three: sand, cartridge, and DE,” Dougher says. While all three types have the same function—namely, to remove contaminants and dirt from water—they each use a different filtration method. 

Sand: This type of filter, as the name suggests, uses sand as the filtration method and can catch debris of around 20-40 microns. In the 1980’s, sand filters were commonly used for in-ground pools but, according to Dougher, have since been almost entirely replaced by cartridge types, at least in hotter climates with longer swim seasons.

Cartridge: Cartridge pool filters are an affordable pool filter type that use fibrous cartridges to catch debris. They often cover a greater surface area than sand pool filters, and can filter out particles of just 10-15 microns. They are also capable of operating at a lower pressure, thereby proving less strenuous on the pump.

Diatomaceous Earth: DE filters are typically the most expensive, as they can filter out particles of just two to five microns. The filtration method is via diatomaceous earth powder—an extremely porous powder made from fossilized exoskeletons of diatoms (tiny aquatic creatures) that has microscopic cavities that can trap tiny debris. They may have an initially higher cost, but they’re fairly inexpensive to maintain.

When it comes to which is the best pool filter type, Dougher votes for a high quality cartridge-type filter. “Their micron rating is excellent; the design is simpler (less repair), they’re not more expensive than other types, and can almost entirely be rejuvenated by replacing the element/cartridge,” he says.

Pool Type

Pool filters are designed for either in-ground or above-ground pools (some are suitable for both types) and this should be clearly stated on the product. Apart from that, the type of pool you have (infinity, ceramic, natural, etc.) doesn't matter when looking for the best pool filter, as all filters work in the same way regardless. 

Pool Size

The size of the pool, however, is a major factor in your selection process and should be matched to the pool pump and filter you opt for. To choose the best pool pump and filter, you’ll need to know the size of your pool and how many gallons of water it can hold.

If you divide your pool’s capacity in gallons by the desired turnover rate (eight to 10 hours), you’ll get the minimum flow rate needed. The flow rate, as well as the size of the pool it is suitable for, should be clearly stated on each product. 

Flow Rate and Capacity

The flow rate and maximum capacity is dependent on the pump and not the pool filter. In order for a pool filter to adequately clean a pool, the pump must be able to turn over all of the water in eight to 10 hours. “The filter's flow rate and capacity should match the pump's flow rate and capacity,” says Dougher.

Installation and Maintenance

Installing all types of pool filters typically requires the same kind of procedure and time spent, however, where they differ is in their maintenance needs. “Installation is about the same,” says Dougher, “but there are advantages and disadvantages for each type of filter in regard to maintenance.”

To perform your regular maintenance on a cartridge filter, you’ll need to take the top of the canister off, pull out the cartridge element, wash it down with a nozzle on a water hose, then replace it.

“The advantage is that with this, you can clearly see the condition of the filter element and know when there is a restriction, or when it is time to replace it,” Dougher says. “The disadvantage is that this cleaning process takes the longest to do, and sometimes the top of the canister (holding the element) can be hard to take off and replace.”

Sand filters are easier to maintain in that you don't have to take anything apart when cleaning them. You only have to backwash a sand filter, which entails moving a valve and having water flow through your yard.

“The disadvantage with this type of filter is that it takes water from the pool every time it is backwashed, and you’ll also have to deal with water in the yard,” Dougher says.

A DE pool filter is the hardest to maintain as it requires backwashing out the existing powder (a lot like what you would do with a sand type), but then new DE powder has to be added through the skimmer to re-coat the filter.

DE filters also require complete disassembly and cleaning of the filter grids/fingers once every 12-18 months. “The powder is also extremely toxic and should not be inhaled as it can cause damage to the lungs,” says Dougher.

Your Questions, Answered

Are sand filters better than cartridge filters?

There are pros and cons to both sand and cartridge filters, but Dougher says he has a preference for cartridge filters.

“In my opinion, sand filters are not better than cartridge filters, because cartridge types can take out smaller particles in the water,” Dougher says. “Also, a sand-type filter is considered a ‘closed’ type filter, which means that you don't take it apart.”

“With this, you can never really tell the status of the sand in the filter, which can be partially clogged or caked up,” he says. “A cartridge-type filter has an element that is taken out and cleaned. With that, you can clearly see the status of the filter.”

What is the easiest pool filter to maintain?

One of the advantages to a sand filter, however, is the fact that it’s the easiest to maintain.

“You don't have to take anything apart when cleaning,” says Dougher. “You only have to backwash it. A cartridge type requires a bit of disassembly and cleaning before you replace it, which makes it more time-consuming, and you need to know how to put it back together.”

What is the life expectancy of a pool filter?

The life expectancy of the average medium-quality pool pump is more than 10 years. However, your filter might need to be changed more often than that. 

Cartridge filters will last more than 10 years, but the element in the cartridge tank will need replacing every two to five years. DE filters also usually last more than 10 years, but will need to be taken apart and completely cleaned about once every 18 months.

Sand type filters will also last more than 10 years, and although some people decide to change out the sand in them every five years or so, Dougher says that the sand doesn’t ever need to be replaced.

The sand may get caked up inside, however, so it will need to be manually broken up so it can be fully functional again.

Who We Are

This article was written by Kat de Naoum, who has more than 10 years of commerce writing experience. Kat is also the commerce editor-at-large at Thomas-Xometry, the leading U.S. online platform for supplier discovery and product sourcing. For this article, Kat reviewed multiple pool filters, researching factors such as each pool filter's type, dimensions, flow rate, installation, and maintenance requirements. She also spoke to, Above-Ground Swimming Pools Know-it-all, Dan Dougher.

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