Sand Filters vs. Cartridge Filters: Choosing the Right Pool Filter

Sand vs Cartridge Filters

When it comes to finding the right Pool Filter for your pool, there’s a lot to take into account.

All filters keep your pool water clean, but what’s the difference between them? How do they actually work and what can they do? We know that when it comes to your in-ground or Above Ground Pool, you want affordable and efficient pool equipment. The most popular pool filter types are Cartridge Filters and Sand Filters.

Before breaking down the pros and cons of Sand vs. Cartridge, let’s take a look at how the system works. Both types of Filters, as well as DE Filters, work in unison with your pool pump, filtering the water before it re-enters the pool. The media filter (Sand, D.E., and Filter Cartridges) traps dirt, debris and other small particles. That being said, larger pool filters will allow you more time between cleaning.

Let’s dive into a comparison of Sand vs. Cartridge Filters:


Triton II
Hayward Pro Series Pool Filter
Hayward Sand Filter

Sand Filters are generally the most compact and affordable option to filter an in-ground or above ground pool. Sand Filters use specially designed Pool Filter Sand that removes the dirt and debris as water pushes through the media. The cleaned water then flows back into the pool out through the bottom end of the filter. In a Sand Filter, back-washing occurs once water flows out through the waste line, instead of back into the pool, cleaning the filter. As the filter sand gets older and dirtier, the water flow pressure through the filter will decrease. This decrease in water flow pressure will in turn increase the pressure rate of the filter. This will tell the pool owner that it’s time to backwash the equipment. Generally, the sand media should be replaced about every five to eight years, based on usage.


  • Removes down to 20-40 micron-sized dirt and debris
  • Easy-to-use and simple to operate
  • Low maintenance
  • Backwashing is easy
  • Sand Media holds up much longer than Filter Cartridges
  • Sand and alternative filter media is relatively inexpensive


  • Requires replacement sand every 5-8 years
  • Backwashing lowers pool water
  • Lower filtering ability than Cartridge Filters (20-40 microns vs 10-15 microns)
  • Constant backwashing can throw off your water balance


Pentair Clean and Clear Plus CCP420 Pool Filter
Jandy CL580 Pool Filter

Cartridge Filters can screen out twice as much dirt and debris as a Sand Filter. Its larger filtration area allows the water to progress through the cartridge and remove smaller particles. Maintenance is much easier because there is no need for a back-washing step. This can save pool owners money by not constantly removing water and pool chemicals. All you need to do is remove the Filter Cartridge and wash it off or install a replacement cartridge.

These filters cut energy costs by utilizing low pump pressure, but may have a higher upfront price. Since the pressure needed is lower, it can prolong the life of your pool pump.


  • Removes dirt particles as small as 10-15 microns
  • Simple maintenance & no backwashing
  • Perfect for filtering Above Ground Pools
  • Cuts energy costs by utilizing lower pump pressure
  • Less wear and tear on pool pump
  • Low water flow impact
  • Larger surface area screens out more dirt particles


  • Maintenance costs can be higher than other types of filters
  • Cartridges need to be replaced every few years
  • Not practical for very large pools
  • Need to wash filter cartridges at least twice a year, depending on usage
  • Higher upfront price


A high quality Pool Filter for your pool is key to creating and maintaining a healthy and sanitary swimming environment. When comparing Sand and Cartridge Pool Filters, we typically recommend Cartridge Filters as they catch smaller dirt particles, clean more rapidly, require less pump pressure, and are easy to maintain. When purchasing a new Cartridge Filter, bigger is always better.

Sand Filters are still great options, especially for larger residential and commercial pools with more powerful Pool Pumps. Unlike Cartridge Filters, Sand Filters need to be sized according to your pool pump.

If your pool pump is over 1.5 HP, we typically recommend choosing a Cartridge Filter over a Sand Filter. Cartridge Filters are more versatile, generally have a higher max flow rate GPM (Gallons per Minute) and will end up saving you money in upkeep costs and savings to your pump.

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When Kevin’s not enjoying the water himself he’s engaging himself in the wide world of pool and spa knowledge which he passes on to our customers through producing content for our blogs and website. Outside of the pool world you can find him enjoying life with friends, family and his off the wall dog Brixton.