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Sand vs. Cartridge vs. D.E. Filter: Choosing the Right Filter for Your Pool

The right Pentair filter from Mastercraft Pool & Spa keeps pool water clean and fresh.


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When you are a kid, swimming pools feel like magic. Right in your backyard is a mini ocean whose waters are always fresh and clear. It might even have temperature control! No marine life scuttling around your toes, no murky deep area of mystery or seaweed or algae or sand. However, when you become the adult who owns the pool you realize there’s actually a method to the magic. It’s not some ocean magic that keeps your pool nice and fresh. That’s the job of your trusty pool filter! Let’s take a look at sand vs. cartridge vs. Diatomaceous Earth (D.E.) pool filters. If you choose the right filter for your pool, the results will feel like magic. 

What do pool filters do?

The process of filtering a pool is pretty simple. First, some pool water is pumped out of your pool and into your filter. In the filter, it sifts through a filtering medium which catches and holds impurities and debris. What passes through the other side is the fresh clean water that invites us to dive in for a swim. Sand, cartridge, and D.E. filters all basically operate in this same way. The difference lies in what medium the filter uses to catch debris.

Sand Filters

Sand filters pump your pool water through sand, which catches unwanted particles from your pool. As debris builds up in a sand filter, the sand needs to be cleaned out. This process is called backwashing. Washing out the sand helps the filter work at its best capacity. Sand filters require less maintenance than cartridge filters and D.E. filters. They are also the least expensive filter type.

Cartridge Filters

Cartridge filters sift your water through a layered fabric filter. The fabric of the filter is pleated in a cylinder shape. These filters are able to filter finer particles than sand filters, so the water that passes through a cartridge filter is that much clearer. Different from backwashing a sand filter, cartridge filters cleaning happens by rinsing out the filter with water. This simple cleaning process is part of what makes cartridge filters the greenest pool filter option. Also, cartridge filters are the most energy efficient of the filters.

D.E. Filters

Diatomaceous Earth filters, or D.E. filters, filter your pool water through a frame filled with a special powder. What is this special powder made of? Home Repair Geek says to “[t]hink of it like a really, really fine sand. Different from sand though, which tends to be more rounded, D.E. powder is made up of things such as ground up prehistoric shells from the sea or the skeletal remains of microscopic single-cell aquatic plants called diatoms (or diatomite). The resulting pieces come in just about as many shapes and textures as you could imagine… It’s these shapes though that create the very tiny openings for water to pass through, but the other particles like dust and sand cannot.”

D.E. filters need to be backwashed similarly to sand filters. D.E. powder can filter finer particles than sand and cartridge filters, providing the clearest water of the three. However, D.E. filters are the most expensive filter type.

The Right Filter for Your Pool

So, when it comes to choosing the right filter for your residential or commercial pool, it’s important to weigh your options between sand vs. cartridge vs. D.E. filters. Whichever filter is the right fit for your pool, let Mastercraft Pool & Spa be your source for pool filters in Pocatello. With over 35 years in the pool industry, Mastercraft is your premier pool authority for eastern Idaho, western Wyoming and southwest Montana. Give us a call today at 208-237-6557 for any assistance or service you need.


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