What is the difference between a Sand Pool Filter and a Cartridge Pool Filter?

In today’s blog post, I will be explaining the difference between 2 of the more popular pool filtration systems that we find in the market today as well as ones that we (Bremner Pool & Spa) encounter when we are out servicing our customers and those are: Cartridge Filters and Sand Filters.  There is a 3rd filtration system called DE (Diatomaceous Earth) Filter, but I am not going to talk about DE Filters as they are not as common as Cartridge and Sand amongst our customers.

Cartridge Filter

  • In a cartridge filter, water passes through the cartridge and dirt/debris is trapped in the fabric. Fabric is reinforced polyester
  • There are no valves and no backwashing. By eliminating the process of backwashing, you are saving on water and chemicals. This makes maintenance a lot easier than a sand filter
  • To clean the cartridges, you simply remove the filter cartridge from the system and give it a good wash. Depending on how much debris you vacuum into the filter, more than one cleaning per season may be required.
  • You cannot vacuum to waste
  • Cartridges have more available area to filter, making it more effective than a sand filter in catching dirt/debris
  • Cartridge filters don’t clog as quickly unless you have an algae ridden pool, in which case, the cartridge system can get clogged up very quickly
  • Can clean more finer materials than sand, filters particles down to 8-15 microns


Advantages: Bigger area to filter which means it can catch more debris, able to capture the finer particles which will result in your pool water being clearer, no need for backwashing which will save you a lot of money in water and chemicals

Disadvantages: Larger upfront cost than a sand filter, can be a pain if you get algae often as you will need to wash the cartridges to remove the algae, cartridges will be need to be replaced every few years compared to sand which lasts much longer

Sand Filter

  • In a sand filter, water passes through the sand inside the filter and the sand removes the dirt/debris. The water than goes back out of the bottom of the sand filter and back into the pool. The type of sand used in a sand filter is called Silica Sand
  • You would need to backwash often to remove the dirt/debris out of the sand filter and into your waste line. Water is used from your pool, goes through the filter and removes the dirt/debris out into your waste line. If you do not backwash, you will have dirt/debris that will accumulate in the sand filter and the sand filter will start to get clogged
  • Disadvantage of sand filters is that when you are backwashing, you are dumping out water that has been chemically treated and in some cases, heated. Also, while backwashing, your pump needs to run at a higher speed, which means you are drawing more energy when backwashing
  • The process of backwashing is simple
  • Sand filters are not as effective as cartridge filters in filtering those finer particles. Filters particles down to 20-25 microns.
  • Sand filters are more forgiving when it comes to algae. All you need to do is backwash to remove the algae, which is pretty simple.  In the case of a cartridge filter, you would need to remove the cartridges and give them a thorough wash, which can take time

Advantages: Upfront cost of a sand filter is less than a cartridge filter, more forgiving when you have algae in your pool compared to cartridge, sand filters are easy to maintain, the backwashing process is simple, and the silica sand in the filter will last longer than the polyester cartridges

Disadvantages: When backwashing, you are dumping water out of your pool which was chemically treated and heated so your cost of water, heating and chemicals will increase, not as effective as a cartridge filter in catching that finer debris, pump needs to be running at the maximum speed when backwashing so you are drawing more energy

So, which one is the better filter out of the two? Each of them has their pros and cons and it depends on your situation.  There are a series of factors that you need to consider when trying to determine which option is best for you.  Contact us and we can walk through this process with you and come up with the right solution for your pool!

Ask Bremner Pool
Contact Bremner Pool & Spa today to inquire about Pool Filters or for any general advice on any swimming pool products, repairs, safety tips and maintenance. Free Quotes Available.

About Bremner Pool & Spa:
Established in 1981, Bremner Pool & Spa is one of the premiere swimming pool service companies in Toronto, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and Durham Region. We operate 13 state-of-the art vehicles and offer a variety of high quality and eco-friendly products & services including swimming pool renovations, openings, partial swimming pool openings, swimming pool closings, weekly pool and spa service, pool leak detection & repair, heaters, liners, pumps, filters and more. As well, Bremner Pool & Spa complies with all City of Toronto By Laws for Pools, Hot Tubs and Spas.

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