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How to Change the Sand in a Pool Filter

Eddie has owned above-ground and inground pools for over 30 years.

I'll show you how easy it is to change the sand in your pool filter

I'll show you how easy it is to change the sand in your pool filter

How to Change Pool Filter Sand

If you were to hire a pool company to come in and change the sand in your pool filter, it would probably cost you over $100 for labor, and then you would pay extra for the sand because they delivered it. I'll show you how to do it in about one hour. You won't be overcharged, and you'll know it's done right.

The best time to change the sand in your pool filter is in the spring, when the water in the filter has been drained since last fall, and the sand has had plenty of time to drain and dry out. Make sure the pool pump electricity is turned off, the valves going to the filter are all off, and like I said, the filter is drained.

  • If you need to drain the filter, unscrew the drain cap at the bottom of the sand filter, and drain the filter for at least 12 hours, otherwise the sand will be very wet and difficult to remove. Once the sand is well-drained, it's time to open the sand filter housing.
  • Locate the bolts or strap in the middle of the sand filter housing, remove all the bolts or the strap completely, gently remove the upper half of the filter housing being careful not to damage any internal parts. The sand filter you see in the pictures is a bolt-on style with a rubber o-ring gasket.
My big mess!

My big mess!

Tools You Will Need

  • Small garden shovel
  • Shop vacuum
  • 5-gallon bucket
  • New filter sand
  • Silicone paste or non-petroleum jelly
  • Wrench set and or socket set
  • Screwdriver
  • Shop towel
  • Time and patience
Remove the old sand with a small garden shovel.

Remove the old sand with a small garden shovel.

Be careful not to damage the fingers with the shovel.

Be careful not to damage the fingers with the shovel.

Step 1: Remove the Sand From the Housing

Because all sand filters are different, caution needs to be taken when removing the sand from the housing. The filter has fingers that stick out from the center tube. As you can see in the pictures, my Hayward sand filter has fingers at the bottom of the housing. Some other filters may have them a little higher up inside the housing, so dig slowly and carefully.

Using a small garden shovel, remove the sand into a bucket or wheelbarrow until you can't remove any more with the shovel. I used a shop vacuum to remove the remaining sand at the bottom of the filter housing, being very careful not to damage the filter fingers. You can rinse the inside of the housing with water but it's not necessary, then you just add the new sand gently, being careful not to damage the fingers.

Love this stuff! I highly recommend it.

Love this stuff! I highly recommend it.

Step 2: Choose Your Sand (You Have Options!)

Pool technology has come a long way, and you have many options for pool filter sand. You can choose to buy just regular filter sand, or you can try an alternative like Zeo Sand. Zeo works more like Diatomaceous Earth filter media, which is designed to filter the smallest particles out of your water and is capable of filtering out particles as small as one micron.

Zeo Sand has the same capabilities and DE and I found it to be 10 times better than regular filter sand. Zeo sand is a bit more expensive than filter sand but you only need half the weight. My Hayward filter takes 200lbs of regular filter sand, with Zeo sand, I only needed 100lbs, Zeo sand is just lighter sand, and works so much better.

My pool water was always cloudy- not so cloudy you couldn't see the bottom, just a little white haze so the water was never crystal clear. I really noticed a difference when the pool light was on at night; I used to be able to see all kinds of particles floating in the water causing that white haze. After changing to Zeo sand, it's completely clear. I was psyched, I couldn't believe the difference. I always thought the water was supposed to be a little cloudy—but now I know better!

Check the gasket or o-ring for damage or cracks.

Check the gasket or o-ring for damage or cracks.

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Read More From Dengarden

Remove the remaining sand with a shop vacuum.

Remove the remaining sand with a shop vacuum.

Step 3: Reassemble the Sand Filter Housing

Once the sand is back in the housing, it's time to reinstall the housing top.

Very important note: Remove the rubber gasket or o-ring, inspect it for damage, cracking, or splitting, if there are any signs of damage, replace it! If it looks good and you're confident it won't leak, use a little silicone paste (not silicone sealer) and lube the rubber o-ring or gasket. This will help keep the seal pliable and will help keep it in place during the installation process.

Clean the mating surfaces, be sure to remove all the sand from the areas where the gasket sits, if there is any sand under or on the gasket, you will have a leak, so make sure you remove every tiny spec of sand, you don't want to do this again, do you? Once you cleaned the mating surfaces and the gasket is back in place, and the top is on the housing, reinstall all the bolts, washers, and nuts, snug each one down but do not tighten them completely.

Using two wrenches, tighten each nut a quarter turn, move on to the next one until you have tightened each one a quarter turn, now continue going around the perimeter of the housing to each bolt and making a quarter turn until they are tight, this will ensure that the gasket has even pressure and you won't squeeze or pinch the gasket causing a leak. You may have to tighten each bolt at least four times, but just keep tightening them till there snug, don't over-tighten them or you will cause a leak as well.

Backwash first before circulating the water back into the pool.

Backwash first before circulating the water back into the pool.

Step 4: Backwash the New Filter Sand

You need to backwash the new sand before you circulate the water back into the pool, this will remove any debris and dust in the sand so it doesn't end up in your pool. You will probably have to prime the filter before you run the pump; just dump a couple of buckets of water into the basket housing on the filter, or you can read my article on opening your swimming pool. Once you get the filter running, stand back, and watch the magic happen—especially if you used Zeo sand (see my comments above about this brand). Check the filter housing for leaks, if there are any leaks, snug the bolts in that area and see if you can stop the leak, if not, you will have to change the gasket or o-ring.

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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: Am I being misled with advise that it is easier to remove sand from a pool filter by not draining the water?

Answer: The only way I know how to remove sand is to drain the filter completely and scoop it out by hand using a small cup.


Eddie Carrara (author) from New Hampshire on July 13, 2020:

Hi Chris,

They may not sell that model anymore but I'm sure there are a lot of them out there still. The amount of sand wasn't 400lbs more like 150lbs. I agree the Zeo sand isn't any better than the regular sand. If I were to do it all again I think I would install a cartridge filter, my neighbor had one it was much more efficient. Although with the new technology you never know what's going to be the next best thing. Thanks for the feedback.

Chris L on July 11, 2020:

And one in ten sand filters has a top that comes off. The one in your article isn’t even made anymore. Good luck reaching in through a 7” hole and scooping out 400lbs of

Sand with a cup. And Zeo Sand is a gimmick. Use glass. It’s ten times better than any sand.

Pool guy tired of paying others on September 19, 2019:

You really don't need to change the sand in a pool filter unless it has cemented itself or you are trying to go back to chlorine after using non chlorine sanitizers. Sand on the beach is still there after thousands of years. You should suggest to people to do a deep clean yearly. PS, in 27 + years my pool filter sand has never been changed. To improve it's effectiveness I add a small amount of DE after each backwash.

Eddie Carrara (author) from New Hampshire on August 02, 2012:

Hi Scott,

I had the same problem with my pool this spring, what you just stated is exactly what happened to me, but I had already changed to zeo sand. I dumped tons of chlorine , metal remover and even tried a neutralizer to start over again, nothing worked until I used Banish.

I had to use a chemical called Banish to kill the algae, it has a chemical called copper sulfate in it that destroys algae, once I put the Banish in the pool and the green went away, my pool was crystal clear, like more clear then it's ever been since I owned the pool (13years). The pool water is so clear that when you turn the pool light on at night, , I don't have that haze in the water anymore.

Scott, try banish or aluminium sulfate or copper sulfate to clear the green water. Let me know how you make out. Also read my other article called "I Had the Worst Pool Algae This Spring" the link is right above the comment box. Read Tony's comment, he uses copper sulfate too, and he seems to be the laziest pool owner I know.

Scott on August 02, 2012:

Do NOT change to ZEOSand. I've had a pool for 7 years. No problems. Changed to ZEOSand and been green ever sense. All levels read great. Pool is a green as can be. Shocked like crazy. Chlorine level off the charts. Still green. This crap does not filter. Stay with regular sand. Just add a little DE if you need better filtering. DO NOT FALL FOR THIS WITCH DOCTOR CRAP. And yes..I backed washed 6 times before filtering letting it settle for an hour between backwashes and rinsed 3 times. PURE JUNK.

Eddie Carrara (author) from New Hampshire on May 15, 2012:

Hello Prakash,

I have 20 years experience with pools, and I lean something new each year, lol. Thank you for the comment :)

Prakash Dighe from Dallas, Texas, USA on May 15, 2012:

Eddie, as always, very well researched and presented!

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