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What Is Backwashing? – Procedure Explained

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O nce in a while, your pool just seems to turn cloudy, and, although you’ve been keeping your maintenance schedule, the water seems to remain unclean. When this happens, the first you need to check is the filter, which may have just become too full of debris and dirt. They clog it and diminish the water flow, a phenomenon which leads to poor water circulation, poor water filtration, and, lastly, to a milky color.

Fortunately, as long as this problem isn’t caused by a damaged filter, it is actually super easy to solve. You just need to familiarize yourself with the process of backwashing and start using it several times a year to remove deposits from your filter.

So, stay with us as we are about to explain the process in a simple and practical way.

Your filter will have to work harder if you don’t maintain the pool clean. Invest in a first-rate robotic pool cleaner and leave this action to automatic hands. Swimming is more fun when you are not the one that needs to clean afterward.

Pool equipment including a backwashing hose and a skimmer Image

What Is Backwashing?

An essential step in keeping a pool well-maintained is to clean the filter. However, if you were to do it manually, this could be a really messy job. Now to mention how much of your time it would take. This is why pool manufacturers thought of a better way to do it, as you have installed a pool to enjoy the clean waters and not to spend your days dealing with the dirt and algae in your sand filter. Sometimes it gets to that, but, most of the time, a simple operation like backwashing can solve the problem.

Definition: Backwashing a pool’s filter refers to the operation of reversing the flow of water. This is carried through to remove contaminants from the filter and, thus, improve water flow. This procedure usually takes just a few minutes and is an efficient way to solve water cloudiness.

It is simpler to figure out how this works if you think of your filter as being a kitchen strainer. Imagine you are straining a sauce. Small bits of onion and carrot block the tiny holes and, at some point, if you are pouring a large quantity of sauce, it may not even be able to flow on the other side of the strainer. This means you need to clean it, so you turn it upside down and pour water through the holes. Thus, the food bits are dislodged and the openings are cleared and ready to strain a new batch of sauce. We’ve just explained backwashing using some kitchen tools, but we hope this helped make it clear for you.

If you are looking for a way to keep the water clean, but not willing to put up with manual skimming, you should check out our selection of pressure-side pool cleaners. Designed to be cost-effective, they are the convenient solution to algae and debris.

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Why Should You Backwash Your Pool?

Debris and dust are only one face of what is being removed by your system. In fact, you are paying for not so cheap sand or D.E. filters to have other contaminants removed. For example, whenever you enter the water wearing sunscreen, a part of it gets washed. It goes the same for every cosmetic that has been applied to your skin, whether it is a body oil or lotion. At the same time, dead skin cells and hair will get lost into the water and end up in the filter. These are the real cloggers, and there’s just no other practical way of getting rid of them once they get infiltrated into the medium of the filter.

They act just like the bits of food in the strainer, so this is why you need to remove them. You could pick them manually, but if you have the possibility to turn over the strainer and just rinse it, you will choose it over getting your hands dirty.

Therefore, backwashing is a very practical maintenance step, designed to deal with stubborn dirt and ensure that the water can circulate properly and all of it gets filtered and stays clean.

It is easier to keep algae and leaves out of the pool if you reduce its exposure to natural elements. Discover the best pool covers the market has to offer and make sure no dead insects or stinky accidents await you every time you wish to take a bath.

How Often Should You Do It?

This can vary according to two aspects: how often you go for a swim and what type of filter you have installed. A D.E. filter usually needs to be backwashed when you are taking care of periodical maintenance, while a sand model can be cleaned once a month. However, if the water looks dirty or cloudy, or you have dealt with a messy storm the previous days, it’s time to reverse the water flow.

Another important aspect you need to understand is that reversing the water flow is a temporary solution and that it won’t be able to provide a thorough cleaning. You will still need to open the filters periodically and clean them manually. D.E. models usually require more work as they need to be opened up to six times a year. Sand models, on the other hand, are more convenient and need to be manually cleaned only once every two years.

Backwashing a sand filter Image

How to Reverse the Water Flow in a Sand Filter?

  • Step 1 – Link the hose to the waste port.
  • Step 2 – Power off the pump. This is an essential step, and you need to remember to do it, otherwise, the pump may get damaged in the process.
  • Step 3 – Locate the control valve and turn the switch to backwash point.
  • Step 4 – Restart the system.
  • Step 5 – Wait for the water to flow through the port and out through the hose. This should take two to four minutes.
  • Step 6 – Power off the pump again and turn the handle to rinse position.
  • Step 7 – Restart the pump and wait for thirty seconds until the sand bed is reset to prevent residue from flowing into the pool.
  • Step 8 – Power off the pump and switch to filter position.
  • Step 9 – Disconnect the hose.

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Backwashing a D.E. filter Image

How to Reverse the Water Flow in a D.E. Filter?

These filters are considered the top of the industry, and this because they are very compact and can remove finer particles than other models. The medium of these filters consists of a fine powder which is basically sedimentary rock formed of fossilized skeletons of millions of algae, called silica.

These models are a bit more difficult to maintain, and even the flow reversing process implies a few supplementary steps. Plus, apart from the special hose, you will need to buy diatomaceous earth and a 1-pound scoop or clean coffee can.

  • Step 1 – Power off the pool and link the hose to the waste port.
  • Step 2 – Reposition the handle to backwash position and restart the system.
  • Step 3 – Let it work for a couple of minutes.
  • Step 4 – Power off the system and position the handle to rinse.
  • Step 5 – Restart it and let it function this way for another two minutes.
  • Step 6 – Once again power it off and position the handle to filter.
  • Step 7 – Calculate how much D.E. product you need to add according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Step 8 – Let water enter the basket and restart on the pump.
  • Step 9 – Combine the product with water until you obtain a creamy solution and pour it into the skimmer.
  • Step 10 – Keep the pump working for at least a half an hour to distribute the product. uniformly over the filter grids.

We’ve explained how to this procedure with a multiport valve. However, if your pool uses a pull/push model, things can differ a bit, although the process is very similar. In this case, you will need to open the backwash gate and let the system do the job and then close the valve, skipping the rinse step. Continue with steps 7 to 10.

One of the most important maintenance works is vacuuming. It helps you collect debris and dust that otherwise would just clog the filter. So, it is better not to skip it. Find a top-notch pool cleaner vacuum among our top and start performing regular maintenance.

Wastewater being released through a backwash hose Image

Where to Dispose of the Wastewater?

This process can result in lots of waste water, which is pretty difficult to dispose of in a safe way. First, because it is filled with chlorine and other chemicals that can destroy plants and small organisms living under or above the ground. And, secondly, because there may be regulations that won’t allow you to drain it wherever you’d like, especially if you haven’t treated the water first to reduce the concentration of chemicals.

So here are some ideas:

Plumbing Cleanouts

One of these drains in your household may be an option to get rid of the dirty water. Nevertheless, it depends on the city you live in, as in some cases the municipality may ask you to reduce chlorine and salt in the water. Or you may even need a permit for this.

Note that you shouldn’t drain the water into a septic tank. The waste here is handled with the help of enzymes, which need to be kept active to do their job. So, by pouring a large quantity of chlorine water in here, you will kill them and destroy the balance of the system.

Storm Drains

Once again, you need to check if you have the permission, if you need a permit, and if you need to purify the water of chemicals, but in many areas, this is allowed and is a common practice.

The Bottom Line

Now that you have understood how this procedure works you can go and give it a try. Your filter may be in great need of a good cleaning. And remember to include it to your periodical maintenance sessions, which can be scheduled every week, if the pool it’s being used to its full capacity, or once every two weeks if you are swimming in it only occasionally. Moreover, remember that even if flow reversing is a quick, clean way of unclogging the filter, you will still need to open it a few times a year for a thorough hand cleaning.

Trystan Jensen
Trystan Jensen
Trystan is a trusted reviewer who has extensive experience in customer satisfaction gained while he worked as a market research analyst. He is well aware of what consumers want, as well as what they expect the most from the acquisitions they make. It is his personal interest in technologies that help improve life quality combined with his attentiveness to detail and customer experience that make Trystan an unending source of qualitative content.