Backwash vs Rinse – Which One Cleans Filters Better?

backwash vs rinse

When you’re taking a relaxing dip in your pool, the last thing on your mind is how you’re going to clean it later. However, that time will eventually come, and so you had better be prepared.

Before signing up to be a pool owner, you knew that a sparkling clean pool requires plenty of weekly cleaning, chemical balancing, leak check-ups, and so on. A major factor in how clean your pool water is depends on how clean the pool filters are.

Two efficient methods to clean swimming pool filters are backwash and rinse. Doing both together will ensure that the filters continue to work at full capacity to keep your pool dazzling and clean. However, many want to know which one is better, since they are both effective ways to clean the pool. Technically backwash is more effective, but you need to also rinse after backwashing to fully clean the pool filter.

In this article, we will detail the advantages and disadvantages of both backwashing and rinsing your pool filters to help you better decide your preferred cleaning method.

Backwashing your pool filters

In this section, we will detail what exactly backwashing is, how often you should do it, and the pros and cons of backwashing your pool filter.

What is a backwash?

If your filter is doing its job, it should catch the dirt, oils, leaves, and other debris in the water which removes them from circulation. Over time, the filtr will become clogged with all of this junk, reducing its effectiveness. At some point, you’re going to have to unclog the filter.

One way to do that is to backwash it. You may have heard other pool owners say they need to “backwash a pool filter” or simply “backwash a pool”. Essentially, you reverse and increase the flow of water to dislodge all of the junk the filter caught so that you can get rid of them and restore your filtration system back to its normal functioning capability.

How do you perform a backwash?

The general procedure for backwash goes something like this. Note that this may differ slightly depending on the type of filter you have (sand filter, D.E. filter, multiport valve) and the manufacturer of your filter.

First, turn off the pool pump and rotate the valve to the backwash setting. Also make sure the handle locks are in place.

Next, power the pump for 2-3 minutes or until the view-glass looks clear. You can switch between backwash and rinse a few times for a more thorough cleaning. Remember to turn off the pump each time you change settings.

Discard the dislodged waste, dirt, or DE in the waste bin. When dumping the waste, make sure the pump is off so the automation system does not reactivate.

Lastly, flush the filters by unlocking the release valve to drain the water. You can unfasten the drain plug, located at the bottom of the tank, using a screwdriver to let the water drain. This step is necessary for rigorous cleaning.

Turn on the pump once more and watch the filter cycle return to normal.

How often should you backwash?

You should backwash your pool filters every 1-2 weeks depending on how clogged the filters get. Another determining factor is if the pressure gauge reads 8 to 10 PSI higher than the beginning level, then that’s a good time to backwash the filter.

Backwashing advantages

Backwashing ensures grease and debris that have accumulated around the filter’s cartridges are removed. This keeps your pool from turning into a cesspool of bacteria and toxins.

Many pool owners like how hands off backwashing a filter is. If done correctly, most of the debris and waste will get removed by simply reversing the flow of water. If you dislike manually cleaning the filter by hand, backwashing is amazing.

Backwashing disadvantages

Depending on what gets stuck in your filters, backwashing may cause hazardous chemicals to be discarded without treatment. Thankfully, modern pools have waste separation bins that automatically take care of this.

However, if your pool doesn’t have this feature, then you will need to prepare some disposable bags and manually sort this yourself.

Rinsing your pool filters

In this section, we will detail exactly what a rinse is, how often you should do it, and the advantages and disadvantages of rinsing.

What is a rinse?

If you were paying attention, you might have noticed that in the backwashing section, we also told you to alternate between backwashing and rinsing to help clean the pool filters.

That is exactly what rinsing is: the process of flushing all the dirt and debris after backwashing. This step is crucial to wash away the detritus and reset the filtration material.

How to rinse

After performing a backwash, turn off the pump, and rotate the valve to the “rinse” setting. Let the rinse process contine for 30 seconds to one minute.

With the rinse option selected, water flows through the filter in the normal direction, with the difference being that it is now routed to the waste pipe rather than returning to the pool.

For sand filters, when the rinse cycle is selected, water runs down through the sand to remove dirt and debris from the filter and pipes.

For D.E. filters, rinsing after backwashing removes the diatomaceous earth powder and contaminants.

How often should you rinse?

Since the rinsing cycle goes hand-in-hand with the backwashing cycle, you will be doing them around the same time. In other words, every 1-2 weeks or whenever the filter is starting to clog up. Once the pressure gauage reads 8 to 10 PSI above normal, then that’s a good indicator to backwash and rinse the filter.

Rinsing advantages

For a sand filter, the rinse cycle restratifies (deposits in layers) the sand so that it can resettle in the filter tank.

In a D.E. filter, the rinse cycle accomplishes a similar task. It also flushes out any remaining loose D.E. powder and other contaminants. You then add new diatomaceous earth to replace what was lost during backwashing.

The rinsing process is essential for flushing out lingering dirt and debris from the filter and piping after backwashing, and can be done no matter which filter type you use.

Rinsing disadvantages

Rinsing alone is not enough to clean the pool filter and must always be accompanied by backwashing. That said, backwashing alone is not enough to thoroughly clean the filter either, so they must be done in conjunction with each other.

The bottom line

Asking which is “better” between backwash vs rinse is not the right question. Using both the backwash and rinse settings is crucial in preventing filters from being clogged up with debris, dirt, oils, contaminants, and other microorganisms.

A pool’s sanitation and maintenance is paramount in ensuring that the water quality remains high so that you won’t get or spread disease by swimming in your pool.

If we really had to compare these two pool filter cleaning methods, the backwash is probably the more effective of the two since reversing the flow of water can unclog quite a lot of junk from the filter.

However, you would be a fool to not also rinse after backwashing since these two methods go hand-in-hand for a comprehensive cleaning process. After all, a backwash’s full effectiveness is dependent on the rinse afterwards, and a rinse alone is insufficient for cleaning a pool.

Ignoring either one will lead to unsatisfactory results, so you should really be utilizing both backwashing and rinsing to get the job done right