All the Pool Filter Settings Explained – Complete Valve Positions Guide

The many pool filter settings on a multiport valve on a swimming pool sand filter can be pretty confusing when you first get a pool. But, like most things, it is pretty simple once you know. You will soon understand what all of the pool filter valve positions mean.

There are normally 6 different pool filter settings on a multiport valve which are Filter, Backwash, Waste, Rinse, Recirculate and Closed. Some valves also have an additional 7th position which is Winterize.

Before I go into what each of the different pool filter settings does in detail I want to give one important word of warning. NEVER operate the selector lever on the multiport valve with the pool pump running. This can cause severe damage to the valve so always turn the pool pump off first.

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Pool filter valve positions

I will go through what all the pool filter valve positions mean in turn and explain what each does.

What do the pool filter settings mean? Pool filter valve positions
Pool filter valve positions

Filter Setting

The filter setting is used to filter the water through the sand. It is the pool filter valve positions setting that your filter will spend most of its life on. Mostly it will be used when the pool pump runs on your timer to keep the water in the pool clean.

The filter setting is also the one you will use the most when vacuuming your pool. Whenever the dirt levels are not too high you can let the filter remove it and then backwash to eject it from the system. My article “How to clean dirt from the bottom of a pool” explains this process fully in a step by step guide.

When it is on the filter setting, and the pump is running, the water will be drawn into the system through the skimmers and bottom inlet (if you have one). It will then pass through the debris filter basket on the inlet side of the pump so that any large pieces of dirt, such as leaves, will be removed prior to passing through the pump as they could cause damage. The water then travels through the pump and into the top of the sand filter.

Here the magic happens. The water passes through the sand which traps any small particles of dust and other dirt. When it reaches the bottom of the filter it returns to the pool as clean water through the inlet jets, waterfall or whatever other similar feature you may have.

What do the settings on a pool filter mean? Backwash setting.

Backwash setting on pool pump

You use the backwash setting to clean the sand in the filter, often immediately after you vacuum the pool.

The backwash setting will be the multiport valve position you will use the second most frequently, after the filter setting.

It works by the water being redirected the reverse way through the sand filter. So after leaving the pump it goes into the bottom of the filter and travels up through the sand, dislodging the dirt and debris as it goes. The water containing the debris then goes to the waste pipe and out of the system.

For a full guide to backwashing my article “How to backwash a pool – step by step” will explain everything.

What do the settings on a pool filter mean? Waste setting.

Waste setting on pool filter

Many people seem to get confused about what is the waste setting on a pool filter used for.

The waste setting on pool filter is used, in the following three situations:

  1. When you wish to reduce the amount of water in the pool, perhaps after heavy rain or even to empty the pool fully.
  2. When your pool is very dirty you would vacuum on the waste setting so the dirt goes straight out of the system without passing through the filter. That way it doesn’t clog up the filter.
  3. If you have a heavy infestation of algae then often the tiny particles won’t get trapped in the filter so will go straight back into the pool. Vacuuming on waste means they will be ejected out of the waste pipe and will not reenter the pool.

On the pool filter waste setting the water will be drawn into the system then pass through the debris filter basket on the inlet side of the pump. From there it is expelled from the system without passing through the filter via the waste pipe.

Where the waste water goes depends on your system. It will either be sent straight into the sewer system or out into your yard/garden, often through a roll out waste hose so you can direct the water to an area of the garden you want.

What do the settings on a pool filter mean? Rinse setting.

Rinse setting on pool pump

What does rinse do on a pool filter is probably the most misunderstood setting.

The pool filter rinse setting is used after backwashing the sand filter and it is used to clean the sand or other filter medium in the filter housing.

On the rinse setting the water travels the normal way through the sand and can remove a few remaining particles of dirt but its main function is to settle the sand back down ready for the filter to work. You normally run the pool pump for between 30 seconds and one minute on the rinse setting.

The water goes to waste when on the rinse setting and not back into the swimming pool.

What do the settings on a pool filter mean? Closed setting.

Closed setting on pool filter

The closed setting shuts off all water flow. It can be used for the following two reasons:

  • If your pool will not be used for some time, perhaps if it is empty or during the winter.
  • When you want to empty the strainer basket that traps leaves etc before the water enters the pump.

To do this you close the valves from the skimmers and other inlets and then set the valve to closed. You can then remove the see-through lid from the basket housing and empty it without air running back through the system which could give an airlock, something you want to avoid. Once you have emptied the strainer basket and you have replaced it and screwed on the lid then the valves can be opened.

What do the settings on a pool filter mean? Recirculate setting.

Recirculate setting on pool pump

Of all the pool filter valve positions, the recirculate pool pump setting is probably the one you will use the least. Actually what does recirculate mean on a pool pump is one of the most frequently asked questions I see on the various pool forums from new pool owners.

In the recirculate setting the water is drawn in through the skimmers as normal and, after passing through the pump, goes straight back into the pool via the inlet jets, waterfall etc without passing through the filter.

I don’t think I have ever used the recirculate setting actually. When to use recirculate on pool filter is perhaps after you have shocked the pool and want to mix the shock around the pool without it being absorbed by the filter.

Winterize setting on pool filter

Not every multiport valve has this setting, although it will normally exist where the pool is located outside in a cold climate. It is generally found between the closed and the waste setting.

Generally it does not allow the handle to fully go down in this setting. It is designed to allow the water to expand a bit without damaging the valve should the water freeze.

Other types of filters and valves

DE (Diatomaceous Earth) filters

These generally have a multiport valve the same as you find on a sand filter system. So everything written above also applies to a DE filter system. DE filters are not backwashed as a frequently as sand filters however.

Cartridge filters

Cartridge filters do not use multiport valves as they do not require backwashing or rinsing. To clean the filter it is removed and cleaned manually or replaced with a new one).

Slide valves

On some sand and DE filter systems a series of slide valves are fitted instead of a single multiport valve. Opening and closing the valves in a particular combination gives the required settings for backwashing, filtering etc.

Pool Maintenance Course

When I first bought my house with a swimming pool I knew nothing about how to clean and maintain it. I was recommended Swim University’s Pool Care Handbook and video course so I bought it and have never regretted it.

It was probably the best money I spent that year as I have saved thousands by doing it myself.

Pool care handbook

Pool filter settings Youtube video

You may wish to watch my video on What do the pool filter valve positions mean below. You can subscribe to my Youtube channel here.

My top 3 pool cleaning tools

These are the pool cleaning tools I have found the most useful since I have had my pool.

Step and corner vacuum brush

This is a really useful tool for getting into the areas that a standard vacuum head simply cannot reach. Aquatix Pro Pool Step & Corner Vacuum Brush

Leaf rake net

If, like me, you get plenty of leaves at the bottom of your pool then a good leaf rake/net is a must. The Stargoods Pool Skimmer Net gets under the leaves easily.

Robotic pool cleaner

These are quite expensive and it was a number of years before I bit the bullet and bought one. I have never regretted it. The Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus is the most recommended pool cleaning robot on all of the pool forums. It not only cleans the bottom of the pool but also the sides and the waterline.


Why is my pool filter leaking from the top?

This is likely to be because the O ring which seals the filter, preventing water leaking out and air from getting in. If this is the case then it will need to be replaced which is a fairly straightforward operation that most pool owners can carry out themselves.

What is the life expectancy of a multiport valve?

Generally multiport valves last a long time, provided you are not too heavy handed with the lever. My own pool is over 20 years old and the multiport valve was only replaced last year when it developed a leak from a crack in the housing.

When should multiport valves be replaced?

There is no time period for replacing a multiport valve. They only need to be replaced with the develop a crack. Other problems can often be fixed by replacing the o ring inside.

Is drain the same as waste on pool filter

Yes, drain and waste are basically the same thing on a pool filter valve and do the same things.

What is the difference between backwash and waste

Although the water is expelled from the pool in both of these settings with backwash the water passes backwards through the filter before being expelled but on waste it is expelled directly.