How to clean canister filter hoses

There’s no question about the usefulness of cartridge filters, but what happens after you’ve used them for a while and they start to get dirty? Dirt begins to accumulate; your filter gets dirty and (in addition to losing effectiveness) it becomes unsightly. To top it off, the instructions that come with your unit aren’t as clear as you’d like to get it clean.

Filter hoses, in particular, can be a mess: they’re long and often coiled or tangled. How do you get something in there that cleans the entire length of the tube? What do you put in the tube that’s tough enough to clean but soft enough not to puncture it? It’s kind of complicated, and while you may not be able to depend on that instruction booklet, I’ve taken the time to put together everything you need to know about how to clean canister filter hoses.

You will need a few things to get started. Unfortunately, except for dirty hoses, not many of them come packaged with their filter. We’ll need to find something to insert into the tube and a suitable place to wash that dirt out along with a few other items.

What you’ll need to get started

  • dirty hoses
  • Bucket or sink
  • Warm water
  • hose brush
  • Rubber gloves
  • Towels
  • Teflon tape
  • Hydrogen peroxide or vinegar

Possible substitutions/additions

Heavy Duty Tank Gloves

Rubber gloves are usually enough to keep your hands dry and free of dirt and grime while you clean, but they can sometimes tear. If you’re worried about traditional rubber gloves tearing, you can substitute heavy-duty aquarium gloves for extra protection. They’re made from PVC so they’ll take a lot more abuse and include fiber-reinforced sleeves that cover your arm to the elbow.

cleaning mat

Towels are a suitable solution in terms of work surfaces. They will keep water off your floors to some extent, but could become saturated and start to leak. In addition, we are also dealing with dirt. If it gets caked on your towels while you clean, you’ll need to wash them. An alternative would be an aquarium cleaning mat, which is highly absorbent, has a waterproof backing that prevents water from spilling onto the floor, and can be easily cleaned under the sink.

magnetic tube cleaner

Inserting a brush attached to a cord seems a bit old-fashioned and if you’re looking for a more advanced way to remove buildup from your tubes, you might as well try a magnetic tube cleaner. It removes buildup mechanically, but gets to the spots your brush may not and reduces the amount of moisture that gets wet during cleaning.

a sump pump

If you’re looking for an even more «hands-off» method of cleaning your pipes, you could forgo sticking anything to them and use a sump pump to force pressurized water through the hoses and clean them. They’re not terribly expensive, depending on which one you choose to buy, and they’ll be handy to have on hand that you can use for other applications once you’re done cleaning the hoses.

Instructions for Cleaning Canister Filter Hoses

1. Turn off filter / disconnect hoses

This step is quite simple. Turn the inlet and outlet valves to the “closed” position. Then unplug the pump from its electrical power source. Depending on your filter, there will be different methods of disconnecting the hoses. Many filters have a lever that you can pull that will pop both hoses simultaneously. You can then unscrew them from there.

2. Prepare your cleaning area

Instead of going straight to cleaning the hoses, you need to do some preparation. To make the hoses easier to work with and loosen some of the buildup inside, you will soak our hoses in a bowl of warm water for some time. While this is going on, you can also set up our workspace. Lay out your towels (or mats), put on your cleaning gloves (if you haven’t already), and then come back to check your hoses. Now it’s time to start cleaning, and there are three great ways to do it.

3. Method One: Use Your Hose Brush

This method seems simple. Insert the hose brush into the tube at one end, then start scrubbing. Depending on how dirty your tubes are, it can take a considerable investment of time, and you’ll need to put some muscle on them! There are also some downsides to using your hose brush.

In some cases, it may not be long enough to fully penetrate the tube. When you have it fully extended, it will likely lose its scrubbing power, resulting in less effective cleaning. Also, the pipe the brush is attached to is sometimes flimsy and won’t be able to generate power for cleaning. Other times it can be too stiff and can break unexpectedly.

4. Method Two: Use Your Magnets

This is one of my personal favorite gadgets. A tube magnet cleaning kit consists of a scouring surface with an embedded magnet and a larger magnet used to move it. Insert the scrubbing magnet into the hose, then use the powerful magnet on the outside of the hose to move the scrubber back and forth.

This is more convenient and much more complete than the hose brush. You can run this along the entire length of any pipe, and you won’t have to worry about it getting stuck or breaking. Best of all, you don’t get your hands wet or dirty. The only problem is that the scrubber is quite small, so this method can take a considerable amount of time.

5. Method Three: Use Your Pump

If you’re feeling smart and not in the mood to scrub, you can harness the power of technology to make this process that much easier. Attach a sump pump to your hose, submerge the pump and hose in a solution of water and hydrogen peroxide (vinegar works too), then turn on the pump. Simplicity at its finest. It will take about 30 minutes to complete the process, generally speaking, so keep a timer on hold to remind you when the time is up.

6. Let your hoses dry

Now that they are clean, the hoses will need time to dry. Lay them out on your towel or mat, then let them rest for a few hours. If you used hydrogen peroxide in your cleaning method, it will work by whitening the tubes as they dry, making them look even cleaner. While you wait, you can take care of some other tank or filter maintenance. Perhaps your filter impeller needs a bit of unclogging? You can remove some stains from the sides of your tank or even touch up your tank water with some additives you’ve been wanting to try.

7. Reconnect your hoses / Restart your filter

If you remember the process of mounting the filter, it shouldn’t be a problem. If not, you may need to refer to your filter’s instruction manual for details. Generally speaking though, you’ll just be doing the opposite of what you did to disconnect the hoses. If your connections require Teflon tape, be sure to apply some to the threads now. Once you have the hoses in place, open the valves and restart the filter.

8. Check the performance of your filter

Now that the hoses are back in place, check your filter for a while after you turn it back on. Make sure your flow level is equal to or higher than it was prior to cleaning. If things aren’t working right and you’re sure your hoses are clean, you may need to check your hose connections, make sure your valves aren’t blocked, and make sure your impeller isn’t blocked or damaged.


How was that for you? Depending on the method you used, you may or may not be out of stock at this point! I hope the tutorial was helpful and can give you a better understanding of the different methods available to clean your filter hoses. They can sometimes be overlooked, but it’s important to keep them from clogging so your filter’s performance can remain at its peak.

If you have clear hoses, you’ll definitely want to clean them periodically to keep them from looking unsightly. What method did you use to clean your hoses? Did you try more than one and compare? Maybe you know another method and want to share it? Whatever the case, express yourself! Let me know what you think in the comments.

Are you also having trouble cleaning the filter cartridge? Check out this article for the easy steps.

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