Planted Tank Guru
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Baton Rouge, LA
You can blast out the gunk in most filter inserts with a high-pressure jet of water. I use a Showerpik. At normal settings it works well for its intended purpose, dental irrigation. At the highest settings, it would flay the gums from your jawbone, but is perfect for pressure cleaning.
When any foam insert or prefilter gets too clogged for even that, I put it in the washing machine with oxygen bleach and hot water, followed by two complete cycles of hot water alone. Cleans it just like new. Not acceptable for some items, like cartridges that integrate filter floss and carbon, for obvious reasons; but these are thin enough to be easily pressure cleaned anyway.
I've never actually had to throw out any filter insert, short of a single Magnum filter sleeve that just fell apart.
For the Aquaclears, raising the foam media to the highest position will block the overflow holes in the side of the basket, which can otherwise mask that your foam has become clogged. It also makes an AC into a much better CO2 diffuser, as the bubbles get caught underneath the foam and dissolve; rather than bouncing off the foam and rising to the top of the impeller chamber to be wasted.
Also, those plastic "poof" potscrubbers make very good biomedia. A few bucks at a dollar store will buy you all you ever need. You can stuff them into darn near anything.