How Y Strainers Work

Y Strainer - How They Work

Y Strainer

Figure 1: Y Strainer

A Y strainer mechanically removes solids and other particles when fluid flows through it. They are essential in numerous fluid control applications to ensure that particles within the fluid do not negatively affect any downstream component. In this article, we will review their design, use cases, how to size the mesh filter, materials, and how to clean them.

Table of contents

View our online selection of Y strainers and order today!


Why use a Y strainer?

Y strainers are generally necessary for processes that require clean fluids. While clean fluids can help maximize the reliability and lifespan of any mechanical system, they are critical with solenoid valve types because they are very sensitive to dirt. Any solids entering the stream can disrupt and even damage the entire system. In addition to protecting the performance of solenoid valves, they also help safeguard other types of mechanical equipment, including:

  • Pumps
  • Turbines
  • Spray nozzles
  • Heat exchangers
  • Condensers
  • Steam traps
  • Meters

A simple Y strainer can keep these components, which are some of the most valuable and expensive parts of the pipeline, protected from the presence of pipe scale, rust, sediment or any other kind of debris. Y strainers, also referred to as wye strainers, are available in various designs and connection types.

Y strainer design

As its name implies, a Y strainer is shaped like a Y and is used to filter or strain out particulates from steam, gas, or liquid. This mechanical straining process is possible because of a filter element composed of mesh, perforated metal, or a wedge wire straining element. The most common kind of straining element is a wire mesh. Some also include blow-off valves that make the cleaning process easier in applications with more substantial dirt.

Sizing the mesh filter for a Y strainer

A Y strainer cannot function properly without a properly sized mesh filter. There are two terms that describe the size of the openings in the strainer through which debris passes. One is micron and the other is mesh size. Though these are two different measurements, they describe the same thing.

What is a micron?

A micron (micrometer) is a unit of length that's used to measure tiny particles. For scale, a micrometer is one thousandth of a millimeter or about one 25-thousandths of an inch.

What is mesh size?

A strainers mesh size indicates how many openings there are in the mesh across one linear inch. The ratings typically range from a size 3 mesh screen with 6,730 microns to a size 400 mesh screen with 37 microns.

Micron-to-mesh conversion chart

Table 1 is a handy resource to help convert from mesh to micron (or vice-versa).

Table 1: Converting between micron and mesh size

Mesh Screen Mesh Size Microns
2000 10 0.0787
1680 12 0.0661
1410 14 0.0555
1190 16 0.0469
1000 18 0.0394
841 20 0.0331
707 25 0.028
595 30 0.0232
500 35 0.0197
420 40 0.0165
354 45 0.0138
297 50 0.0117
250 60 0.0098
210 70 0.0083
177 80 0.007
149 100 0.0059
125 120 0.0049
105 140 0.0041
88 170 0.0035
74 200 0.0029
63 230 0.0024
53 270 0.0021
44 325 0.0017
37 400 0.0015

In addition, it can be helpful to see examples of the mesh sizes of certain particles, as shown in Table 2.

Table 2: Mesh sizes of particular particles

Mesh Size Microns Example of particle size
14 0.05551400 -
28 0.028700 Beach Sand
60 0.0098250 Fine Sand
100 0.0059150 -
200 0.002974 Portland Cement
325 0.001744 Silt
400 0.001537 Plant Pollen

Determining proper filter size

It's important to take the time to size the mesh filter correctly. A mesh filter that is too small or too large can negatively affect the system. If the filter is too small, there will be a higher pressure drop from inlet to outlet. Additionally, removing too much debris from the flow can clog the filter and increase the pressure drop. If the filter is too large, the performance and life span of the downstream equipment can be negatively effected.

Material options

There are various material options for the strainer's housing and seal. The variety of housing materials fit well with certain environments and media. The seal helps to extend the life of the strainer.

Housing materials

  • Brass
  • Stainless steel
  • (Carbon) steel
  • Bronze
  • Cast iron
  • Ductile iron
  • Plastics

Seal materials

  • PTFE: Very common seal material. Handles aggressive environments and low and high temperatures.
  • Fluoro rubber: There are a few different seal materials that have a fluoro rubber base: FKM, FPM, and Viton. These seals are noted for their resistance to chemicals and weathering.
  • EPDM: EPDM is similar to fluoro rubber but has different chemical resistances and working temperatures ranges. Learn more in our chemical resistance of materials guide.

How to install a Y strainer

Before installing a Y strainer, ensure the following:

  • The strainer's pressure rating is suitable for the intended application.
  • A Y strainer is a one-way strainer, so ensure the arrow that indicates flow direction will be pointing in the right direction.
  • The Y strainer can be installed vertically or horizontally, but the filter leg must be pointing downwards to ensure that any filtered material does note interfere with the main flow.
  • There must be enough space around the filter leg to open it and clean the inside.

When installing a Y strainer:

  • The strainer should go in front of any equipment it is meant to protect.
  • The pipes that the strainer will connect to should be supported.
  • Finally, review the strainer's manufacturer's manual to determine if any other special considerations need to be planned

How to clean a Y strainer

The necessary frequency for cleaning the Y strainer depends on the process, mesh size, and materials being filtered. Close off any valve connections to both sides of the strainer, loosen the plug at the end of the filter leg, and empty the collected material from the filter.

Y strainer selection criteria

There are different kinds of Y strainers on the market designed to meet various industry needs. Keep the following criteria in mind:

  • Port size
  • Filter size
  • Housing and filter materials
  • The temperature in the environment
  • The pressure level in the environment
  • Preferred installation orientation
  • The kind of debris in the system
  • Ease of maintenance

There is no one-size-fits-all Y strainer that meets every need. That's why it's important to understand the application requirements before selecting a strainer.

Typical Y strainer applications

A Y strainer is most valuable in an environment that requires constant protection from debris and contamination. Some of the most common applications are the following.

Steam applications

These strainers are a go-to resource in most steam applications, as their shape is built to handle the high pressure that exists in these environments.

Liquid applications

Liquid applications tend to become infiltrated by sand and gravel, and Y strainers can help keep those particles out to ensure the liquid stays clean. Especially when they work in tandem with other water-handling applications, these strainers can protect important (and expensive) equipment from damage, corrosion, or clogs that could result from such contamination.

Natural gas and air applications

Natural gas and air applications tend to have a low operating pressure, so proper sizing to reduce a pressure drop from inlet to outlet is important.


How should I install my strainer?

Y strainers have an arrow from inlet to outlet. It is important to install them in this orientation for proper filtration.

What kind of end connections are available?

Depending on your needs, Y filters can include a variety of end connections, including flanged, threaded and welded. You can also find special flanges, such as ring joints.

What kind of housing material should I choose?

Select the housing material based on the application's environment. To do this, it's necessary to understand the chemical resistances of the materials.

Are Y strainers affordable?

A Y strainer is an affordable alternative to other types of strainers, especially at small sizes.

View our online selection of Y strainers and order today!