What is a Y Strainer and How to Work

A Y strainer, sometimes referred to as a y strainer, is designed to mechanically remove solids and other particles from fluids. They are an essential component in numerous fluid control applications to ensure no down-stream component is affected by particles within the fluid. 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

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 made possible via a filter element comprised 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 blowing. The strainer itself has a compact, Y shaped design. The Y shape has better flow characteristics then for example a T shaped strainer, because the fluid flows through the filter with less change of direction.

Why Use a Y Strainer?

In general, Y strainers are critical anywhere clean fluids are required. While clean fluids can help maximize the reliability and lifespan of any mechanical system, theyre especially important with solenoid valves. This is because solenoid valves are very sensitive to dirt and will only function properly with clean liquids or air. If any solids enter the stream, it can disrupt and even damage the entire system. Therefore, a Y strainer is a great complimentary component. 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 presences of pipe scale, rust, sediment or any other kind of extraneous debris. Y strainers are available in a myriad of designs (and connection types) that can accommodate any industry or application.

Sizing Your Mesh Filter for a Y strainer

Of course, the Y strainer wouldnt be able to do its job without the mesh filter that is properly sized. To find the strainer thats perfect for your project or job, it’s important to understand the basics of mesh and screen sizing. There are two terms used to 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?

Standing for micrometer, a micron is a unit of length thats 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. Screens are labeled by this size, so a 14-mesh screen means youll find 14 openings across one inch. So, a 140-mesh screen means that there are 140 openings per inch. The more openings per inch, the smaller the particles that can pass through. The ratings can 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

The chart below is a handy resource to help you convert from mesh to micron (or vice-versa).



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 an example of mesh sizes based on certain particles, as shown below:



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 Your Proper Filter Size

To select the right filter size for your application, youll need to consider the size, scope, and environment of the project. Some of the most important factors to gauge include:

  • The type of pipe system youre using.
  • The kind of material that makes up the system.
  • The size of the debris or particles you want to capture.
  • The systems pressure and temperature levels.

Its important to take the time to size your mesh filter correctly. Sizing it too small or too large can negatively affect your system as a whole. If your filter is too small (with a lot of openings), there will be a greater pressure drop from inlet to outlet. Additionally, removing too much debris can result in additional maintenance due to a collection of debris which can also cause an increased pressure drop. If it is too large (allowing large particles through), this can affect the performance and life span of your downstream equipment.

Housing Material Options

Now that weve covered why Y strainers are important and what theyre used for, lets discuss a few of the different kinds of Y strainers available. These strainers are available in a wide variety of material types and fall into different classes defined by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). First, lets take a look at the different material housing options available, which include:

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

Note that these different kinds of housing materials are designed to fit certain environments and media.

Seal Material Options

The seal on a Y strainer helps ensure its functionality and extend its service life. Some of the common options are:


This is one of the most common types of seal materials. In addition to holding fast in even the most aggressive environments, these are also ideal for low and high temperatures.

Fluoro Rubber Seal

When youre shopping for a Y strainer, you might come across a few different kinds of seals that sound similar. These include:

  • FKM
  • FPM
  • Viton®

These individual designations all describe the same base material: Fluoro rubber. Why the different names? In short, the ASTM abbreviates the material as FKM while the DIN/ISO abbreviates the entire fluoroelastomer category as FPM. And, DuPont Performance Elastomers trademarked the material as Viton®.


Standing for ethylene-propylene-diene-monomer, EPDM is an elastomer similar to Fluoro rubber. However, it features a different chemical resistance and temperature range compared to FPM.

How to Clean Your Y Strainer

How often youll need to clean your component depends on the process youre running, mesh size, and the materials youre filtering. Remember to close off all valve connections on both sides of the Y strainer to relieve pressure as you start to clean. From there, you can loosen and remove the plug at the end of the filter leg to access the filter. Empty out all of the collected material and debris, clean the filter and replace.

Y Strainer Selection Criteria

There are different kinds of Y strainers on the market designed to meet various industry needs. As you research which one is best for you, keep the following criteria in mind:

  • Port size
  • The temperature in your environment
  • The pressure level in your environment
  • Preferred installation orientation
  • The kind of debris you need to strain
  • Ease of maintenance

There is no one-size-fits-all Y strainer that meets every need. Thats why its important to understand your application requirements before moving forward.

Typical Y Strainer Applications

A Y strainer is most valuable in an environment that requires constant protection from debris and contamination. Lets take a look at a few of the most common applications that require their use.

Steam Applications

These strainers are a go-to resource in most steam applications, as its 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Its easy to become overwhelmed when youre researching the best Y filter for your needs. To that end, lets take a look at a few common inquiries and how to solve them.

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?

Depending on your environment and media, a different Y strainer housing material and seal material should be selected. Ensure you know the chemical resistance of them to select the proper one.

Are Y Strainers Affordable?

Yes! This type of strainer is also an affordable alternative to other types of strainers, made even more economical as you scale down in size. Considering they protect more expensive components, they are a good investment.

Should I Choose on My Own?

This article should help you select the proper Y strainer for your application. However, feel free to contact our technical support with any questions.

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