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You want the cartridge filter to be on the motor head anytime you are sucking up anything. This keeps dirt and other junk from going up into the fan and making a real mess of things.
Be sure to empty drum and brush off filter. Then you're ready to suck up mud or clean water. When done empty drum and allow to dry. Next, remove the filter and clean it. To do this you soak it in dishwashing detergent mixed with warm water and then rinse under running water but so it flows from the inside outward. Be sure to allow filter to dry before reinstalling. It's a good idea to have a spare filter for when you need one.
Note: Allow motor head to dry before putting it on the drum.
SAFETY: Be sure to always unplug the power cord before opening the vac or doing any service. This can't be stressed enough. Always PULL THE PLUG FIRST