In effective filters, potentially erodible base particles are transported to the filter and retained to form a stable self-filtration layer. At any given time, the mass proportion of the filter and the base materials in this layer depends on the initial porosity of the filter and the subsequent porosity of the self-filtration layer. In this paper, an analytical procedure is given to obtain the particle size distribution (PSD) of the self-filtration layer by combining the PSDs of the filter and the base soil modified by Dc95, where 95% of filter constrictions are finer than the size denoted by Dc95. The assessment of internal stability of the PSD of the self-filtration layer forms a rational model to successfully identify the effective filters from their ineffective counterparts. The proposed model is verified by large-scale laboratory tests carried out by the writers in addition to other published data. The model performance is acceptable in relation to various base and filter materials, and provides an alternative and rigorous design approach by eliminating most limitations of the conventional particle based criteria (e.g., D15/d85 ratio).