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Can You Use Play Sand For Your Pool Filter?

Sand is one of the most common pool filter media. However, using the wrong type of sand can cause plumbing issues and reduce the pool’s filtration efficiency. The water will be filled with algae, bacteria, and cloudiness. People often reach for play sand since it’s cheap and readily available, but is it beneficial?

You can’t use play sand for your pool filter because it’s too coarse, the grains are too big, and it doesn’t contain silica. Pool-grade sand needs to be fine enough to trap the debris. The silica gets rid of contaminants in the pool. Play sand lacks the necessary qualities, making it detrimental.

In this post, I’ll cover whether or not you can put play sand in your pool filter, why you should avoid it if possible, and what sand you should use instead.

Can You Put Play Sand in a Pool Filter?

You can’t put play sand in a pool filter because it doesn’t remove enough particles. It’s important to use the right kind of sand in your pool filter. Many water clarifiers and other chemicals don’t work well with play sand. They’re designed to bind to the fine grains, but play sand has large granules.

Pool owners often put play sand in their filter thinking they’re saving time, money, and energy, but none of the above are true. Pool-grade sand is more than worth the upgrade. However, it’s also crucial that you know how much sand to add to the filter. Too much or too little pool-grade sand will be equally as ineffective as play sand.

Why Shouldn’t You Use Play Sand in a Pool Filter?

You shouldn’t use play sand in a pool filter because it’s too coarse and won’t remove enough debris from the water. Furthermore, it lacks the necessary properties to eliminate the bacteria in the water. The play sand is too abrasive and can damage the plumbing, so it’s not worth it in the long run.

Let’s dive into the details below.

  • Play sand isn’t designed for swimming pool filters. Pool-grade sand goes through an extensive cleaning and production process. Play sand doesn’t require the same standards, so you’ll end up with a low-quality product. Your pool won’t be as clear as it could be, not to mention the potential plumbing damage.
  • It’s too coarse compared to pool-grade sand. Play sand can be used for sand castles and other fun structures that require more support. Furthermore, it’s supposed to be a bit more coarse than pool sand to promote clumping. These clumps will shred through a pool filter in a couple of months.
  • There’s no silica in play sand. Silica is an integral part of removing algae from the pool. Not only does it compress easier, but it also targets the bacteria and gets rid of them. Pool-grade sand contains silica (unless you choose zeolite sand, which is best for removing chloramines and clearing the cloudy water).
  • The grains are too big for swimming pool filtration. The large grains can’t compress nearly as much as #20 silica sand. Almost all of the debris that goes through the filter will come through the other side. You’ll have to use a water clarifier around the clock, which will be incredibly expensive.
  • Play sand often contains trace amounts of dirt and other debris. Most companies don’t clean their play sand more than using harsh chemicals. You’ll add loads of unwanted chemicals and dirt into the filter. Your pool could grow algae or get uncomfortable to swim in due to the bacteria-ridding additives.

There are many other reasons you shouldn’t use play sand in your pool filter, including the fact that it gets too hot and will cover the pool in the sand. Using the right type of sand will compress and remove all sorts of debris from the water. Only choose sand that’s labeled as ‘pool-grade’ or ‘#20 silica’ sand.

What Sand Should You Use for Pool Filtration Systems?

You should use #20 pool-grade sand for your pool filtration system. Silica traps and eliminates contaminants from the water, clarifying your pool and creating a safer swimming pool. Always pour a little bit of water into the filter before adding the sand to prevent abrasive scratches and dry pockets of sand.

FairmountSantrol AquaQuartz Pool Sand comes in a 50-pound bag, so you’ll only need a couple of them to fill a brand-new filter. You can also use this pool-grade silica sand to top off the filter after backwashing it.

It’s made with silica to remove bacteria and debris, and the sand is 100% natural (no additives or fillers, unlike play sand).

FairmountSantrol AquaQuartz 20-Grade Silica Sand (50 Pounds)

Here’s what you should know about choosing the right pool-grade sand:

  • Pool sand is close to the same price as play sand. There’s no reason to choose play sand, especially if you’re getting it online. Pool sand weighs the same, costs the same to ship, and is just as readily available online as play sand. You can also get it at local pool stores throughout the year.
  • Pool sand shouldn’t be used as play sand. It can cause itchiness since there’s a bit of silica in the sand. Furthermore, the grains are too fine. The small grains are perfect for water filtration, though. Sand filters work by compressing the silica sand and pulling debris from the water as it passes through.
  • You can try zeolite sand if you prefer a silica-free alternative. The Zeo Zeolite Sand is almost twice as effective as traditional pool-grade sand. It’s slightly pricier, but it lasts longer and removes harmful chloramines from the water. You can use half of the amount of zeolite sand to achieve optimal filtration.
ZeoSand Swimming Pool Sand Replacement
  • You might see a bit of sand come through the filter after changing the filter media. However, it’s important to vacuum it out of the water. After the first cycle, you shouldn’t see any sand at the bottom of the pool. Loose sand could be a sign of a leak, which is much more common if you use play sand.


  • Jonah Ryan

    Jonah has worked for several years in the swimming pool industry installing and repairing equipment, treating pools with chemicals, and fixing damaged liners. He also has plumbing and electrical experience with air conditioning, ceiling fans, boilers, and more. When he's not writing for Temperature Master, he's usually writing for his own websites, and

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