What Is the Difference Between Pool Filter Sand & Sandbox Sand?

Swimming pool owners of the 21st century have their choice of filters to keep pool water clean. The most common swimming pool filters are the ones containing sand as their filtering material. Sand swimming pool filters are also characterized by their low maintenance. Typically, you only have to change pool filter sand every seven years or so. Also, there are specific types of sand used in swimming pool filters, with pool filter sand being of a finer grade than sandbox sand, for instance.

Filter Sand

  • According to Pool Center.com, a pool filter’s sand is #20 silica sand and only .45 to .55 mm in size. The sand in pool filters has also been specially graded so it’s able to trap particulate matter 20 to 100 microns in size. Pool filter sand is actually a crystalline silicate and not like the sand found on a beach. Because pool filter sand is crystalline silicate–based, it’s also not really suitable for use in sandboxes, for instance

Sandbox Sand

  • The sand in a child’s sandbox, in comparison to the sand in a swimming pool filter, is less refined and more like beach or river sand. However, play sand can come from a number of sources, including crushed rock or silica-type sand. Pool filter sand is very small and formulated especially for water filtration, whereas crushed silicate or rock sand is less refined. There are many companies now selling specifically formulated play sand for use in sandboxes and not pool filters.

Water Filtration

  • Pool filter sand is specifically made the way it is and with silica because it needs to effectively trap particles in a swimming pool’s water. Silica is also used as pool filter sand because of the way it attracts particulate matter in water passing through it. As water passes over filter sand, particles suspended in the water adhere to the edges of the sand. As pool filter sand keeps filtering water, more and more particulate matter ends up trapped.


  • Don’t use any sand in your swimming pool filter that’s not formulated and sized specifically for use in a pool filter. Beach or river sand meant for sandboxes and the like is of a different composition than silica-based pool filter sand and won’t filter water as efficiently. You can sharpen and refresh pool filter sand through use of a commercial filter cleanser. Backwash, or reverse, your pool filter every week to ensure that the sand inside it stays as clean as possible.

4 comments on “What Is the Difference Between Pool Filter Sand & Sandbox Sand?

  1. pid controllers on said:

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    • aquapro on said:

      Thank you! Hopefully you found our other articles helpful as well. If you ever have a topic or question you would like us to write about, please let us know. We would be happy to answer it!

      • deeann beine on said:

        i just bought quikrete pool filter sand. however it does not show anywhere on the bag what the particle size is. i had to go to there website to find out it is 0.85 – 0.425. my pool calls for .45 – .55 is there going to be a big difference in this sand? will i need to empty it out and try to find the correct particle size? your help would be greatly appreciated.
        thank you
        deeann beine

        • aquapro on said:

          Hi Deeann,
          It sounds like the pool filter sand you bought will work out just fine. When we purchase filter sand we look for 20 grit silica sand on the bag. Good news no need to empty and start over, enjoy your pool this summer!

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