How to Change Pool Filter Sand

Written by Michael Dean
June 16, 2023

changing pool filter sand

Changing the sand in your sand pool filter every few years is an important part of your swimming pool maintenance routine and an inexpensive way to ensure your pool stays clean and sparkling each swimming season.

Changing your pool filter sand is a pretty simple process that you should be able to do on your own. Below is the step-by-step process that I use and some thoughts on frequently asked questions I get about changing your filter sand.

Main Takeaways

  • You should change your sand every 3-5 years.
  • Changing your pool sand regularly is important to keep your pool clean and safe.
  • You know it’s time to change your pool filter sand when the filter is not as effective at cleaning your pool water, leaving your pool cloudy and dirty.
  • There are three different types of pool sand you can choose from: glass sand, silica sand, and zeolite sand.

How Often Should You Change Your Pool Filter Sand?

Some pool owners may think that you do not have to change your pool filter sand, but it is vital to change your pool filter sand every three to five years. You may need to change it more often if you use your swimming pool more frequently.

Why You Need to Change Your Pool Filter Sand Regularly

Regularly cleaning your filter will help to extend the life of your pool filter sand, but it does not completely clean it. Routinely changing your sand is an easy way to keep your pool safe and welcoming for the summer months (or year-round if you live in a warmer climate).

The filter will no longer perform at its best when the sand in the filter becomes clogged up and dirty. This could cloud your water and lead to you having to purchase more chemicals to balance out the pH and chemical composition of your pool water. Changing your pool filter sand regularly will reduce the need for expensive chemicals.

How Do I Know My Sand Is Bad?

When the pool filter is old, the sharp edges of the sand wear off and dirty residue will no longer get stuck in the filter. Generally, your backwash cycle will be much shorter when the sand is bad. Check your filter if you notice that the water in your pool is cloudier or dirtier than usual. If you see that the sand is greasy and clumped together, it is time to change the sand.

How to Change Your Pool Filter Sand

Following these easy steps to change your pool sand and efficiently maintain your pool filter. First things first, you’ll need to make sure you purchase the right sand.

Choose the Right Type of Pool Filter Sand

Pool filter sand is different from playground sand because it is explicitly ground to help maintain clean pool water. Playground sand is extremely fine, whereas the grains in your pool filter need to be much larger and sharper to trap particles while allowing water to flow through.

There are many different types to choose from when it comes to the sand that you can use in your pool filter. All are inexpensive, low-maintenance, and will prevent your pool water from becoming murky. It mostly comes down to personal preference.

Silica Sand

One of the most popular pool filter sands in use is silica #20 Sand. Unlike other manufactured pool filter sand, silica sand is created by mining silicon dioxide (or quartz) and then grinding it down into a fine powder.

Silica pool filter sand is popular because it is a very efficient and inexpensive medium for pool filters.

Mystic White II Swimming Pool Filter Sand

If you prefer to buy your filter sand online, this is my go-to silica sand.

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Glass Sand

Glass sand is a great environmentally friendly option. Instead of being manufactured or mined from the ground, it is made from recycled glass. Pool filter glass is very finely ground so that it can collect particles from your pool water, and it won’t cut you.

Glass sand is easy to maintain in your pool filter because it is lighter and less dense than other types of pool sand. Glass floats easily, making backwashing your pool filter easier and less time-consuming to maintain.

You should be able to find glass sand at your local pool supply store.

Zeolite Sand

Zeolite is a honeycomb-shaped mineral that forms naturally in volcanic rock. Its unique shape helps it to capture dirt and debris while filtering your pool water. Zeolite’s complex shape also helps it to trap particles that may otherwise get past silica sand.

Zeolite sand is an attractive choice because it will likely save you money in the long run since you won’t have to backwash the filter as often as you would with silica or glass sand filters.

Zeo Swimming Pool Sand Replacement

ZeoSand makes a reliable filter sand that I use in all the pools I build and maintain.

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Okay, once you choose the right type of sand, follow these instructions to swap out the old sand for new sand.

1. Turn the Pump Off

Make sure to switch off the power running to your pool filter. This will stop water from pumping into your system while you are working on it. Generally, the power switch is located near the filter.

2. Thoroughly Drain the Filter Tank

Remove the drain plug on the bottom of the filter and allow the tank to drain out thoroughly. This process may take up to an hour.

3. Remove the Collar From the Base of the Multiport Valve

You will need a screwdriver to remove the bolts that hold the collar in place. The collar clamps the multiport valve in place, so many professionals refer to it as a clamp instead of a collar.

4. Unscrew Pipes Connected to the Multiport Valve

It may be difficult to remove the multiport valve if there are pipes connected to it. Most pipe connections use unions that you can remove with a screwdriver. However, if your pipe is not connected by unions, you will have to use a saw to cut the pipes instead. You may then want to replace the pipes with unions to make changing your pool filter sand easier.

5. Remove the Multiport Valve

Carefully twist and pull up on the valve while maintaining a firm grip. Slowly work the valve off, so you do not damage anything inside the tank.

6. Cover the Standpipe With a Rubber Plug or Tape

Covering the standpipe will prevent sand from falling into the pipe and working its way into your pool water. You can use duct tape to cover the standpipe. Just make sure that whatever you use is easily removable once you are finished changing the sand.

7. Remove the Old Sand

The easiest way to remove the old sand is with a shop vac or something similar. Slowly lower the nozzle of the shop vac into the filter tank, being careful not to touch or damage anything inside of the tank. If you do not have a shop vac, you can rent one from a local hardware store.

If you prefer to remove the sand without a shop vac, you can use a cup to scoop the sand out of the tank. I recommend wearing gloves if you choose this method as the sand has been filtering debris and particles out of the pool, and it may be unsanitary.

8. Clean the Tank

Use a garden hose to thoroughly clean the inside and outside of the tank, removing any excess sand. Allow time for drying afterward so that moisture does not build in the tank or other parts. Moisture can damage your filter over time.

9. Reattach the Drain Plug to the Bottom of the Tank

Once you’re done cleaning the inside of the tank, you can add the new sand. But before you do this, make sure you have sealed the drain plug at the base of the tank.

10. Pour New Sand Into the Tank

Be sure to use pool-grade sand to keep your filter running efficiently.

11. Fill the Tank with Water

Using a garden hose, fill the tank so that the water is level with the sand.

12. Lubricate the O-ring on the Multiport Valve

Use a thin layer of multipurpose lubricant around the outside of the O-ring. Properly lubricating the O-ring will make reattaching the multiport valve to the tank easier.

13. Reattach the Multiport Valve to the Tank

After removing the tape or rubber seal from the standpipe, position the valve over it, and carefully reconnect it. Wiggle the valve to make sure you have a tight connection.

14. Reattach the Pipes

Screw the collar and pipes back into the multiport valve as tightly as you can to prevent leaks. Once this is done, you can switch the filter back on.

Here’s a video covering all of these steps.

Get My Free Pool Care Checklist

Download my free, printable pool maintenance checklist to help you accomplish regular pool care tasks for any type of swimming pool.

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The Bottom Line

Regularly changing the sand in your pool filter will prevent needing more expensive maintenance and chemicals. You can easily change the sand without having to schedule an appointment with a professional. Just make sure you know what to do with old pool filter sand once you switch it out and how much sand to put in your pool filter.

If some of that sand starts leaking into your pool, read my guide on how to remove sand in your pool.

Once you find pool-grade sand that works for you, you will be able to maintain a crystal-clear pool for many years to come. Make sure you check out my common sand filter problems and swimming pool maintenance 101 articles for all my advice on keeping your pool clean and healthy. And if you need to replace your sand filter, read my research on the best swimming pool filter.

Questions? Let me know.

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