What Should You Do With Old Pool Filter Sand?

Written by Michael Dean
May 30, 2023

old pool filter sand next to a filter

Sand pool filters are among the most common filtration systems in swimming pools and spas. They are inexpensive, require little maintenance, and last a very long time. Cleaning the sand filter requires backwashing and rinsing, and it rarely needs to be replaced. However, most pool experts recommend replacing your pool filter sand every 3 to 5 years because it will eventually wear down and no longer filter debris efficiently.

Due to the composition of the sand and the contaminants it has absorbed during its use, there are only certain ways you can use and dispose of filter sand. In this article, I will discuss ways to dispose of or reuse the sand and what you should not use the sand for.

Main Takeaways

  • Pool filter sand is made up of different minerals and is much finer than normal sand. Unfortunately, since pool filter sand is normally made of silica quartz, it can be incredibly dangerous if inhaled.
  • With old filter sand, you can bury it, use it for landscaping, use it on your sidewalks in the winter, or hire a disposal expert.
  • You shouldn’t reuse old sand in your filter because, after 3-5 years, it won’t be able to properly filter the pool water.

How is Pool Filter Sand Different From Normal Sand?

Pool filter sand is made up of different minerals than normal sand. Pool sand is also a much finer product. Usually, pool filter sand is made of silica quartz, which is considered a carcinogen because it can cause severe respiratory issues if inhaled. Inhalation of fine silica quartz can also cause a disease called silicosis, which can be fatal.

On the other hand, standard sandbox sand is made of various minerals and is not dangerous at all.

It is imperative not to allow children or animals to play with pool silica sand or to accidentally place it in exposed areas around your yard or house. Therefore, it is crucial to dispose of old pool filter sand.

Ideas For What to do With Old Pool Filter Sand

You will need to change out the sand in your sand filter every three to five years, but what should you do with the old, used sand? Old pool sand contains contaminants such as bacteria and algae from the pool water, making it even more dangerous or fatal if inhaled.

In this section, I will go over some helpful ideas for what you can do with your old sand.

Bury the Sand

Probably the most straightforward solution is to bury the sand in your backyard. You don’t want the sand to be exposed so the wind can blow it around. Therefore, burying it is a feasible solution. The only downside of this method is that you risk creating depressions in your yard if you do not strategically bury the sand outside drainage areas.

Use It For Landscaping

Due to the fine texture of pool filter sand, it makes for a great landscaping tool. It can be used for various things in your yard, such as hole filler, a foundation for concrete or stones, and more.

Use It On Your Sidewalks in Winter

Pool filter sand also makes a great slip-proof agent for icy weather. If you live in a climate prone to freezing, save a couple of bags of pool filter sand, and you can spread it on your driveway, sidewalks, and decks to prevent slipping during an ice storm! This can save you money on sidewalk salt.

Hire a Disposal Expert

As pool filter sand is considered a hazardous material, you should not simply throw the sand away in your trash can. To properly dispose of the sand, you need to call a disposal expert or take it to a disposal site.

Why You Shouldn’t Reuse Old Sand in Your Filter

The type of sand used in sand filtration systems contains rigid edges perfect for catching debris in the pool water. Over time, the debris builds up and begins to wear down the edges of the pool filter sand.

After a few years of continuous use, the sand in the pool filter will no longer adequately filter the water. This means the contaminants built up in the pool filter will begin seeping into the water. This will make the water cloudy and unsafe for swimmers. In other words, your sand filter will be rendered effectively useless if old sand is used past the recommended 3 to 5 years.

After the old pool filter sand has been properly changed, it should be disposed of using the above methods.

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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Bottom Line

The sand in your pool’s filtration system is very different from the sand you grew up playing with at the beach or in a sandbox. It is much finer and can pose serious health threats if inhaled. It is important to learn the proper disposal methods to ensure the safety of yourself and those in your household. And once you’ve disposed of it and replaced it with new sand, you and your family can enjoy clean and safe water once again.

For more on this topic, head to my sand pool filters 101 guide, use my pool sand filter calculator, and make sure to check out my recommendations for the top pool filters if you need a new one.

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