How to Get Sand Out of Your Pool (& Why It’s There)

Sand is a wonderful defining feature of the shore. It brightly borders the crashing waves, forms a delicate cushion underneath your towel, and is the sole building material for a grand castle of Roman proportions.

But that’s at the beach, not at your home and in your pool. Sand has no place in your swimming pool, so if you find yourself with a sudden invasion of sand, why did it appear and how did it get there?

Why Is There Sand in Your Pool?

We’re going to make two assumptions. The first is that someone didn’t just litter your swimming pool with fine particles of granular rock behind your back. The second is that you have a sand filter.

About Sand Filtrations

A sand filter externally is a tank, usually under two feet tall, and resembles a gas tank you use for your grill. They are rounder and stouter than their competitor, the cartridge tank, and operate using sand’s natural filtration process to clean water.

The downside is that if a part of them breaks, they may be blowing out sand from your filter or leaking sand into your pool.

The good news is: it’s just sand! Try not to worry or get overwhelmed. The issue is likely a technical but fixable problem. Often, you are looking at one of two things:

  • A broken lateral
  • A broken standpipe

We will go over what these parts are and how to replace them so you can get your pool back to being sand-free and ready for swimming!

How Sand Filters Work

Understanding how a sand filter works can help rid you of your problem with sand in your pool.

The basic operation of a sand filter is simple. The filter pumps water, filth and all, into the large part of the tank. It comes through the multiport valve at the top. The water circulates downwards, through a layer of sand that rests on several laterals at the bottom of the tank.

After the water passes through the sand, it’s filtered! The clean water travels back up the tank through the standpipe and returns to your pool.

Preparing Your Tank for Part Replacement

If a lateral or standpipe breaks, you must replace it. Before you engage in any repair projects, remember to turn off your pool and try to have all the necessary tools and parts on hand. When you’re set in this regard, you can move on to the act of replacing broken parts.

  1. Turn off the pool pump
  2. Turn the drain cap on the tank and allow the water to drain out
  3. Disconnect the waste hose
  4. Unscrew the unions for the pump and return ports
  5. Unscrew the bolts that secure the clamp on the multiport valve
  6. Remove the multiport valve gently to avoid damaging a lateral
  7. Use a cup to carefully remove sand from the tank until you can see the laterals
  8. Cautiously remove the standpipe with attached laterals out of the tank

Now you can examine both your standpipe and laterals for potential damage.

Replacing a Lateral

If you’ve discovered that a lateral is broken and needs replacing, you can buy replacement ones that match your model of a sand filter.

Equipped with an unbroken lateral, you’ll find that the standpipe separates at the bottom from the base. When the top and bottom are sealed together, they clamp in the laterals. With the top part removed, you’re free to swap out laterals as needed.

Laterals, fortunately, pop out easily, allowing you to take out the broken one and replace it with a new one. After this, reassemble your filter as it was.

Wash out the tank with fresh water, and then carefully lower the standpipe and attached laterals back into the tank (make sure it’s centered).

After doing this, you need to refill the tank with sand. The opening at the top of the standpipe needs protection. No sand must get inside. Protect the opening either with tape or with an included cardboard protector that comes with the sand.

When your standpipe is protected, pour sand into the tank until it’s about 6” from the top. Level the sand as you pour as carefully as possible and make sure the standpipe stays centered as you do so.

For more on this step-by-step process, check out my full guide on how to replace laterals in a sand filter.

Replacing the Standpipe

The tall and cylindrical centerpiece of the sand filter is called the standpipe. This is where the clean water passes back up through the tank and returns to the pool. If the standpipe is cracked or broken, then the sand will invade the passage and end up in your pool as well.

After you’ve removed the standpipe and laterals as per the instructions for preparing to replace these parts, it’s time to swap out the standpipe piece itself.

The standpipe doesn’t break as often as the laterals do. The laterals are skinnier and often made of a lighter material than standpipes. However, standpipes are still sold with other pool filtration parts, so you should be able to find one easily enough.

After you replace the standpipe, insert it back into the tank in the same manner as indicated in the lateral replacement section. Make sure that the whole piece is centered as you pour in the sand, level the sand carefully, and leave space at the top of the tank.

Either the standpipes or laterals being broken is a likely cause of sand getting into your pool. Fixing either of these two parts will likely rid you of sand getting into your pool and allow you to swim freely again.

How to Remove Sand from Your Pool

Whether the sand came by way of a broken piece in your sand filter or naturally from an external source, you still don’t want it in your pool. If you’ve fixed your sand filter, you’ll need to get the sand out of your pool, as well.

Before you clean your pool, your sand filter needs to be set to the “waste” mode. The “waste” funnels water and dirt out of the tank and out of the pool. It’s the third port of the multiport valve. Make sure you have your tank in this mode to prevent sand from getting into your standpipe.

Readying Your Pool Vacuum

A pool vacuum setup contains a head, a telescoping pole, a vacuum hose, a scrub brush, and a vacuum plate. Once assembled, you’re equipped to vacuum the bottom of your pool.

Putting a pool vacuum together is generally not complicated, as all parts are made to fit together in a way that each piece itself indicates.

Lower the pool vacuum into your pool with a steady hand. Use the accompanying hose to attach the vacuum to the water intake nozzle (the jets) to fill your vacuum with water and finish readying it for cleaning.

Prime the vacuum by pushing the air out of it. Air bubbles prevent good suction, which prevents good cleaning. If you release water from the vacuum and see bubbles, that means there’s air still inside. Continue to push out water until you do not see bubbles anymore.

This means your vacuum is clear of air bubbles and pockets and the suction power of your vacuum is at its best.

After you’ve checked this, you’re ready to clean.

Vacuuming Your Pool

If you’re cleaning your whole pool, start at the shallow end and make your way to the deep end. Avoid large piles of debris to avoid clogging the vacuum.

However, sand does not count as large debris (this is leaves and similar dirt). If you just want to remove the sand, vacuum over the sand until it’s gone.

The scrub brush can be used to clean the bottom of the pool if grime sticks and won’t come up with just the vacuum. However, sand does not often stick to the bottom, and vacuuming it should be little trouble.

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What If You Don’t Have a Sand Filter?

If you have sand in your pool but you don’t have a sand filter? Sand can make its way into a pool externally. Soil can contain traces of sand or sand can blow in with the wind from a neighboring location.

However, sometimes the sandy-looking substance at the bottom of your pool isn’t sand at all.

Is It Mustard Algae?

When sitting in small piles at the bottom of your pool, mustard algae can resemble sand. However, if the substance is gritty, like sand, then it is sand. If it’s smooth and slimy, it’s mustard algae.

Mustard algae is chlorine-resistant and forms in a pool that does not have the proper chemical levels needed to kill it off. Removing and staving off mustard algae can be a more involved process than removing sand, but there are still ways to successfully get rid of it.

Final Thoughts

If you find sand in your pool, don’t panic. Replacing standpipes and laterals is not complicated, and these parts are designed to be replaced. Maintaining your tank to check for breaks and cracks help keep your pool sand-free for delightful swimming! It’s just one more item to add to your sand filter maintenance and swimming pool maintenance schedule.

Have questions about sand in your pool? Drop me a line.

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