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

Written by Michael Dean
August 10, 2023


Has sand started magically appearing in your pool? Unless your backyard happens to be a beach, 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? That’s what I cover in this article, along with tips to fix common issues with sand filters and other problems. Let’s dive in!

Main Takeaways

  • 90% of the time, if you have sand in your pool, the sand filter is the culprit.
  • You’ll likely have to replace a lateral or standpipe to prevent more sand from getting into your pool.
  • Use a pool vacuum to remove the sand in your pool.
  • If the sandy substance is smooth and slimy instead of gritty to the touch, it is likely mustard algae and not sand.

Why Is There Sand in Your Pool?

If you notice sand in your pool, 9 times out of 10, the cause has something to do with your sand filter. That said, if you don’t have a sand filter, sand can make its way into your pool water in a few other ways.

Broken Sand Filter

As I mentioned, 90% of the time, you have sand in your pool because of your sand filter.

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 blow out sand from your filter or leak it 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. If your sand filter is blowing sand into your pool, you are generally looking at one of two things:

  • A broken lateral
  • A broken standpipe

I’ll dive into how to fix both of these issues below.

The Wind Is Blowing Sand into Your Pool

Another reason sand could be accumulating in your pool is due to the wind. This can especially be an issue if you live near the beach or have a sandbox in your yard. The best way to avoid this is to keep your pool covered when not in use and definitely cover it during windy days.

Swimmers Bringing Sand with Them

Swimmers can bring a whole host of issues into your pool, including algae, bacteria, dirt, sweat, oils, and sand. If people in your pool have recently been to the beach, they may have sand on their bathing suits, in their hair, or on their bodies. So, when they jump into the pool, the sand becomes your pool’s problem. 

To avoid this, make sure swimmers shower or at least rinse off before they get into the pool.

It Isn’t Actually Sand

If you notice something that looks like sand in your pool, there is a possibility it could be something much more annoying. Mustard algae is a yellow form of algae that can appear like sand at first glance.

How to Tell If It Is Mustard Algae

When sitting in small piles at the bottom of your pool, mustard algae can resemble sand. The best way to tell the difference is to get in the pool and touch it! 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 get rid of it successfully.

How to Fix Broken Sand Filter Parts

If you have a sand filter and don’t live anywhere near a beach or a sandy area, you probably have an issue with your sand filter that is causing sand to appear in your pool. Below, you will find my guide on fixing your broken sand filter.

Preparing Your Tank for Part Replacement

If a lateral or standpipe breaks in your sand filter, you must replace it. Before you engage in any repair projects, remember to turn off your pool pump and filter. Here are the steps you should take when preparing your sand filter for the replacement part.

  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 from 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, you’ll need to replace it to avoid sand from piling up in your pool. You can buy replacement ones that match your model of a sand filter from your local pool supply store.

Equipped with a new 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 can 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, then carefully lower the standpipe and attach laterals back into the tank (making 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 an included cardboard protector 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 complete 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, the sand will invade the passage and end up in your pool.

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 usually 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 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 broken standpipes or laterals 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 from a broken piece in your sand filter or naturally from an external source, you definitely don’t want it in your pool. If you’ve just fixed your sand filter, the next step is to get rid of the sand in your pool.

Supplies Needed

  • Pool vacuum
  • Pool brush
  • Telescopic pole
  • Garden hose
  • Pool water testing kit

Step One: Set Your Filter to Waste Mode

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

Step Two: Start Filling Your Pool with Water

Since you will be removing a lot of water from your pool by vacuuming, you may want to place a garden hose in your pool while you vacuum to balance out your water levels.

Step Three: Grab 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.

Alternatively, you can use an automatic pool cleaner for this process, but if there is a lot of sand in your pool, a manual vacuum is likely your best bet. Nothing like some good old-fashioned elbow grease!

Step Four: Attach and Prime the Vaccum 

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.

Step Five: Vacuum Up the Sand

If you’re cleaning your entire pool, you can start in the shallow end, slowly making your way around the entire pool. Give the areas with lots of sand more attention, running over the piles of sand multiple times with the vacuum until the sand has all been sucked up.

It is possible that during your vacuuming process, some sand particles will be disturbed and will start floating around in your pool. If this happens, wait an hour or two for the particles to settle, then vacuum your pool again.

Step Six: Brush Your Pool

Sand does not often stick to the bottom of your pool, and vacuuming it should do the trick. But while you are vacuuming and cleaning up the sand, you might as well give your pool a proper cleaning!

Step Seven: Test and Adjust the Chemical Levels in Your Pool Water

The final step to removing sand from your pool is to test and balance the chemical levels. Since foreign contaminants were introduced and new water has been added, you’ll need to rebalance everything to ensure your pool is in tip-top shape! After adding the chemicals, test the water once again before jumping back into your crystal-clear pool.

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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Enjoy Your Sand-Free Pool!

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; I’m happy to help out.

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