How to Get Sand Out of a Pool

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I admit the absolute worst place to have an excess of sand is at the bottom of your swimming pool. So if you’ve come here looking for how to get sand out of your pool, then you’ve come to the right place.

There’s a scene in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones in which Hayden Christensen’s Anakin Skywalker complains about sand. “It’s coarse and irritating and rough and it gets everywhere,” he says. People like to make fun of that scene, but he’s absolutely right.

Let’s take a look at some things you can do when your beach vibes go a little too far and your backyard pool decides it wants to be like the ocean.

How Did Sand Get in My Pool?

In order to know the best way to get sand out of your swimming pool, the first step is figuring out how it got there in the first place.

From Your Sand Filter (if you have one of course).

Some swimming pools use sand filters. And in a sand filter, a tank full of sand is used to ensure the quality of your pool water. The way it works is, water passes through the sand and large particles of junk get stuck in it. This then allows clear water to pass through and back into the pool via a hose at the bottom of the filter itself. 

Occasionally, the sand filters may malfunction. So if your pool is full of sand and you employ a sand filter, this is likely the culprit. “But why?” you ask. Well, it comes down to parts, mostly.

  • Cracked Laterals

Laterals are small pieces of tubing located at the bottom of your sand filter that are meant to keep any wayward sand in and allow the water to return to the pool. But should one of these tiny tubes break, the fine-grained sand will take full advantage of the situation and invade your pool bottom.

  • Cracked or Broken Standpipe

The standpipe runs vertically through the center of your sand filter and connects the laterals at the bottom of the sand filter and the valve at the top. It’s possible for this to crack too and if this happens you will likely get sand in the bottom of your pool.

Internal diagram of a pool sand filter

If your delinquent sand filter is to blame, then the sand is normally more concentrated on the bottom of the pool near the return jets.

But what happens if you don’t have a sand filter and there’s sand at the bottom of your swimming pool?

Do you live right on the beach? If not, then there are a few other possibilities that could be causing your sandy pool bottom.

It’s Not Actually Sand but Mustard Algae

It may actually be mustard algae and not sand at all. But your pool doesn’t have to look like this photo for there to be algae in your pool.

mustard algae in pool

Mustard algae can actually show up in your pool in a variety of ways. For example, mustard algae can show up from spores being transferred naturally via weather conditions, or by contaminated things you find in and around pools, like toys, rafts, and even swimsuits.

Just a second ago, I mentioned that sand from a filter will often build up near the return jets.

There’s a distinctive way of finding out if what you think is sand is actually mustard algae. Dust it up and then if the substance begins to cloud, you’ll know it’s not actually sand.

Gross, right?

It’s Sand from Somewhere Else

My uncle had a problem, years ago, with sand mysteriously appearing at the bottom of his pool, despite not using a sand filter and having only crystal-clear water apart from it. As it turned out, my cousin was taking handfuls of sand from his backyard sandbox and tossing it in the pool!

picture of a child playing in the sand pit

So if you don’t use a sand filter, your pool is algae free, you’re not the owner of beachfront property, and you have a child with a sandbox on the premises, it might be a good idea to make sure that you reinforce what belongs in a pool and what doesn’t. And make sure the sandbox is covered when no one is using it.

How to Remove Sand from Pool

Now that you know what’s causing that terrible underfoot crunching in your pool, you’re probably wondering “how do I get sand out of my pool?”.

Doing something about it is a two-step process:

1) Removing the sand (or whatever) that’s already at the bottom of the pool and;
2) Making sure the issue doesn’t happen again.

In order to find out exactly how, read on.

First Things First – Get the Sand Out of the Pool

1) Brush as much of the substance as possible to one side of the pool or the same general vicinity.  Then wait for 30-60 mins for it to settle after you do this.

2) Next, get out your pool vacuum. If you don’t have a vacuum for your pool, there are loads of manual and automatic vacuums, each with their own pros and cons. (We have a few suggestions below).

Set your filter valve to “waste”. If you don’t do this, what can happen is the sand or dirt can get stuck in your filter then make your pool water cloudy and upset the chemical balance, particularly the pH, in your pool.

So best to avoid that and send the sand straight out to waste.

3) Now vacuum up the sand. 

Tip for vacuuming sand out of pool: move the vacuum slowly so you don’t stir up everything on the bottom. You want as much sand going into the vac as possible.

Best Pool Vacuums to Get Sand Out of Pool

Not all pool vacs and pool cleaners will pick up sand, unfortunately. It depends on the model and how fine the sand is as to if it will do the job.

If you’re having trouble getting fine dirt or getting fine sand out of your pool, your best bet is to use a manual pool vacuum and not an automatic pool cleaner.

Which Pool Vacuums Get Sand Out of Pools?

Here are a few of the best models of pool vacuums that are great at removing sand from the bottom of pools:

Pool Vacuums that Run off Your Pump

These are powerful vacs that you connect to your filter box. You’ll find these better for cleaning sand from the bottom of your pool than most automatic pool cleaners.

Weighted Flex Vacuum Head – good for concrete pools.

Weighted Triangle Pool Vacuum Head – good for fiberglass and vinyl-lined pools.

Pool Jet Water Vacuum

These products runs off your garden hose, so no filter or pump required.

Portable Pool Vacuum Jet Cleaner – for above ground pools and spas.

Pool Spa Jet Vacuum Cleaner – for above ground and inflatable pools.

Battery Powered Pool Vacuum

This rechargeable pool vac is perfect for getting sand out of above ground pools or pools without a filter or pump. It’s also great if you don’t feel like connecting up the vacuum.

Cordless Rechargeable Battery-Powered Pool Cleaner – for inground and above ground pools.

How to Get Sand Out of Pool Without a Vacuum

But what if you don’t have a pool vacuum or no filter? Or perhaps you want to know how to get sand out of an above ground pool?

Don’t despair, here’s how.

1) Use a pool brush to slowly move the sand into small piles.
2) Now you can use a brush and dust-pan to collect the sand. You’ll need to go snorkelling to do this.

Tips for removing sand from pool without a vac: Be patient! When you do this, you’ll need to use slow movements so you don’t stir the sand up. It will take a lot longer doing it without a vacuum but it can be done.

In the case of algae, you’ll need to treat this properly. For full details, see our article:
Green Pool – Guide to Easily Preventing & Removing Pool Algae

Finally, Make Sure Sand Doesn’t Come Back

Now that the nuisance is no more, it’s important to take as many steps possible to ensure that sand does not return.

If you suspect it’s the filter causing the sand in your pool, you will need to open up the filter to check if for damaged parts.

How to Fix Cracked Laterals or a Broken Standpipe in a Sand filter

Here’s a quick summary on how to fix a pool sand filter with a broken stand pipe or cracked laterals.

pool sand filter standpipe diagram
Pool sand filter internal view. Multiport valve, standpipe and laterals.

1) Disconnect the pipes running to the multiport valve.

Do this by unscrewing the “ring” around each of the pipes.

2) Remove the multiport valve from the top of the sand filter.

There will normally be a collar with a screw or two on the side of the valve, near the base of the filter. Loosen these then you should be able to lift the valve off.

Careful not to loose the O-ring and spider gasket.

3) Remove the sand from the sand filter.

Do this by turning the filter on its side and scooping the sand out with your hands. It’s best to replace the sand with new fresh sand after you do this.

4) Remove the Standpipe and Lateral assembly.

You will see a pipe in the centre of the filter that runs vertically from the bottom to the top of the filter. That is the stand pipe. And at the bottom of the filter, attached to the standpipe, are the laterals.

The laterals can be screwed on to the stand pipe or on some models, they fold up, kind of like an umbrella.

Fold up the laterals or remove them by unscrewing each of the laterals, then pull the whole stand pipe / lateral assembly up and out of the filter.

5) Inspect and replace.

Now you can inspect and replace the damaged parts in your sand filter. Look for small cracks – this is where the sand can get in and from there, straight into your pool.

Replacement lateral tubes, standpipes, and any other parts you need are available for sale at pool supply stores, or online such as Amazon here.

6) Reassemble the sand filter.

Reassembly is just the opposite of disassembly. So put the standpipe and laterals back in, fill up the sand and put the multiport valve back on. Next, connect all the pipes again and give it a test run. Then make sure there are no water leaks and there is no more sand getting into your pool.

Once your filter is fixed, make sure to give your filter the tender loving care it needs, backwashing it every four weeks or so, and replacing the sand inside every four to five years. 

You can read more in our article How to Backwash a Pool Sand Filter & How Often.

And if you get tired of sand filters altogether, you can look into installing a cartridge filter instead.

The Final Word

Sand belongs in the desert, on the beach, or in a sandbox. But sand does not belong in at the bottom of your pool.

So if you do have sand in your pool, check your sand filter for damage or that it’s not coming in externally, like from your kids’ sandbox.

The bad news is, it might not be sand, but a pesky form of algae. But the good news is, you’ll be able to get it out with a bit of work.

And if the sand is gone, maybe Anakin Skywalker would be willing to come over for a swim.

Recommended Products

Weighted Flex Vacuum Head – (concrete pools)

Weighted Triangle Pool Vacuum Head – (fiberglass and vinyl-lined pools)

Pool Spa Jet Vacuum Cleaner – (for above ground and inflatable pools)

Portable Pool Vacuum Jet Cleaner – (for above ground pools and spas)

Cordless Rechargeable Battery-Powered Pool Cleaner – for inground and above ground pools.

Swimming Pool Spare Parts

Replacement Sand for Sand Filter

Related Reading:

Green Pool – Guide to Easily Preventing & Removing Pool Algae

How to Backwash a Pool Sand Filter & How Often

How to Vacuum a Pool With a Filter or a Pump

Cloudy Pool Water: Why & How to Remedy

How To Get Sand Out of a Pool

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