When you first installed your pool or bought a home that came with one, you probably didn’t realize how many choices you’d have to make in order to keep it clean.
On top of all that, you probably never guessed there were also options as to the type of material you can put in your filter. But there are!
You can use plain old pool filter sand (which isn’t technically sand at all), filter glass, or several other products that look like little balls of fabric or fiber.
Well, we did...and if you keep reading, you’ll know just about everything you need to know on the subject, too.
And possibly, quite a bit more.
The 10 Best Pool Filter Sands
#1. Fairmount AquaQuartz
This exceptional quality filter sand is 100% natural and ecologically safe. It’s made to filter out even the smallest of particles, leaving your pool water free of bugs, oil, dust, algae, and leaves.
This product won’t stain your surfaces and it’s completely odorless.
It won’t clog or solidify, so it’s safe for your plumbing. It’s also chemical-free and very easy to backwash.
ZeoSand is a popular product among pool owners. Like sand, it’s a natural media but it’s made to be more efficient.
This product is made with a natural crystalline substance with irregular shell pieces. This helps it capture more fine particles and ammonium ions than sand.
Most notably about this product is that 50 lbs of it is equivalent to 100 lbs of sand. So, you use less, it’s easy to backwash, and easy to handle.
#3. Rx Pool Sand Alternative
- A REPLACEMENT FOR SAND - Rx Clear Luster Filter Media is designed to be an alternative to pool filter sand for pool filters. One box of filter media (1.5 lbs) equals 50 lbs of sand.
If you’re looking for a sand alternative, this is a good product to try. These tiny balls really pack a punch, removing down to 3 microns of waste.
They’re made from polyethylene and can be thrown in the washing machine to clean. And because they are not made of miniscule particles, there’s zero chance they’ll clog your filter.
You’ll only need a box of 1.5 lbs for every 50 lbs of sand you would normally use. So, this product is a lot easier to manage on your own!
#4. Harsco Filter Glass
According to experts, glass has a slight negative charge that attracts finer particles than sand.
This product filters down to 5 microns as opposed to sand, which filters down to about 30 microns. This cuts down on backwashing and slows the loss of chlorine.
It is completely safe and natural, and it’s made from recycled glass so it’s environmentally conscious.
#5. Caribbean Blue Sand Assist
Sand assist is a product that is designed not to replace your sand, but to enhance it. You combine it with the sand in your filter and it penetrates it with a “highly effective polymer formula” that traps particles as small as 5 microns.
It’s a great product to use weekly or as needed after heavy use or heavy rains.
It doesn’t take much of this product to make a difference. One six-ounce pouch treats 100,000 gallons of water.
#6. Palmetto Filter Sand
- Filtration – Our perfectly sized pool filter sand grabs insects, leaves, dirt, dust, sunscreen oil, hair and other small particles to keep your pool sparkling clean.
Palmetto filter sand is closely inspected and screened to ensure it meets the highest quality standards. It’s also all thoroughly washed to remove all impurities before being packaged.
It is perfectly sized to cling to bugs, hair, leaves, dirt, oil, and other gunk that threatens to make your pool water dirty.
The sand is also 100% natural with no chemicals added. This means it won’t clump or solidify so it won’t clog your filter.
#7. Hth Pool Sand
- For use with in-ground or above-ground swimming pool sand filters
Hth is a trusted name in pool supplies and products and their sand is specifically formulated to keep your water clean and make your maintenance easier. It’s also manufactured in the US so you know where your dollars are going.
This sand is made from at least 87% crystalline silica which filters out almost any contaminants that show up in your pool. It comes in 50 lb bags that are easy to store and easy to manage when you need them.
#8. In the Swim FilterBalls
In the Swim is another popular name in the pool industry. Their products are designed specifically with pools and spas in mind.
These filter balls are an alternative to sand that provide the same filtering quality, but with greater efficiency. One pound of them is also equal to 100 lbs of silica sand, so they’re much easier to manage, store, and use.
The main benefit of using these filter balls over sand is that they create a lower working pressure, creating less stress on your filtration system than sand.
#9. Quikrete Pool Filter Sand
You’ve probably heard the name Quikrete because they’re well known for the quick-drying concrete. But they also make a really good pool filter sand.
This silica sand is a good basic product for your pool that’s easy to find and affordable to buy. It’s perfectly graded and efficient in pulling harmful bacteria and debris out of the water.
The product comes in 50 lb bags that are easy to use and conveniently sized for storage.
#10. FlowXtreme Cotton Tails
- FILTERS TO 3 MICRONS - A tightly-woven network of interlocking, polyethylene strands filters out even the smallest particulants. Cotton Tails' filtration stands up to the best, including costly, hazardous DE systems.
These filter balls really do look like fluffy little cotton balls, but they’re actually made of tightly woven polyethylene fiber.
They are simple, lightweight, and filter out particles as small as 3 microns. That efficiency stands up to the best DE filters on the market!
All you need is a 1.5 pound box to replace every 50 lbs of sand your filter requires. For most filters, that means you won’t need more than two boxes.
How does pool filter sand work?
Different types of pool filter media clean at different levels of efficiency. For example, sand actually only cleans out particles as small as 40 microns.
Now, don’t get me wrong, 40 microns is still extremely small. After all, the human eye can’t see anything smaller than 50 or 60 microns.
However, certain bacteria and algae spores can measure as small as 2 microns. And while there isn’t really a sand filter media that can capture that, there is some that comes closer.
Here’s how it works…
With your pool pump running, it is constantly circulating the water in and out of the filter. As it runs through, it slowly sinks down into the sand.
The sand is coarse enough to grab onto tiny particles in the water. As it does this, the clean water flows back into the pool, cleaner than it started.
Types of Pool Filters
Sand filters aren’t the only types of pool filters. There are actually two other types that some people prefer for various reasons.
Sand filters are the filters we are covering here. They’re actually the most popular because they are typically a little more affordable than other types.
They’re extremely efficient and easy to maintain. Supplies for them are also very easy to find and usually not very expensive.
DE (diatomaceous earth) is sedimentary rock made of the “skeletal remains of billions of microscopic algae-like organisms called diatoms.”
It might sound bizarre, but these little particles actually make up about 26% of the earth’s crust so they’re, in fact, very common. It’s also a very spongy substance, making it perfect for grabbing and absorbing contaminants out of the water.
These filters are the most efficient type of pool filter, trapping most particles as small as 3 microns. And they work the same as sand filters, just with a different filtering media.
Cartridge filters are a popular choice because they are so convenient and easy to maintain. They are also more efficient than sand filters, catching microns as small as 10-15 microns.
Pool filters are made out of a polyester fabric that’s accordion folded around a plastic tube. As water passes through this filter, the fabric catches contaminants, leaving the water cleaner as it’s dumped back into the pool.
To clean these filters, you can just take them out and hose them off. When they become too dirty to clean with a hose, you simply toss and replace them.
4 Considerations for Choosing the Best Pool Filter Sand
Choosing the best pool filter sand shouldn’t be overwhelming, but with all the choices on the market, it’s sometimes hard to pick. To make it easier, here are a few things to consider.
Believe it or not, pool sand comes in different grain sizes. The perfect size is .45 to .55 mm. If it’s much larger, it won’t grab enough debris, and if it’s smaller, it could end up slipping through your filtrations system.
This often leads to sand in the pool and clogged filters.
Brand isn’t everything, but if you stick with some of the well-known names in the pool industry, you usually can’t go wrong. Companies like In the Swim and hth only manufacture pool products so you can feel confident they know what they’re doing.
You’ll notice, though, that we listed a few brands that are not commonly known for their pool products. And once you feel confident in what you’re looking for, it doesn’t hurt to branch out.
If you’re buying actual pool filter sand, the efficiency will depend a lot on the grade you get. Like we mentioned earlier, there is a perfect size of sand that filters the most debris.
But keep in mind that there are alternative options. Filterballs and glass are just a couple of examples of filter media that work more efficiently than sand.
Ease of Maintenance
Sand is not too terribly difficult to maintain, but it does have to be backwashed and can be heavy and cumbersome to replace. Other products, like Rx Pool Sand Alternative, on the other hand are lightweight and can be thrown in the washing machine when they get dirty.
How to clean a sand pool filter
To clean a sand pool filter, you’ll need to do something called backwashing. And before you ever get started, you’ll need to turn the power off at the breaker.
Then, you’ll look for a setting on your filter called “backwash” and turn it to that setting.
Next, check the waste hose to make sure it’s securely connected to the valve. Also make sure there are no kinks in it so it will allow for easy water flow.
Now, turn the power back on at the breaker and the pool pump. Let it run for a couple of minutes or until it runs clear.
Turn the pump off and set the valve to “rinse.” Turn the pump on again and let it run for another couple of minutes, or until it once again runs clear.
Once you’re all done, you can set your pump back to “filter” to return to normal use.
For a more thorough walkthrough, check out this video:
How to change pool filter sand
Swim University has this great video on changing out your pool filter sand. We really can’t show it or say it much better than these guys do here:
But to give you a quick rundown:
Turn the power off and drain your pool filter.
Take off the multiport valve.
Cover the standpipe with duct tape.
Suck out the old sand with a Shop-Vac.
Rinse out the tank with a garden hose.
Fill the tank half full of water.
Poor in the new sand.
Top the tank off with water and reassemble all the pieces.
Backwash and rinse the filter.
Turn the pump on and run your filter.
Best Pool Filter Sand FAQs
What kind of sand do you use in a pool filter?
Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of just buying a bag of sand from your local supply store. You could end up with the sand you’d use in a sandbox instead of what you need for your pool.
Pool sand is actually something called silica sand. It’s not something somebody scraped up from the beach. It’s closely inspected and properly graded especially for filters.
But in addition to pool sand, there are other alternatives, such as filter glass and filterballs.
What type of pool filter is best?
Everybody has different opinions on this. Sand filters are probably the most popular because they’re inexpensive and last a long time.
But DE filters are the most efficient, filtering out the smallest particles of any other media.
Cartridge filters are a good middle of the road choice. They filter out more debris than sand but less than DE.
However, these are very convenient and easy to maintain. You simply toss and replace when they’re too dirty to hose off.
How much pool filter sand do I need?
This depends on the size of your pool filter. Most require around 100 to 150 lbs. But this handy chart from INYO Pools is a great reference:
When should I change the sand in my pool filter?
Most experts recommend changing your pool filter sand every five years or so, but truthfully, this can vary depending on usage and the size of your tank.
Basically, if your filter stops doing its job and it’s been a few years since you replaced the sand, it’s probably time to do so.
This, of course, is assuming it’s been backwashed often and taken care of.
How do I know if my sand filter is bad?
There are several indications that your sand filter is bad, meaning the sand needs to be replaced or the parts need to be serviced.
The first indication is cloudy water when you’ve tried everything else to clean it up. This could be caused by a low flow rate.
Another thing to watch out for is backwash cycles that get shorter and shorter. This could mean your filter is greasy or dirty.
Sand in your pool is also a dead giveaway that there’s a problem with your filter.
Usually, this means you have a broken lateral at the bottom of the standpipe. This is something you can fix yourself. Just be sure to follow directions carefully.
Don’t let all the choices of pool filter media overwhelm you. Start simple with basic pool filter sand and see how it works for you.
If you find that the maintenance is too much for you or that it’s just not getting your water as clean as you’d like, consider switching to something else.
The FlowXtreme Cotton Tails filter media, for example, is one of our top picks. It filters very efficiently and it’s lightweight and easy to replace.
But whatever you choose, check back with us often for more helpful tips and buying guides. We’ve got you covered!