Can You Reuse Pool Filter Sand? What You Must Know

Let’s say you have a pool sand filter that holds roughly 300 pounds of sand in it. You might be looking at ways to save a few dollars or to help in your community’s recycling efforts. The clock is ticking for new pool filter sand, but can you just reuse the old sand and forget about it? 

Even though reusing old sand in your sand filter might be the easiest option, it certainly is not the smartest. You should not reuse pool filter sand as it needs to be changed every 3-5 years in order to ensure the best filtration for your pool. 

I realize this probably is not the news you want to hear, and can even be conflicting to what you might see from other less informed sources, but having sand that is functional is key to having a clean and healthy pool for you, your family, and your friends. Continue reading to understand why you should not reuse pool filter sand, when it should be changed, and how to effectively and properly dispose of it. 

Why You Should Not Reuse Pool Filter Sand 

So here’s the thing, pool filter sand is specially made to function as a degunker when it comes to your pool’s water. There are hundreds of pounds of sand in your sand filter, and its main objective is to get your water free from all sorts of debris, contaminants, and other sorts of unmentionables so that you are able to have clean swimming water without having to think twice about it. 

Pool filter sand should not be reused because the roughness of the particles that is used to catch unwanted bacteria, contaminates, and debris will be too worn down to be effective. Reused pool filter sand can result in severe contamination of your pool and is not worth the risk.

The sand in pool filters is actually made in a way so that the edges of each tiny piece of sand are more rigid than your everyday Caribbean sand, or play sand if that is what you are more familiar with (I prefer the tropical beach example). These sand particles are made rough so that they are able to better catch and trap any unwanted bacteria, contaminate, or debris within your water. This will then remain in the sand until it is backwashed out and cleaned. 

However, all of this catching and keeping and backwashing takes a toll on your sand. Over time, the sand begins to wear down and get smoother as well as fuse together. When the sand particles get smooth and fuse, this means that they are less able to catch all the gunk they are made to catch, which means dirtier water and more frequent backwashing. Let me tell you, no one wants to backwash any more than they have to – what a nightmare of a job. 

Age is a harsh reality for sand and it will show when your pool stops cleaning up as well as it once used to. When this happens, it means it is time for a sand change. Some people think cleaning and straining the sand will do the trick and they can then reuse it, but this will get you nowhere. The biggest problem is that the sand has been worn down and fused and is no longer capable of cleaning up your pool’s mess anymore. Retirement is thus more than a suggestion for your pool filter sand- it is an inevitably real necessity. 

When Should You Change Pool Filter Sand? 

You know how you should visit the dentist every year for a cleaning and x-ray (I know, many of you are like “No one told me this, ever!!)? Just as you need to see your good old dentist on a regular basis,  the sand in your pool filter should be changed on a similar schedule as well. Now, the change does not have to be as frequent as every year, but there is a timestamp on your sand, and it needs to be adhered to. Otherwise, you are going to be sitting in a swamp rather than a pool- sounds pleasant, right?

A good rule of thumb is that your pool filter sand needs to be changed every 3-5 years. Your sand starts to smooth around the edges and begins to fuse together. This means poor filtration, which means dirty water. 

If you are using your pool often, then the 3-year mark is the best choice for changing sand. If you are less often in there, you should shoot for every 4 years, but 5 if you want to push the limits.

If you have had your pool from the very start, it should be easy to know when to change your sand. However, let’s say you just moved into a new home and you have no clue when the sand was changed last in the pool filter. To test how well the sand is working, you want to pay attention to the pressure that your pump is putting out. If you have really good pressure, then the sand is doing its job. Just keep an eye on it within the next few seasons. 

However, if pressure is weak, you want to check on the status of your sand. Go ahead and backwash the filter and pay very close attention to the pressure after it has been backwashed. If the pressure is strong once the backwash is completed, this is good news! However, if it is still weak or gets weak after about 30 minutes or a day, you are definitely in need of a sand change. 

What happens in this scenario is that the sand is still loose enough to be stirred, so, once it is backwashed it is stirred up and the sand is cleaned. However, after the backwash is completed, the sand settles and clumps back up again. Because of this, water is not able to easily flow through it and the pressure that was once strong is now weak. For you, this, unfortunately, means a sand change, but do not worry, you have got this! 

How to Dispose of Old Pool Filter Sand 

I would get into how to change the sand in your sand filter, but this is not a uniform process and one that is unique to each filter. There is not a ton of variance here, but you want to make sure to adhere to the directions of your particular filter rather than general advice to ensure that you are changing everything exactly as it should be. 

Fortunately, this can be as simple as consulting your owner’s manual and doing a simple check-in. If you are worried, you can always call your pool guys and have them guide you or even have them come out and tackle the task for you! 

Once you have the sand in your pool filter removed, that sand is going to have to go somewhere. It is chock-full of gunk, so there is no way you can use it for a sandbox or leave it lying around in a pile in the yard. There are a few different ways you can get this stuff gone without having to pull in the big guns to do it either! 

To dispose of old pool filter sand, consider the following options:

  • Use old pool sand for landscaping. First, you can use your pool sand for landscaping. There is nothing so harmful in your sand that it is going to lead to a quick death for plants and will work as a foundation for some stonework. 

    If you have visions of a brick walkway in mind and do not want to have to dish out any more dough, use the sand from your filter as the groundwork for your project. It will work just as perfectly as anything you buy from the store.  
  • Use the excess pool sand for opposing seasonal tasks. Second, try using the excess sand for those cold and icy winter months. If you live anywhere with frigid winters, it’s likely your walkways freeze over. With this happening, you need something that can stabilize, and fast. 

    Your old pool filter sand will do just the trick and is right on hand whenever you need it! No one likes a slippery set of steps or an icy driveway. Grab the sand, throw it on the area, and have a slip-free zone without having to buy supplies. 
  • Bury the sand. Third, if you truly have no other use for the sand, go ahead and bury it. This sounds crazy, but it is a fast solution for those of you that have no purpose for such a load and don’t want it taking up space in your yard. 

    Dig a hole and say your goodbyes! You want to dig a hole that is deep enough to have a good amount of dirt over it to prevent divoting in your yard, but with a little elbow grease and a few beads of sweat, leftover sand can be out of sight in no time flat.

Jed Arnold

Jed spent every year from the ages of 15 - 22 as a Lifeguard (Red Cross) and ages of 17 - 22 as a Certified Pool Operator (CPO). Between working for over a dozen facilities and owning a pool, he carries over a decade of pool experience.

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