Last Updated: May 28, 2021
Every three to five years, the granules of sand in your pool filter become smooth and lose the ability to trap the particles they’re meant to remove. When this happens, it’s time to get some fresh sand for your filter. Once you take a look at the price difference, it may be tempting to try to fill your filter with play sand instead of pool sand. Although they may look the same, the microscopic differences between different types of sand make a bigger difference than you’d think. Unless you want to pay to run a pool pump that’s not fulfilling its duties, you’d be better served getting the proper sand for your pool filter the first time.
So, which sand is the best one and what difference does it make? Below you’ll find a buyer’s guide that briefly explains what to look for in pool filter sand and what difference it makes. Before that, our reviews of the 7 best pool filter sandbags on the market will help streamline your choice by comparing all the important points of each.
|Best Overall||Palmetto 50 Pounds of Pool Filter Sand||
|Best Value||AquaQuartz 50 Pounds Pool Filter Sand||
|Premium Choice||ZeoSand 50 Pounds Swimming Pool Sand||
|HTH 50 Pounds of Pool Filter Sand||
|ZeoBest 25 pounds of Pool-Filter Sand||
Pools are already full of chemicals, and it’s a good idea to try not to add more. The Palmetto pool filter sand is 100% natural with no added chemicals. It’s made specifically for pool filters, so it’s perfectly sized to filter out everything your pool may collect such as insects, sunscreen, hair, dirt, etc. Since it won’t solidify or become clumpy, this sand will never clog your filter and always offers a smooth backwash. The biggest draw to this sand is that once you fill your filter with it, you won’t have to think about it again until it’s ready to be replaced in another three to five years. That said, it’s one of the more costly pool filter sands on the market.
Refilling your pool filter with sand doesn’t have to be expensive, and with the AquaQuartz pool filter sand, it’s not. Priced very affordably, this sand has all the features of good pool sand. It’s free of chemicals and is 100% natural as well, so it backwashes evenly with no problem.
The fine particles can filter out dust, hair, algae, and oils from the water. Although the sand is supposed to be a #20 pool sand with a uniform size between 0.45 mm and 0.85 mm, it actually was too fine for our filter. This caused some of the sand to pass through the filter and accumulate in the pool. Only a small portion of the sand passed through the filter, but it was enough to cause a bit of a hassle since it did need to be cleaned up. Other brands of filter may not have the same problem, but it’s something to be aware of with this budget-priced pool sand option. Despite this one setback, for the quality you get, we think this is the best pool filter sand for the money.
ZeoSand is a bit different than other pool filter sands. Zeosand is half the weight of normal sand, which means it takes half as much ZeoSand (by weight) to fill your filter. Although it is accompanied by a premium sticker price, since you only need half as much, it may actually be a more economical option in the end. Because of its different physical structure, ZeoSand can filter out much finer particles than normal pool sand is capable of, featuring 3 microns for ZeoSand compared to 20 microns for other pool filter sands.
The unique makeup of ZeoSand does come with a drawback though. This sand requires very extensive backwashing prior to use. Failure to do so results in “zeo dust” turning your pool green. When we first started running the ZeoSand, we noticed a bit of cloudiness in the water. After just a short while, it had spread to the entire pool. We had to start over, and this time backwashed it repeatedly for extended periods to make sure it was really cleaned. This drawback is enough to keep the ZeoSand out of our top two positions.
HTH offers a #20 standard silica sand at a grade of 0.45 millimeters. It’s a very basic pool filter sand, though its priced higher than many of the similar competitors. While it is thoroughly washed, it doesn’t offer the same 100% natural and chemical-free standard to match our top two picks. For filters that seem to be passing through other brands of sand, the HTH sand seemed to have slightly larger grains that didn’t pass through the filter. The drawback was that this sand did have a tendency to clump up in the filter a little bit. Although it was easily remedied, at this price, we’d hope to see it needing less maintenance.
ZeoBest is a Zeolite filter medium similar to ZeoSand that mirrors the same benefits. Your pool filter only needs half as much ZeoBest by weight to do the same job as the sand it replaces. It’s able to filter down to 3 microns for cleaner, clearer water than could be achieved with standard pool sand. Because it can hold more particulates, ZeoBest requires backwashing less often than regular sand does. Unfortunately, the bag we got displayed the same problems as the ZeoSand, clouding up the water with a greenish tint and requiring copious amounts of backwashing before it can be safely used. The weight savings and great filtration ability are awesome, but you’ll have to decide if it’s worth the tradeoff. Once you have it back washed and running it should be good for five years.
This Quikrete pool filter sand is at the top end of the price range. Since pool filters can often hold hundreds of pounds of sand, the extra expense is going to add up by the time your filter is refilled. This sand is a nice pure white color that makes it seem clean just based on looks. With a 20/40 gradation, it should be perfect for use in almost any pool filter. However, in our testing, this sand was a bit too fine and was being pushed through the filter and into the pool, resulting in a lot of wasted time spent cleaning up the mess.
Mystic White is a specially graded pure white sand made of quartz. It’s manufactured to be more angular to filter out more contaminants and improve the flow rate. Plus, it also allows the sand to clean much easier during a backwash. It is ecologically safe, chemically inert and odorless. Exhibiting no signs of clumping, packing, or clogging, Mystic White allows for an even flow rate to help your pool filter be more efficient and effective. All of these benefits naturally come at a cost, which is high. In fact, it’s by far the highest-priced fool filter sand on this list. Although it does boast some special properties, it’s still just pool filter sand and it’s difficult to justify the significantly higher price when other pool filter sands do a similar job for less.
Now that you know our recommendation for the best pool filter sands, you could just take our word for it, make your purchase and be done. However, there is a bit more to learn. In this section, we will quickly cover a few things to compare between brands and what might set one pool filter sand apart from another one.
All pool filter sands are going to require regular backwashing to keep them nice and clean and make sure they are able to perform their duty of entrapping the dirt. Some sands will require more backwashing than others, with some needing it only infrequently. Other types of pool filter sand may require extensive backflushing prior to use to avoid the excess dust making a mess of your pool.
If the sand is clumping up in the filter it will cause it to clog. When this happens, it will impede the water flow, greatly hampering the system’s ability to keep the water clean. This can cause the pump motor to have to work much harder than usual, which can in turn, reduce its lifespan. Getting a good quality pool sand will help you avoid this problem.
Most pool filter sand comes available at a generic grade of 20/40, which is what most pumps will use. Some brands may end up being too fine and passing through your filter, even if they are marked as being the proper grade. This is known to happen, and if it does happen to you, you’ll need to find a brand that tends to sit on the larger side of the grading scale.
Most standard pool filter sand will have no problem filtering out the standard contaminants. Things such as hair, suntan lotion, oils, insects, dirt, leaves, debris, etc., should be no problem for any normal pool filter sand to separate out. If you want to really be thorough with your filtration though, some brands offer types of pool filter sand that can filter out much finer particles. While typical sands are capable of filtering out particles down to 20 microns, some types make it possible to filter out particles down to a tiny 3 microns!
When you go to replace the sand in your pool filter, you may be surprised at just how much sand it takes to refill. Some pumps don’t take all that much and one or two bags of good pool filter sand should suffice. Other models, however, can take hundreds of pounds of sand to refill. This could mean you’re purchasing upwards of six bags of sand just to filter your pool water. If purchasing one of the more premium-priced filter sand options, this could really add up quickly.
If you want to continue enjoying a pool full of clean and clear water, then it’s important that you don’t neglect your pool filter sand. Getting the right sand means you’ll have beautiful clear water for another five years before you have to even think about replacing it again.
In our top position, the sand from Palmetto Pool Filter is very high-quality sand that will meet all of your needs and expectations. 100% natural and chemical-free, it won’t clump or clog your filter and offers smooth backflushes every time.
For those who want the most cost-effective way to keep their pool water sparkling, the AquaQuartz pool filter sand has all the specifications you’d expect from your sand while being priced affordably. And if money isn’t a concern for you, then the ZeoSand is a unique offering that will get the job done with half as much medium, just be sure to do some thorough backflushing.
No matter which pool filter sand you choose, if you follow the guidelines in our buyer’s guide or you pick one from our reviews, you’re sure to be satisfied with your decision as you enjoy another day of crystal-clear pool water.
Featured image credit: Chad Robertson Media, Shutterstock
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