What Is The Difference Between Play Sand And Regular Sand?

Author: Austin Stanfel

Are you planning a sandbox in your backyard and still need clarification about whether you should spend those extra pennies on the play sand or whether the regular sand will work just as fine? Or are you a playground owner who wants to know the difference between play sand and regular sand? Do not worry; we have got your back!

There is nothing more fun for kids than playing in the sand. It is essential that children play in a safe environment and that the sand lasts as long as possible. The choice and care of sand may seem simple, but it requires a lot of learning. The type of sand best suited for sand play is play sand. The sand for play is thoroughly cleaned and sifted before it is used. On the other hand, regular sand is not subject to regulations and is not prepared for play.

So the best type of sand to use is sand, which is made specifically for children. Despite its simplicity, and holds much mystery. It is like a whole new world. For anyone who enjoys building sandcastles or is around kids, learning all about sand and sandboxes is essential. Let us dive into the details!

What Is The Difference Between Play Sand And Regular Sand?

You should know that the difference between play sand and regular sand profoundly impacts how the sand behaves in the sandbox. Moreover, it decides whether it is a safe place for your kids to play. It is essential to learn what is the difference between play sand and regular sand. Here we have explained all the differences below.

Play Sand Vs. All Purpose Sand: What is The Difference?

Sand may be just sand. However, that is not the case, is it? In reality, it is more complex than that. There are some significant differences when it comes to playing with sand vs. all-purpose sand.

Play Sand

To make play sand uniform, dust is removed, foreign objects are not mixed in, and specific processes are followed. Low-dust or dust-free play sand is ideal. The play sand for kids contains a much finer and smaller particle size than regular sand. It makes building sandcastles and playing with trucks much easier and more enjoyable because of its ability to stick together better. It is possible to buy play sand from a hardware store, a play store, or even from a garden center.

All Purpose Sand

“Builder’s sand” or “sharp sand” is often used to describe regular sand. Construction is the most considerable use of this material, and it usually contains much dust, which can be inhaled and cause respiratory problems such as asthma and allergies. Furthermore, this sand is less refined than play sand; although it matters little in construction projects, it does matter if you want to use it for playing. In addition to containing larger pebbles and tiny grains of sand, regular sand is often rough to the touch.

Play sand is typically more expensive than regular sand, so it is often preferred to use normal sand under playsets or inside sandboxes. Before you choose between normal sand and play sand for kids, read on to discover more about each type.

Cleaning Your Playground Sand

Potential health risks are associated with sand for the playground, such as bacteria, germs, and insects. The sand in your playground needs to be cleaned regularly.


Sand for the playground can be easily cleaned with a fine-toothed rake, and debris can be removed more effectively with a shovel. Whether your play area is sand-based or grass-based, moving all the sand to one side and raking it back will make it easier to clean up. It is just a matter of smoothing it out again after you are done. Playground sand should be maintained in this manner to prevent foreign objects and debris from accumulating in it.


Sand sifting is the best method for removing debris and foreign objects and will help determine what is in play sand. A colander can be a helpful tool if you have a smaller sand pit. However, a large playground environment with much sand can be a tedious and time-consuming task. To accomplish this more practically, use a large sieve called Sand Sifter. As someone who is learning about sand, you know how valuable it is to keep your playground sand clean, and this is one of the best ways to do so without having to replace all the sand in your playground.

Sanitize The Sand

To get rid of any germs, fungi, or other unwanted contaminants that have moved into the sand, sanitizing or disinfecting it is the next step. The bleach and vinegar methods are two standard methods of sanitizing play sand.

The Bleach Method

B bleach is undoubtedly the most effective of the two methods. As a disinfectant, bleach kills 99.9% of germs, bacteria, and viruses. So while it will sanitize your sandbox, it will keep it as germ-free as possible. For this method, you will need 1 gallon of regular household bleach and a large spray bottle. Wear something you do not mind getting bleach stains on as well!

Here are the following steps to do it:

  • The sand should be cleaned and sifted to remove debris, then smoothed again.
  • The spray bottle should be filled with a mixture of bleach and tap water.
  • The top layer of the sand should be damp after being sprayed with a bleach/water solution.
  • You can expose dry layers of sand by raking or shoveling the sand.
  • Steps 3 and 4 should be repeated about three to five times, but after the final spray, keep the sand dry, leaving the top layer intact.
  • Afterward, turn the sand once more after the top layer has dried (1 hour).
  • Sand should be allowed to dry for at least two days – turning it periodically – before it can be used for playing again.

Allowing the sandbox to dry without allowing animals or debris inside may be a challenge. Keeping critters out and letting air in will be easier with a secure but breathable cover. You can accelerate the drying process by leaving the sandbox uncovered during the day and exposing it to sunlight for a few hours.

The Vinegar Method

Distilled white vinegar is a safer alternative to bleach when sanitizing your sandbox. Vinegar (acetic acid) is an effective disinfectant with various other valuable uses. Despite its lack of effectiveness as bleach, it can kill many bacteria, germs, and all of what is in play sand. A large pump sprayer jug and pure distilled white vinegar (again, 1 gallon should be enough) are all you need. This method works similarly to bleach, except that you do not have to fear staining your clothes or handling the solution with as much care:

  • Make sure the sand is clean and sifted.
  • The spray bottle should be filled with equal parts water and vinegar.
  • Please make sure the top layer is damp by spraying it.
  • It is essential to turn the sand and mix it.
  • The top layer should remain wet on the last round of steps 3 & 4. Repeat steps 3 & 4 three or five times.

The sand needs to dry completely before it can be turned over.

If you use vinegar, your kids should always be in contact with the sand before it dries, but it is safe to use it before it dries – although the smell may not be pleasant.

Can You Use Regular Sand In A Sandbox?

You should know the difference between play sand and regular sand by now, but this section will finally give you your answer. The play sand and the normal sand are similar, but there are better choices for kids than all-purpose sand.

There is a lot more dust and coarse sand compared to fine sand. These two factors can make it dangerous for your children. The excessive dust can damage kids’ lungs, leaving them itchy and scratched after playing in it.

Furthermore, it has been discovered that some all-purpose sand contains tremolite. You should keep your children away from tremolite, a form of asbestos.

What Can You Use Instead Of Sand In A Sandbox?

Consider the following alternatives to sand if you are looking for safe and durable materials.

Pea Gravel

There are many reasons to use pea gravel instead of sand: clean, safe for kids, and durable.

Since each of its pieces is relatively small, it is also a perfect material for sandboxes. Despite their size, they can have enough surface area for sand particles while being large enough not to be swallowed accidentally by small children. Pea gravels are a safer and more durable alternative to sand. There are several benefits to using pea gravel instead of play sand, including the following:


  • There is no silica dust in it.
  • Animals cannot use it as a restroom.
  • Cleaning is relatively easier than sand.
  • Easily accessible and reasonably priced.
  • Motor skills are developed through this activity.
  • As opposed to sand, it cannot be tracked all over the place.


  • A sandcastle cannot be built with it by children.
  • If your children chew on it, it could cause choking.
Engineered Wood Fiber

There are also safe alternatives, such as wood pellets and chips, which do not crush under children’s weight. As an added benefit, they are a hard-wearing material, so you will not have to replace them as often as sand. Please remember that these need to be replaced more frequently than gravel because it requires more maintenance. Sand in a sandbox must be replaced more often than engineered wood fiber.


  • In the same way as play sand for kids, it can be used for building sandcastles.
  • Because it is durable, you will not have to dump them so frequently.
  • However, ensure you monitor them so they do not get too dirty or muddy before you prepare them for cleaning.


  • You should keep an eye on them in direct sunlight as they can get hot, so be sure to keep them away from your children if they get hot and prevent them from touching the chips since they can burn their hands or legs.
  • There is the possibility of choking hazards for some children.
Crumb Rubber

Consider crumb rubber as an alternative to sand if you have little extra money. You do not have to replace this material with anything else for years because it is safe and durable. Pure rubber is used to manufacture Crumb rubber, making it safe to play with and highly comfortable. Since crumb rubber is now used in many
public playgrounds as a surface material, you may already be familiar with it.


  • Playing in the sandbox filled with crumb rubber is comfortable and soft, even when you sit or lay down.
  • Kids can still build sandcastles and other structures using the bits because they are small enough not to swallow.
  • Motor skills and sensory exploration are developed through this activity.


  • This one may seem pricey compared to the cheaper options discussed above. However, it is still reasonably priced, so it is worth considering if you are okay with spending money.
  • It might be hard for your child at first because it is a different texture from regular sand, but once they get used to it, they will enjoy it.
  • If you live in a place with much rainfall, consider using something else in your sandbox because the bits can wash away.

Final Verdict

You now know all the differences between play sand and regular sand. Using coarse, unhygienic normal sand for kids’ play is never a good idea. Always choose suitable sand for the proper purpose. Play sand is the right choice for playgrounds. It is because, during the process of making play sand for the playground, different techniques are applied to make it cleaner, finer, softer, and less dusty than regular sand. Compared to play sand, normal sand is coarse, dusty, and generally unsuitable for children.