How To Clean Your Playground Sand

It’s no secret that children love playing in sand. They can play for hours on end, developing cognitive, social, and motor skills. Not only is sand a great source of enjoyment for kids, it is also a very cost-effective solution for your playground safety surfacing.

But sand is not all fun and games, and it can be harmful to children if not properly maintained. The sand can become a breeding ground for germs and bacteria. It can also harbour fungi, insects and micro-organisms, potentially infecting your child with dangerous illnesses. 

The good news is that sand can easily be cleaned and maintained to ensure the safety, and fun, for all children. 

How Do You Clean and Sanitize a Dirty Sandbox?

Step 1: Cleaning the Sand

The first step for cleaning dirty sand involves getting all debris out of the sandbox. Remove all the toys, sticks, and other debris. If you live near an area with animals, make sure to clean your sand regularly, as animals may use your sandbox as a litterbox! Animal droppings can increase the risk of small children getting very sick from germs and bacteria.

Cleansing the sand means getting rid of any likely contamination sources. Get a strong rake and rake the soil to remove all larger debris and toys. Once the larger debris have been removed, switch to an inexpensive sieve to remove the remaining small debris.

There are two main options for cleaning sand; raking and sifting. Let's go through each of them.


A rake is an effective tool for cleaning playground sand and removing all larger debris. A straightforward approach is to collect all the sand in one playground area and then begin raking it back to the other side. This process removes any accumulated debris that pops out during the raking. When you finish raking, you can then smooth it out evenly. The process is good for keeping the sand in good usable condition and ensuring it's debris-free.

Raking will inevitably collect some hidden toys that were buried long-ago in the sand. Don’t forget to wash and sterilize any collected toys before returning them to the sandbox.

While raking is a great solution for removing larger debris, it doesn’t remove smaller items or particles like animal droppings or leaves. 


Sifting is an efficient way to remove smaller debris from sand. You can use a colander or sand sifter for this process.

Colanders are good when you have a smaller quantity of sand to sift. But the job can get very tiring very quickly. For larger quantities for sand, you can use a sand sifter or sand sieve. Regardless of the the sifting method, a thorough approach will ensure the majority of debris is captured and eliminated from the sand. 

Sifting is the best solution when you don't want to replace all your sand. Sand sieves -- or sifters -- are not expensive, so it's a good idea to have one to easily remove smaller debris.

Step 2: Disinfecting the Sand

Once you have rid your sand of loose litter and germs, you are ready to sanitize. While the previous process aimed to remove any debris, this process seeks to remove any harmful fungus, germs, or contaminants. 

Two main methods for disinfecting are bleach and vinegar.

The Bleach Method

Bleach is the most effective solution for disinfecting sand. It is a concentrated solution, with many household bottles claiming they can kill 99.9% of bacteria and germs. That means that although you can't expect it to get you a 100% germ-free sandbox, it's the most powerful and effective solution.

You can use ordinary household bleach; a gallon should be enough. It's also a good idea to get a spray bottle, preferably a 2-gallon garden pump sprayer.

Remember to wear clothes you can afford to stain with bleach.

The Process

  1. Fill the sprayer with equal parst of bleach and water
  2. Soak the sand with the sprayer until the surface of the sand becomes wet and the bleach mixture completely covers it.
  3. Use the rake to mix the sand and uncover the layers that are still dry.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 about four times. After the fourth run, leave the surface wet. Don't remix the sand.
  5. Leave the surface to dry for an hour, then mix the soil once more.
  6. Allow it to dry for at least 48 hours, regularly returning to turn it.

The Vinegar Method

Distilled white vinegar is a good bleach alternative and a all-natural method for cleaning sand. It is safer, easier, and largely effective. It might not reach bleach's potency, but it can still kill a good number of germs and bacteria.

Just like the bleach method, you'll need a gallon of distilled white vinegar and a sprayer pump. In terms of the steps, you'll follow the exact directions outlined in the bleach method above.

With the vinegar method, you don't need to worry about staining your clothes. And when it comes to allowing kids to play in the sand, they can use the sandbox even when it's still a little wet. 

The only downside is kids may not like the smell of vinegar. But if you wait it out to completely dry, the scent should also leave. Alternatively, you can add essential oils to the vinegar and water mixture to help with the smell.

It's good to know that although the smell may not be noticeable to humans, neighbourhood critters will still smell it. The vinegar smell will discourage them from pooping in the sandbox; making this cleaning method a win-win.

Step 3: Maintain the Sand 

After you have cleaned and disinfected your sandbox, you want to keep it that way for a long time. When you're not using the playground, cover it. That's one of the most important things you can do to maintain the cleanliness of your playground sand.

Use a waterproof cover that is durable and fits over the frame. Covering your sandbox keeps animals -- and anything that could contaminate the sandbox -- outside.

Ensure no food and drinks enter the area; they could help grow bacteria. Keep the site away from items that are dangerous for young children. Anything that could cut a child's foot or eyes should stay away from the sandbox.

Raking the sand regularly will help the sand dry, limiting the breeding ground for bacteria and fungus. Any large debris will also be removed, creating a safer environment for the children.

Keeping playground sand safe and clean is essential, and practicing good hygiene will help ensure children always have access to a safe, clean play area.