How can I Keep a Sandbox Clean?

J. Beam

Playing in the sand is like a rite of passage for childhood. Every kid loves to play and dig in the sand, and unless you happen to live on the beach, odds are you’d have to create a sandy playground the old-fashioned way. If you are considering a sandbox for your child, one of your primary concerns may very well be how to keep the sandbox clean. Maybe you’re even hesitating to buy a sandbox because you’ve heard how unsanitary they can be. Though it’s true they can be unsanitary, with a few tips on sandbox maintenance, there’s no reason why you can’t indulge your child in this simple luxury.

Cats are notorious for using sandboxes as litter boxes, so adding a lid can help protect a sandbox.
Cats are notorious for using sandboxes as litter boxes, so adding a lid can help protect a sandbox.

To begin with, decide if you want to build your own sandbox or purchase a plastic pre-formed one. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. A plastic sandbox cannot be made any larger than the size it is, which means the play area is restrictive. There are several brands that are large enough for two children to play in nicely, but any more might be crowded. A custom built sandbox can be any size you want it to be, but won’t be ready made and might be more difficult to take care of.

Every kid loves to play and dig in the sand.
Every kid loves to play and dig in the sand.

Whichever type of sandbox you decide on, make sure you have a way to cover it securely when not in use. The key to keeping a clean sandbox is keeping it covered. If left uncovered when not in use, it is exposed to rain and neighborhood cats.

When sand gets moist and stays moist, it harbors bacteria. If the sand doesn’t dry out quickly, the bacteria can grow. Cats also will “use” a sandbox and create an unsanitary situation. If you decide to get a pre-made sandbox, get one with a lid and use it. If you build one, design a cover from a waterproof tarp and make sure it fits securely.

Moisture can build up in a sandbox even when it is covered, so to avoid the same problems, periodically “turn” the sand, moving the bottom layers to the top to get some sun and dry out. This may be especially necessary after an extended period of non-use. You can also clean the sand by taking a large plastic colander and dumping cupfuls of the sand into it. This will strain foreign materials such as rocks, leaves, blades of grass, and insects. You will most likely be able to gain assistance from your child with this particular job.

If the time comes when your sandbox sand becomes too wet or too dirty, remove it and replace it with new play sand. When purchasing new sand, be sure to check that the bags do not show signs of moisture or leakage. Replacing sand on a hot, sunny day works best, as any moisture present in the new sand will dry out quickly. With a little routine care and attention to a sandbox, you could easily go a year without replacing the sand, and your child will have hours and hours of fun to show for it.

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Discussion Comments


How do I keep ants, fleas and spiders out of the sandbox. Something safe for the kids.


cryseve, depending on how much sand you have in the box you can choose to take a shovel and turn over the sand to be exposed to the hot sun--turning the sand over about every two hours while the sun is hot--or removing all the sand and replacing it with new sand.


I have a crab sandbox with a lid. It rained last night and we left the lid off. any suggestions for drying it out?


I'm having the same problem. I did some research, and I believe that the bugs are springtails or collembolans. If that's the case, then they thrive in moisture, and i think the easiest way to get rid of them is to dry out the sand. Hope this helps!


My friend's sandbox has these super tiny bugs that hop like grasshoppers. What are they and should she just replace the sand?

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