Play Sand vs All Purpose Sand — Know The Difference!
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Play Sand vs All Purpose Sand — Know The Difference!

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Nowadays, I order sand for my kids’ sandbox, but I remember the early days of sand hunting and going to stores only to get a headache – what’s the difference between this sand and that sand?

When you go to the store and see all the different bags of sand, it can be hard to understand what the difference is and why they aren’t all the same price. I’m going to look at all purpose sand vs play sand, but we also have an article on paver sand vs play sand if that’s what you’re looking at.

Play sand is a more refined type of sand than all purpose sand. It’s a higher quality option. So you can replace all purpose sand with play sand. But, you should NOT use all purpose sand in place of play sand.

What Is All Purpose Sand?

all purpose sand for home construction
All-purpose sand may initially sound exactly like that: made for ALL purpose.

All purpose sand is a type of sand that has been washed to reduce dust levels. It has also been sifted so that it’s moderately coarse. This is a technical term that means it should be free of most larger particles. The remaining particles will still have many rough edges, but they will be reasonably small.

It can be used for a wide range of purposes, from mixing with cement to make gravel and concrete, under paving slabs, or even mixing with potting soil. It is aimed at building and landscaping uses. 

Can you use regular sand in a sandbox?

While at first glance, all purpose sand and play sand look the same, it’s not advisable to let your kids play in all purpose sand.

All purpose sand is much coarser and contains a lot more dust. Both of these things can make it harmful to your children. Playing in it can leave kids feeling itchy and even covered in scratches, and the excess dust can be damaging to their lungs.

The other concerning issues is that some all purpose sand has been found to contain tremolite. Tremolite is a form of asbestos, so you should keep it away from your kids.

What is Play Sand?

Sandtastik Sparkling White Play Sand, 25 Pounds - 25.-LB-BOX-REG

Play sand is primarily made of quartz. It has been sifted so that only fine grains remain. This means there are only tiny pieces and no large clumps. It’s so fine that it can appear a bit dusty. This is a result of the small grains becoming easily airborne. You can stop this by damping the sand a little. 

The important thing about play sand is that it is much more rigorously tested. Not only are the grains finer, but there is a limit to the amounts of certain chemicals in the sand. It also undergoes testing to ensure there is no dangerous bacteria growth present.

Is play sand the same as coarse sand?

Play sand is much finer than coarse sand. The sand crystals are much smaller, and as a result, tend to have rounded edges. This makes it safer to play with, softer to touch, and better at sticking together when wet.

Can you use play sand to make cement?

You can use play sand in place of all purpose sand for pretty much any project, including making cement. The grains are just finer, so it still works the same to make cement and can even be easier to combine.

What is the difference between play sand and regular sand?

‘Regular sand’ is a tricky thing to define. The sand you might find at the beach varies greatly depending on where your local beach is. In some parts of the work, that sand might be black or purest white. 

Sand is just a term used to describe materials that have grains of a specific size. White sand is usually made from calcium carbonate, made from the remains of sea animals’ shells. Black sand is often made from broken down volcanic rock. While play sand, like much of the world’s sand, is made from quartz.

What Can I Use Instead of Play Sand?

kids playing with play sand
Not all sand is the same, and not all play-sand is the same!

There are a lot of concerns that get raised about the safety of play sand. The two big ones are that it can also contain tremolite and that it’s made of crystalline silica, which is dangerous when inhaled. So let’s quickly address these worries.

First, the tremolite. The tremolite that has been found in play sand is concerning. It is most often found in play sand bought from big box stores. So it’s not all play sand. There are some great companies out there who produce some high quality and safe play sand. It can be worth paying a little more for peace of mind on that front.

Secondly, the crystalline silica issue. So, yes, play sand is made of crystalline silica. This is another name for quartz. However, inhaling crystalline silica is not a significant health concern. People believe it is because of the OSHA ban on using crystalline silica for sandblasting. This is in place because when you vigorously pulverise the grains, they become dangerous. It’s not an issue in a sandbox.

However, if you want to use something else, there are alternatives to play sand. There are types of play sand that are explicitly silica free, so you can still use sand in your sandbox. If you want to forego sand entirely, you could use things like rice or crushed walnut shells. There aren’t perfect replacements, but they can offer a fun and interesting sensory experience. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of sand is safe for sandboxes?

Sandtastik Sparkling White Play Sand, 25 Pounds - 25.-LB-BOX-REG

When it comes to the sand you put in your sandbox, you should stick to sand specifically made to go in a sandbox. There are quite a few options. You can use standard play sand, or you can opt for silica free alternatives.

Is play sand coarse or fine?

Play sand is some of the finest sand you can find. The grains are all small, and they are gentle on your child’s skin.

What type of sand is play sand?

Play sand is almost exclusively made of quartz.

Last update on 2021-05-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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