How to sanitize sandbox sand

Sandboxes are so much fun. A pile of dirt can be transformed into an imaginary land where castles are guarded by water-filled moats. Cars drive on the roads, up and down they go. Mountains are made and destroyed at a whim. It satisfies the explorer, architect, and dreamer in all of us.

Like most things in life, sand in a sandbox can become dirty. Here are some tips and tricks on how to clean the sandbox and sand, and how to get rid of all the bugs, slugs, and dead leaves, etc. that call the sandbox home.

To keep or to throw away, that is the question

The first step is to remove all the toys and miniatures from the sandbox. Wash them well and sanitize them well. A great tip is to place the plastic items in the dishwasher at a not too high temperature, we don’t want Froggy or camel to melt. This will save you and do the job for you.

Then remove the sand and place it in a bucket. You’ll need a large enough bucket or more than one bucket, and a spade or a shovel, depending on how much sand there is.

Now you have two options. If your budget will allow it, don’t use the old sand. Dispose of the sand in an environmentally friendly way. Or, if your budget is a bit tight, you can wash the sand.

How to wash the sand and disinfect it

If you opted to keep the sand, wash it in this clever and relatively easy way. You’ll use the sand that you placed in the bucket as mentioned earlier. You’ll also need a hosepipe connected to a tap.

Push the hose to the bottom of the sand container. Switch on the water while holding the tap under the sand, at the bottom of the bucket. The squirting action of the water will make the dirt particles come to the top and float on the water surface.

As you pour the water (but not the sand) out of the bucket, you’ll see all kinds of things that have been hiding in the sand. The tiny pieces of tree, sticks, and maybe a plaster or two, will simply float away.

Repeat this process until you don’t see things floating on the water surface.

Now that you are left with clean white sand, scoop the sand out into drying pans (the ones used for baking), spread it out so that it’s a thin layer of sand. Leave it in the sun to dry.

The next step sanitizes the sand. Take the drying pans filled with sand and place them in the oven at about 275 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit (135 to 148 degrees Celsius) for about 1 hour.

And there you have fresh, clean, sanitized sandbox sand.

If you opted to get rid of your sand, follow these instructions.

Cleaning plastic sandboxes

Once the sand is removed, clean out the sandbox with soap and water. Give it a thorough clean and also remember to bleach it to kill any germs, eggs, or larva still daring to lurk in the plastic.

Cleaning wood sandboxes

Remove the sand, wash everything off, and treat the wood with a good insecticide. There could be insects that burrow it’s way into the wood and lay their eggs, so this step should not be skipped.

Spray the sandbox and surrounding area with insecticide, cover it, and let it sit for a couple of days so that the insecticide can do a proper job.

After killing all the bugs, clean the wooden sandbox out with soap and water. Line the sandbox with plastic or some landscaping fabric. This is another barrier against the creepy crawlies coming into the sand.

If you use plastic, poke a few holes in to allow it to drain otherwise the sandbox will turn into a sand swamp.

For both plastic and wood sandboxes

Replace the new or washed and dry sand into the cleaned, insect-free sandbox. Use play sand that is made for sandpits and is safe for children.

Treat the area around the sandbox with a non-toxic bug spray. Also, mix in a container of cinnamon into the sand. Many bugs don’t like it and they stay out of the sand. A few squirts of citronella oil will not only keep mosquitos away but also keep cats away. Cats are repelled by the strong-smelling oil.

Make the sandbox a no-food zone. Explain to your children that food and candy attract bugs and that this can be a way that they can help to keep the sandbox bug-free.

Prevention is better than cure

Sift your sand regularly. This way you will be able to keep the little critters out and give you a chance to clean other debris as well, for example, twigs and leaves.

Every month treat the area around the sandbox with a non-toxic bug spray.

Change or wash the sand on a regular basis.

Keep the sandbox covered when not in use.

How to properly cover a sandbox

An ideal cover will seal well. This will help to keep bugs out.

You can try the following if the cover on the sandbox does not fit like a bug in a rug, although we’re trying to keep the bugs out, so let me rather say, if it does not fit snuggly.

Cut a piece of drop cloth, wide enough to cover the sandpit. Place this over the sandbox and place the cover over it. This way will help it to seal it better.

Place a brick or weight on top of the cover to keep the lid down for when the wind blows and to keep cats and dogs out of the sandbox.

Wrapping it Up

Most importantly, have fun. It’s so easy to get bogged down with cares of parenthood that we forget the sweet, simple things. Like sitting with your child and imagining the world through their eyes.

Ask them questions about their amazing land that they created. Don’t worry too much about getting dirty. It might just be one of the best memories you can give them.

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