Swimming Pool Blog

Pool Filter Sand Alternatives

Pool Filter Sand Alternatives
Rob Cox October 27, 2015

Alternatives to Pool Filter Sand

early high rate sand filter with stratified beds

Sand filtration of pool water is one of the oldest forms of water treatment known, used in Ancient India and Egypt. Modern industrial use took hold in the early 1800's, with the city of London the first to use large scale sand filtration for public water.

Fast forward 100 years or so, and swimming pools began to experiment with water filtration, much more convenient than the common practice of constantly replacing the pool water.

Early sand filters looked like Fig. 1, stratified layers of aggregate, using pea gravel on the bottom, covered with medium grain and then fine grain sands. Eventually, high rate sand filters replaced the much larger slow rate sand filters. High rate sand filters also needed only one type of sand, #20 silica sand, graded to .45-.55 millimeters.

Back to the Future, in 2015 the pool filters in Marty McFly's future have other options than sand. Now, sand filters can use without modification, recycled glass, zeolite and polyester balls.


Filter Glass

Also not a new filter media, using glass particles for filtration has been around for hundreds of years. Recycled glass, it turns out, makes an excellent filter medium, and after all what is glass, but silica, as in silica sand. Made from recycled glass bottles, and specially cut to maximize dirt trapping, Filter Glass replaces pool filter sand and has certain benefits over standard sand.

  • Less backwashing with longer filter cycles saves water.
  • Consistent shape of glass grain produces even flow.
  • Filters down below 5 microns (20 for filter sand).
  • Removes heavy metals like Iron and Manganese.
  • Less likely to channel or trap gummy, oily residues.

Filter Glass is put on top of a bed of pea gravel; enough to cover the laterals. Fill the tank to 2/3 level, or nearly the amount of regular filter sand. Filter Glass needs to be rinsed after backwashing, so a Multiport filter valve is recommended.


Zeo Sand

Zeo sand is not really sand, but it's made from natural zeolite minerals, a super porous form of aluminum sulfate. Also not new, Zeolite formation was first noted in the 1700's, with synthetic industrial uses coming 2 centuries later. Zeolites are so powerful, they are even used in chemical labs to separate gases and even molecules!

Zeolite is the only pool media that uses ion-exchange properties of attraction, to chemically attract contaminants and pull particles out of the pool water. This gives ZeoSand the advantage over other types of filter sand.

  • Less backwashing and shorter backwash length saves water.
  • Filters down to 3 microns (20 for filter sand).
  • Reduces chloramines by trapping ammonia.
  • Natural volcanic minerals have 10000x greater surface area than sand.
  • Use half as much as filter sand. 1 lb of ZeoSand - 2 lbs of filter sand.

Like Filter Glass, Zeo Sand will last about the length of time as regular filter sand, but with better results. Also recommended to use pea gravel in the bottom of your filter tank (just enough to cover the laterals), and then cover over with ZeoSand. Recharge and clean ZeoSand every 1-2 seasons for best results, using the ion recharge solution, known as Bio-Dex Zeo filter cleaner.



PolyBALLS are the newest form of pool filter media, and are the most radical alternative from filter sand. They look like large packing peanuts, PolyBALLS are polyester balls that are used in place of filter sand. Just remove the filter sand, and hose the tank out, and fill it up with the lightweight PolyBALLS.

Finally - a sand filter alternative that can be shipped easily! In fact, a full bag of Polyballs weighs just 1 lb, but replaces 75 lbs of filter sand! Changing pool filter sand just got a lot easier! In addition, check out these benefits ~

  • 1 pound of PolyBALLS = 75 pounds of #20 silica sand
  • Lower working filter tank pressure is safer.
  • 45% greater flow rates due to less resistance.
  • Filters down below 5 microns (20 for filter sand).
  • Material is 100 % recyclable

PolyBALLS are completely non-clumping, and won't develop gunky, clumpy filter slime. When water flows through the tank, the balls are compressed into a flat filter bed. During backwashing, the balls separate, releasing their dirt, grease and particles. Full chemical resistant and environmentally friendly. 5 years is the expected lifespan for residential pools, when used according to instructions.

The difference between 3-5 microns or 20-30 microns for regular pool filter sand is huge! You will immediately notice a big difference in the water quality.

Now you don't have to suffer dull or cloudy water, or that dust that comes into the pool when vacuuming or after backwashing. Either one of these filter sand alternatives offers 4x better filtration, at about the same price as filter sand. And because you can use less, the job is faster and easier than a regular filter sand replacement.

I hope this article has helped - if you've tried any of these products, I'd like to hear from you about your experience! My email's at the top of the page.

Thank you for your support!


- Rob