How to Get the Sand Off When You’re at the Beach

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Got sandy feet at the beach? Chances are all that sand will follow you home and create havoc in the car, the house, the bathroom, and the washing machine. Here are a few tricks for cleaning off beach sand.

Once you’ve gotten the sand off, remember that Kids Can Do Laundry. Include them in this process so that they learn how to take care of themselves as well as their belongings. You’ll all be better for it!

group of boys digging into sand at beach.

One of my kids’ favorite things to do at the beach is to play in the sand and build castles, forts, moats, and other sandy constructions. Second to that, of course, is body surfing.

They have a TON of fun in both pursuits, and we head home with tired children and happy hearts. 

Unfortunately, one of the other things that we take home — in abundance — is the beach sand. It seems to be everywhere! In the car, their hair, their clothes, their suits, in between the toes… anywhere the beach sand can creep, it does.

Why It Matters

It’s nicer. Sand in the car can be messy. And while kids and cars do usually equal messes — it’s an occupational hazard — anytime we can reduce the mess, we end up with happier people.

It’s better for your appliances and drains. Since the sand will potentially follow you home, it’s better for your washer, dryer, and drains, if you can mitigate how much beach sand comes in the house. A little planning and care can prevent a huge repair bill later!

Over time and six sandy kids later, we’ve learned a few helpful things about making beach sand clean up a little easier. If clean up is easier, it’s more fun to go to the beach. And we get to go more often.

Talk about a win-win!

What You’ll Need

overhead shot of mom's feet , beach toys, baby powder, and wash basin.

In order to get the sand off at the beach, you’re going to need a few things. Which ones will depend on how and where you want to clean off the sand.

Supplies:

  • dry beach towels – use dry towels in conjunction with water. Towels alone, won’t get off the beach sand.
  • water and a water basin – you can also use the showers at the beach, but these are a bit tricky with kids and don’t always work, plus there’s usually a line.
  • baby powder – It really does work for dry sand. If you or the kids are wet and sandy, wait until everyone is dry.
  • air – Air is your friend. It will dry the sand from bodies and clothing, making it easier to remove.

Pro-tip: I’ve also made a point to buy sand-free gear, like this beach bag to reduce the amount of sand that comes home with us. It really works! Our first one lasted us more than five years before the handle broke, probably due to overstuffing.

Methods

There are several methods for cleaning off beach sand at the beach and at home or hotel. Which you use will depend on what resources you have available to you.

At the beach

When we’re at the beach, we let the kids play to their hearts’ content. There have been occasions when we didn’t plan to swim, but the kids come home drenched — and sandy — anyway. We’re okay with that. I figure it gives us street cred as cool parents.

Or at least counts as a happy memory.

We have a couple ways to deal with sand on site:

dad and daughter cleaning feet in water basin.

Water washing – While there are often showers at our San Diego beaches, sometimes they don’t work or they just aren’t very useful to get kids’ feet really clean.

Instead, one of our favorite tricks is to bring a washtub and a bottle of water to wash off sandy feet before we climb back in the car. Obviously, you need to plan ahead for this one. But, it’s a great trick.

Pour water into the wash basin (or get it from the ocean) and have kids rinse off in the tub and dry them off quickly.

Pro tip: do this away from the shore and sand so that the kids don’t get sandy immediately after you’ve washed them off.

bottle of baby powder on a blue beach towel.

Baby powder – A more easily portable option is to bring baby powder.

If your skin isn’t wet, but sand is still sticking, just rub baby powder on your feet and the sand will fall right off.

I don’t like the smell of baby powder, so I prefer the water option, but it does work. I usually keep a bottle of baby powder in the car so that we have something for those impromptu trips.

Remember that baby powder can be dangerous for children to inhale, so keep it out of the reach of kids.

At home or hotel

Despite my best intentions, sand still comes home with us. Here’s how you can clean off the beach sand once you get home or back to your hotel.

Dry out – Once we get home, I have everyone change out of wet and sandy things. Then we lay the clothing out on the wall in the backyard to dry. Once they are dry, I can shake off the sand lickety-split.

Tossing wet sandy clothes into the washer just doesn’t work. The end result is sand in the washer, sand in the dryer, and sand in the clothes. Dry sand is much easier to get rid of.

Keep these strategies in mind:

Have as much fun at the beach as you can, just try to leave as much of the beach sand there as possible!

girls burying each other in sand at the beach.

More Beach Tips

This post was originally published on July 9, 2013. It has been updated for content and clarity.

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15 Comments

  1. As strange as it sounds, I make sure to bring a lice comb with us when we travel to the beach. Regular shampoo, wash, brushing, etc isn’t thorough but the teeth of the lice comb does the trick. No problems getting all the sand out of the kids hair!

  2. Thanks for the baby powder trick. I’ve got to remember that one.

  3. Take gallon water bottles (or refill really clean ones) and leave then on the back deck or trunk of your car. Then, before getting in the car, just dump the warm water over everyone and have them towel off. If you’re at a lake, you can either rinse the little ones in the lake and carry them to the car or have older kids practice their very careful walking in sandals after having washed themselves off. (Flip-flops are an obvious failure with this technique.)

    As far as the washing goes, we have everyone big enough was their suits off in the shower once they’re home. In our family, it’s important to wash off sunscreen once home so the people and the suits get clean at the same time.

  4. Thanks for this post!! Sand is an eternal problem here. My favorite secret weapon against sand is the Rubba Scrubba. I got one from Flylady’s online shop a few years ago. I never understood why people raved about the things until I tried one. Now, it’s my go-to tool for MANY oddball clean-up jobs including: beach sand (on people AND stuff when shaking off isn’t effective), pollen, crumbs, broken glass, cobwebs & dust on our log walls, just to name a few. I own at least 4. They were only about $5 each when I purchased mine. I haven’t found a similar tool for sale anywhere else. (And no, I’m in no way affiliated with that business. I just love the tool!!)

  5. I wonder if cornstarch would work as well as baby powder? That way you wouldn’t have to deal with the smell.

    1. I was just thinking the same thing. We use cornstarch instead of baby powder for diaper rash, too.

    2. I would use cornstarch too! Especially since we have that gigantic canister from Sam’s Club. In Manila, hair salons would put cornstarch around the neck after a boy’s haircut to get all the lil bits of hair out. Then they had this fluffy brush to get the cornstarch off you!

      1. Ooh, that’s interesting. My boys always have to take a shower when I’m done cutting their hair.

  6. I really don’t mind the sand, but one of my little guy does. I’ve used cornstarch but it gets cakey – unless it’s the kind that comes like baby powder. you can put it in a Powder Pouch too. Saw it on today show. And they do a donation to sandy relief, made me like it even more.

  7. I’ve never heard of the baby powder trick, but I’ll be packing it & trying it on my trip to Bermuda later this month! I’ll share the idea with my oldest son (29 yrs old) who lives & works about a minute from the beach! 🙂

  8. We have used baby powder/ talc for years with our child. It does work and saves alot of distress.