We are regularly approached by customers who are displeased with the amount of organic matter, water, insects, or animals that have chosen to take up residence in their sandbox. While yes, prevention and keeping your sandbox covered is the best cure; strong winds, determined neighborhood cats, and that peanut butter and jelly sandwich that wasn’t supposed to be eaten in the sandbox do occur.
When this happens, many believe that their only course of action is to replace the sand – an impractical, inconvenient and time-consuming solution, though it should be done every year or two. It is important that your children have a clean, safe place to play, but it all begins before you even assemble your sandbox with your chosen location.
Think drainage – your Creative Cedar Designs sandbox comes complete with an eco-friendly ground liner, designed to provide drainage for your sandbox while keeping the sand inside. It is inevitable that water will eventually be a component of sand play, whether it is from a cover that wasn’t quite secured before a storm, or kids who grew frustrated trying to build sandcastles with perfectly smooth, dry sand and added a hose, a cup, or a bucket of water. The problem is not when sand gets wet, but when sand stays wet, thus the importance of a well-drained area.
Think UV protection – a location that is shaded during the cooler hours of the morning and evening, but bright and sunny during the afternoons can work well for children who are occupied by naps or other activities through the warmest hours of the day. An area that has no shade during the morning, but is more shaded during the afternoon is great for kids who are more likely to be outside in the sandbox in the afternoon and evening. Unless you have no other options, avoid placing your sandbox in an area that is completely shaded all day every day (mold and mildew are more apt to grow), or offers zero protection from the sun.
Once you’ve determined the ideal location, assembled, and sealed your sand structure, the next big thing is sand. Not all sands are created equal and construction-grade sand can introduce rocks, dirt, clay and other foreign substances to your sandbox. We highly recommend filling your sandbox with play sand, as it has usually been washed, dried and screened before being packaged. You can also use locally sourced river or beach sand if you prefer.
Proper maintenance of your sandbox will cut back on the number of times you have to do an outright change of sand. Apply a water-based sealant after assembly and then maintain it. Rake the sand every few weeks with a quality bow rake to remove any rocks, sticks or leaves that may appear. Keep the box covered when not in use. As much as possible try to prevent the eating of snacks and drinking of sugary liquids inside the sandbox, as these can lead to insects. It may also be beneficial to impose a no-shoe rule in your sandbox.
Even the best followed plans won’t work one hundred percent of the time, so what can you do when the worst has happened?
- Soaked sand – wet sand is not ruined sand. You can help to remedy your wet sand by leaving the cover off on warm, sunny days, and raking it periodically. Allowing your children to build sandcastles and dig moats in the wet sand will also help to stir it around and release the excess moisture.
- Insects – regular raking of the sand and removal of any weeds that might sprout can help to make the sandbox less hospitable to bugs and pests. Additionally, you can mix in cinnamon for a natural bug repellent that is safe to use around kids, and use a non-toxic bug repellent around the perimeter.
- Animals – no one likes to find the presents left behind in a sandbox after the neighborhood animals visit. Besides keeping the cover on the sandbox when it is not in use, cinnamon in the sandbox can also help to deter cats, as can coffee grounds and vinegar.
- Mold and Mildew – there are many reasons why mold and mildew appear on lumber and it can happen to just about any lumber at any time. Mold and mildew spores are everywhere and can be transported by wind and rain. Once in place, all they need is moisture to start growing and flourishing. Locating your sandbox in an area that receives sunshine will help to prevent the growth of mold and mildew, as will the application of a water-based sealant after assembly. Should you still encounter a mold or mildew occurrence, we recommend taking the following steps for removal:
- Wear an air mask.
- Use warm water and soap on stained or painted wood. You may use vinegar to soften the mold up prior to wiping it clean, or in worse cases, diluted bleach.
- Sand the recently cleaned area to get rid of any residual mold. You can refinish it afterward to prevent mold from coming back.
- After it has thoroughly dried, treat the area with a water-based sealer to inhibit further moisture and mold growth.
Following these steps and including a little education in the planning of your sandbox project will help to keep your kids occupied in a clean, safe sandbox for years to come!