My Experience With Lawn Sand

Everything you need to know, including dosages

Written by Daniel Woodley. Reviewed by Elizabeth Smith. Published to Lawn Care on 25th June 2021. Updated: 24th February 2023.

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Lawn sand was once a very popular treatment that both professionals and DIY gardeners used, but I’m seeing more and more non-professionals now using alternative chemical treatments, including liquid products.

I still know plenty of lawncare experts that still use lawn sand on sports fields and ornamental lawns, and for good reason – it has many benefits, and the surface remains child and pet-safe.

On this page, I’ll explain what lawn sand is, when and how to use it, the best dosages, the results you can expect, and I’ll suggest some alternatives too.

Elixir Gardens 25Kg FINE LAWN SAND WITH FERTILISER TREATS OVER 360SQM
Elixir Gardens 25Kg FINE LAWN SAND WITH FERTILISER TREATS OVER 360SQM
Elixir Gardens 25Kg FINE LAWN SAND WITH FERTILISER TREATS OVER 360SQM
Elixir Gardens 25Kg FINE LAWN SAND WITH FERTILISER TREATS OVER 360SQM

What is Lawn Sand?

I’ve used lawn sand as a treatment on well-tended domestic lawns and sports fields, and it usually consists of two to three ingredients.

  • Sand.
  • Iron sulphate.
  • Ammonium sulphate (optional).

While the exact ratios vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, most mixes I’ve used contain around 2-4% iron.

What Does Lawn Sand Look Like?

Lawn sand looks like regular sand but has small crystals and granules of various colours in it.

Here is my closeup photo of lawn sand that I took; you can see the three different ingredients:

Closeup of lawn sand

Purpose

Most lawn care professionals and I use lawn sand for several purposes, including:

A general feed – I’ve found that lawns look greener after an application of lawn sand due to the iron, which is a nutrient.

Moss control – From experience, I know that iron is one of the best ways to kill, control and prevent moss and is also fast-acting, so you can expect results in days, not weeks.

Changing the soil pH – Lawn sand will change the soil’s pH, which deters worms (so fewer worm castings) and alters the colour of the grass, which I’ve seen turn noticeably greener after an application.

Weed prevention – Regular lawn sand applications should help create an environment where grass thrives, but weeds struggle to take hold. I’ve also seen it kill off some types of weeds that were already present.

As an alternative to pesticides – Although lawn sand contains iron, it’s much safer than many alternatives, which often contain pesticides or herbicides to kill moss, weeds and pests.

Drainage – The sand helps with drainage, which prevents waterlogging and disease.

What You Shouldn’t Use Lawn Sand For

I’ve seen some gardeners confuse lawn sand with regular sand, horticultural sand or kiln-dried sand and in one case, I saw a gardener ruin their lawn by brushing in hundreds of kilos of the stuff.

Lawn sand is a treatment product and shouldn’t be used alone for lawn levelling or top-dressing (although it can be used as an additive to other mixes).

The incorrect or excessive use of this sand can cause all sorts of problems, so it should only be used as a treatment product at the suggested doses.

Recommended Application Rates and Timings

The dose will depend on the composition of the lawn sand, and as every product is different, you’ll need to refer to the packaging or manufacturer’s website for application rates.

As a general rule of thumb, I’ve found that lawn sand containing 2% iron is best applied at a rate of 125-150 grams per square metre, while sand with 4% iron should be applied at a rate of 60-75 grams per square metre of lawn. These are the rates I’ve used, and I’ve never damaged my lawn.

I also believe the best time to apply lawn sand is during the growing season, which starts in spring, as this ensures the grass has time to recover.

I’ve never applied lawn sand more than once every 3 months, but I’ve seen others put it down every 4-6 weeks. I suggest trying it once and monitoring the lawn to see how it responds to the treatment.

How I Apply Lawn Sand

As lawn sand contains iron, there is the potential for it to scorch the grass; this is something I’ve seen first hand and the damage was severe. Precise application rates are, therefore crucial.

I’ve applied lawn sand to large areas via a towed mechanical spreader before and it’s by far the most reliable method. 

For medium-sized lawns, I’ve always used a pushed spreader.

For smaller gardens, I feel a handheld spreader would be the best option.

I do not recommend applying lawn sand by hand as it’s far too inaccurate.

If you’ve never used lawn sand before, follow these steps:

  • First, if the lawn sand is wet, allow it to dry out, as wet sand will clog the spreader.
  • Then, using a mower and a strimmer, cut the grass and collect the clippings.
  • Apply the lawn sand at the recommended rates.
  • The lawn should then be watered, I suggest no later than 48 hours after application but I always did this immediately.
  • Water and brush off any sand from hard surfaces to prevent staining.
Elixir Gardens 25Kg FINE LAWN SAND WITH FERTILISER TREATS OVER 360SQM
Elixir Gardens 25Kg FINE LAWN SAND WITH FERTILISER TREATS OVER 360SQM
Elixir Gardens 25Kg FINE LAWN SAND WITH FERTILISER TREATS OVER 360SQM
Elixir Gardens 25Kg FINE LAWN SAND WITH FERTILISER TREATS OVER 360SQM

What to Expect

When I used lawn sand, I noticed the moss started to die and go black within a week, and I raked it out after 10 days.

The grass started to noticeably green-up in around 2-3 weeks.

You should notice weed prevention and other improvements happen over time and after repeat applications of the lawn sand – this isn’t a “one and done” treatment.

What Not to Expect

While lawn sand can kill some weeds, it isn’t a targeted weed killer, so if you have a severe infestation of weeds, based on my experience, it’s unlikely you’ll see results and certainly not after just one application.

Lawn sand is effective at controlling moss, but I don’t believe that one application is enough to kill off a severe infestation which I feel should first be treated with a dedicated moss killer. Lawn sand can then be used to prevent the moss from returning.

I’ve previously seen good results when land sand is applied consistently 2-3 times each year but based on my experience, I doubt you’ll see long-lasting improvements to drainage, colour or grass vigour after just one or two applications.

My Experience With Lawn Sand

I have a qualification in landscaping, and in my early years as an employee, I used lawn sand in large ornamental gardens and also on sports turf, including bowling greens and a cricket field.

The company I worked for back then always used a mechanical spreader as it was the most accurate way to dose the sand and thus reducing the risk of scorching or killing the grass.

I have a small lawn at home and have never used lawn sand on it. Instead, I use “no rake” bacteria products to kill any moss and liquid fertiliser to keep the grass healthy.

If you are thinking about using lawn sand, I strongly suggest getting a spreader (preferably mechanical) rather than brushing it in or using your hands.

Problems

There are three problems I’ve seen with lawn sand worth noting:

  1. First, excess iron can scorch the grass, hence why I feel you should use a spreader. Also, many other garden products contain iron or nitrogen, so one should be careful when combining products.
  2. The iron in this product may permanently stain concrete, patio slabs, carpets and clothes. I have seen patio slabs marked because of this product, and the stains can’t be washed out.
  3. It’s not the best way to cure a severe moss infestation, and some gardens will require a more dedicated moss treatment regimen.

Lawn Sand Safety

When used as directed, I believe that lawn sand is very safe for pets, wildlife and children, and I’ve never had or heard of safety issues.

After applying and watering the product in, children and pets should be kept off the grass until the area has dried.

I suggest rinsing hands, tools and shoes to remove any iron that could cause stains.

If too much lawn sand is used, the grass may scorch but from my experience, I’m confident it will likely recover in most cases.

Overview

Here are the pros and cons of lawn sand:

Pros

  • Cheap, especially when purchased in bulk; a 25kg bag will cover up to 450 sq metres of lawn.
  • An excellent all-round product that I’ve used for maintenance purposes.
  • Improves soil pH and deters worms and other burrowing insects from the top layer.
  • Controls moss, prevents it from spreading and can kill mild infestations.
  • Safer than many chemical-laded alternative products.
  • Greens up the lawn and de-thatches the top layer which improves drainage.

Cons

  • It isn’t a dedicated moss killer and from what I’ve seen, it won’t cure severe infestations.
  • Moss that’s killed will turn black and look unsightly; I’ve found better ways to get rid of moss that won’t ruin the appearance of the lawn.
  • I’ve seen it control and suppress weeds but only after years of applications.
  • It’s easy to scorch the grass by overdosing.
  • It will stain carpets, patios and clothes etc.

Alternative Products That I’ve Used

Lawn sand isn’t as popular as it once was because other “all-in-one” products achieve the same results. Also, for lawns with moss and weed infestations, I’ve found that many other dedicated treatments are more effective.

To get rid of moss, I recommend products advertised as “no rake” as these contain bacteria (Bacillus subtilis) that eats away at the moss while leaving the grass unharmed. There’s no need to remove the dead moss after using this product, and it won’t turn the moss black either. As the moss disappears, you just need to overseed, so the new grass fills the space.

For general maintenance, most domestic gardeners I know use “all in one” products that contain fertiliser, weed killer and moss killer as they’re easier to apply, less likely to burn the grass and often cheaper.

Confusion With Lawn Levelling and Other Types of Sand

Lawn sand is used specifically to control moss and weeds and can, after repeated applications, may help with drainage.

It shouldn’t be confused with top-dressing, which is often used in lawn levelling – this is where any imperfections in the lawn are eased with soil and sand.

For example, I apply lawn sand at a rate of no more than 150 grams per square metre, while I would apply topdressing mix of sand, soil, and compost at around 2-3kg per per square metre.

Elixir Gardens 25Kg FINE LAWN SAND WITH FERTILISER TREATS OVER 360SQM
Elixir Gardens 25Kg FINE LAWN SAND WITH FERTILISER TREATS OVER 360SQM
Elixir Gardens 25Kg FINE LAWN SAND WITH FERTILISER TREATS OVER 360SQM
Elixir Gardens 25Kg FINE LAWN SAND WITH FERTILISER TREATS OVER 360SQM

Further Reading

I hope you found this guide to lawn sand insightful, you may also like these guides:

Meet The Author: Daniel Woodley

Daniel has over 18 years of experience in the construction, home improvement, and landscape garden industries.

He previously worked as a project manager and has experience in managing teams of tradespeople and landscape gardeners on both small and medium sized projects.

Daniel is also a keen gardener and enjoys growing unusual plants and tending to his lawn.

More About Daniel Woodley.

Daniel Woodley

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