Polymeric sand is a bit different than just plain sand.

Polymeric sand (Techniseal, Quikcrete, EZ Sand) consists of sand and silica combined with a binding agent, usually a manufactured polymer or Portland cement, that’s widely used in landscaping.

This mixture creates sand that withstands being blown or washed out of pavement joints while maintaining flexibility.

However, the binder may also lead to discoloration, similar to how mortar stains brickwork. If polymeric sand blemishes your pavers, effective methods exist to remove the stains. Scrubbing with brushes and vinegar works well, especially for large areas. More stubborn discoloration may need a janitorial buffer for successful removal. With some effort, you can restore the beautiful appearance of your pavers.

What Causes Staining?

Poly sand can stain pavers for the same reason mortar stains brick — the binding agents tend to be sticky and discolor surfaces. Polymer binders are proprietary, so the amount of staining varies by brand. Portland cement often produces grayish stains. Even perfectly following manufacturer instructions, some staining might occur because of:

  • Spillage while applying the polymeric sand
  • Rain before fully curing
  • Sand washing over paver edges
  • Foot traffic before the sand sets

Staining usually appears as smears or patches of discoloration on the paver surface, sometimes called polymeric sand haze or poly haze. The damage is only superficial, so cleaning methods can renew the pavers’ look.

Cleaning Small Areas

For stains covering less than a couple square feet, hand scrubbing is often effective. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Stiff nylon bristle brush
  • Bucket of water or water hose
  • Undiluted white vinegar

Wet the pavers and liberally apply undiluted vinegar to stained areas. Let sit for 5–10 minutes. Vigorously scrub with the brush, adding more vinegar as needed, then rinse. Repeat if necessary on stubborn stains. The vinegar dissolves cement particles without harming the pavers.

While you might be tempted to use a pressure washer (power washer), I would avoid this. The polymeric joint can be disrupted or dislodged when you pressure wash. You can do it if the stain is stubborn and you’ve exhausted all other options, but it’s not my preferred method. Some sources suggest muriatic acid in place of vinegar, but I recommend you avoid this as well. Muriatic acid is a more destructive acid compared to acetic acid (the acid in vinegar) and can cause unsightly damage to brick pavers and stones. 

Cleaning Large Areas

Scrubbing by hand takes substantial time and effort for extensively stained sections. You’ll need the following supplies for a more efficient approach:

  • Stiff deck brush or push broom
  • Water hose / garden hose
  • 5-gallon bucket of undiluted white vinegar
  • Optional: janitorial floor buffer

Use the long brush and vinegar as described for hand cleaning of polymeric sand stains. Allow the vinegar to sit 10–15 minutes before scrubbing. Thoroughly rinse with the hose.

For severe staining, rent a floor buffer with a scrubbing pad attachment. In small sections, use it with vinegar to thoroughly agitate the stained paver areas. Rinse each section after buffing before moving on.

Broom spreading poly sand.
Credit: Canva

Preventing Stains

Although staining may happen despite best practices, you can reduce risks by:

  • Precisely following manufacturer application instructions for polymeric sand
  • Allowing proper curing time before opening the area to traffic
  • Avoiding paver installation before rain
  • Protecting nearby surfaces from sand splashing
  • Quickly rinsing any sand that’s splashed on top of the pavers
  • Maintain joint sand levels between pavers and avoid excess sand

If you work carefully, you can reduce the amount of clean-up you’ll need to do later to remove any stains.

So, Is It Possible to Remove Polymeric Sand Stains?

Yes, removing stains from polymeric sand is a very achievable DIY project for any homeowner. With the right supplies and techniques, you can remove that pesky discoloration and restore the beauty of your pavers. Don’t let staining issues deter you from using this otherwise great joint sand solution.

FAQs About Polymeric Sand

What kind of vinegar works best for cleaning polymeric sand stains?

White distilled vinegar with 5% acidity works best to clean polymeric sand.

How soon can I walk on polymeric sand after application?

Wait at least 48–72 hours before walking on the treated area per manufacturer guidelines. This allows full curing to avoid tracking sand where you don’t want it.

Will polymeric sand wash out of my paver joints?

Polymeric sand is designed to resist washing out from rain and water. However, some loss over time is normal and joints should be checked annually.

Can I apply polymeric sand over old joint sand?

Yes, you can apply polymeric sand over previously filled joints. Just make sure to thoroughly clean the old sand first so the polymeric sand can adhere properly.

Does polymeric sand need to be sealed?

Sealing is an optional extra step but not required. Check manufacturer guidelines as some do recommend applying a compatible sealer for added protection.

Further Reading

Editorial Contributors
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Doug Sluga

Doug Sluga is a professional roofer and carpenter with ten years of experience in residential and commercial construction. His expertise spans the breadth of the roofing trade from minor repairs to laying shingles to framing trusses. These days he spends most of his time writing about roofing and the roofing industry.

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Lori Zaino

Lori Zaino is a freelance writer and editor based in Madrid, Spain. With nearly two decades of editorial experience, she’s written and edited for publications like Forbes, CNN, Insider, NBC, Newsweek, The Points Guy, The Infatuation, and many others. Having just completed her first home renovation, she’s more interested in home improvements than ever, dedicated to bringing you fresh and accurate content to help you update your living spaces.

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