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Sand And Your Swimsuits

Updated on December 16, 2013


There are beautiful sunny beaches all around the world - stunning places where you can show off your most stylish new swimwear. Although most people think of sand when they think of beaches, in actuality, beaches can be very diverse, with many having no sand at all! Much of the world's sand is actually in desert dunes or at the bottom of the rivers and oceans. Beaches with very soft, fine sand are often artificial, with fine river sand brought in and groomed to create a pristine sandy surface. Regardless of which type of sandy beach you are enjoying, however, sand is not your swimwear's best friend. Sand is actually very abrasive and can seriously damage the delicate fabric of your favorite designer swimsuits. Let's take a closer look.

Tropical White Sand Beach - Montego Bay, Jamaica
Tropical White Sand Beach - Montego Bay, Jamaica

The Basics of Sand

Sand, by definition, is a natural granular material that is most often composed of silica quartz. Within that definition, however, there are many variances. Sand comes in many different sizes, ranging from small, medium or coarse. Although very fine sand may seem like powder, in geological terms the smallest particle of sand is at least 0.0625 mm (0.0025 inches), with anything smaller than that being defined as silt. The largest sand grain is 2 mm (0.08 inches) in diameter, with larger sizes defined as pebbles or gravel. As a rough comparison, the range is from a pinpoint to about the size of a wax crayon tip.

Sand is strong and weather-resistant, able to withstand the weight and pressure of water, waves and wind. Most beaches are a blend of two-thirds sand and one-third rock fragments, clay and other organic material, such as coral and shells, which have been eroded over time by wind and water. A rough-edge particle of beach sand is relatively young in geological years, while desert sand is the product of centuries of constant wind that drives waves of sand, weathering it into smooth, rounded surfaces.

Beach of New Jersey, USA
Beach of New Jersey, USA

Texture and Color

Although most commonly made of quartz, sand can contain a number of different minerals, which give it colors that can range from white and gold to volcanic black. Some of the more unique beaches feature unusual hues, including purple, green, pink and orange. Tropical white sands are often made up of primarily limestone and gypsum, and may contain coral and shell. Golden sands have a high feldspar content and many have iron impurities within the quartz. Dark or black sands contain basalt, magnetite and obsidian. Finally, very small gemstones such as garnets, lend reddish or purple hues to the sand.

The hardness, durability and sharp surface of a grain of sand makes it extremely useful for many commercial applications. The purest form of quartz sand is used to create glass. Furthermore, sandblasting is a cleaning abrasive that can strip and polish large surfaces, or carve fine designs into pure rock. In addition, sand can even be mixed with gravel to make concrete.

Minimize contact between sand & your swimsuit by sitting on a blanket!
Minimize contact between sand & your swimsuit by sitting on a blanket!

What This Means for Your Swimsuit

Given the durability, rough edges, and chemical composition of sand, it is easy to understand the impact sand can have on your delicate swim garments. When you consider that sand contacting the fabric is like rubbing it with small pieces of broken glass, it is easy to see how something so small can cause such damage.

Small particles of sand become embedded in between garment fibers, and these are difficult to dislodge, even after multiple washings. In the same way sandpaper will wear down and smooth a surface, sand can abrade the fibers of your clothing. Sand trapped in the lining and spandex of the suit will not only cut microscopic holes in the elastic, eventually causing it to break down, but it can cause chafing during subsequent wears. Sunlight, heat and chemicals in the sand and water can also intensify the damage. Even when washing your swimsuit, if sand is trapped in the fibers, squeezing or scrubbing will be just like rubbing it with a coarse piece of sandpaper.

Sitting on a hammock or chair will also help minimize contact between your swimsuit & coarse sand
Sitting on a hammock or chair will also help minimize contact between your swimsuit & coarse sand

Tips to Preserve Your Swimsuit

Of course, the only way to completely avoid any interaction between sand and the fabric of your swimsuit is to avoid the beach entirely, which would absolutely defeat the whole purpose of putting on your suit in the first place! Although some sand damage may be unavoidable over time, there are definitely ways to minimize it. Prevent sand from getting into the elastic seams and lining by sitting on a beach towel or chair. Immediately after wearing, turn the suit inside out and shake out any loose sand before washing. Follow recommended garment care tips for delicate fabrics, such as a cold-water rinse and gentle hand-washing after wearing your suit. Enjoy your time on the sand and still keep your favorite swimsuit in tip-top shape!

QUIZ: Sand and Your Swimsuit

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