What Is Kinetic Sand? How It Works and Where It's Used | House Grail (2023)

Kinetic sand is not your typical sand, as it comes with uniquely artificial properties. For instance, unlike regular sand, kinetic sand always seems wet for no reason and doesn’t dry out.

The other standout property is its ability to not stick to anything nearby—or the things that it comes into contact with—other than itself. These two properties make it the ideal malleable material for kids looking to mold differently shaped objects, and STEM students trying to design miniature models of various items.

To understand what kinetic sand really is, we have to talk about the science behind it. So, read on below to find out more.

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How Does Kinetic Sand Work?

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Layman’s Explanation

Even though it doesn’t have the same appearance or texture as traditional sand, kinetic sand is actually sand. The only difference is that instead of being coated using water to make it wet, it uses silicone oil.

As most of you probably know, silicon oil is a versatile product. Besides being used as a lubricant, it can also be utilized as a heat transfer oil or hydraulic fluid. Kinetic sand is always wet due to silicon oil. Had they used water instead of oil, it would have dried out in a matter of seconds.

The oil is also the reason why, when left alone, this sand reverts to a more natural shape. For example, if you made a ball, and left the ball on a flat surface for an extended period of time, you’ll come back to find it flattened out—even if no form of force was exerted on it.

Scientific Explanation

From a scientific standpoint, kinetic sand is primarily sand, with 2% of its composition being polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS). The PDMS compound is quite honestly what gives this material that wet appearance, and also helps it to stay bonded to itself.

PDMS is essentially a liquid polymerized siloxane compound that’s usually classified as a variant of silicone oil. When broken down into simpler blocks, you get to learn that PDMS is basically a mineral-organic polymer.

By definition, a polymer is any synthetic or natural substance that’s made up of macromolecules—and the macromolecules can still be broken down further into monomers. In our case, PDMS is the polymer, while carbon and silicon are the monomers.

Typical of silicone oil, PDMS doesn’t catch fire easily, is not poisonous, and is considered chemically stable. In addition, it’s usually optically clear and exudes viscoelasticity. We like to use the term “viscoelastic” to describe any material or substance that acts like a viscous liquid when the temperature levels are ramped up and appears to have the elasticity of rubber when the temperatures drop.

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Why is kinetic sand hydrophobic?

That’s the effect of the PDMS. The oil’s molecules are naturally nonpolar, thus repelled by the water molecules’ polarity. Any surface that’s covered with PDMS automatically becomes “water-fearing”. This property is also the answer to why kinetic sand doesn’t stick to anything in its vicinity, even if they come into contact.

What Is Kinetic Sand? How It Works and Where It's Used | House Grail (4)Where Is Kinetic Sand Used?


Kinetic sand is mostly used as a toddler’s toy. We’re often advised to encourage our young ones to mold as often as possible because this practice helps them develop fine motor skills. While playing with sand, molding it into different shapes, the muscles in their hands gradually develop. Thus, making it easier for them to comfortably hold things like pencils in the future or use scissors.

The process of flattening, rolling, and squishing this type of sand also produces a calming effect that kids use as an avenue to release excess energy or reduce stress. Encouraging creativity is another benefit that we can’t discount, seeing as creating different objects often allows toddlers to stretch their imaginations.

What’s more, manipulating the material to fit a certain idea makes us believe that kinetic sand is again instrumental in helping kids improve their hand-eye coordination.

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Sand Tray Therapy

In psychology, we have various counseling techniques that are thought to be more expressive in nature. And sand tray therapy—sometimes referred to as “sand play”—happens to be one of them.

This psychological approach employs the utilization of miniatures or figurines in various aspects, to help patients effectively express whatever they are feeling or how they view the world. They are usually asked by a therapist or psychologist to create scenes in a sand tray that would accurately describe their emotions, hardships, and thoughts, at the present moment and in the past.

For this technique to work, it has to be applied in a clinical setting. And although it can be useful in a group setting, it won’t be as effective as it would have been on a one-on-one basis. Also, sand tray therapy applies to people of all ages.

In the past, this therapy majorly relied on traditional sand, water, and a few other tools that would make the molding process easier for the patient.

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The soothing effects of kinetic sand have made it popular among adults who like to trigger the Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. Commonly known as ASMR, this response is exhibited in the form of a tingling sensation that can be felt around the shoulder, neck, or scalp. According to various findings, more often than not, it’s triggered by gentle taps or whispers. But it recently came to our attention that kinetic sand can be manipulated to generate a similar effect.


  • It’s hydrophobic
  • Easily moldable
  • Easy to clean
  • Affordable
  • Triggers ASMR
  • Comes in a variety of colors
  • Ideal for sand tray therapy
  • It serves as a durable toy
  • Doesn’t stick to things


  • Toddlers can inadvertently swallow some in the absence of supervision

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can You Make Kinetic Sand at Home?

Yes, if you’re desperately yearning for that sensory play, you can easily make a DIY kinetic sand at home. All you’ll need is sand, cornstarch, and oil, which are to be mixed in a ratio of 5:3:1, respectively. Any sand variety can get the job done, but we like working with colored decorator sands for a more fun experience.

Flour can be used as a substitute for cornstarch, but the end product will slightly vary. That’s usually the case because the latter ingredient is so silky. If you can’t find silicone oil, use mineral oil, baby oil, or cooking oil.

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How Do You Clean Up Kinetic Sand?

You can use a vacuum to get rid of the tiny particles left behind, but the easiest way to get rid of them is to mold a ball and then use it to collect them all. When you dab the ball on the remnants, even if they are on a carpet, they’ll stick to it without showing any form of resistance. With kinetic sand, you don’t have to use water or a cleaning solution—unless you want to.

What’s The Best Way to Dispose of Kinetic Sand?

Do not make the mistake of trying to flush it down the toilet or drain. Kinetic sand is a reusable product, but if you don’t have any use for it, take it to the trash. The garbage collectors will know how to safely dispose of it.

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Kinetic sand is still considered a relatively new invention. We honestly don’t know when exactly it was invented, but Spin Master Ltd is considered the brains behind it. They trademarked it as a kid’s toy in January 2014, promising to bring that beach-like sand experience to our homes.

Besides helping toddlers improve their motor skills, it’s also instrumental in helping adults express their inner thoughts and feelings in therapy—and to trigger ASMR.

Featured Image Credit: Elena Khairullina, Shutterstock


  • 1 How Does Kinetic Sand Work?
    • 1.1 Layman’s Explanation
    • 1.2 Scientific Explanation
    • 1.3 Why is kinetic sand hydrophobic?
  • 2 Where Is Kinetic Sand Used?
    • 2.1 Toys
    • 2.2 Sand Tray Therapy
    • 2.3 ASMR
  • 3 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
    • 3.1 Can You Make Kinetic Sand at Home?
    • 3.2 How Do You Clean Up Kinetic Sand?
    • 3.3 What’s The Best Way to Dispose of Kinetic Sand?
  • 4 Conclusion


What is kinetic sand supposed to do? ›

Kinetic sand is an easy project that allows kids to explore their senses, build fine motor skills and strengthen their imaginative play muscles. Kinetic sand is play sand that is soft and crumbly, but also holds its shape when squeezed or pressed.

Is kinetic sand messy in house? ›

Only downside is, this is SAND so it can be a little messy. It also does the kids hands the color of the sand but wipes away easily with a wet wipe.

What are the pros and cons of kinetic sand? ›

Holds shape, but can easily be changed and used again. Does not stick to hands. Cleans up very easily. Cons: Hard to pull kids away from playing.

What is the difference between kinetic sand and regular sand? ›

Kinetic Sand is regular sand, but instead of being coated in water (like wet sand), it is coated with Silicone Oil. Silicon oil is used in lots of products, most commonly for lubricating. Because the coating is oil and not water, the sand will never dry out, which is one of the best features of Kinetic Sand.

What are the disadvantages of kinetic sand? ›

While kinetic sand won't poison a person if they eat it, it does pose a choking hazard, and if large amounts are eaten it can cause constipation. In severe cases, it possible for kinetic sand to cause gastrointestinal obstruction.

What happens if you put water on kinetic sand? ›

What happens if Kinetic Sand gets wet? Don't worry if Kinetic Sand has gotten wet, simply spread it out on a flat surface to dry and it will return to its original state.

Can mold grow in kinetic sand? ›

Additionally, leaving kinetic sand open can attract moisture, which could lead to mold or bacteria growth and make the sand unusable. Therefore, it is best to store kinetic sand in an airtight container and keep it out of reach of small children or pets.

Can you vacuum kinetic sand? ›

If Kinetic Sand gets on carpet, no water or cleaning solution is required! To clean from carpet, pick up large pieces first, then use a vacuum cleaner to clean up remnants.

What is better than kinetic sand? ›

Thinking Putty is a big favorite in our house! Just be sure to keep it away from hair, clothing, or any other fibers. Mad Mattr is the non-gritty version of kinetic sand. It's completely smooth, but still holds its shape like kinetic sand.

Why does kinetic sand fall apart? ›

Similarly, with kinetic sand, the polymer chains within the silicone oil make the sand particles stick together so you can form them into a ball. However, the ball will slowly flatten out over time. But the silicone-oil-coated sand particles stick only to each other, not to other surfaces, Sachleben noted.

What makes kinetic sand stay together? ›

Kinetic Sand stays together, allowing you to easily mold and create shapes. Kinetic means “togetherness due to movement and energy” and is used to describe Kinetic Sand because, unlike the sand at the beach, Kinetic Sand sticks together when force is applied to it.

Can you use beach sand for kinetic sand? ›

You can use any variety of sand for your diy kinetic sand. Play sand from the hardware store works great, as does fine beach sand. We like to buy craft/decorators sand in different colors as the bright colors add to the sensory experience.

Does kinetic sand ever dry out? ›

Kinetic Sand™ does not dry out; it's probably being affected by the humidity. Simply add a couple of drops of water with an eyedropper and it will return to its original state.

Can you reuse kinetic sand? ›

You can reuse the Kinetic SandTM and the play sand when the activity is over, just carefully transfer them into storage containers or plastic bags.

Can kinetic sand go down the sink? ›

Disposal information: Do not pour the sand down the drain. It can be reused. To dispose, put in the household trash.

What the heck is kinetic sand? ›

Kinetic sand is just ordinary sand with polymers in it, which help it hold shapes. Think wet sand, but dry. Kinda weird, right? Playing with kinetic sand is the perfect sensory activity for young kiddos.

What age is kinetic sand safe for? ›

What age can kids use kinetic sand? Kinetic sand is suggested for ages 3+.

Why is my kinetic sand getting sticky? ›

Kinetic Sand™ is sensitive to humidity and water, if it loses its great texture, it may be due to the environment being too "moist" or "dry". Kinetic Sand™ will return to its normal texture at 60% humidity. If Kinetic Sand™ gets wet, air dry it until it returns to its normal texture.

Is magic sand and kinetic sand the same? ›

The pocket of air makes magic sand unable to get wet. A variation of this, kinetic sand, has several of the same properties, but acts like wet sand that will not dry out.

Does kinetic sand stain clothes? ›

A: The color can be on your hands if the sand is to moist but washes off with soap and water. I have never seen it stick to any cloths and this is sand a two year old plays with.

Why does my kinetic sand smell bad? ›

When sand starts to smell badly, throw it out and make new batch. You may have to adjust the moisture of the Kinetic sand. If it is too dry, add a little more water. If it is too damp, allow it to air dry a bit.

Is kinetic sand better than play doh? ›

Why Kinetic Sand is Better than Playdoh. Beyond the fact that it's easy to clean up, there are many other benefits that make kinetic sand better than playdoh. For one, it's gluten-free. Now to be honest I hadn't even thought about this until I came across a mom selling a HUGE lot of playdoh at a garage sale.

Does kinetic sand dry out if left uncovered? ›

Even though Kinetic Sand won't dry out, we recommend keeping it in a resealable container. This will help keep it all in one place, and help it stay dust free!

Is kinetic sand very messy? ›

It's not (too) messy!

Since the sand sticks together, kinetic sand doesn't scatter about like normal sand. It also doesn't stick to clothing like playdough! Of course if your child drops it all over the floor, then it's going to need picking up off the floor…!

What is the secret ingredient in kinetic sand? ›

Store-bought Kinetic Sand is made from fine sand and polydimethylsiloxane (also called dimethicone). It's an unusual substance in that its viscosity increases under stress. You can form it into fun shapes and slice it. However, it's not the cheapest thing to buy.

What are other names for kinetic sand? ›

What is this? There are two forms of Kinetic Sand. One of them is a commercial brand produced with the same name, i.e., 'Kinetic Sand. ' The other one is a homemade hack called 'Oobleck.

Should I mix my kinetic sand? ›

Kids will often want to mix different colors of kinetic sand together. While this creates a unique look and is an enjoyable process, keep in mind that mixing is permanent. Once they've mixed the colors together, it is impossible to separate them.

Can you store kinetic sand in a Ziploc bag? ›

In storing kinetic sand, you must look for a container that will protect the sand from constant exposure to air. Failure to do so can make the sand dry over time and make the sand's quality very poor. To prevent this situation from happening, using zip plastic packets or zip bags is your primary container for this toy.

Is kinetic sand indoor or outdoor? ›

They can build their own sand castle at home at home and pretend they are at the beach; it can be used indoors and outdoors no matter what the weather is outside. Because Kinetic sand never dries out or hardens, it like a magic sand, so you can create anything you can imagine over and over again.

Is kinetic sand poisonous to dogs? ›

Warning: Kinetic sand is very dangerous if eaten. Please keep it away from pets and kids.

Is kinetic sand supposed to stick to your hands? ›

Adding just the right amount of the wet ingredients allows the sand and cornstarch mixture to stay dry enough to not stick to your hands, but wet enough to stick together.

Do you have to add water to kinetic sand? ›

Kinetic sand is a moldable, squeezable sand that you can form into shapes. It acts like wet sand, and holds its shape, but it is not very wet, just a little water is needed to make it.

How does kinetic sand help with anxiety? ›

The use of kinetic sand can be beneficial to reduce anxiety because: It increases mindfulness Calms the mind Reduces stress.

Does kinetic sand dry if you leave it out? ›

Kinetic Sand™ does not dry out; it's probably being affected by the humidity. Simply add a couple of drops of water with an eyedropper and it will return to its original state.

What is the best oil for kinetic sand? ›

This kinetic sand recipe uses just 3 ingredients to make a soft, moldable sand that provides hours of sensory play time. Feel free to substitute flour if you don't have cornstarch. We used canola oil but you can also use olive oil, mineral oil, or baby oil.

Can you wash kinetic sand? ›

Kinetic Sand™ is easy to clean up because it sticks to itself and nothing else. Form a ball of sand and dab the remaining sand with the ball to pick it all up! If Kinetic Sand gets on carpet, no water or cleaning solution is required!

How long will kinetic sand last? ›

Kinetic sand can last indefinitely if it is stored properly. When stored in a dry and air-tight container, it won't dry out and won't start turning into a hard lump.

Can kinetic sand go down the drain? ›

Disposal information: Do not pour the sand down the drain. It can be reused. To dispose, put in the household trash.

What age is kinetic sand recommended for? ›

Kinetic Sand, The Original Moldable Play Sand, 3.25lbs Beach Sand, Sensory Toys for Kids Ages 3 and up (Amazon Exclusive)

Why was kinetic sand invented? ›

Originally made to make sand play less messy, Kinetic Sand transformed into the sand that magically sticks together. Building castles, or mixing and slicing rainbows, the special promises captivating experiences.


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