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Difference between Sand and Soil

Earth's surface is covered with soil and rocks. Sand is a type of soil so people often confuse sand with soil. Although sand is a type of soil, it is entirely different from the soil. Let us see how they differ from each other.


The soil is a natural resource like air and water. It is primarily made up of three components that include minerals from the rocks, organic matter (remains of plants and animals) and living organisms that dwell in the soil. Thus, it is a complex mixture of minerals, water, air, organic matter and living organisms.

The soil is formed at the Earth's surface so it is the skin of the Earth. It supports plant life and other forms of life on Earth, i.e. it is vital to life on Earth. Furthermore, it performs a number of vital functions in almost all types of ecosystems like a forest, marsh, prairie, suburban watershed etc. Some of the vital functions of soil are as follows:

  • It serves as a medium for growth of all kinds of plants.
  • It modifies the atmosphere by emitting and absorbing gases and dust.
  • It provides habitat for a large number of organisms that dwell in the soil like mice, groundhogs, fungi, bacteria, earthworm etc.
  • It helps absorb, hold, release and purify water in terrestrial systems.
  • It provides a strong foundation for the construction of dams, buildings, roadbeds etc.
  • It serves as a living filter that cleans the water before it moves into an aquifer.


Sand is a loose granular material commonly found on beaches, riverbeds and deserts. It can be of different colours like white, black, and green depending on the location. The sand is a mixture of small grains of rock that ranges from 0.0625 to 2 mm in size. The common ingredient of sand is silicon dioxide in the form of quartz. Sand is non-porous in nature and it does not hold water. It can be of different types like coral sand, glass sand and gypsum etc.

Based on the above information, some of the key differences between sand and soil are as follows:

Soil Sand
It is the topmost surface layer of the Earth. It is a type of soil made of a loose granular material or small grains of rock that ranges from 0.0625 to 2 mm in size.
It is more organic than that of sand. It is less organic in nature than soil.
It is made of organic material, air, water and solids. It is made of silica, calcium carbonate and other minerals.
It is porous in nature. It is non-porous in nature.
It holds water. It does not hold water.
Water or other liquids do not drain easily through soil. Water and other liquids drain easily through sand.
It is heavier than sand. It is lighter than soil.
Its types include clay, slit and sand. Its types include coral sand, glass sand, gypsum sand etc.
The most common component of soil is organic matter. The most common component of sand is silicon dioxide.
It can be of white, red, brown or black colour depending on the location and its components. It can be white, black, brown or green in colour depending on the location and the rock it is made of.
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