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The Sand-Free Cottage: 8 Ways to Keep the Beach at Bay


The Sand-Free Cottage: 8 Ways to Keep the Beach at Bay

July 7, 2023

This week we’re combing through the Remodelista archives for some of our all-time favorite summer stories. Here’s one:

In summer nothing beats the feel of sand between your toes. Unless, of course, you happen to be inside. Sandy floors (or worse, sheets) are the bane of every beach cottage. But, as this native Cape Codder has discovered, there are ways to keep the sand at bay.

Here are eight solutions to stop sand at the door.

Photography by Justine Hand, except where noted.

1. Set up an outdoor foot-washing station.

at merryfield cottage in truro, massachusetts, owners steve corkin and dan madd 17
Above: At Merryfield Cottage in Truro, Massachusetts, owners Steve Corkin and Dan Maddalena installed a convenient rinsing station, including hose and water-filled bucket, beside the beach path. See Tales from Truro: An Untamed Landscape Channels Thoreau’s Cape Cod.

A good day at the beach usually ends with a shower to remove all sand, salt, and sunscreen. But what about all those to-ings and fro-ings throughout the day? For quick rinses, create a designated outdoor station specifically for rinsing sandy feet. All you really need is a low hose or spigot—make sure little beach-goers can reach the handle. Or simply keep a large bucket of water near the door.

2. Double up on doormats.

the back door of my summer cottage features a typical maine mat outside and a s 18
Above: The back door of my summer cottage features a typical Maine mat outside and a simple sea grass rug on the inside. (See Outdoors: Custom Cordage Door Mats.)

Despite my efforts to install a foot-wash station, some will always forget to rinse their sandy feet. Therefore my next line of defense is a series of sand-trapping doormats, on both sides of the threshold.

3. Remove all shoes before entering.

designer glenn ban leaves shoes right by the door in his summer rental. see
Above: Designer Glenn Ban leaves shoes right by the door in his summer rental. See A Beach Cottage in Provincetown, Styled for Budget-Minded Summer Living. Photograph by Stephen Johnson.

Even with double doormats, I still encourage everyone to remove their shoes, by setting up a designated area for footwear. Ideally this area is outside the home, but still in a sheltered area—a porch is best. The hope is that a collection of shoes will subtly remind all guests that shoe removal is preferred, without your needing to nag too much.

4. Deploy sandtraps (rugs).

natural fiber rugs, like this one in the houseboat home of fredericks & mae 20
Above: Natural fiber rugs, like this one in the houseboat home of Fredericks & Mae founders Gabe Cohen and Jolie Signorile, not only reflect the casual vibe of the coast but also are excellent sand traps. See Rehab Diary: The Ultimate Houseboat in NYC. Photograph by Douglas Lyle Thompson.

Sand, especially when combined with sunscreen, is notoriously sticky. For those particles that make it past my outdoor sand removal gauntlet, I deploy sand-trapping floor covers, such as sisal and sea-grass rugs. Just be sure to vacuum well.

5. Keep a sand removal bucket in your car.

my car after a day at the beach. 21
Above: My car after a day at the beach.

If you don’t want sand in your home, leave it at the beach. I encourage as much sand removal as possible while we’re still seaside, by creating a sand-removal kit for the car. Stored in a simple galvanized bucket, my kit includes:

  • A cleaning brush to wipe down boards and the car.
  • Talc-free foot powder, which, when applied to sandy feet, makes them easier to clean.
  • Refreshing wipes, especially useful for sandy, post-Popsicle hands.
  • Rejuvenating sun spray in case those sandy feet get a little burned.
  • An extra towel.

6. Rinse all recreational equipment.

in pacific palisades in la, landscape architect mark tessier installed an outdo 22
Above: In Pacific Palisades in LA, landscape architect Mark Tessier installed an outdoor shower large enough to accommodate his client’s surfboards. See Landscape Architect Visit: A Refined Family Garden with Flexible Play Zones in LA’s Pacific Palisades. Photograph by Art Gray.

After a long day at the beach, I usually want to flop down with a cool drink. But I have trained myself to delay rest until after I’ve rinsed all the beach toys and boards. Not only does a quick wash help maintain the life of your recreational equipment, it also minimizes the chances that someone will take sandy items into the home or car.

7. Empty your beach bag daily.

The SandFree Cottage 8 Ways to Keep the Beach at Bay portrait 6
Above: Erin Boyle totes her beach basics in a nice clean beach bag.  For more, see Demystifying Sunscreen: 5 Things You Need to Know.

Beach bags are notorious sand traps. Therefore, I make sure to unload mine every day. After shaking out towels and brushing off the beach toys, I turn my beach bag upside down and give it a good shake before taking it indoors.

8. Don’t forget Fido (install a handheld shower to rinse your dog).

a mini shower is perfect for washing down sandy dogs (and kids). photograph by  24
Above: A mini-shower is perfect for washing down sandy dogs (and kids). Photograph by Matthew Williams.

When it comes to tracking sand into your cottage, the only things worse than kids are canines. Luckily, like humans, salty dogs also enjoy a good rinse after the beach. A handheld shower attached to an outdoor hose is useful for washing both dogs and sandy feet.

N.B.: N.B.: This story is an update; the original post ran on Gardenista on July 11, 2018, and is reappearing here as part of our Summer from the Archive issue.

More tips on keeping your home clean just ahead:

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Frequently asked questions

What are some ways to keep a beach or bay clean at a cottage?

1. Use sand-free towels or beach mats to avoid tracking sand inside.
2. Install outdoor showers to rinse off sand before entering the cottage.
3. Encourage guests to shake out their towels and clothes outdoors.
4. Use doormats to capture sand particles at entryways.
5. Provide designated containers for garbage and recycling to prevent littering.
6. Organize beach clean-up days or participate in local clean-up initiatives.
7. Avoid using plastic or disposable items and opt for reusable products.
8. Practice Leave No Trace principles and educate guests about environmental stewardship.

What are sand-free towels or beach mats?

Sand-free towels or beach mats are specially designed to repel sand, allowing it to easily shake off or brush off the surface. They are typically made of quick-drying, lightweight materials that do not retain sand.

Why should I install outdoor showers?

Outdoor showers provide a convenient and efficient way to rinse off sand before entering the cottage. They help keep the interior clean and prevent sand from clogging drains or damaging floors.

How can I prevent sand from being tracked inside?

To prevent sand from being tracked inside, you can use sand-free towels or mats, encourage guests to shake out their towels and clothes outdoors, and place doormats at entryways to capture sand particles.

How can I promote responsible waste management at the beach or bay?

You can promote responsible waste management by providing designated containers for garbage and recycling, avoiding single-use plastic items, and educating guests about the importance of not littering. Additionally, organizing beach clean-up days or participating in local clean-up initiatives can help maintain a clean environment.

What are Leave No Trace principles?

Leave No Trace principles are a set of guidelines that promote responsible outdoor behavior and environmental stewardship. They include principles such as leaving nature untouched, properly disposing of waste, and respecting wildlife and natural habitats.

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