What Is the Difference Between Soil and Sand?

United Soybean Board/CC-BY 2.0

Soil is made up of liquids, solids and gases that form on the surface of land, while sand is a natural material that consists of at least 85 percent sand-sized particles. Soil consists mostly of organic matter, such as decomposing animals and plants and minerals. The most common sand found throughout the world is made up of quartz, or silicon dioxide.

Sand can also be found in the form of calcium carbonate, a material that is created from many different forms of life that have existed throughout the last half billion years. Some of these examples are shell and coral fish.

Soil also consists of organisms that help to support plant life, performing many important functions. Some of these organisms are insects, bacteria, fungi and burrowing animals. Soil is responsible for storing water, supply and purification, plant growth and modification of the atmosphere.