Pearl, it's not too hard. In Sparky's tank, the sand is not even a 1/2 inch thick. To clean it, I hover the gravel vac just over the surface. In my 20gal, it's much thicker because of the plants and I have to remember to poke and stir it at least once a month to keep it from developing pockets of toxic gas.
I have play sand for Sparky and for my 29gal. It's just fine for plants and cories and I think I got a 50lb bag for $5. o.O Some play sand might have silica that could cause a bit of algae though but otherwise, it's great.