Best Sandpapers: Ensure A Smooth Finish
Smooth it out with our top picks for the best sandpapers
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PUBLISHED ON October 7, 2019
If you’ve worked with wood, you know the benefits of sandpaper. But there are a variety of applications in which sandpaper is useful. To help you choose the best sandpaper for the job, we’ve compiled a list of tips, facts, and tricks you’ll want to consider. Keep reading to find out more—and see just how much you know about sandpaper.
- Best Overall3M Pro-Pak 400 Grit Wetordry Sanding SheetsSummarySummaryThis Pro-Pak of 3M sandpaper comes in various grits. You can use this sandpaper in wet and dry applications. There are 25 sheets per pack for maximum sanding power.ProsPros3M’s sandpaper can be used for wood, metal, and automotive polishing. Though we mention the 400 grit variety here, 3M offers the most common sizes for all your sanding needs.ConsConsThese sandpaper strips are shaped in a way that you may need to cut them down to size in order to achieve a smooth and even sanding plane
- Best Value48-Pack Sandpaper Assortment BlockSummarySummaryIf you use sandpaper a lot, this variety and value pack is for you. Each grit of sandpaper comes in four sheets that measure 9 inches by 3.6 inches.ProsProsEach sheet of this variety pack is electro-coated and can be used in wet and dry conditions. The manufacturer offers a 48-day money-back guarantee and a two-year warranty.ConsConsIf you’re working on your car, you may have a hard time finding the right size sanding sponge. Otherwise, you’ll have to cut the sandpaper sheets down to size.
- Honorable Mention5-Inch, 8-Hole Hook and Loop Sanding Discs Assorted PackSummarySummary
This pack of 70 sanding discs makes quick work of large sanding jobs. The aluminum oxide composition allows for longer sanding time as well.ProsProsGrits in this package vary from 120 to 800 grit. Eight dust holes remove debris as you sand, and you can use this product on wood, metal, and automotive paint.ConsConsThese circular sandpaper pads are not meant for wet use. They also won’t be able to refine your sanding beyond the 800 grit mark.
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All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, and practical experience with each product we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of Sandpaper
- Smoother finish. The right sandpaper goes a long way in creating a smoother finish on any project you’re working on. This can mean the difference between sliding into a comfortable wooden chair and having splinters in a not-so-very-nice place.
- No power required. While it is easier to use a power sander, sanding is one skill you can do completely by hand. Depending on the scale of your project, there’s something to be said for spending a few hours sanding your various creations.
- Various grits. Along with being widely available, there are a number of grits you can choose from. If you’ve got to sand off a bunch of material, there’s a 300 (or lower) grit for that. Need to smooth something before painting it? Around 2,000 grit is your best bet.
- Multiple applications. The possibilities are only as endless as you make them. You can use sandpaper to smooth woodworking projects, automotive finishes, headlights, metal construction pieces, and so on.
- Affordable and easy to use. Sandpaper isn’t something you need a lot of knowledge, money, skill, or effort to use. You don’t have to don excessive amounts of safety equipment either.
Types of Sandpaper
Wet or Dry
If you’re going to be wet-sanding a project, you’ll definitely want to invest in wet or dry sandpaper. Formulated to work in wet and dry conditions, this sandpaper is used on automotive paint, lacquers, and many other kinds of finishes to really pull out the blemishes and showcase the shine. Most of the sandpaper you’ll come into contact will likely be wet or dry.
Like many of the sandpaper types listed here, aluminum oxide sandpaper can be used on a variety of surfaces, including wood and metal. When sanding with aluminum oxide, you’ll see that while there are tiny pieces of sandpaper discarding from the sheet, these pieces break off to reveal sharp edges beneath. Most people use aluminum oxide sandpaper for power sanding with a belt sander.
Garnet sandpaper works well on woods that haven’t been finished but it wears down faster than other types of sandpaper. This means you’ll have to use a lot more sandpaper to take away larger amounts of material. One benefit is it can produce a smoother surface than aluminum oxide of the same grit number.
Most automotive sanding occurs with silicon carbide sandpaper. This type of sandpaper can be used wet or dry, and it’s often the wet application that helps body shop workers perfect the paint on the cars they service. Silicon carbide sandpaper takes away material quickly, so it’s not something you’ll want to use with a lot of force—unless you mean it.
The 3M brand is well known across a variety of industries. Like many of its other products, the 3M Sanding Sponge works to achieve the smoothest finish you desire. 3M has been in business since 1902 and is headquartered in Minnesota.
Headquartered in California, Meguiar’s has been in the car care business since 1901. If you’re looking to do any type of automotive sanding, choose a sandpaper from Meguiar’s, like this Meguiar’s K1500 Mirror Glaze Sanding Block. All those scratches will come out looking like they never happened.
Operating since 1987 and headquartered in Texas, Fandeli is quickly becoming a big name in the sandpaper market. Check out its Medium Grit Wood Professional Sandpaper, a key ingredient to the overall finish of any wood project you’re working on.
- $1-$5: Most sandpaper costs around $5. For this amount, you can easily pick up single sheets of various grits, multiple sheets of one grit, or even a variety of grits in one package. Most manufacturers include anywhere from one to five pieces of sandpaper in packages at this price point.
- $5-$20: If you’re looking for uncommon grits (such as anything above 2,000), you’ll likely pay a bit more. Most common grits can be found in multiple packs above $10, so if you’re working on a big project, this is where you’ll get the most value. Sanding blocks and discs are available in this price range as well.
Choosing the right grit for your intended application can be harder than actually sanding the piece. Grits such as 100 and 400 are going to be much harsher than something like 1,500 or 3,000. Harsher grits are best for taking a lot of material off right away, while softer grits in the 1,000s and 2,000s produce a smooth finish.
If you plan on using your sandpaper by hand, size isn’t a huge factor; however, if you are working with a machine or need a specific size of sandpaper, you may require something bigger. Larger size sandpaper sheets aren’t necessarily better than their smaller counterparts. It’s all about the application.
Some sandpapers are meant for any kind of general application; others are not. For the best results, choose a type and grit of sandpaper that’s going to help you achieve the results you’re looking for. For example, there are sandpapers designed especially for wood, metal, and everything in between.
- Form: Depending on your application, you might need to use a different form of sandpaper. For example, many large projects comprised of wooden materials require a power sander, which often uses sanding discs, to execute the sanding process efficiently. Sanding blocks are especially useful in automotive situations where consistency is key. Regular sandpaper sheets? Well, you can use that on just about anything.
- Variety: If you’re not sure what type of grit you want to use or just want to have a few extra sheets on hand just in case, investing in a variety pack can be the way to go. Variety packs allow you to experience and have different grits on hand without having to invest in multiple sheets of each grit. Buying multi-sheet packages of various grits can be a great way to save money.
Best Sandpaper Reviews & Recommendations 2019
Best Overall: 3M Pro-Pak 400 Grit Wetordry Sanding Sheets
We chose the 3M Pro-Pak Wetordry sandpaper as our top pick for the best sandpaper because 3M has always been a trusted name in the industry, whether you work with your hands in the garage, woodshop or anywhere else. Though we focused on the 400 grit variety in this article, 3M offers many other different grits as well.
One of the biggest features we like about the 3M sandpaper is that you can use it in both dry and wet conditions. That means you can really move a lot of material when using it dry, or work carefully and with precision to remove small amounts when wet. 3M offers its sandpaper in large sheets as well, so you can be sure you’re getting your money’s worth. In this pack there are 25 sheets of sandpaper, which makes large jobs that much more achievable. The silicon carbide makeup also aids in precision sanding where you need it most.
Though large sheets of sandpaper can be good in some cases, you may need to cut these sheets down to fit your intended application. This is one drawback we found with 3M’s product, which is also much more expensive than other leading sandpaper manufacturers. It’s arguable whether a brand name will get you better sanding power in the long run. However, it’s easy for nearly anyone of any skill level to benefit from using this 3M sandpaper.
Best Value: 48-Pack Sandpaper Assortment Block
If you thought 36 sheets of various grits of sandpaper were enough, then 48 sheets of similar grits should be plenty to serve you for quite some time. We chose this variety pack of sandpaper because of the sheer volume you get in a number of common grits that can be used in both wet and dry applications.
There are 12 grit levels available in this variety pack: 120, 240, 320, 400, 600, 800, 1,000, 1,200, 1,500, 2,000, 2,500, and 3,000. Each piece measures 9 inches by 3.6 inches, so you can easily cut the pieces to size or even just use them as they are. This variety pack of sandpaper comes with a 48-day money-back guarantee and a two-year warranty that you can take advantage of if you’re not satisfied with the product. You can use this sandpaper on a multitude of materials, from wood and metal to automotive paint.
We did have a few concerns about this variety pack, however. Because of its size, it might be difficult for DIY automotive enthusiasts to find the right backing sponge to hold the sandpaper in place during wet sanding. Depending on your application, you may have to cut the pieces down as well, which could increase your sanding time. All the same, it’s easy for anyone who needs a bit of sandpaper to find value in this product.
Honorable Mention: 5-Inch, 8-Hole Hook and Loop Sanding Discs Assorted Pack
We couldn’t list top sandpapers without including another form this innovative product comes in. For that reason, and many more, we included these sanding discs, which attach to an orbital sander via the hook and loop system. Keep reading to find out more about this type of sandpaper, which has more built into the design than you might think.
Sanding discs attach to an orbital sander and work in circular motions at high speed, so they must have vent holes in order to remove heat and debris. These sanding discs include eight holes so that you can continue sanding without having to stop and clean your surface from the debris you’re removing. If you plan on sanding any large pieces, this pack of 70 discs is a great value. There are 10 pieces each of the following grits: 40, 80, 120, 240, 320, 600, and 800. These sanding discs are made from aluminum oxide, which lasts longer during the sanding process.
A few drawbacks exist with this product. For example, you can only use them in dry conditions, so wet sanding applications will require another product completely. And though there are a variety of grits available, you won’t be able to refine your sanding beyond a coarse 800 grit. There are finer grits available in sanding discs, but they will cost a bit more, especially for assortment packs. With that in mind, however, this sanding disc pack holds great value.
- Wet or dry sandpaper, when used wet, should be kept wet throughout its use. You may have to add more water to the sandpaper as you’re working with it. Warm water is best, as it softens up the paper and allows you to contact the surface with more friction.
- When sanding, cut large sheets of paper down to fit your hand size. This will make it easier for you to handle the sandpaper and achieve a more consistent finish across your piece. You can cut pieces to be square, rectangular, circular, or whatever shape best fits your hand.
- If a smooth, even finish is what you’re looking for, choose a sanding block or sponge. These types of products will allow you to sand across an even surface so that the final product is consistent across the board. You can also purchase sponge pads, which back the sandpaper you’re using to create a similar even finish.
- When sanding, work from low grit to a high grit. That means going from 400 to 1,000 grit sandpaper in steps. This will allow you to achieve a better, smoother finish in the end. Lower numbers mean a larger grit, which will take more material away. The smaller you go, the finer the surface will get.
- Wet or dry sandpaper can be used for wet sanding scratches out of car paint, but be careful. Pressing down too hard or for too long can cause the paint to wear away and expose the primer beneath. Always use a light hand when it comes to wet sanding your vehicle’s paint.
- You can also use sandpaper to clear up your headlights. If you don’t have a clear bra installed on them, you simply sand down the oxidized layers to reveal the clear surface underneath.
- Sanding is essential when it comes to kitchen tools. For example, wooden spoons can’t provide that small taste of whatever we’re cooking if they aren’t sanded to move safely across our lips.
- When sanding, make sure to wear a dust mask and work in a well-ventilated area. Depending on the type of sandpaper you use, you want to make sure you don’t inhale fine particulates, which can cause lung damage and long-term harm to your body.
Q: What does grit size mean?
A: The grit number listed on individual sheets of sandpaper describes the abrasive particles that are located within a certain area. Superfine sandpaper has more particles within a certain area than coarse grit. The larger the grit size, the smaller the particles and the finer a finish you’ll achieve.
Q: Which sandpaper grit should I use on my car to wet sand?
A: Wet sanding the scratches out of your car’s paint can be a great way to save money. You should only use 1,500 grit and up when it comes to automotive paint because that’s what most compounds are rated for.
Q: How do I tell when the sandpaper isn’t working anymore and should be thrown away?
A: Most sandpapers, especially the finer grits, will build up quickly with debris. You’ll experience clogging with fine-grit sandpapers more often than you will with coarser grits. If the sandpaper is no longer pulling away material, you should change to a different section or discard the strip altogether.
Q: What are the benefits of a power sander over hand sanding?
A: Power sanding works best with coarser grits. Orbital sanders are often used in rough sanding, while a hand sander would take hours and hours to be as effective. The paper backing on many circular sandpaper pads is what attaches the sandpaper to the sander, so that’s an easy way to tell which sandpaper types you should buy.
Q: How should I prepare my workspace before sanding?
A: Wet sanding requires less prep than dry sanding. When dry sanding, it’s important to keep your area well-ventilated, and you should wear a mask.
Q: What are the proper sanding techniques?
A: Sanding techniques differ when it comes to hand applications or power tools. If you’re sanding on bare wood, you’ll want to use a different technique than you would with woods that are lacquered or similarly covered. Each application has its own sanding technique.
Q: What are the larger applications of sandpaper and sanding?
A: You can use sandpaper to sand your deck if you plan on refinishing it. Old paint comes off well with sandpaper, so keep some in stock if you’re doing any kind of home improvement. Drywall and fiberglass can be sanded as well.
We chose the 3M Pro-Pak 400 Grit Wetordry Sanding Sheets for the best sandpaper overall. Trust the 3M name to provide you effective sanding power in various grits.
Our value pick for the best sandpaper is the 48-Pack Sandpaper Assortment Block. It’s a great price for what you get.