Reviews

The Best Electric Sanders: Smooth and Finish Surfaces

Save your palms with the proper power tool.

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BY Heather Fishel / LAST UPDATED ON July 19, 2021

Some folks thoroughly enjoy sanding while others despise it. It’s a time-consuming project that honestly does gauge an individual’s level of commitment to a project and their attention to detail. But that doesn’t mean power tools can’t aid the process. Don’t get me wrong, electric sanders can be overkill at times, but they can effectively reduce the amount of time you spend putting the finishing touches on some things.

 

But they aren’t all the same. There’s a lot to consider when purchasing an electric sander. The materials you are sanding, the amount of room you have to work with, and how much money you have to spend all come into play. Throw in all the options on the market, and you’ve got yourself a real mess to sort through. That said, our goal is to help you find out which is best for you so you can finally wrap things up.

Best Overall
Bauer Random Orbital Palm Sander
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Summary
Summary

A compact yet highly efficient palm sander that can handle heavy-duty use while creating a swirl-free finish that’s sure to impress.

Pros
Pros
  • Uses random orbital sanding action with a 3/32-inch orbit
  • Choose from six variable speed options
  • Delivers up to 13,000 OPM
Cons
Cons
  • Small in size and not ideal for large sanding projects
  • Best for light-duty use
Best Overall
Bauer Random Orbital Palm Sander
Best Value
WEN 6313 Electric 1/3 Sheet Sander
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Summary
Summary

Extremely affordable sander with a respectable performance for the price. The 1/3-sheet pad makes it great for a variety of projects.

Pros
Pros
  • Incredible price
  • Respectable performance
  • Lightweight design
  • Multiple mounting types
Cons
Cons
  • Retention clips are subpar
Best Value
WEN 6313 Electric 1/3 Sheet Sander
Honorable Mention
DeWalt 20V MAX Orbital Sander Kit
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Summary
Summary

Cordless random orbital sander perfect for anyone of any trade. This tool offers superior performance and is part of the 20V Max lineup.

Pros
Pros
  • Compact and easy to handle
  • Brushless motor offers superior performance
  • Comes with a battery and charger
Cons
Cons
  • Premium price tag
Honorable Mention
DeWalt 20V MAX Orbital Sander Kit
Electric Sander Close Up
Amazon

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Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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Benefits of Electric Sanders

  • Easy to use. If you’ve ever tried to sand a large item by hand or attempted to tackle one big finishing project, you know just how awful — and tedious — it can be to do by hand with pieces of sandpaper. An electric sander takes all of the hard work out of this process. Powered by electricity and a speedy motor, an electric sander can work almost effortlessly. All you need to do is choose the specific settings, put the sander onto your material, and maneuver it wherever it’s needed.
  • Quick and efficient. An electric sander works far faster and more efficiently than you ever could by hand. These power tools are true machines when they get to work, sanding at slow to high speeds so finishing work is done in less time. You can slash your work time and speed up your project by employing an electric sander instead of your own two hands.
  • Improves technique. Sure, wielding sandpaper isn’t the hardest job in the world. But with an electric sander, you don’t have to worry whether you’re smoothing and finishing flawlessly. The power tool will take care of the technique for you — and it’ll offer even better results. Electric sanders can offer enhanced results and finishing techniques because they’re specially designed to create professional-level end results.
  • Eliminates fatigue. Forget about tired hands and wrists. If you have an electric sander, you can essentially eliminate fatigue altogether when you need to sand down material. Powered by their strong electric motors, these power tools can handle all of the movement and vibrations without requiring you to put in literal elbow grease that exhausts you. The sander will take it all on without any fatigue at all.
  • Limits hand injuries. While power tools can still be dangerous if they aren’t used properly and with safety in mind, an electric sander can reduce your risk for potential hand injuries. You won’t have to come into direct contact with the sanding process, limiting your odds of developing abrasions, blisters, or even cuts. As long as you’re using your electric sander properly, you can keep yourself out of the fray.

Types of Electric Sanders

Palm Sander

Palm sanders are medium in size and can have either a square or rectangular pad. It functions by throwing the pad in a small circle, and that is why it is also known as an orbital sander. This type of sander is excellent for a medium workpiece because they are easy to handle and can quickly work in reasonably sized work areas. They are also more affordable than some other options. But keep in mind that their motion does leave behind a considerable amount of marks and could be laborious to use on large workpieces.

Random Orbital

Random Orbital Sanders typically feature a round sanding pad, which is the first thing that differentiates them from other options. They are also relatively a bit larger and are best for working with large workpieces than most alternatives. They function by moving the pad in two circles. The pad travels along the path of a large circle but continuously circles as it does so. This motion removes material quickly while reducing the number of marks it leaves behind. They are typically the most expensive option but are a favorite across all industries because of their function. You may be able to use an orbital sander for polishing, but for the best results, you should use a Car Buffer Polisher.

Detail

A detail sander, sometimes known as a mouse or corner sander, gets its name because you use it to give a workpiece the finishing touches larger sanders can. They are a handheld tool with a triangular pad that allows you to reach into tight spaces or corners and touch them up.

Oscillating Multi-Tool

In place of a dedicated detail sander, you might use an oscillating multi-tool. As a sander, it works to achieve the same purpose of sanding in corners or tight spaces. The primary difference is that this type of tool features an interchangeable head that you can attach blades to.

Belt Sander

A belt sander does not vibrate, oscillate, or orbit like other options. Instead, it uses two motorized drums that cycle a loop of sandpaper to smooth or strip surfaces. They come in a variety of sizes but serve a different function than other models we’re looking at. In most cases, you’ll use a belt sander in the early stages of a project to give the workpiece shape. For example, you might use one after a rough cut to finalize the shape you need the object to take.

Top Brands

DeWalt

DeWalt got its start in 1922 when Raymond DeWalt developed the first woodworking machine to boost productivity. It’s no surprise that a start like this leads to them becoming an absolute juggernaut in the segment. Today, the company works out of Baltimore, Maryland, producing tools such as the DeWalt 1/4 Sheet Palm Grip Sander

Black+Decker

In Baltimore, Md., Duncan Black and Alfonzo Decker set up shop to develop the world’s first portable power tool in 1912. The Stanley Black+Decker group is headquartered in New Britain, Conn., and serves the industry with over 175 years of experience. That’s why it can produce items on our list, such as the Black+Decker Mouse Detail Sander

Wen

Based in Elgin, Ill., Wen has been hard at work since 1951. The brand serves many industries but is a favorite among the DIY crowd and hobbyists because they provide quality tools at relatively low prices. The WEN 6377 Variable Speed 5-Amp Dual-Head Drywall Sander is one of the few to make our list. 

Electric Sander Pricing

  • Under $50: In general, the tools in this range are budget-oriented tools that best suit non-professionals well. They may not fare well during daily use but are great for intermittent projects.  
  • $50 to $100: In this range, you can expect to find a blend of budget-level and professional-grade sanders. The quality of the tool and the type of sander influence price directly.  
  • $100 and up: This price range is typically reserved for top-quality options. Cordless models and random orbital sanders are predominant.

Key Features

Operation Type

The operation of a sander is the first thing to take into consideration. This is something you can balance with the surface area you are working with and the medium. Are you doing bodywork on your car? Fabricating? Building a shelf?

In most cases, you’ll need two sanders, either a random orbital or palm sander for the majority of the project, and a detail sander for tight spots.

Corded or Cordless

You can choose to buy either a corded or cordless electric sander. Corded electric sanders will never run out of power. They do have to be plugged into an electrical outlet in order to operate, but you never have to worry about recharging batteries or running out of power in the middle of a task. However, you are limited in terms of how far away from an outlet you can work. A cordless electric sander offers more freedom and flexibility, as you can literally work anywhere. But these tools do have limited power sources, which means you always need to carry your charger.

When it comes to weight and maneuverability, the two tool styles are about the same. A corded model may increase drag because you’re tied to an outlet. But it’s up to you to decide which feature you like best.

Power Level

Different electric sanders offer different amounts of power. Regardless of the power source (corded or cordless), an individual sander’s amps and motor will determine just how much power you can get. If you plan on working on large, heavy-duty or heavy-use projects, a more powerful sander will help you work more efficiently. However, if your sanding work is usually pretty light or occasional, you may not need as much power. Think about the toughness and frequency of use to decide how much power and how many amps are best for you.

Vibration Control

Here’s a feature you wouldn’t think to consider if you’re used to using regular old sandpaper. Electric sanders vibrate once they’re turned on and in action. While that might not seem like a big deal, it can lead to hand fatigue while you wield the sander, and potentially increase the risk of injuries. A lot of vibration makes these power tools more challenging to hold onto and control. Look instead for lower vibration levels, or even models that offer vibration control features or functionality. These will give you the best control, the most comfort, and the highest safety.

Contact Area

Sanders don’t always have the same pad size to work with. Some are much larger than others to make quick work of vast surface areas, and others are smaller for more detail-oriented work. This is another thing you need to balance with the type of project you are doing and how much room you have to work with.

Overall Size

Take the time to pick a sander that you can handle comfortably. You already know that I’m going to say that you need to balance this with the work as well. But, don’t write off how it feels in your hand. You want to make sure you can manage the machine in any position for a considerable period.

If you’re working in tight spaces, you might want something as compact as possible. Or if you’re working on a large surface, grabbing the biggest model might not be the best choice if it feels clumsy or awkward.

Other Considerations

  • Hand Grip. You need an electric sander that you can easily and comfortably hang onto. A good, well-cushioned, and controllable hand grip makes a world of difference in how easy your sander is to operate. A good grip ensures you can stay safe and in control. However, a soft grip also keeps you comfortable despite the vibrations the sander creates. Look for a soft, cushioned hand grip on any type of electric sander.
  • Dust Collection. When you’re sanding, a lot of dust is created — but a good electric sander can take care of that mess for you. A sander with a dust collection feature, like a built-in dust bag or an external dust collection system, is especially handy. It’ll help you keep your workspace clean while you sand, and it can also reduce the amount of dust you’re breathing in as you finish wood. Consider the dust collection features of any electric sander for a bit of added convenience.
  • Variable Speed Controls. Variable speed controls are a must-have with any electric sander. It allows you to set the speed at which your sander operates, so you can work slowly when you need more control or turn up the speed if you’re looking for a quick polish. The more variable speed options you have in an electric sander, the more customization you can achieve.

Best Electric Sanders Reviews & Recommendations 2021

Best Overall
Bauer Random Orbital Palm Sander

The Bauer Random Orbital Palm Sander might seem small at first glance, but this little electric sander is no slouch. In fact, it’s our favorite product — and it won our attention with its power, orbits per minute, and comfortable grip.


This compact electric sander features a 5-inch sanding surface that uses random orbital sanding action that moves 3/32 inches. It’s powered by a 2.8-amp motor, and it can deliver up to 13,000 orbits per minute. That creates an impressively smooth and swirl-free finish no matter what you’re sanding. The sander’s motor is even fan-cooled to ensure it can work at high speeds without overheating. And you’ll be able to choose just the right sanding power and speed thanks to variable six-speed control.


While you get to work with this sander, you’ll stay comfortable despite any vibrations. The cushy and grippy rubber palm grip on the power tool is ergonomic and easy to work with even for hours at a time.

Best Value
WEN 6313 Electric 1/3 Sheet Sander

The low price and fantastic design features of this WEN sander make it hard to beat, at least in terms of value. This 1/3-sheet sander is an excellent all-around choice for a wide range of DIY projects. One thing we love is the inclusion of retention springs and a hook-and-loop system. This allows you to use any sheet-type sanding medium with the sander, giving you more bang for your buck. The 1.2-amp motor may not be the most powerful, but it still runs the pad at 12,000-RPM without resistance. It’s incredibly lightweight at just three pounds and uses corded power to retain easy handling. Of course, it also comes with a dust bag to keep you and the workpiece clean as well.


Unfortunately, users indicate that the hook-and-loop system is a far better fastening solution than the retention clips. That means the best results are limited to use with hard-to-find and costly sandpaper.

Premium Pick
DeWalt 20V MAX Orbital Sander Kit

Random orbital sanders typically generate higher price tags, so you should squirrel away a few extra dollars and invest in this bad boy. DeWalt’s second entry to our list is a cordless random orbital sander that includes a nice storage bag, a battery, and a battery charger. With its 20V MAX system, performance is going to be hard to beat in terms of electrical sanders—even if it uses a corded power supply. And though it’s more expensive than other options, maintenance is simple with a replaceable pad and a brushless motor. Not only that, the brushless motor boasts better efficiency and performance, even during prolonged periods of use. We also appreciate the compact design that provides improvements in control and user experience.  


Yes, it does have a premium price tag, but this tool is worth the money. This is especially true if you need a tool you can depend on for regular use in a professional industry.

Honorable Mention
Hyper Tough 1/4 Sheet Palm Sander

If you want an electric sander that’s both efficient and easy to clean up, you’ll be thrilled by the Hyper Tough 1/4 Sheet Palm Sander. This handheld power tool is designed to tackle all kinds of sanding and finishing projects, all while limiting messy dust that you’ll have to clean up after your work is done.


This electric sander is powered by a 2-amp motor, with a 6-foot cord and a total weight of 3.7 pounds. It’s light and easy to hold — a soft, cushioned, and overmolded grip gives you an ergonomic place to hang on while you maneuver it. It also features a soft base that allows you to apply light pressure for consistent results with little vibration. But perhaps the best feature is the attached high-performance dust collection bag. You can pick up dust while you sand, and the dust-resistant on/off switch will keep working even in the face of a whole lot of sawdust. 


The only real drawback to this powerful palm sander is its power cord. You’ll have to work within 6 feet of an electrical outlet, so be prepared for a slight limitation there.

Best Detail Sander
Black+Decker Mouse Detail Sander

Black+Decker takes another spot on our list with this detail, or “mouse,” sander. It includes a few implements that make it especially useful for detailed work or use in tight spaces, which is why we like it. On the surface, you’ll notice that it has a tight and compact design, which is excellent, but it is something to expect. What gives it a leg up is the inclusion of the finger attachment and sanding pad that reach around the object into even tighter spaces than the base system can. That means it reduces even more time you need to spend working surfaces that are hard to reach. It also has a three-position grip that makes it comfortable to use and easy to handle in any space.


This tool is notoriously delicate, and you need to be careful when using it. Otherwise, the finger attachments and dust collector are likely to break off.

Honorable Mention
Ingersoll Rand Vacuum-Ready Random Orbital Sander

Not all electric sanders are able to handle wood, metal, and other materials flawlessly — but with the Ingersoll Rand Vacuum-Ready Random Orbital Sander, you can tackle a whole lot of different projects. This sander is a standout when it comes to woodworking and working on your car’s exterior. No matter what kind of material you’re putting this power tool on, it will create a swirl-free finish that looks fantastic.


This electric sander is a great pick if you want premium results and a versatile machine. It weighs 3 pounds and features a 6-inch sanding pad, with a maximum speed of 10,000 RPMs produced by the 1/5 horsepower motor. A contoured hand grip keeps you in charge of the sander’s direction, and the tool generates low vibrations while it operates at any speed. As an added bonus, this random orbital sander comes with a 360-degree swivel vacuum adapter so you can have total freedom of movement while you work.

Honorable Mention
Klutch Air Orbital Sander

Sanding doesn’t have to be uncomfortable or challenging work, especially if you have the Klutch Air Orbital Sander. Innovative in both its ergonomic shape and its innovative features, this power tool is as comfortable to work with as it is easy to operate. Great for wood and auto bodywork, this versatile sander is built for the long haul, too.


With this electric sander, you’ll have a rubber-coating handgrip that prevents slipping and offers a little insulation in cold weather. The specially molded shape is easy to maneuver, and overall the sander is lightweight and comfortable. Its low vibration keeps your hand nicely protected from fatigue — and that same low vibration operation also results in swirl-free finishes. A five-blade rotor and 10,000 RPM max variable speed give you total control over the final results. Your sander will even be protected from the inevitable dust and residue thanks to its anti-dust protection system that insulates the motor and bearings.

Honorable Mention
Warrior Palm Detail Sander

Here’s a sander that’s true to its name — the Warrior Palm Detail Sander is a true warrior when it comes to sanding projects. It’s powerful, with up to 12,500 orbits per minute, and it can tackle everything from detail work to paint removal jobs, giving you fantastic versatility right underneath the palm of your hand.


With this electric sander, you’ll be able to finish wood, sand smooth surfaces, and even remove old paint in no time at all. It’s compact in size so that you can maneuver over spaces large and small, wide and narrow. It features a hook-and-loop sandpaper attachment, a 5-foot 11-inch power cord, and an overall size of 5.25 x 7 x 3.75 inches. The sander comes equipped with a triangle pad that’s perfect for corners and other tight spots. And when it’s time to clean up, you’ll love the fact that this power tool includes an easy-to-clean dust bag that picks up sawdust while you work.

Honorable Mention
WEN 6377 Variable Speed 5-Amp Dual-Head Drywall Sander

WEN is dominating our list with affordable sanders, and they make one more entry with this piece of equipment. Unlike any of our other picks, this sander has a specific purpose in mind. That is to give you enough reach to sand high walls without overextending yourself. The reach is great for safety as it prevents you from leaning or extending yourself on a ladder if you even need one at all. Also, unlike the others, this sander has a dual-head design. The circular head is excellent for working over broad areas, and the triangular head reaches deep into corners. Yes, dust may be an issue, but this tool keeps control of the built-in vacuum attachment system. No additional investments are necessary, so long as you have a shop vac.


That said, the vacuum system isn’t going to collect all of the dust on account of the design. This is something you need to be aware of when you start using the tool above your head.

Honorable Mention
Black+Decker 20V MAX Random Orbit Sander

Black+Decker is back with the final entry to our list. And don’t worry, it’s a great one. This is an excellent random orbital sander for the DIY crowd and hobbyists that don’t have the budget to invest hundreds of dollars into a single tool. As if that isn’t good enough, the fact that it’s a cordless model should undoubtedly tickle your fancy. Being part of the Black+Decker 20V Max family, the battery is compatible with other tools in the line. And yes, the battery and battery charger are also part of the deal, so you don’t need to worry about spending any more money. This random orbital sander does offer respectable performance with operational speeds of 12,000 OPM when free of load, but it’s 30 percent smaller than the leading competitor.


Battery life and performance do prevent this model from ranking among premium offerings. However, when it lists for nearly 1/4 of the price, we really can’t complain.

Tips

  • All sanders achieve similar goals but are not all the same. Always be sure to pick the right tool for the job. 
  • Always keep the dimensions in mind. The size of the sanding pad and the overall size of the tool determine how it performs and what you can use it for. 
  • As always, a power tool isn’t still the best option. Be mindful of the fact that sanders remove material rapidly, which may cause irreversible damage. 

FAQs

Q. Is an orbital sander better than a sheet sander?

Yes and no. An orbital sander does offer more versatility as you can safely use it for a variety of tasks. However, the discs are more costly, and the orbital sander generally needs more room to work effectively.

Q. What sander is best for removing paint?

That depends on the medium you are working with and how much space you have to work with. For removing paint from vehicles, you’ll probably have the best experience with a random orbital sander or a belt sander in some instances. 

Q. What's the difference between an orbital sander and a palm sander?

A palm sander is just an electric sander you can use with a single hand. Keep in mind that most sanders use an orbital motion regardless of the size. 

Q. What is the best electric sander for wood?

The Bauer Random Orbital Palm Sander, our top pick, is an electric sander that’ll work wonderfully for wood. If you’re unsure which one of these power tools to pick, you can’t go wrong with this reasonably priced, highly effective, and easy-to-use model that’ll make quick work of wood sanding and finishing.

Final Thoughts

To recap, the Bauer Random Orbital Palm Sander takes our top spot, and the WEN 6313 Electric 1/3 Sheet Sander is our pick for Best Value. Maybe one of them is the right type of sander for your next project.