What grit of sandpaper works best on metal? - Answers & Solutions  

What grit of sandpaper works best on metal?

It is simple to scratch metal if you don’t choose the correct grit and sandpaper when working with it. Exactly what kind of sandpaper works best on metal?

When sanding metal, 320-grit sandpaper made of aluminium oxide or silicon carbide is preferred. Coarser grain sandpaper is ideal for removing rust and preparing metal for priming. Fine-grit sandpaper works well for polishing metal to a smooth finish.

Links to the many sandpapers I recommend for optimal results have been embedded throughout this post for your convenience.

Which Sandpaper Is Ideal for Metal?

Metal surfaces need to have grime, rust, and old paints sanded away before they can be painted. There is a wide variety of sandpaper grits available, from coarse to fine, for various degrees of smoothing. The coarser the sandpaper and the greater the amount of material removed with each pass, the lower the grit value.

Since different metals require different grit levels, it’s preferable to buy a box that includes a wide range of grit sizes.

This link will open a new browser window. To remove rust and get the surface ready for priming, use sandpaper with coarse 220 grit particles.

Granular abrasives with a grain number below 100 can cause significant scratching, but they create an excellent base for priming.

While the final painting surface using a 1000 grit sandpaper is smoother, it will require more sanding passes to remove defects. Except when applying a clear coat, grit levels higher than 1000 are rarely used.

Sandpaper made of aluminium oxide and silicon carbide

Metalworkers typically use aluminium oxide (Al2O3) or silicon carbide sandpapers (SiC). Silicon and aluminium oxide sandpapers are ideal for finishing the polishing process on steel and iron, as well as other harder metals.

Grinder discs and electric sander pads made of aluminium oxide perform admirably. The hardest and best sandpapers for metal work are brown aluminium oxide varieties. With each passing, the crystals that make up the grit are broken down to form a sharper new layer.

Sanding with silicon carbide is the best way to get a surface smooth and ready for painting. Silicon carbide has a more uniform grain when sanded than aluminium oxide thanks to its friable covering. For this reason, sanding with silicon carbide is best done by hand, as it quickly dulls sanding discs and belts.

Steel Rust Sandpaper

The aggressiveness required to remove rust from aluminium oxide sandpaper is not enough to damage the sandpaper itself, making it the ideal sandpaper for this purpose. Although more expensive than silicon carbide, this aluminium compound allows for rapid rust removal when used in conjunction with sanding discs and belts.

The standard sandpaper used at the outset is 320 grit aluminium oxide.

However, the extent of the damage caused by the rust on the metal’s surface must be taken into account. The next step up in polishing is to use a finer grit paper, preferably 1000 grit or higher. A couple passes with 600 grit sandpaper should be all that’s needed to prepare the metal for priming.

One safety precaution to take when sanding metal is to always use goggles and a face shield. The resulting airborne rust and grit particles can irritate the respiratory system and cause eye irritation.

How do you sand metal, and what do you use?

Sanding blocks are convenient for little, short prep jobs, but they aren’t up to the task of removing rust from big areas. Sanding blocks, on the other hand, provide for a degree of precision that electric sanders simply can’t match.

The fastest technique to get rid of rust on metal is with gritted power tools. The time required to remove rust can be drastically reduced by using one of the several available discs, belts, or sandpapers.

What Is the Best Method of Sanding Metal

In order to determine which sanding tool is ideal for this job, you must know the surface’s dimensions and orientation. Small grinding tools are required to get into tight corners. A grinder or disc attachment for a power drill would be more suitable industrial tools for cutting through box tubes and metal plates.

By Hand

Sanding blocks are the most basic sanding tool. The block provides a flat surface for pressing the sandpaper against the metal, which opens in a new tab. For tight spaces and awkward angles, sanding blocks are great, but for deep rust, they’ll take too long.

Sanding blocks are inexpensive, and the same sandpaper that you would use if you were sanding by hand may be used with a sanding block. Hand sanding with grits of sandpaper coarser than 320 grit is often sufficient to prepare metal for painting.

Scratch marks and minor flaws can be removed by hand using wet sandpaper to achieve a polished appearance. To people who are not experienced with using power tools, hand sanding is a safer alternative for removing rust from metal.

Orbital Sander

Random orbital sandingOpens in a new window. aids in avoiding sanding lines and severe scratches. Routinely, rust and old paint can be removed using grits lower than 320 on orbital sanders.

These sanders produce more dust than hand sanding, but you can get the job done much more quickly with one of these machines. These days, orbital sanders can be outfitted with vacuum attachments to collect dust before it spreads into the air.

Band Sander

Although a belt sanderOpens in a new tab. may be a challenge when working with metal, these are great for removing paint and rust. Box steel and the tight confines of joints are perfect for the use of small, narrow band sanders. Large, flat metal surfaces are ideal for the dust-generating capabilities of wide-band sanders.

Band sanders are notoriously tricky to handle, and their sandpaper is notoriously flimsy. Sandpapers designed for use in sanding machines are the most expensive option, but they provide the best results in the least amount of time.


Fast and efficient removal of rust from metal can be achieved with coarse grit grinding discsOpens in a new tab. Though the discs are cheap, the grit is typically lower than 100. Priming and painting most metal items will hide any disc scratches.

Nothing beats the effectiveness of a grinding wheel for smoothing out rough welds. Light rust and old paint can be easily removed with a single pass of a grinder, allowing you to refinish the surface.

In order to protect yourself from being exposed to the rust and dust that will be kicked up by a grinder, it is recommended that you operate the instrument outside while wearing a mask and goggles. One of the more risky ways to sand is with a grinder because it can easily leap out of your grasp.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do You Need Special Sandpaper for Metal or Can Regular Sandpaper Be Used?

In fact, the most popular varieties of sandpaper are also the most effective ones for use on metal. Although it’s important to build up your resolve gradually. Standard, paper-backed sandpapers shred more easily than their cloth-backed metalworking counterparts.

To wet sand or not to wet sand metal?

Preparing the metal bodywork of your car for painting requires wet sanding. You may get a flawless mirror finish by wet sanding with a grit of 1000 or higher, leaving the surface perfectly smooth and level for the paint to cure on.

Is Sanding Necessary When Working with Aluminum?

Despite continuing to fade as it oxidises, aluminium may be polished to a mirror finish if sanded with a fine enough grit. A mirror finish can be achieved with a grit of 5000, but a polishing chemical will be required to keep it from becoming dull.

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