Best sandpapers for wood and paint removal 

7 Sep

Best sandpapers for wood and paint removal 

Best sandpaper to remove old paint from wooden windows and doors 

When it comes to removing old paint from windows during sash window restoration, the type of sandpaper you use can make all the difference.

The key is using the right grit and abrasive material to do the job efficiently without damaging the underlying wood or spending days on this task.

Here are some tips for choosing the best sandpaper for paint removal on windows and doors, along with a comprehensive guide that will make you an expert sandpaper buyer.

removing paint using sandpaper

Types of Sandpaper

Sandpaper is available in a variety of types, distinguished by grit size, abrasive material, backing material, and sheet shape.

Different grit types for speed and finishes: Coarse, Medium, Fine Grain sandpapers

For removing paint, you’ll want to start with a relatively coarse grit sandpaper.

A P60-P80 grit is a good starting point as it will quickly remove the top layers of paint without gouging into the wood.

After the bulk of the paint is removed, switch to a P100-120 grit for smoother sanding before finishing with a fine P150-220 grit.

Different grit types of sandpaper
Grit LevelDescriptionGrit RangeParticle Size (Microns)Uses
Coarse GritCoarse grit sandpapers have a lower grit number and larger abrasive particles.Typically between 40 to 60.425 to 250 micronsRemoving material quickly. 
Stripping old paint or varnish from the wood surface.
Smoothing rough surfaces.
Shaping wood or other materials.
Medium GritMedium grit sandpapers fall in the mid-range of grit numbers and have moderately sized abrasive particles.Typically between 80 to 120.190 to 125 micronsFurther smoothing surfaces after using coarse grit.
Preparing surfaces for painting or finishing.
Removing smaller imperfections.
Fine GritFine-grit sandpapers have a higher grit number and smaller abrasive particles.Typically between 150 to 220 and above.100 to 68 microns (and finer for grits above 220)Final smoothing before applying a finish.
Sanding between coats of paint or finish.
Polishing surfaces to a high sheen.

Coarse Grit Sandpaper

Coarse grit sandpaper refers to abrasive paper with a relatively low grit number, usually ranging from P40 to P60. The lower grit number indicates larger abrasive particles.

Coarse Grit Sandpaper

Key features of coarse sandpapers:

  • Large Abrasive – The large grit size removes material rapidly with deep scratches. Particles are typically between 425 and 710 microns.
  • High Stock Removal – The large abrasives make coarse grit paper ideal for stripping finishes, smoothing rough surfaces and rapid shaping or leveling of wood and metal.
  • Paint/Varnish Removal – The abrasive cuts aggressively through top layers, quickly removing old paints or varnishes.
  • Surface Smoothing – Although scratches will be deep, coarse paper can level uneven surfaces as a first step before finer grits.
  • Faster Shaping – For major material removal when shaping objects, coarse grits efficiently remove wood or metal with less wear on sandpaper.
  • Soft Materials – Coarse paper should only be used on hard surfaces. It would damage soft woods, plastics or composites.

Coarse sandpaper is an aggressive abrasive designed for heavy stock removal where surface finish is not a priority. It provides fast smoothing, shaping and finish removal.

Best disk sandpaper for wood 

The Sanding Discs 125mm 8 Hole is a premium quality sandpaper designed specifically for woodworking and automotive applications. With its unique features and high-grade materials, it stands out as a top choice for professionals and DIY enthusiasts alike.

Reasons Why It’s the Best for Wood:

  1. Variety of Grits: The set comes with a range of grits from 40 to 1000, allowing users to choose the perfect coarseness for their specific woodworking project.
  2. Efficient Dust Removal: The 8-hole design ensures efficient dust extraction, keeping the work surface clean and extending the life of the sandpaper.
  3. Versatility: Apart from woodworking, it’s also suitable for automotive applications, making it a versatile choice for various sanding needs.
  4. Hook and Loop Backing: This feature ensures easy and quick attachment to orbital sanders, enhancing the user’s convenience.

Best sheet sandpaper for wood for hand use – Prodec Craftsman Green Aluminium Oxide Sandpaper

The Prodec Craftsman Green Aluminium Oxide Sandpaper stands out as a premium quality abrasive specifically engineered for woodworking applications.

Prodec Craftsman Green Aluminium Oxide Sandpaper
Best sheet sandpaper for wood
  • Uniquely Formulated – The green aluminium oxide formula is custom-designed to have the ideal hardness, fracture resistance and sharpness for sanding all types of wood.
  • Precision-Graded Grains – Prodec Calibrates the grit sizes for consistent coarseness across the abrasive surface and between sheets. This prevents uneven scratches.
  • Durable Cloth Backing – The sandpaper uses a durable closed-coat cloth backing that prevents premature wear. The stiffness helps resist tearing on power tools.
  • Range of Grits – Grits from P60 to P600 are available for everything from paint/finish removal to final finish sanding.

Medium Grit Sandpaper

Medium-grit sandpaper has a mid-range abrasive size that provides a balance of stock removal and smoother finishing.

Medium Grit Sandpaper

Typical features:

  • Moderate Abrasive Size – Grit sizes generally range from P80 to P120. Particle size is 180 to 425 microns.
  • Light Stock Removal – Removes material moderately without large scratches. Aggressive enough for paint/finish removal.
  • Smoothing – Great for continuing to smooth and flatten surfaces after initial sanding with coarse paper.
  • Remove Minor Imperfections – Works well for taking down small ridges, glue marks, or raised grain.
  • Prepping for Finishing – Leaves a properly prepared surface for painting, staining, and varnishing by smoothing without deep scratches.
  • Avoid Over-Sanding – Finer grits would risk over-sanding and uneven surfaces. Medium grit removes enough material without being too aggressive.
  • Soft/Hard Materials – Suitable for most wood types as well as metal, fiberglass, and plastics.

With the right blend of abrasion and smoothing, medium sandpapers are versatile for most smoothing, surface prep and finishing steps.

Fine Grit Sandpaper to achieve a smooth surface

Fine sandpaper grit refers to abrasive paper with a high grit number usually ranging from P150 to P400 and higher. The higher number denotes smaller abrasive particles. This grit is good for sanding wood fillers.

Fine Grit Sandpaper

Properties of fine sandpapers:

  • Small Abrasives – Particles typically range from 105 down to 53 microns for very fine grits. This leaves a smooth scratch pattern.
  • Finish Smoothing – Removes only tiny amounts of material for the final smoothing before finish application.
  • Light Scratches – The small grains leave micro-scratches not visible to the eye for a glass-smooth finish.
  • Finish Prep – Excellent as the last step in preparing wood for staining, painting, varnishing or other finishing.
  • Between Coats – Used to lightly sand between coats of finish to de-nib and smooth.
  • Polishing – With very high grits, can be used to polish metal, fiberglass, paint and clear finishes to a mirror-like luster.
  • Avoid Over-Sanding – Aggressive pressure can damage surfaces as very little material is removed. A light touch is best with fine paper.

Fine sandpapers provide the last step in smoothing prior to finishing or polish already finished surfaces without removing significant material. They are essential for surface prep.

Types of Abrasive

The particles that give sandpaper its abrasive quality are made from different materials, each with its own characteristics.

Common abrasives used in sandpaper include:

Ceramic sandpaper

Ceramic sandpaper is a type of sandpaper made with ceramic alumina abrasive grains that have been heated and fused together into hard, sharp points.

The ceramic alumina grains are highly resistant to fracturing or dulling during use. This makes ceramic sandpaper extremely long-lasting compared to other abrasive types.

Ceramic sandpaper

High Heat Tolerance – Ceramic alumina can withstand very high temperatures generated during aggressive sanding without degrading. This makes it well-suited for high-pressure and high-speed sanding applications.

Hard Material Removal – The sharp ceramic grains efficiently remove hard materials like paint, varnish, metal and hardwoods. The durability allows fast stock removal.

Aluminium oxide sandpaper

Aluminium oxide is one of the most common abrasives. It is harder than other materials like silicon carbide while still being affordable.

The aluminium oxide is manufactured by refining bauxite ores into a fine powder with very hard, angular grains. 


Garnet is a natural abrasive mined from stones. It is relatively soft and the grains fracture to reveal new sharp edges.

This helps prevent clogging of the sandpaper. Garnet is an excellent abrasive for finishing work and smoothing surfaces. It leaves a fine scratch pattern. The softness makes it less ideal for bulk removal. 

Types of Backings

In addition to the grit and abrasive material, the backing material of sandpaper also makes a difference in performance.

Sandpaper comes with a variety of backing types, each with its own properties and ideal uses. Selecting the right backing is important to get the most efficient sanding action for your particular project.

The main options for sandpaper backings are:

Types of sandpaper backing

Paper backing

Traditional paper backing is suitable for most sanding applications. It’s flexible and affordable. The main downside is that paper sandpaper can wear out faster than other materials when exposed to water.

paper backing sandpaper

Hook and Loop Sandpaper Backing

Hook and loop-backed sandpaper contain tiny hooks and loops on the backside of the abrasive material that allows the sheets to be securely fastened to a compatible sanding pad.

Hook and Loop backing sandpaper

Key product features include:

  • Quick Changes – Hook and loop sheets can be rapidly removed and replaced on the pad, allowing easy grit changes.
  • Secure Gripping – The hooks and loops interlock tightly to prevent slippage during use.
  • Compatible Pads – Hook and loop discs require sanding pads with the mating hook/loop surface to grip properly.
  • No Adhesive – Unlike pressure sensitive adhesive, hook and loop is reusable and leaves no sticky residue.
  • Dust Access – On perforated pads, the mechanical bond still allows dust extraction through holes.
  • Power Sanding – Most suited to power sanders where frequent grit changes are beneficial.

The main advantage of hook and loop backing is quick, easy grit changes. It offers a secure mechanical attachment without messy adhesive.

Cloth backing

Cloth-backed sandpaper is very durable and resistant to tearing. It’s a good choice for extensive sanding jobs.

The stiff cloth backing allows it to be made into sanding disks for use with power sanders. The durability of cloth makes it well-suited for this high-speed application.

Cloth backing sandpaper
Cloth backing

The downside is that the stiff cloth backing makes it a bit harder to sand contoured surfaces smoothly by hand.

Sponge backing

Sponge-backed sandpaper is flexible and conforms well to curved surfaces like spindles and moulding. It can be a good option for detail sanding. The soft sponge wears down faster than other materials.

Sponge backing sandpaper

Mesh backing

Mesh or net backing allows fine dust to fall through the holes so the abrasive doesn’t clog as quickly. This is ideal for power sanders. Mesh paper is very durable but less flexible.

Mesh backing sandpaper

Best wood sanding combo – Sandpaper discs + orbital sander like Festool 

When it comes to paint removal, sanding discs used with the best orbital sander like Festool can be the most efficient combination. The circular sanding discs allow the orbital sander to cover a larger surface area compared to sheets or belts.

The constant motion of the orbital sander prevents the abrasive from digging into the wood while still removing paint and varnish effectively.

Using progressively finer grit discs, starting with a coarse P80 and working up to a P220, allows rapid removal of old paint and varnish while smoothing the surface.

Best wood sanding combo

The orbital sander’s dust collection system also helps keep the sanding surface clear of debris for maximum efficiency.

With the right technique, orbital sanders and quality sanding discs can strip paint quickly without gouging the underlying wood. 

Step-by-step guide for using sandpaper grits to remove paint from wooden windows

Here is a step-by-step guide for using sandpaper grits to remove paint from wooden windows:

1. Start with coarse-grit sandpaper, such as 60-80 grit, to rapidly remove the top layers of paint and get down to the bare wood. Use firm pressure in the direction of the wood grain.

2. Once the top coat is removed, switch to a medium 80-100 grit paper to smooth away the remaining paint layers and any roughness. Use lighter pressure and sand diagonally across the wood.

3. When you’ve exposed the bare wood, continue smoothing with a fine 100-120 grit paper using light pressure. This will remove scratches and polish the wood surface.

4. Clean away all sanding dust with a tack cloth. This prevents the dust from gumming up the next grits.

5. For a very smooth sanded surface, do a final pass with 150-220 grit paper using minimal pressure along the wood grain.

6. Frequently change your sandpaper to expose new sharp abrasive. Fold sandpaper into a pad for easier grip.

7. On rounded frames or sills, wrap sandpaper around a soft sanding block to sand contours smoothly.

8. Always sand in the direction of the wood grain – avoid going across the grain which causes deeper scratches.

9. Finish by carefully hand sanding corners and edges with used sandpaper.

Sheet Shapes

Sandpaper comes in a variety of shapes and sizes tailored for different sanding applications.

The sheet format affects the types of surfaces and jobs the abrasive can be used for.

Sandpaper Sheet Shapes

Common sandpaper sheet shapes include:

Sandpaper Discs

Circular sandpaper discs are designed to attach to random orbital sanders, disc sanders, and other power tools. They come in a range of diameters. The circular shape allows for sanding contoured surfaces.

The sanding discs combined with an orbital sander like Festool are the most effective combo in paint removal tasks. 

Getting more use out of old discs 

When sanding discs used on power sanders become worn out and smooth, they still can have some useful life left in them for hand sanding applications.

Rather than throwing the discs away, consider repurposing them for tight spots and detail work. Used sanding discs can be folded in half to expose fresh, sharp, abrasive grains along the crease.

The folded abrasive conforms nicely to curved profiles and corners.

The slightly duller grains, compared to fresh sandpaper, help avoid over-sanding or gouging profiles when working in tight areas.

Just take care to fold evenly and watch for thin spots.

With a light touch, used-up sanding discs can tackle detail sanding on ornate mouldings, curved table legs, picture frames, and other areas that are not easily accessed by power tools. 

Additionally, reusing old sanding discs eliminates the need to purchase extra sheets of sandpaper for hand sanding.

Discs with holes vs no holes 

Sanding discs come in two main varieties – with holes and without holes.

Discs with holes have a pattern of perforations that allow dust extraction and debris removal while sanding, especially when used with a vacuum system on power sanders. The holes prevent clogging of the abrasive grit. These are preferred for power sanding applications.

Discs without holes provide a continuous sanding surface and firm backing support. This can lead to smoother, more even sanding on flat surfaces. Hole-less discs are commonly used for hand sanding applications where dust extraction is not as important.

Sandpaper Sheets

Rectangular sandpaper sheets in standard sizes, like 23×28 cm, are used for hand sanding. Large full sheets can be cut down as needed. Sheets allow sanding of broad, flat surfaces.

Sandpaper Belts 

Sanding belts consist of a continuous length of abrasive-coated material that wraps around two cylinders on a belt sander. As the cylinders rotate, the belt provides a flat sanding surface for smoothing, shaping, and finishing wood and metal workpieces.

Sandpaper Strips

Narrow strips of sandpaper can be used to sand hard-to-reach areas. These strips are typically 2.54 cm wide and 30.48 cm long. Alternatively, you can use disks folded in half, as mentioned above in this article. 

Specialty shapes 

In addition to common sheets, disks and belts, sandpaper also comes in a variety of speciality shapes designed for specific applications. Some examples include:

  • Sanding Drums – Cylindrical drums wrapped in abrasive can be mounted in electric drills for detailed sanding of curved profiles like chair spindles or table legs. The drums provide full contact on rounded surfaces.
  • Triangular Sanding Blocks – Triangle-shaped sandpaper blocks allow sanding into tight corners of picture frames and other woodwork. The angled abrasive accesses hard-to-reach spots.
  • Roloc Discs – Special quick-change discs are designed to be mounted on Roloc-style hand sanding pads. They allow rapid grit changes for detailed work.
  • Detail Sanding Sticks – Narrow, pointed sticks with abrasive on the tip are handy for detail sanding in crevices, grooves and profiles.

Wet and dry sandpaper

Sandpaper is designed for either dry sanding or wet sanding applications. Each has advantages depending on the material and project:


Dry sandpaper utilizes abrasive grains that fracture off sharp points as they scrape across the material surface. This creates fine dust that must be cleaned up and can be hazardous to inhale, especially when sanding wood, paints, and composites.

Dry paper is best suited for general-purpose sanding of most materials using hand sanding or power sanders. The abrasive grains cut efficiently without any lubrication or fluid.


Wet sandpaper is designed with a waterproof backing that allows the abrasive surface to be lubricated with water, oil, or other fluids during sanding. This controls dust and improves the surface finish.

Wet sandpaper works by both abrasive fracturing and mild corrosion from the fluid. The slurry created helps keep the grains unclogged. Wet sanding produces a finer finish and maintains sharp grit longer compared to dry methods. However, wet sandpaper is limited to hand sanding applications due to electrical safety concerns.

In summary, dry sandpaper handles everyday general sanding while wet sandpaper excels for finish work where dust control, lubrication, and finer scratches are beneficial. Each has its own best applications.

Pro Tips

  • When sanding paint, go up in grits gradually for the best results. Starting too fine leaves paint behind.
  • Fold the sandpaper into a pad for easier grip and a smoother finish.
  • Change sandpaper sheets often to expose fresh abrasive and avoid gouging.
  • Always sand in the direction of the wood grain, not across it.
  • Use a sanding block on flat surfaces for even sanding.
  • Wear a dust mask and eye protection when sanding paint.

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