There is nothing worse than clogged sandpaper when you are in the middle of a project. Instead of wasting your money and time buying new sandpaper each time this happens, try these cleaning techniques instead!
You can clean clogged sandpaper in belts, discs, and drum sanders using an abrasive cleaning stick or the sole of a shoe. If there is resin stuck in your drum sander, apply polycarbonate to clean the abrasive. If you have a hook and loop sander, use a nit comb’s teeth to clean the loops.
Next, we’ll go over why sandpaper gets clogged and how to prevent it. Then, we’ll discuss several ways you can clean your sanding machines when they do get clogged up.
Why Does Sandpaper Get Clogged?
There are several reasons why sandpaper can get clogged or “gummed up.”
We’ll go over the most common culprits below.
1. The Type of Finishing Technique
Some finishing techniques for wood, especially oil-based varnishing, lacquer, and shellac, can clog the sandpaper with “corns.”
Corns occur when wood finish melts during the sanding process.
Corns are pretty large, meaning they make deeper scratches in the finish than sandpaper grit.
All of the marks the corns produce will have to be sanded out to prevent them from affecting the next coat or detracting from the final coat’s look.
2. The Sandpaper Wasn’t Properly Dried
Make sure your sanding materials are really dry before you go about your work.
If you use paper that is still damp, it may result in gumming or clogging.
3. You Applied Too Much Pressure During Long Usage
When you use your sander for a long time, it results in greater heat production.
Similarly, if you apply more muscle pressure on the paper during sanding, the sander will also produce more heat.
Both of these scenarios will result in your sandpaper clogging faster and more frequently.
When you are sanding, especially with vibratory or rotational sanders, the only pressure you should apply is from your hand resting on the sander.
Any additional pressure will cause you more harm than good!
4. You Used Really Smooth Sandpaper
There are pros and cons to smooth and rough sandpaper.
Rough sandpaper leaves more scratches on your finish, whereas smooth sandpaper clogs much faster.
Therefore, you’ll need to carefully select your sandpaper to get the appropriate grit for your project.
5. You Ran the Sander Too Fast
When you operate your sander at a higher speed, it produces more heat, which (you guessed it) leads to clogging.
Remember, slow and steady wins the race!
6. You Used Different Materials for the Floor Finish
Those dreaded corns can also form depending on your type of floor finish.
They are especially prevalent when you use varnishes, resins, and other types of sticky finishing substances.
How Do You Keep Sandpaper From Clogging?
1. Choose the Right Type of Sandpaper
The first way you can prevent your sandpaper from clogging up is by selecting the correct type of paper for the job!
There are several types of sandpaper on the market that are sold for different purposes.
You need to understand the different grits, materials, and functions to choose wisely.
2. The Sandpaper’s Grit
Now, let’s get into the nitty “gritty.” The grit of the sandpaper is an important feature to consider to avoid clogging.
Sandpaper ranges in grit number. The grit number tells you how fine or coarse the sandpaper is.
Smoother Sandpaper has a high grit number, generally starting around 200, whereas coarse sandpaper has a lower grit number.
You should use a finer abrasive when trying to get a smooth finish on a delicate surface, or you’re only doing light sanding projects.
Rough sandpaper is ideal for heavy-duty work, such as removing material from a hard or uneven surface.
While rough sandpaper is coarse and will leave more scratches, it is less likely to get clogged.
Selecting the correct sandpaper grit will help prevent clogging. If you need help, ask your local hardware store expert.
If you think you’ll need multiple grit sizes to get the job done right, invest in a variety pack!
3. The Sandpaper’s Material
Selecting the appropriate sandpaper material is also a great way to keep your sandpaper clog-free.
We’ll go over the most common materials you’ll encounter below.
- Aluminum Oxide Sandpaper. Aluminum Oxide is a type of synthetic sandpaper material that is ideal for both manual or machine use. It’s a tremendous all-around material that you can use for many kinds of work, including wood, metal, drywall, or painted finishes.
- Ceramic Sandpaper. Ceramic sandpaper is reddish-brown. It is available in belts or discs to be used with power sanders. This material is rough and durable, making it ideal for removing aggressive materials on wood.
- Silicon Carbide Sandpaper. Silicon Carbide Sandpaper is ideal for smooth surfaces, such as fiberglass, plastic, and metal. Usually, this type of sandpaper has a waterproof backing which allows it to do wet-sanding. Wet sanding is excellent because it helps prevent clogging and minimizes the number of scratches on your work surface.
- Garnet Sandpaper. Garnet sandpaper is a hand-sanding material that is sold in sheets. It works best for delicate jobs, like removing minor scratches or preparing raw wood for finishing. Generally, it wears out pretty quickly, so you should only use it for light work.
4. Decrease the Amount of Heat You Generate
When you are sanding, you want to prevent your sander from generating too much heat, as this can cause your sandpaper to clog.
Try to avoid using your sander at high speeds, applying too much pressure while sanding, or using your sander for extended periods, as these can all result in excess heat generation.
Please pay special attention to these rules when using vibratory or rotary machines since they are prone to getting hot during the sanding process.
5. Apply a Lubricant on the Sandpaper (or Get Dry-Lubricated)
Lubricants are a great way to keep your sandpaper in tip-top condition since they create a layer over the sandpaper, preventing clogging.
Generally, you can buy either water or oil-based lubricants to apply to your paper.
Only use lubricants when you are doing your final coat, or else the liquid can seep into the wood, negatively impacting your surface’s quality.
Another great option to prevent clogging is to get sandpaper that is dry-lubricated with substances like zinc stearate.
6. Make Sure the Finish Is Dried Properly Before Sanding
When you are sanding, you need to wait until the finish has had enough time to dry before sanding the surface.
Otherwise, the heat applied to the surface through sanding will cause corns to stick to your paper, making it a clogged-up mess!
7. Select the Appropriate Finish for Your Surface
As we mentioned before, some finishes are more likely to corn than others.
The best finishes to prevent corning are oil-based polyurethane, water-based, and catalyzed finishes since they do not produce corn easily.
Can You Clean Sandpaper?
Yes! There are several ways you can clean sandpaper to restore it to its former glory.
The exact technique you should use depends on the type of sander you have.
We’ll discuss these techniques in detail below:
How Do You Clean a Clogged Sanding Belt?
There are two main ways to clean a sanding belt, including with an abrasive cleaning stick or with the bottom of a rubber shoe.
Let’s take a look at both of these methods!
Get an Abrasive Cleaning Stick
One of the easiest ways to get your sandpaper nice and clean is by using an abrasive cleaning stick.
Typically, you can buy this product at your local hardware store. However, if you can’t find them, they are also sold by online retailers like Amazon. Check below the on that I recommend:
Several companies sell versions of this stick under slightly different names, but they all do the same job.
Just pick the most accessible product that is also the right price for your budget.
Typically, these sticks range from about $8 to $20.
Using the abrasive cleaning stick is super simple.
Typically, all you have to do is hold the stick against your belt until all of the clogged-up particles have been removed.
It would be best if you kept the belt operating at its normal speed while you do this.
Make sure to read the directions on your product, as these instructions may vary.
The fantastic thing about this stick is that it gets your sandpaper thoroughly cleaned without causing you to lose your grit.
It’ll produce a brand-new feeling sandpaper surface!
If you’d like to see an abrasive cleaning stick in action, check out this video by The Fixer. In the video, he uses the POWERTEC Cleaning Stick to get his sandpaper clean as a whistle:
Use an Old Tennis Shoe
An innovative way to get your sandpaper clean is by using an old tennis shoe!
If you have some old sneakers lying around, this is a fantastic method for you to try to make your sandpaper almost as good as new.
To perform this technique, rub your shoe’s rubber sole against the sandpaper while it’s running on the belt.
Make sure to keep the sander operating at its average speed.
While this method may be slightly less effective than the abrasive cleaning stick, it is almost as good, and it’s virtually free!
If you’d like to see this technique performed with your own eyes, check out this video by Izzy Swan. In the video, he demonstrates what kind of shoe you’ll need and how to place your shoe on your belt for the best cleaning experience:
How Do You Clean Sanding Discs?
Sanding discs can be cleaned in the same way as sanding belts, either with an abrasive cleaning stick or the sole of a rubber shoe.
How Do You Clean a Drum Sander?
To clean a drum sander, start by using your handy dandy abrasive stick cleaner.
Try to get as much of the gunk off with your stick as possible.
While the abrasive cleaner may do the trick if you don’t have much residue, you may need to try an additional technique if you have leftover resin stuck in the abrasive.
To remove more difficult resin clogs:
- Get a piece of polycarbonate from your local hardware store.
- Put it inside of some Kreg clamps so that it’s securely clamped in place.
- Apply the polycarbonate onto your sandpaper’s tough build-ups while your drum sander operates at its average pace.
While this method effectively removes clogs from your drum sander, it does have one negative.
When you place the polycarbonate against the sander, it releases a pretty gross smell.
However, it’s all worth it for the squeaky clean sander!
For more information, check out this video by WoodWorkers Guild Of America. In the clip, a woodworker demonstrates how to clean the drum sander with an abrasive stick cleaner. Then, he shows you how to finish the job with the polycarbonate:
How Do You Clean a Hook and Loop Sander?
If you’ve noticed that the loops on your sander’s pad have become all clogged up with dust, then it’s time to clean them out.
If you don’t, the sanding discs won’t adhere properly, making your project that much harder.
To clean out your loops, head on over to your local pharmacy and buy a nit comb, which is a small metal brush typically used to remove head lice.
Once you get the comb, firmly drag the teeth over the sander pad.
The teeth should completely clear out anything that was clogging up your sander without harming the loops!
How Do You Clean a Sanding Block?
If you have a rubber sanding block, we’ve got the perfect method for you to get it clean and back in working order.
Before you begin, you’ll need to get a pair of latex gloves, lacquer paint thinner, and a Scotch-Brite Pad.
Once you’ve acquired your materials, start by dumping some of your lacquer paint thinner into a container.
Then, dip your Scotch-Brite Pad into the lacquer. Rub the pad against your sanding block until it cleans off all of the build-ups.
This technique should make your rubber blocks as good as new! Please make sure to wait till the lacquer dries before you use the block. It should only take a few minutes.
If you’d like to see how to perform this technique, check out this video by Pete from D.I.Y. Auto School. In the video, he goes through the materials you’ll need and the steps you’ll need to take to get your rubber sanding blocks squeaky clean (Pete uses some curse words, so this content is for mature ears only):
How Do You Remove Glue From Sandpaper?
If you are trying to remove sticky glue from your sandpaper, give your abrasive cleaning stick a try. This should do the trick!
However, if you have adhesive left on your metal plate after removing your sandpaper from your disc sander, then using a citrus-based cleaner should get it off.
Start by putting some of the cleaner on a rag and then apply it to the glue.
This should loosen it up some. Then, wipe it down with a window cleaner like Windex to get the surface clean so a new sanding disc can adhere.
You can also try heating the metal plate with a hairdryer to loosen up the adhesive while the sandpaper is still on your disc sander.
Then, take the sandpaper off. It should come off easily!
How Do You Revive Sandpaper?
Sadly, there is no way to resharpen sandpaper.
The best thing you can do to revive it is to keep it clean using the techniques listed above.
If you frequently tend to your sandpaper and remove the resin, dust, and other particles, it’ll help keep your abrasive sharp for longer.
Additionally, regular cleaning can stop your sandpaper from breaking down as fast.
To clean clogged sandpaper in a belt, disc, or drum sanders, try using an abrasive cleaning stick or the sole of a rubber shoe.
If you still have some debris left, try applying a piece of polycarbonate to the paper.
This should get them off in no time! For hook and loop sanders, use a nit comb to clean the sandpaper.
The teeth should get the residue right out!
We hope this article has helped you unclog your sandpaper for good!
Cheers, tools owners!