Can You Use An Orbital Sander On Drywall?

Orbital sanders are a staple tool for most home improvement projects. Lightweight, easy to use, and quicker than hand-sanding, it’s something anyone who loves a good DIY project should own. From removing materials to smoothing surfaces, orbital sanders have a variety of practical uses.

An orbital sander is a very suitable tool for small drywall sanding projects, but other drywall sanding tools are ideal for larger or more meticulous projects.

An orbital sander is a popular tool of choice for those wanting to complete small drywall tasks themselves.

While an orbital sander is useful for work on drywall, it needs to be used carefully to avoid damaging the surface.

If your project is bigger than expected or you need a smoother finish, there are a variety of tools that work great for sanding drywall.

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How to Use an Orbital Sander on Drywall

Always use care and take precautions when handling home improvement tools. Orbital sanders are one of the fastest and easiest ways to smooth drywall. While orbital sanders are a portable, cheaper tool that many can use without the help of a professional contractor, it’s important to know how to effectively use the tool for the best results.

Prepare Your Surface

Prepare your drywall surface the day before using your orbital sander on it. If you don’t have a lot of time, apply a thick coat of a joint compound and let it dry before sanding.

If you have ample time or a few days to prepare, apply multiple thin layers of compound. Apply one thin layer of compound, let it dry and smooth out, apply a second layer and repeat, and then finish with a third layer and letting it dry before sanding.

Keep your sander off unfinished drywall as much as possible, as will damage the surface.

Safety Precautions

Safety is key to a successful DIY project. Before taking your orbital sander to the drywall, take proper precautions and put on a pair of safety glasses and a dust mask or respirator for better breathing.

Orbital sanders work best in small, closed rooms where dust doesn’t fly around while sanding. Be sure to cover door cracks and open seams but leave a window open or put in a box fan to let dust outside and ventilate.

Choose a Sandpaper Grit

Decide which sandpaper grit you want to work with. The higher the grit number, the finer the grain particles will be.

Lower grit numbers indicate sandpaper will be coarser. This guide from Home Depot will help you decide on the best sandpaper for your job:

CoarsenessGrit Number (Range)Best Uses
Fine150-180Finishing or refinishing a surface
Medium40-60Removing paints/stains from different surfaces
Coarse20-36Removing an existing finish or smoothing a rough surface

Each sandpaper grit provides a different use. For sanding drywall, choose a finer grit (between 150 and 180) that will effectively refinish the dry surface. This grit will help you avoid damage to the drywall.

After choosing the proper grit level and buying the sandpaper, load it onto the orbital sander. Most sanders use a hook and look system to replace new sandpaper pads.

Remember to ensure that each new piece is correctly aligned with the orbital sander’s base.

Apply Light Pressure in Slow, Circular Motions

These are the two most important practices when using an orbital sander to ensure the best result.

Apply very light pressure, and keep your sander moving in circular motions. Never stay in one spot while using the sander, or you’ll risk burning out the sandpaper and damaging your surface.

Remember to take your time! Don’t rush through your sanding project, especially if you want a perfect, smooth finish. For the perfect finish, move slowly in random, circular motions.

Prepare for Painting

The orbital sander will effectively smooth out the drywall surface. When you finish using the orbital sander, finish by hand sanding, especially over rougher surfaces.

This will ensure a smooth, consistent, and swirl-free finish on your drywall surface.

Once you’ve achieved your perfect finish, don’t sweep dust off the walls. If you’re painting the drywall, the dust will help bind the paint to the compounds on the drywall.

This can help hide any scratches or damage potentially made while sanding.

Related article: Can I Wet Sand With An Orbital Sander?

Best Tools for Different Drywall Sanding Projects

Orbital sanders are best used for small drywall projects, such as a single wall or small rooms.

Many orbital sanders don’t come with an extension, and you’ll often have to use a ladder when sanding ceilings and high areas. Orbital sanders also produce a lot of dust.

You may also like: Why Are Ladders So Expensive?

If your drywall sanding project is too large or not ideal with an orbital sander, consider using these tools instead:

Random Orbital Sander

The biggest difference between an orbital sander and a random orbital sander is the shape of the sandpaper pad.

Rather than using a rectangular-shaped bed, a random orbital sander uses circular sandpaper.

The random orbital sander’s motions eliminate the swirl patterns orbital sanders sometimes leave behind.

Not only does it effectively remove debris, but it also finishes the job quickly.

⭐️  ToolsOwner's Choice

BLACK+DECKER Random Orbital Sander

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Electric Drywall Sander

An electric drywall sander was made specifically for large and hard-to-reach drywall sanding projects.

If you have a lot of work and high areas, an electric drywall sander is best.

Equipped with a long pole and vacuum, the dust collecting mechanism will minimize dust and debris, making for a quick job and easy clean-up.

Many electric sanders come with the ability to adjust speed for more control or a faster job. This tool also comes with a “skirt” around the sanding disc, which reduces the risk of gouging and enhances dust removal.

⭐️  ToolsOwner's Choice

Drywall Sander – Variable Speed

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Portable Belt Sander

If you need to sand large areas of drywall (especially horizontal), a belt sander comes in most handy.

Belt sanders are ideal for removing old paint, stains, or varnish. They come in a variety of sizes, and portable models are available, which is best for drywall.

Check this SKIL 7510-01 from Amazon.com (affiliate link).

Portable Cable Sander

If you have a heavy-duty sanding project ahead of you, a portable cable sander is an ideal tool. Its long extension boom allows you to easily reach ceilings and high walls.

A portable cable sander is best used by professionals. While it does a great job, these tools are very expensive and heavy.

Drywall Hand Sander

While sanding by hand is a tedious, long task, using a pole sander or sanding blocks is one of the cheapest ways to sand drywall yourself.

A hand sanding method is ideal if you’re on a budget and have a small project to finish. These tools are the easiest to use and allow the most control in a sanding project.

⭐️  ToolsOwner's Choice

3M Drywall Hand Sander

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How to Minimize Dust While Sanding Drywall

Drywall sanding notoriously produces a lot of dust. Whether using an orbital sander or another power tool, dust is the biggest complication while sanding.

Here are some things you can do to minimize drywall sanding dust:

  • Always wear a dust mask or respirator while sanding drywall to avoid any breathing issues.
  • Lay cloth on the floor or tape plastic for easy cleanup.
  • Seal ducts and doorframes with plastic sheeting and masking tape. Leave the bottom crack of the door untapped for ventilation.
  • Mount a fan in the window(s) to increase ventilation.
  • Open a window in a nearby room to let the dust circulate out of the house.
  • Remove window screens to avoid having to clean them after sanding.

Enjoy Your New Walls

Whether you are sanding down one wall or a whole room, using an orbital sander is doable when you take a bit of care doing so.

Follow the steps outlined above and you’ll have a new room in no time.

I hope this article was useful to you! Thanks for reading!

Cheers, tools owners!

Hi there! My name is Jack and I write for ToolsOwner. I have a passion for everything related to tools and DIY projects around the house. You often find me in my workshop working on new projects.