If you have taken on a DIY project, you will probably have to use sandpaper at some point. Sandpaper is one of the essential tools for anybody completing a woodworking or metalworking project. While sandpaper is affordable and long-lasting, you need to understand when to change it to avoid uneven patches and unsatisfactory results.
You should change your sandpaper when it gets too clogged by the material you are sanding or if the abrasive side is too worn down to smooth out your surface. If you have noticed that you have to apply much more pressure or it takes too long to work, you should substitute your sandpaper.
Undoubtedly, sandpaper is an essential tool for any DIYer, but understanding when it is time to change can truly make a difference in the result. This article will teach you all about changing your sandpaper and what you can do with old sheets or pads.
Can You Reuse Sandpaper?
If you are not an expert DIYer, you might be tempted to throw away your sandpaper as soon as you start noticing the first signs of wear and tear.
Or, you might keep working on your project until the abrasive side is almost entirely worn.
However, there is a third option: reusing your sandpaper.
How you reuse your sandpaper will primarily depend on the kind of sandpaper you have.
If you have a sheet or roll that you are operating by hand, you might think about cleaning it and going back to your project.
Alternatively, if you have been using an electric sander, the sandpaper disc that comes with it can find a new purpose in a few simple steps.
Check them out below.
Reusing a Sandpaper Disc From an Orbital Sander
If you have been using an electrical orbital sander, you will notice that the abrasive pad will start to wear down quickly, primarily due to the high efficiency and speed at which the sander works.
You can reuse the sandpaper disc by mounting it on a piece of wood and using it as a hand-operated piece of sandpaper instead.
Here are the steps for this project:
- Clean the used sandpaper to remove any debris. You can find out more about cleaning your sandpaper below.
- Dry the sandpaper before use.
- Place the sandpaper disc on a piece of MDF for starters. A sheet of thin softwood can also work. Use scraps to keep the costs down.
- Trace the shape of the sandpaper on the wood.
- Cut the wood into a shape so that it matches the sandpaper disc’s shape.
- Secure the wood to the sandpaper disc.
- Attach a small block of MDF wood with CA glue at the wooden sheet’s back to create a handle.
Now, you have an easy-to-use tool that you can use for the finishing touches!
Related article: Is An Orbital Sander The Best Tool For Wet Sanding?
Cleaning Your Sandpaper for Reuse
Whether you have been using sheets of sandpaper or sandpaper discs for electrical sanders, you can also clean them to reuse them.
In the video below, you can find a short guide revealing how to clean your sandpaper:
Alternatively, check out the methods below.
- Soak the sandpaper for a few hours. Once the debris has softened, you can use a steel brush to remove it from the sandpaper. After it is clear, allow the sandpaper to dry before using it again.
- Rub an eraser against the sandpaper to get rid of debris. While your sandpaper might not come out entirely clean, you can at least use it to finish your project.
It is not recommendable to reuse sandpaper for important woodworking projects or when you need a more refined result.
Indeed, sandpaper that is unevenly used or too worn can cause damage to the wood.
How Can I Make My Sandpaper Last Longer?
If you are looking to complete your project on a budget, you probably don’t want to change your sandpaper so often.
At the same time, using worn sandpaper can cause damage to the surface you are working on.
Luckily, you don’t have to choose between these two options!
If you have noticed that your sandpaper has started to look dirty and it is not as efficient as it usually is, you should consider cleaning it.
Indeed, especially if you are working on softwoods, the wood resin can clog the sandpaper.
In turn, this can make the sandpaper less efficient—but it does not mean that you have to throw it away.
You can make your sandpaper last longer by:
- Regularly cleaning it and dusting it down
- Soaking it in water and removing debris with a metal brush
- Using an abrasive cleaning stick against the sander
What Is the Longest-Lasting Sandpaper?
Aside from the grit and the material used at the back of the abrasive, sandpaper’s lifespan comes down to the abrasive material used.
Especially in wood preparation, the longest-lasting materials include:
1. Zirconium dioxide sandpaper
This alloy of zircon and aluminum dioxide is gray and one of the most efficient sandpaper ones.
It can withstand high grinding stress and remain sharp thanks to the Zirc’s heat-resistant properties.
2. Ceramic alumina sandpaper
This is a highly long-lasting material perfect for sanding hard surfaces such as metal and stainless steel.
It is much more resistant to heat than aluminum oxide.
3. Aluminum oxide
Available in pink, white, and brown colors, Aluminum oxide is considered one of the most versatile synthetic abrasive grains.
When compared to other materials on the Mohs Hardness Scale, Aluminium oxide is one of the most resistant.
4. Silicon carbide sanding
Created through carbothermal reduction, this material is one of the hardest ones on the Mohs scale, achieving a score of 9.5.
It can be used on materials such as marble and glass.
Does Sandpaper Get Dull?
Sandpaper can get dull due to prolonged use. If you are only using your sandpaper just for some minor finishing touches, you will not likely experience dullness for a while.
However, if you are using an electric orbital sander or you need to sand large surfaces, your sandpaper won’t last for long.
In some instances, you might have to change it just after one hour! In this case, using an orbital sander with a hook and loop system will help you a lot.
It is important to remember that your sandpaper will continue to smooth out surfaces even if it is dull.
Nonetheless, you should avoid using it when it has become stale, as this will encourage you to put more pressure on the surface.
In turn, such pressure can damage the piece of wood or metal you are working on.
How Long Does Sandpaper Last?
Unfortunately, there is no “one-size-fits-all” formula that can tell you how long your sandpaper will last.
Indeed, its lifespan will depend on the kind of project you are working on.
Using a piece of sandpaper for touch-ups and finishing touches or using it by hand can last you for weeks or months. However, if the sandpaper disc is mounted on an electrical sander, it might start to lose its sharpness within a few hours of using it.
The sander’s rotating power can also impact how long the sandpaper will last.
For example, using it on a 1095 blade can make your sandpaper last for over a month.
Instead, if using it on an S110V, it can last only a few hours.
How Do You Know When Sandpaper Is Worn Out?
If you don’t often use sandpaper, some signs can tell you when to replace it with a new sheet.
Some of these include:
- Uneven spots: If your sandpaper is mounted on a sander and you have started to notice that some spots are more worn than others, you will need to change the sandpaper. Indeed, rough sandpaper can cause you to damage the surface you are working on and not achieve the wanted results.
- Having to apply more pressure: If you have to pressure the sander to sand down the surface, the abrasive might have become dull.
- Using it for longer to achieve the same results: If you have to overwork a spot to sand it down, it might be because the sandpaper is dull.
When Should You Throw Away Sandpaper?
Sandpaper is an economic tool that should be in the toolbox of any DIYer or homeowner.
While your sandpaper can last for months with the proper care and maintenance, you should not be afraid to substitute your abrasive sheet when a new one.
Two of the main reasons for throwing away sandpaper include:
- It boasts visual wear, and it is no longer working well. If it requires you to apply more pressure or time to smooth out a surface, the sandpaper you are using might have become dull and inefficient.
- You have cleaned the paper, but it is still not working. Sandpaper that has collected debris might not be working well. However, the first is always to try to clean it with water. If the sandpaper is clean but still not working, you should replace it.
How Do You Recycle Sandpaper?
Sandpaper cannot be recycled in standard recycling bins because it is made of multiple materials. Additionally, since it boasts an adhesive material to keep the front and the back faces together, sandpaper won’t decompose quickly.
However, there are some creative ways to reuse the sandpaper include:
- Creating an anti-slip surface for stairs or outdoors
- Attaching the sandpaper under the soles of your boots that have lost grip
- Using the sandpaper to scuffle the soles
- Sharpening knives or scissors
- Cutting it to create alternative business cards
Read also: 8 Sandpaper Alternatives Ideas
Sandpaper is a must-have material for anybody who loves DIY projects.
If you are using sandpaper only for touch-ups, it can last for months.
However, if you are covering extensive surfaces, you might need to change it more often.
You should change the sandpaper once the abrasive material has become dull.
However, you should always try to wash it to check whether the debris that remains trapped in it is what stops it from working.
I hope this article was useful. Cheers, tools owners!