Wet Sanding Vs Dry Sanding What’s The Difference

Saning wood on stairs

Sanding is a process of evening out a surface, usually metal and wood. It is a way of polishing or smoothing a surface.

A sander is typically used to sand areas, and it is a power tool used to smoothen surfaces by abrasion with sandpaper. Sanding gives many surfaces a look that can stand out, making it ideal for many surfaces such as cars, guitars, and 3D prints, giving them a lustrous finish. Dry sanding is the usual sanding most people are aware of and is applied to wooden surfaces such as decks and floors.

There are some differences between wet sanding and dry sanding in terms of process and use. Let’s take a look at the following:

Wet sanding is done to give an even finish

Wet sanding is applied and used to get a smooth and even finish. Meanwhile, dry sanding is normally used to even out a surface, such as on wood, to make edges less sharp or to make woodworking more detailed. How to wet sand wood or the process of wet sanding is said to remove the large abrasions left by dry sanding. Wet sanding done correctly will level out a surface and abrasions left behind will become smaller and less visible. The end result will be a mirror-like finish that no longer makes scratches visible.

Wet sanding uses water

Sanding wooden door

Wet sanding refers to the use of a liquid or some other lubrication such as oil to help remove very small particles. Without the water as a lubricant, the grit can build up in the sandpaper and leave behind abrasions that are large, which can potentially ruin the finish. Dish soap with water can work as the best agent in wet sanding.

There is special sandpaper for wet sanding

You can’t use the same paper you use for dry sanding on wet sanding. The sandpaper you use for wet sanding should be specifically made for it. There are wet or dry sandpapers available in most hardware stores, and these are good for wet sanding. You can fold the paper twice to create a thicker piece, but you can also use a backing pad. There are sanding sponges available, which have the abrasive directly attached to the pad to help the sanding surface follow the shape of the material.

Movements used are different

Sanding wooden floorboards

The movement used in dry sanding is different from wet sanding. Dry sanding requires the use of small circles to get an even finish, while wet sanding uses straight lines and alternating directions between passes. The reason for this is to remove scratches from previous passes. Use a light touch with wet sanding since you will only be removing the surface scratches and not a lot of material.

Wet sanding reduces a lot of dust if you are sanding wooden surfaces

Wet sanding is used in home interior jobs, and it is effective in reducing a lot of dust in the process compared to dry sanding. High-end interior painters use wet sanding before painting and between coats. The sanding dust gets wet and doesn’t ruin the paint later on. The sandpaper used for wet sanding also lasts a long time, but you have to keep rinsing it with water. Wet sanding also reduces dust when installing sheetrock. If you’re interested in that technique, check out this article on wet sanding drywall.

Wet sanding is used when fine quality is the goal

Wet sanding is used for smoothing clear wood finishes when fine quality is desired. After building up enough thickness with sealant, varnish, or polyurethane, you use a wet sander to smooth out little imperfections, bumps, or scratches on the surface, and this is an effective way as a final polish. The water makes scratches less visible and gives better control to achieve a uniform thickness of the finish. Using oil instead of water gives a satiny finish.

Wet sanding is used as a paint correction for vehicles

The coat on an automobile is very fine, and the top portion is mostly for UV protection. The delicate nature of the car’s coat should be handled with care and an abrasive like wet sand is right for the job as long as a light hand and some finesse is used when correcting the mistakes in a car’s finish. Wet sanding is the most effective way to remove surface paint defects in cars. It is used to even out new paint, to smooth out small runs, and to even out peels.

Final thoughts

Wet sanding and dry sanding are intrinsically different, although sandpaper is used in each process. Dry sanding is mostly used in large wooden areas such as decks, wooden floors, and walls. It entails the use of a mechanical sander. Wet sanding is mostly used manually and by hand and requires patience, especially when used in delicate auto paint jobs.

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