How to remove paint by sanding

Can you remove paint by sanding? Yes, says Anna-Lisa De'ath, here's how

How to remove paint by sanding

Sanding can be an easy paint removal option for for small projects, but be aware that both sandpaper and wire wool can cause damage to wood unless you work gently and carefully.  Power tools make sanding easier because their design forces you to apply even pressure and they take a lot less elbow grease than doing it manually.

You will need

  • Safety glasses
  • Face mask
  • Screwdriver
  • Painter’s tape
  • Tarp or dust sheet
  • Sandpaper, ranging from 40- to 180-grit
  • Sanding block
  • Palm sander
  • Multipurpose tool with sanding attachment
  • Old cloth

How to remove paint by sanding


Step 1


If working on a piece of furniture, remove any knobs, hinges and other hardware from the wood, if possible, using a screwdriver. If you cannot remove the hardware, put painter’s tape over the items to protect them from sandpaper grit. Make a note of where each item was on the piece of furniture to make it easier to put it back in the right place when you finish.

Lead paint safety alert

If you suspect you have lead paint please make sure you follow expert safety advice as lead paint can be dangerous.


We have this guide to removing lead paint and the UK Goverment has this informative leaflet

Stay Safe!

Step 2


If possible, move the item to an outdoor location. If you must sand paint from an item or area inside the house, put a dust sheet or tarp on the floor to catch some of the dust. When selecting sandpaper, pick paper that contains aluminum oxide, garnet or ceramic. These agents work best to smooth the wood.


Step 3


Attach 40- to 60-grit sandpaper to a sanding block or palm sander to remove paint. This is coarse grit, so it can damage the wood if you apply too much pressure. Rub the sandpaper over the wood with the grain of the wood to remove the old paint. Change the paper, as necessary.


Step 4


Use a sanding attachment for a multipurpose tool to get into any awkward areas you can’t reach with the palm sander.


Step 5


Switch to 80- to 120-grit sandpaper. Working with the grain of the wood, finish removing any remaining paint and work out any scratches on the wood with this medium-grit paper.


Step 6


Change to 150-to 180-grit sandpaper. By the time you go over the wood with this sandpaper, it should be smooth to the touch and ready for finishing. Be aware that fine-grit sandpaper closes the pores of the wood grain. If you are staining the wood once you remove the old paint, do not choose grit finer than 180, or the wood might not stain evenly.


Step 7


Wipe the entire surface of the wood with a slightly damp cloth to remove any dust that remains.