How to Choose the Right Sandpaper Grit for the Job

Use an orbital sander to sand wood.

Sandpaper is rated numerically according to the size of the grit particles. The lower the number, the coarser the grit; and the higher the number, the finer the sandpaper.

Since coarse sandpaper leaves deeper scratches, start with the finest sandpaper that will tackle the project easily and work your way up to finer grits. Here are some common sandpaper grit sizes and what projects to use them one.

Common Sandpaper Grit Sizes:

  • 40 to 80 Grit Sandpaper: Coarse grit sandpaper is a good choice for rough sanding and removing stock quickly, such as sanding the edge of a sticking door with a belt sander.
  • 100 to 150 Grit Sandpaper: Medium grit sandpaper makes a good starting point for most projects, from sanding unfinished wood to removing old varnish.
  • 180 to 220 Grit Sandpaper: Finer grit sandpaper is great for removing the scratches left by coarser grits on unfinished wood and for lightly sanding between coats of paint.
  • 320 to 400 Grit Sandpaper: Very fine grit sandpaper is used for light sanding between coats of finish and to sand metal and other hard surfaces.

Watch this video to find out more.

Further Information

Danny Lipford: A question we often hear from do-it-yourselfers is, “How do I choose the right sandpaper for the project I’m doing?”

The answer is as simple as one, two, three because sandpaper is rated numerically by its grit. The lower the number, the more coarse the sandpaper.

For example, you might have a 60-grit sandpaper on a belt sander to remove lots of wood from the edge of a sticking door. A 100-grit paper would be a good choice to remove old varnish from the face of a door or smooth out a newly constructed piece of woodwork.

When you really want a smooth finish, it’s best to begin with the most coarse paper first and work your way up to the finer grits. So after the varnish is stripped on that door, step up to 150-grit paper, then 220. And between coats of the new finish you’ll be applying, you can use 400-grit sandpaper.