Choosing the Right Sandpaper


Choosing the right sandpaper for your project is essential in ensuring you achieve the desired result. 

This article covers:


Grade type                                                                                                   

Whether you decide to use sanding rolls or sanding sheets or sponges, firstly you need to choose the right grade for the application. Lower numbers are more coarse and suitable for aggressive paint and rust removal, whereas higher numbers are finer and ideal for general smoothing and final preparation.


Number Type Application 
40 Extra Coarse For substantial stripping of rough and built up surfaces.
60 Coarse For stripping rough or built-up surfaces.
80 Medium For removing surface imperfections.
120 Fine For creating a surface key prior to applying first coat of paint, varnish or stain. 
180 Extra Fine For smoothing light surface imperfections.
240 Super Fine For creating a surface key prior to applying final coat.
320 Ultra Fine For final smoothing before final coat.
600 Super Finishing Start polishing of wood.
1000 Ultra Finishing

Final sanding of finishes.



Sanding different materials

It’s important to consider the different stages of the process when sanding different materials.

Sanding wood

  • For stripping wood, use an extra coarse grit of 40
  • For sanding wood, use a medium grit of 80
  • For finishing wood, use a fine grit of 120
  • For super finishing wood, use an extra fine grit of 180


Always ensure you sand in the direction of the grain, as sanding across the grain leaves scratches, which become more obvious when you apply a coat of paint, stain or varnish.

Product Match: Norton Expert Multi-Purpose Cloth Sanding Sheets – strong cloth backing for curved and contoured wooden surfaces, including varnished, bare and painted wood.  

Use: By hand, with a block or clip fixing machine

Mand sanding chair iStock_000087208411_cropped

Sanding plaster

  • For sanding plaster, use a medium grit of 80
  • For finishing plaster, use a fine grit of 120
  • For super finishing plaster, use an extra fine grit of 180
  • For ultra finishing plaster, use a super fine grit of 240 to 320


Product Match: Norton Expert General Purpose Sandpaper Sheets – Anti-clogging for sanding and smoothing plaster and filler.  

Use: By hand, with a block or clip fixing machine


Sanding paint

  • For stripping paint, use a coarse grit of 60
  • For sanding paint, use a medium grit of 80
  • For finishing paint, use a fine grit of 120
  • For super finishing paint, use an extra fine grit of 180 to 240


Product Match: Norton Expert General Purpose Sandpaper Sheets

Use: By hand, with a block or clip fixing machine


Choosing the right abrasive grain

If you’re still unsure which abrasive grain to choose for sanding your material, take a look below:

  • Aluminium Oxide – A tough grain, characterised by a cool cut, long life and the ability to fracture under pressure, producing new cutting edges. Well adapted to stripping, sanding and finishing applications on all types of wood, paint and metal.


  • Zirconia Alumina – A mix of Aluminium Oxide and Zircon, NorZon grain is self-sharpening, breaking down over time and regenerating its sharp cutting edges providing long life when sanding. It’s a hard grain, ideal for cutting through tough material such as wood and metal
  • Screenback Abrasive – An innovative mesh network impregnated with high performance abrasive grains reduces clogging whilst stripping or sanding plaster surfaces, and can be used on both sides for longer product life.
  • Ceramic Abrasive – Due to the consistent fracture properties in the grain, ceramic abrasive is the hardest and sharpest grain used in coated abrasives, making it ideal for finishing and plaster applications. This, combined with No-Fil® coating provides maximum performance, load resistance and long product life.


Paper or cloth?

Norton Essential A275 Sanding Sheet Application Image_101417Whether you choose a paper or cloth backing material depends on how flexible and resistant to tearing you need to be.

  • Paper – Choose a lighter weight paper if you need something more flexible, however, paper with a heavier weight is stronger and less likely to tear.
  • Cloth – Cloth gives great durability and flexibility offering resistance to tearing, and tolerating continual blending and flexing during use. Cloth backed products are only used for dry sanding operations and are ideal for heavy material removal. This is ideal for tearing into strips and to use for contours, such as stair spindles.


Making your sandpaper go further

To make your sandpaper sheets last longer and get better results, remember to use a rubber block or cork block and it also makes sanding easier.

Look out for sanding products using the No-Fil® coating as this prevents clogging and lasts longer.


Choosing your sandpaper

Once you’ve chosen the right sandpaper for the job, remember to follow the correct sequence, starting with a coarser grit before using a finer grit, as skipping a grit number won’t save you time in the long run.

To see the full range of Norton sandpaper for your DIY sanding needs, download the Norton Expert Catalogue

If you have any questions then you can contact us directly for further support.

If the next step in your project is painting, make sure you read our guide to choosing the right paint brush and the most common issues to avoid.


Storing & safety

When you come to use your sandpaper during your project, you should wear safety googles, safety gloves and dust masks. Make sure you store your sandpaper in dry, frost free conditions. The sandpaper should be kept away from cold and damp conditions, and not be exposed to high temperature variations or direct sunlight - excessively dry or humid storage may cause deformation.