How to Use an Orbital Sander to Remove Paint: 8 Tips to Avoid Mistakes

A random orbital sander is a highly effective solution for smoothing the wood finish and removing paint or varnish. The sanding machines people used in the past are no longer in use in this era. A random orbital sander is an updated version of sanding machines that is very easy to use if you know the process of using it correctly. This content on how to use an orbital sander to remove paint will break down the steps to get a more refined finish on wood and tips to avoid some mistakes. 

Which Tools You Need for Removing Paint 

Ensure you have all the tools ready beforehand to make your job easy and successful. The paint removal project will require the following items-

  • Random orbital sander 
  • Sandpaper 
  • Safety goggles/glasses
  • Safety mask 
  • Tack rag
  • Clamp
  • Vacuum cleaner 

Tips to Remove Paint with An Orbital Sander 

Step 1: Secure Your Eyes & Lungs

Security of your eyes and lungs is the most important job that you can’t avoid. While doing any job, you must be careful about what you are breathing. In most cases, people don’t think much about the toxins they breathe when sanding paint off a surface. The paint dust and the abrasives are critical for your health and significantly more irritating for your lungs as they may contain harmful elements like chromium. Similarly, while doing any DIY projects, ensure the safety of your eyes, too, where small flakes of wood or paint can damage your cornea. So, it is good to wear safety glasses and a mask before starting work. 

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Step 2: Secure the Item to be Sanded

Before starting the sanding work, you should secure the item you need to sand. If you use a clamp, you can be relieved that the item doesn’t get titled while you are in the middle of your project. A random orbital sander can’t perform nicely to smoothen an item’s edge if the sanded object moves under the sander. So, use clamps to ensure the wood is perfectly and tightly fixed. 

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Step 3: Connect Sander to a Ventilation System 

Ventilation system installation can help you to clean up and collect all the wood or paint dust within a short period. So, it will be a good idea to connect the sander to a ventilation system to accumulate a large amount of dust throughout the project. This step will save you time and effort. 

Step 4: Remove Large Flakes of Paint

You can easily remove the large flakes of paint with your hand or a piece of sandpaper. During this step, you should wear a safety mask and safety glasses like the first step. 

Step 5: Fit the Sandpaper to a Random Orbital Sander 

Use the right sanding pad that goes perfectly with the project’s size. You can stick sandpaper with a hook and loop sanding disc that can be found in various shapes or a peel-and-stick adhesive. It’s not suggested to use higher grits for rougher surfaces. For suitable surfaces, use the lowest grit, like 80. Move on to the higher grits as the surface gets smoother.

Step 6: Hold the Sander on Your Project’s Surface 

Start sanding with the random orbital sander on the project’s surface and control the speed. You must go very slow if it is a variable speed sander. Hold the random orbital sander on the project’s surface very gently. You are not recommended to apply much pressure on it to remove it just in one sweep. Using a random orbital sander is practical as you can sand from any direction and continue the work, whichever is good for you. Hold the sander for a few moments over a spot. Move back and forth patiently, which may take a short time to get you a smooth surface.  

Step 7: Move to Smoother Grit for Finishing the Paint Removal 

To make a more delicate surface:

  1. Switch to a higher grit, like 120. You can take the help of a simple tool like a pencil to know or mark when to move to a higher grit.
  2. Continue your work through the grits until you finish the job with a 220 grit.
  3. Once you are done with sanding, lift the random orbital sander lightly off the surface before turning it off. 

Step 8: Finish by Cleaning up

Switch off the machine after finishing the sanding job in all the areas. A tack rag is needed to wipe off the rest of the dust. If there is still some leftover dust, try a vacuum cleaner. 

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Some Common Mistakes Many People Do

As a beginner, many people sometimes misuse a random orbital sander. Let’s check out those mistakes at a glance so that you will be aware of not making mistakes when using a random orbital sander. 

Pressing the Sander Harshly 

Many people don’t know that too much pressure on a random orbital sander may create dents and tire you before finishing the task. Unfortunately, this mistake also risks raising the temperature, which may damage the project’s surface badly. 

Skimping on Sandpaper Grits

Never switch quickly from 80 to 220 grit; that will create hassles and make the work lengthier. So, if you want a perfect project done, never go for an ultra shortcut process. Instead, moving sequentially with patience can get you a fantastic finish. 

Sanding Too Fast

It doesn’t matter whether you are a professional or a beginner; you must not want to leave behind some swirl marks on your project that is caused due to standing too quickly. In addition, sanding at a very high speed creates problematic vibrations. 

Compromising Quality of the Sandpaper

It is not a good idea to expect a better job with a low-quality product. Likewise, low-quality sandpaper may wear out too quickly, which is ineffective at cutting through the surface. 

Using Sandpaper’s Edge to Sand off Stubborn Rough Areas

When you tilt your random orbital sander, you risk denting the project. So, ensure you work with the sander flat on the surface and deal with the stubborn rough areas with the sandpaper’s edge.

Allowing Paint or Wood Dust to Clog the Sander

The clogged sander may risk overheating the sanding discs, which may damage the sensitive projects. So, ensure your sander is not clogged by dust which is risky for heat-sensitive projects. 

Choosing an Unstable Surface 

To get the best result, ensure your project is held in the correct place and secure the object so it can’t move under you.

Recommended: Can You Use An Angle Grinder As A Sander: Most Effective Ways 

Tips to Avoid the Mistakes 

Some tips can help you use a random orbital sander very efficiently. Check the tips below to get a professional sanding result with your go-to orbital sanding tool for paint removal.

Avoid Pressing Down the Sander & Sanding Firmly 

Don’t put pressure while sanding with a random orbital sander. Instead, take your time with each inch of the sander and repeatedly over the surface if needed. Be sure that the project is not over-sanded. 

Choosing High-Quality Sandpaper

Low-quality sandpaper is not only problematic to use on any project, but it also takes time and effort. There are no such things as cheap-rated sandpaper, but the quality varies. Choose the best one to get a smoother finish. 

Ensure Filtration System 

A clogged sander is responsible for damaging the sanding discs and heat-sensitive projects. So, use a wire brush to comb the random orbital sander. Instead of rubbing, you can use a rubber stick to clean the sander. Ensuring a filtration system is a must to work effectively by using a vacuum cleaner. 


How effective is an electric sander in removing paint? 

An electric or power sander is as effective as a manual hand sander in removing paint from large and flat surfaces. It would be best to use safety glasses and a safety mask when sanding with an electric sander.  

Are drum sanders practical for removing paint? 

Yes, they are capable of ripping off even the most desperate and stubborn paint from wood floors. So, they can also strip off much of the wood from the floor. 

What should I choose between sheet sander and orbital sander? 

Though both the sanders are good to use, choose orbital sander over other sanders because of its versatility. In addition, using orbital sanders will make the task easier and less time-consuming. 

Is an orbital sander perfect for wood?

Yes, they are good to use on wood surfaces but remember that a regular orbital sander can sometimes leave circular marks on the wood project. So, if you want a smooth and nice-looking surface, go for a random orbital sander instead of an orbital sander. 

Final Verdict 

The steps are extremely straightforward that anyone can easily follow when sanding wood to a smoother finish or removing paint. Hopefully, you have the best ideas for using an orbital sander to remove paint. Besides, the tips this content provides may help you to use a random orbital sander for paint removal tasks and get professional results. 

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Hey, I'm George Fanton. I've over nine years of experience in the woodworking industry. I've cultivated a deep interest in practical wood and tasks. I enjoy sharing new information on woodworking technology to maintain my expertise in the current woodworking industries.

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