Sandpaper and steel wool are different abrasives that bring different qualities to wood finishing projects. Both are used for cleaning, polishing, and sanding. However, the finished products are notably different.

Read on to discover the benefits of steel wool over sandpaper, challenges to watch out for, and how the different steel wool grits compare to sandpaper textures. Specifically, what grit sandpaper is equal to 0000 steel wool?

0000 Steel Wool Equals What Grit Sandpaper?

Number 0000 steel wool is approximately equivalent to 400-grit sandpaper. However, note that this is an approximate value because steel wool and sandpaper are completely different abrasives with different finishing qualities. Indeed, some experts say that 0000 steel wool is about the same quality as 600-1000-grit steel wool.

Can You Use Steel Wool Instead of Sandpaper?

Yes, you can use steel wool instead of sandpaper for wood cleaning, polishing, and sanding. While it cannot replace sandpaper, steel wool is excellent for delicate work.

For instance, the superfine texture makes steel perfect for refinishing. Coarser steel wool types may not give as smooth a finish as sandpaper. However, fine grit steel wool sure does.

Moreover, extra-fine steel wool grades produce a fine, soft gloss that leaves old furniture as shiny as new. So, the challenge is choosing the right grit steel wool for your woodworking applications.

What Grit Sand Paper is Equal to Steel Wool?

Steel wool is available in eight grades or seven if (as some experts) you don’t count 000-grade steel wool.

The finest grade is 0000 steel wool, while the coarsest is #4 steel wool. A few manufacturers produce grade #5 steel wool, which is even coarser. However, others merely call it coarser Grade #4 steel wool.

In between grades #0000 and #4 are steel wool grades 000, 00, 0, 1, 2, and 3. Again, some people don’t recognize grade #000 steel wool.

Unfortunately, comparing the different steelwool grades with sandpaper for woodworking purposes is not straightforward because the two are different materials. However, a rough comparison would look as follows;

Steel Wool43210000000000
Sandpaper30-4040-6060-8080-100100-150150-220280-320300-600

What Grit Sandpaper is Equal to 0000 Steel Wool Grit?

The above table shows that steel wool grade #0000 is equivalent to 300 to 600-grit sandpaper. Therefore, on average, #0000 sandpaper is about 400-grit sandpaper.

However, be warned that this isn’t a fixed value. Indeed, some experts believe that #0000 steel wool is much closer to 600 to 10000 sandpaper.

000 Steel Wool Grit: What Grit Sandpaper is Equal to 000 Steel Wool?

We can see from the table above that #000 steel wool is equivalent to 280 to 320-grit sandpaper. This grade is known as “extra fine” steel wool.

It’s commonly used for baffling cabinetry, and new wax furnishes. It’s also used to remove minor burns from wood. Additionally, it removes paint drips and splatters.

000 vs 0000 Steel Wool

Steelwool grades 000 and 0000 are comparable and often used interchangeably. However, they aren’t the same. Grade 0000 (with four zeros) is the “finest” steelwool grade.

Grade 0000 sandpaper is used for buffing varnish, shellac, and lacquer. Additionally, it leaves no scratches and is, therefore, perfect for fine woodworking pieces. Grade 000 is next in line after #0000. It’s “extra fine” wool used to buff cabinetry and new wax finishes.

Many woodworkers also use grade 000 steel wool to clean, smooth, and prepare wooden surfaces before polishing, waxing, or painting. Finally, it clears minor wood burns and removes paint drips and splatters.

Which is Better? Steel Wool or Sandpaper?

Both steel and sandpaper can be used for sanding wood. Nevertheless, remember the following;

Steelwool is best for oil-based finishes

Steel wool is more suited to oil-based finishes. Unfortunately, anding water-based finishes with steel wool can cause rusting when the leftover pieces of iron (yes, steel wool is made from iron) reacts with water.

On the other hand, sandpaper works equally well with water-based and oil-based finishes.

Steelwool is better for overcoming accessibility issues

You can shape steel wool into whichever shapes you wish to reach hard-to-reach locations, such as corners and edges.

Additionally, it’s easier to pinch a small volume of steel for more delicate finishing jobs such as contours. Sandpaper is a little cumbersome when finishing corners and delicate areas.

Sanding offers greater post-sanding convenience

Both sandpaper and steel wool require cleaning after sanding. However, steel wool makes the post-sanding cleaning process challenging because you must remove the fine wool dust and wood dust.

On the other hand, you only need to clear the wood dust after sanding with sandpaper.

It all comes down to the grades and grits

Sandpaper quality is measured by the number of sharp particles per square inch. This is also known as the grit number. The higher the grit number, the finer the finishing qualities.

Generally, sandpaper grit numbers range from 60 (extra coarse) to 400 (extra fine). On the other hand, steel wool quality is measured in grades, from grade #4 (extra coarse) to grade #0000 (extra fine).

Steel Wool Grit Chart

Below is a steel wool grit chart to help you pick the appropriate texture for your next wood finishing project.

Grit Number DescriptionUses/Applications 
0000Super FineIdeal for smoothing shellac, varnishes, and lacquer before applying the top coat. Perfect for rubbing a high lustre finish on waxed surfaces. You can use it to put a matte finish on a gloss paint finish. 
000Extra FinePerfect for removing paint spots from the furniture. You can use it to prepare surfaces between coats of paint. 
00Very FineIdeal for restoring slightly burned furniture surfaces. Perfect for restoring and repairing varnish surfaces 
0Fine Ideal for polishing golf clubs. Great for prepping wall surfaces, including wooden walls, before painting. 
1MediumExcellent for removing paint from moulding and awkward corners. It removes wax and grease from solidified linoleum floorsSmooths raised grains or primed wood
2Medium CoarseIt’s used with varnish remover to remove varnish from old antique items. It removes varnish and lacquer finishes during re-finishing.
3CoarseRemoves varnish and paint from wooden floors. Perfect for restoring the appearance of exterior wood finishing.
4Extra CoarseCommon in heavy-duty stripping.

FAQs

Is 0000 the finest steel wool?

Yes, 0000 is the finest variety of steel wool. It is used to polish waxed wood and remove water stains from wooden furniture, including garden furniture. Next up after Grade 0000 is Grade 000 steel wool used to clean, smooth, and prepare wooden and metal surfaces before polishing, then Grade 00.

How does steel wool compare to sandpaper?

The main advantage of steel wool over sandpaper for wood finishing is that steel wool compresses into almost any shape. Therefore, it is easier to use steel wool in hard-to-reach areas and complex-shaped wood surfaces, such as mouldings and bevelled edges.

Does steel wool work like sandpaper?

Yes, steel wool is a great stand-in for fine-grit sandpaper. The finest gauge steel wool, 0000, is a great choice for sanding between layers of oil-based paint. It’s also the perfect choice to buff off the final coat of paint.

What is the coarsest grade of steel wool?

Steel wood is available in eight grades. The finest is Grade 0000 steel wool, and the coarsest is Grade #4 steel wool. Grades 000, 00, and 0 (in that order) are fine-to-medium textures while grades #1, #2 and #3 are medium to coarse textures. However, some experts don’t recognize Grade 000 steel wool, thus only recognizing a total of seven grades.

Additional Resources: What grit sandpaper for deck sanding

Summary

Steel wool is a popular alternative for sandpaper in wood prepping and finishing. It’s a great choice for awkward-shaped items, fine woodworking items, and hard-to-reach corners.

However, beware that stainless steel wools leave traces of iron that can cause rusting (reddish-brown debris) when used with water-based finishes. More importantly, choose the right steel wool grade for the best results.

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