Repainting wood and giving it a new look begins with removing the old paint. Sanding is one of the popular ways to remove paint and sometimes the first option.

However, entering a hardware store to purchase sandpaper could sometimes get confusing. Knowing the right sandpaper to use to get a flawless and good finish could seem stressful.

Well, the good news is that this article will help you know what grit sandpaper to use and how you can use it. You can see this as a guide to your next successful home DIY.

So, what grit sandpaper to remove paint from wood? Let’s find out.

What Grit Sandpaper to Remove Paint from Wood?

A 40 to 60-grit sandpaper can be used to remove paint from wood. Starting with sandpaper in lower grits gives you more control over the entire sanding process before using high grit sandpaper. For a second round of sanding to clean more paint residue, you can use 80-120 grit sandpaper.

Types of Sandpaper Used to Remove Paint

Various types of sandpaper are classified based on the kind of grit they have. This will help you select the appropriate sandpaper grit size in numbers. They are described below:

Extra coarse sandpaper

The name of this sandpaper already suggests that its surface is very rough. It effectively removes thick coats of paint or varnish from wood.

In grits, it ranges between 40-60 grit sandpaper as it is the coarsest grit. It is advised to start with this kind of sandpaper when removing paint.

Coarse sandpaper

This also has a rough surface but is not rough enough to remove thick layers of paint. It is used mainly on softer wooden surfaces like cabinets and tables.

The coarse sandpaper can also be used to remove primer from wood– base coat for paint, from wood.

Medium coarse sandpaper

This type of sandpaper falls in between coarse and fine sandpapers. It is suitable for sanding down and removing light coats of paint or varnish. The 80-120 grit sandpapers are medium coarse in texture.

Fine sandpaper

From its name, this sandpaper has fine grits. It is available in the 120-220 grit sandpapers. For most DIYs, fine grit sandpaper is the best grit for wood before painting.

For instance, this sandpaper is suitable for use if you have to sand between coats while painting for a smooth finish. Steel wool can be used as a substitute for this kind of sandpaper.

Extra fine sandpaper

This sandpaper has a smooth feel, making it effective for polishing wood. It ranges from 220-500 grit sandpapers.

However, it is not an option for removing paint but can be used for final sanding before a new coat of stain or paint is applied to the wood surface.

Read More: How to Remove Paint Stain From Wood Furniture

Tools to Sand Paint off Wood using Grit Sandpaper 

You might wonder why you need additional tools when you have the sandpaper already. The hands are commonly used for sanding; however, when you need to remove paint off several wood surfaces, you would want help.

Here are some tools that can make you work easier and more effectively:

Orbit Sander

DEKOPRO Electric Sander with 16 Sandpapers, 14000RPM,...
  • 【Powerful Operating System & 6 Various Speed】Our random orbit sander has 6 various speed,the speed dial allows you to increase or decrease the speed from 7,000-14,000 orbits per minute to different applications and materials.More comfortable rubber grip design, which can reduce hand fatigue. Low vibration and noise can help you concentrate on your work.
  • 【16 Pcs Sandpapers & Magic Tape】Our hand sander equipped with 5-inch 16 pcs , included 3 pcs 60 mesh, 1 pcs 80 mesh, 3 pcs 120 mesh,3 pcs 240 mesh, 3 pcs 400 mesh and 3 pcs 1000 mesh sandpapers.It can meet your different applications of sanding, smoothing out wood, removing paint, varnish, polish, stains, blemishes, polishing, etc. With Hook and loop(magic tape) sanding pad design and it is easier to replace sandpaper.
  • 【Pad brake】 These sanders are equipped with a pad brake that prevents over-speeding of the pad. If the tool is lifted off the work surface while the motor is running, the brake will limit pad rotation to no more than 500 OPM.The plastic pad brake is used to provide the braking action.

This is a power sander with a sanding disk that spins in a circular motion and is controlled electrically. The grit sandpaper to be used is attached to this disc.

It is very fast as it can sand large surfaces in minutes, which usually takes days by hand. Care should be taken while using it, though, so as not to damage the surface of the wood.

Detail Sander

BLACK+DECKER MOUSE 1.2 Amp Electric Detail Sander...
  • COMPACT DESIGN – Allows access to cramped corners and tight spaces.
  • POWERFUL MOTOR – 1.2 Amp motor supplies 14,000 orbits per minute for fast and thorough material removal.
  • DUST COLLECTION CANISTER – High-performance system keeps your worksurface clean with less sawdust and debris.

This smaller electrical sander works a bit differently from disc sanders. It works in back and forth motion, unlike the disc sanders that work by spinning.

You have more control with this sander as you can alter its operation in terms of how much of the surface you want to be sanded and when you want to stop.

Sanding Block

Warner Manufacturing Tool 34436 Sanding Block, Carded, in a...
  • Shaped to sand corners, curves, and flat surfaces
  • Versatile design offers one round edge for curves and one angled edge for corners
  • Easy-to-grip handle for comfort and control

This is a manual tool that is controlled by hands. It serves as a manual grip for the grit sandpaper you want to use. It is very suitable for first-timers who want to remove paint from wood.

Sanding blocks also give you more control over how much of the wood surface you want to get out, although your hands will do most of the work.

There are some other forms of sanders as well, such as cordless sanders. They include:

  • Palm sanders
  • Belt sander

How to Sand Paint off Wood

Sanding paint off wood is relatively easy to carry out once you have the right tools. You could decide to do it manually, with a hand sander, or electrically using the power sanders that have been described above.

The size and kind of surfaces you want to sand can help you make the right choice, so you do not expend all your energy.

Tools and Materials 

  • Grit sandpapers
  • Sanding block or any sanding tool of choice

Step-by-step process 

Step 1: Prepare the painted surface by cleaning with soap and water.

Step 2: Fix coarse grit sandpaper or anyone in a smaller grit size to a sanding block or sander.

Step 3: Begin to sand the paint off the wood till at least the shiny top layer has been removed.

Step 4: Wipe off the paint residue.

Step 5: Use higher grit sandpaper for the second round of sanding until the last spec of paint gets off.

Safety precautions:

  • Ensure you wear protective goggles and a face mask while sanding.
  • Do not use electric sanders indoors.
  • If the paint to be sanded off is lead based paint, avoid sanding it.

Aside from using a sandpaper, there are also other ways of sanding wood without a sandpaper that might give you the same results.

How to Choose the Right Grit Sandpaper for Paint Removal

A few things must be considered before selecting a sandpaper grit size or kind for paint removal. They include:

1. The kind of paint to be removed

Different types of paint are used on wood, from acrylic to latex to oil-based paints. They require different degrees of coarseness to be removed.

So it is essential to know the kind of paint used previously and how many coats were applied before selecting any grit sandpaper.

For instance, latex paint requires finer grit sandpapers, while removing thick layers of paint require coarser sandpapers.

2. The kind of finish you want as a result

Sanding can leave you with a smooth or rough finish on the surface of the wood. So, if you want a smooth finish, then finer grit sandpaper is your best bet, while if you are only after removing the paint thoroughly, you can use more coarse sandpapers.

3. The kind of wood to be sanded

The state of the wood you want to use sandpaper on dictates what kind of grit you would use first.

For instance, wood in good condition can first be sanded with coarse grit before you proceed to finer grits, but you might want to be more careful when dealing with old wood.

4. The brand of sandpaper 

There are various brands of sandpaper out there, so you want to make sure you are purchasing the right one which will do the job effectively.

The degrees of coarseness could vary from brand to brand as well.

5. The type of sander used 

If you use an electric sander, you might want to use less coarse sandpaper when working with electrical sanders as they could damage the wood. So you must be careful when choosing a kind of sander.

Check out our review article on some of the best sanders for removing paint from wood that you can choose from.

Other Ways to Remove Paint from Wood

Asides from sanding, there are other ways to remove paint from wood surfaces. Some of them are described below:


This is done using a paint scraper, a tool with a flat steel blade, and a handle resembling a putty knife. A razor-blade scraper, hook scraper, or filling knife can also serve as paint scrapers.

For small areas, it is effective for stripping furniture paint without chemicals. All you have to do is gradually begin scraping the paint off the surface till all of it comes off. Care should be taken, though, so as not to damage the wood.

Use of chemical paint strippers

Chemical strippers often come in regular paint cans and containers as paint removers for stripping paint.

They are applied using a wire brush, and when the paint beneath begins to crack, a metal scraper is used to scrape the paint off till you get to the wood’s surface.

It could require applying multiple layers to reach all the paint. The process depends entirely on the kind you purchase in a hardware store. If, for instance, you are working on your deck, ensure you go for the best deck stripper to achieve the best results.

Use of heat gun

Hot air can also be used to remove paint from wood. Heat guns can be used for this purpose. It is advised to use it at the lowest temperature setting and keep the nozzle about two inches from the surface.

When the paint starts to leave the surface, you can use metal scrapers to peel it away. You must be careful, though, so you do not burn yourself.

Use of paint thinners

Paint thinners work well for peeling paint off surfaces, especially when removing thin layers. All you need is a cotton pad soaked in a paint thinner solution, and use it to wipe the wood surface until the paint starts to come off.

Knowing what type of wood to use this on is essential to avoid eroding the wood surface.

Sanding versus Stripping: Which is More Effective for Removing Paint?

Sanding and stripping are two entirely different processes. While sanding involves using grit sandpaper, stripping requires a chemical paint stripper that comes as a liquid or gel to strip paint off the wood.

While you want to know which is more effective, so you do not end up wasting your time, it is essential to know how much paint you want to get rid of.

If you want to remove as much paint as possible, just well enough for the new paint to sit nicely on the surface, then sanding is enough.

However, if you want all specks of paint removed from the wood grain for refinishing, you could use a paint stripper.

The stripping requires other materials and protective tools while carrying it out as described above compared to sanding. So depending on your aim for removing the paint, you can go ahead.


What is the best sandpaper for removing paint from wood?

A 40-60 grit sandpaper is the best sandpaper for removing paint from wood as long as the grits of the sandpaper are very coarse enough to sand the paint off. However, starting with lighter sandpaper is sometimes advised to not sand more than required.

Can you sand paint off wood?

Using a sander or sanding block, you can sand paint off the wood with enough pressure. It would help if you were more careful when sanding wood with an electrical, so you do not damage the wood by sanding too deeply.

Best sandpaper for painted wood

Coarse sandpapers are best used for painted wood. Although selecting the best sandpaper depends mainly on the kind of paint to remove and how many layers of paint were previously applied. It is advised to start with softer grits, especially when dealing with old wood.

Best way to sand paint off wood

The best way to sand paint off is by using a sanding block. It offers more control over how well you want the surface sanded and reaching edges that other tools cannot reach. However, when working on more extensive surfaces, it is better to use an electrical sander such as an orbital sander.


In summary, go with lower grits first and test on a small area of the painted piece you want to remove wood paint to see if it will work.

Do not forget to apply only the right amount of pressure needed to move all the paint without damaging the wood underneath.

In no time, you would have completed the sanding process and prepared your wood for a new round of finishing.

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