How to Use Sandpaper to Refinish Your Furniture – Step by Step

Do you want to change your cabinet’s finish? Does your dining table look old and weary? Don’t rush to the store to buy new furniture! You can make your old furniture look shiny and new with a simple technique: sanding. Here is a guide on how to use sandpaper to refinish your furniture:


Choose a Sandpaper

Sandpaper is simply a thick paper covered with very sharp particles that work just like a saw’s teeth. It removes very small layers of a wood’s surface to make it smooth.

There are four main types of sandpapers based on their particles: flint, garnet, silicon carbonide, and aluminum oxide.

reclaimed barn wood stain

In sanding wooden furniture, aluminum oxide is the most recommended because it lasts longer and makes work easier. There are two things that you should consider in choosing a sandpaper: grit size and weight of paper backing.

The grit size is based on the number of sand particles per square inch of the paper. It determines the fineness or roughness of sandpaper.

Each grit size is assigned a mesh number ranging from 50 and above. Rough sandpapers have low mesh numbers while finer sandpapers have high mesh numbers.

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    Rough sandpaper (50-80) is used for removing paint and finish from your furniture.
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    Medium sandpaper (100-140) is used for sanding rough wood.
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    Fine sandpaper (150-180) is used for sanding soft wood or for the second stage of sanding.
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    Very Fine sandpaper (220-280) is used for the final sanding of wood furniture.

The mesh number is usually printed on the back of the paper. If it is not indicated, you can just use your hands to compare the texture of the grains. Meanwhile, the weight of sandpaper backing is classified into the letters A, C, D, and E.

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    Class A sandpapers are lightweight and also known as finishing papers.
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    Class C and D sandpapers are medium weight and also known as cabinet papers.
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    Class E sandpapers are heavy weight and used for sanding equipment.

You should start with rough sandpaper with medium weight paper back then gradually move to finer ones that are light weight until you achieve the desired appearance and texture of the furniture.

Look at Your Preferred Support

Aside from sandpaper, you might need these three sanding tools to help you refinish your furniture faster and easier:

women working on sand paper

Sanding Block: This is essentially a piece of wood that has sandpaper wrapped around it. You can make a sanding block on your own. Just make sure that the sandpaper is firmly fixed on the wood.

This will enable you to have a more solid grip on the sandpaper and allow you to cover more surface area. It is used for furniture edges and details.

sandpaper on wood

Orbital Sander: This is an equipment that is comprised of a rounded disc covered in sandpaper attached to a drill. This sander has a speed of 8,400 orbits per minute, which can help you be more efficient.All you have to do is direct the sander in smooth strokes.

Don’t apply pressure to the machine. You can rent this machine from your local hardware supply store or buy your own if you think you will need it over the years.

sandpaper work

Tack Cloth: This has a sticky coating surrounding it and you can use this to remove all the wood dust that accumulate during the sanding process. Remember that sanding machines are useful only for big furniture. For smaller ones, hand sanding with sandpaper is still the best.

Prepare Your Furniture

You have to clean your furniture before sanding. Remove any dirt on the furniture and make sure that it is dry. Before sanding, you should determine the direction of your furniture’s wood grain.

Original Samantha Pattillo Refinish Table

You can do that by feeling the grains using your fingertips. If the furniture is old or painted, it might be hard to feel the grains. Following a lengthwise pattern is advisable.

You can apply a small amount of water to feel the grains easily. Just wait for a few minutes. The water will cause the grains to rise so you can feel them with your fingers.

Follow The Direction of The Grains

Place your furniture in a way that the grains move vertically in front of you. Begin to sand the wood using rough or medium sandpaper. Always follow the direction of the grains. Never sand across or against the grit because that will cause scratches. Apply adequate and equal force.


Exerting excessive pressure will create unwanted depressions on the wood and uneven surface. Start with the flat surface then use a sanding block on edges and hard-to-reach corners.

Remove The Dust

Wood dusts accumulated from sanding will cause problems if they are not removed from the surface before staining or putting finishing touches. Dry rags or brushes would not remove the dust properly. This is why you should use a tack cloth to remove all wood dust.


Then the folded tack cloth should be wiped across the wood to eliminate dust. Affordable tack cloths can be bought in hardware stores. You can also make your own by soaking a 12" piece of cheesecloth in a small amount of oil.

Observe Safety Measures

Sanding can be a dangerous job, especially if you do not take the appropriate precautions. Be sure to observe these safety measures while sanding:

Always wear safety goggles or a face shield, not just glasses. This will prevent wood dust from getting into your eyes. When using an orbital sander, inspect all sanding discs and make sure that they are attached properly. Keep your hands away from the discs at all times.

blonde woman working with plank

Final Verdict

Though sanding may be a challenging task at first, it is an affordable and effective way to refinish your furniture. Just make sure that you follow safety measures and enjoy the whole process.

Don’t spend so much on buying new furniture! Follow this simple guideline to give your old furniture a brand new look.

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