Sanding Belts Buyer Guide

Sanding belts buyer guide

A sanding belt is an elongated strip of abrasive material, specially designed to fit a powered sanding tool. The ‘loop’ of sandpaper travels at high speed with a significant amount of torque, making it quick and easy to deal with otherwise time consuming jobs. Belt sanders are perfect for smoothing rough surfaces, removing paint and generally eliminating imperfections.

An indispensable tool in carpentry and construction circles for several decades, the belt sander singlehandedly revolutionised the way in which the world works with wood. However, even the most cutting-edge belt sander is only as capable, consistent and versatile as the sanding belt it is fitted with.

Types of sanding belt

Today’s market is populated by hundreds of different sanding belts to suit all types of power tools and projects. However, the vast majority of sanding belts use one of the following four materials to achieve the abrasive action required:

Aluminium oxide

Arguably the most versatile of all sanding belt abrasives, aluminium oxide sanding belts are suitable for practically all sanding applications. Available in grits from 36 right up to 400, aluminium oxide is great for working with metals, woods and other materials.


100% synthetic and exceptionally tough, zirconia sanding belts are far sharper and more durable than aluminium oxide. Available in grits from 36 to 120, zirconia sanding belts are typically used with plastics, rubber and fibreglass, along with all types of ferrous and non-ferrous metals.


The long-term performance of ceramic abrasives is outstanding, which like their counterparts can be used on ferrous and non-ferrous metals alike.

Ceramic sanding belts are a particularly popular choice for working with stainless steel.

Silicon carbide

The sharpest and hardest of all commercially available abrasives, silicon carbide is ideal for tackling the toughest jobs as quickly as possible. It’s also available in an extensive range of grits, from 24 all the way up to 600.

Choosing a sanding belt

Above all else, the key to choosing the right sanding belt lies in checking the specifications and requirements of your belt sander.

If you don’t have the manufacturer’s instructions available, you can simply cut across your sander’s current belt and measure its length and width. Alternatively, enter the make and model of your sander online to find out the exact shape and size of sanding belt needed.

After which, it’s a case of choosing an appropriate grit to suit the requirements of the job.

Sanding Belt grit values

High grit values equate to a smoother surface, with grits of around 600 being the highest. These are great for final polishing, though aren’t suitable for stripping paint and varnish.

At the opposite end of the scale, a grit value of around 40 is suitable for much heavier and more aggressive applications.

Irrespective of material, the vast majority of sanding belt materials will be
categorised under one of the following four headers:

  • Extra coarse sandpaper – This typically refers to sanding belts with a grit value of 24 to 36, which is ideal for removing the most stubborn paint and varnish.
  • Coarse sandpaper – Slightly less abrasive though still heavy-duty, coarse sandpaper with a grit of 40 to 50 is suitable for most everyday paint and varnish removal.
  • Medium sandpaper – Usually with a grit value of anything from 60 to 100, which can be useful for the initial smoothing of rough and uneven wooden surfaces.
  • Fine sandpaper – This is the kind of sandpaper most commonly found in home toolboxes and workshops, with a grit of 120 to 220. Highly versatile with a multitude of applications.
  • Extra fine sandpaper – Perfect for those all-important finishing touches and a final polish, with grit values ranging from 240 all the way up to 600.

It’s important to note that with many (if not most) projects, you will need to work with a variety of different sandpaper grits consecutively to achieve the desired result.

How to maintain & clean a sanding belt

A sanding belt is a relatively simple component to keep clean and well maintained. The only maintenance requirement is a thorough clean after every use, which can be achieved using an abrasive sanding stick to remove as much dust and debris as possible.

As for the belt sander itself, it’s important to consult the manufacturer’s guidelines as different devices have different cleaning and maintenance requirements. In all instances, however, the key to consistent performance lies in keeping power tools like these clean and in good condition, with a little care after every use.