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Best orbital sandpaper 2023: The top choices for a perfect finish

How to choose the best orbital sandpaper for preparing or finishing your projects

Buyers often think long and hard about the tools they’re going to purchase without giving much thought to the consumables. That’s often true when it comes to orbital sandpaper; it’s common to weigh up your options when spending £50 or more on a decent orbital sander, but there’s also a temptation to grab the orbital sandpaper nearest to you at your builders’ merchant and get on with the job. And that’s not necessarily the best approach.

There’s a lot to consider when you’re selecting the best orbital sandpaper for your job. First, you’ll need to ensure it offers the most appropriate abrasion; if you know what you need, you can buy packs containing paper with a single grit rating; if you don’t, then choose a pack containing a selection.

You’ll also need to ensure the discs are the correct size for your sander, and have the correct number of holes – this is vital for good dust extraction. Finally, while most sanders use a Velcro fixing, it’s worth checking which type yours uses before splashing out.

Best orbital sandpaper: At a glance

How to choose the best orbital sandpaper for you

What does grit rating mean?

On any pack of orbital sandpaper, you’ll find a grit number. This indicates how rough the paper is: the lower the number, the more abrasive the paper; the higher the number, the finer it will be. Coarse orbital sandpaper – 40 grit or below – is best suited to removing old paint finishes or reshaping wood. Anything in the region of 80 to 100 is considered “medium” and suited to final shaping or removing planing or saw marks. Fine sandpaper is 120-220 grit, and is good for a final sanding before applying a finish, while 440 grit and above is for the finest finishes or sanding between coats of paint.

What is aluminium oxide sandpaper?

There are several different types of materials used to make sandpaper, depending on its purpose and cost. But for most general uses, aluminium oxide is best suited as it’s cheap, versatile and available in a very wide range of grits. It’s so common, in fact, that you’ll have to work hard to see a mention of aluminium oxide anywhere on the packaging when you buy orbital sandpaper because it’s usually just a given.

What other kinds of orbital sandpaper could I use?

There are three main types of sandpaper, other than aluminium oxide. Silicone carbide is a tough compound that can wear more quickly than aluminium oxide. It can be used to smooth harder materials, including glass, and is used for wet and dry applications.

Ceramic alumina lasts longer than aluminium oxide, and is considered to provide cooler sanding. It’s best suited to sanding metal.

Finally, there’s alumina-zirconia which is gritty (120 and below) and is good for removing large burrs as it doesn’t clog quickly.

What is wet and dry sandpaper?

Wet and dry sanding generally happens at the end of your project, when you want a light, delicate and smooth finish. As its name suggests, wet and dry sandpaper uses water as a lubricant. It doesn’t remove much material, but it can deliver an extremely fine finish. Water has the added bonus of reducing airborne particles, so assuming you have something to stop the water dripping on the floor, it can be a cleaner way of sanding.

The best orbital sandpaper you can buy in 2023

1. S SATC 125mm Sanding Discs: Best-value orbital sandpaper

Price: £12 | Buy now from Amazon

With a per-disc cost of just 16p, this well-priced 72-piece bundle from S SATC really delivers. For your minimal outlay, you’ll get 12 40 grit discs, and 10 each of 60, 80, 120, 180, 240 and 320 grit – a selection that will suit the vast majority of home DIYers.

The 125mm discs will fit all 125mm orbital sanders, and fit via the commonly used hook and loop (Velcro) mounting. They’re well suited to wood and metal sanding, as well as flattening paintwork at home. They’re made from aluminium oxide, and S SATC claims they’re both durable and anti-static – but even if they do wear quickly, they’re cheap enough to have a spare set in your shed.

Key specs – Diameter: 125mm; Pack size: 72; Grit ratings: 40/60/80/120/180/240/320; Material: Aluminium oxide

2. Powertec 44032G-50: Best premium orbital sandpaper

Price: £23 | Buy now from Amazon

Unlike others here, these Powertec orbital sandpaper discs are sold in per-grit packs of 50. That means you’ll need to choose your grits carefully to avoid buying multiple packs. However, what really sets these gold-coloured discs apart is their stearated aluminium oxide construction. That gives the grit a dry-lubricating property that’s non-loading, meaning less clogging when you’re sanding, resulting in greater durability and better, faster results.

The sanding discs are well suited to a range of home and automotive applications covering both wood and metal. They attach using hook and loop fasteners, which allow quick removal and replacement, and employ an eight-hole design to maximise consistent dust extraction.

Key specs – Diameter: 125mm; Pack size: 50; Grit ratings: 60/80/100/120/150/320; Material: Stearated aluminium oxide

3. 3M Xract Cubitron II: Best dust-free orbital sandpaper

Price: £6 | Buy now from Amazon

While it’s possible to connect a dust extractor to most orbital sanders, the fact remains that sanding still creates dust. And even if you’re wearing the correct masks, tiny particles can still float around in the air, which could pose health risks – and even if they don’t, you’ll still be spending more time cleaning down surfaces once you’ve finished your project.

That’s where 3M’s Xtract Cubitron II comes into its own. It uses a unique abrasive pattern on the disc, married to a net backing that, according to 3M, extracts around 95% of dust. 3M also claims its product has an industry-leading cut rate, and that the Xtract Cubitron II’s grain “continually fractures into sharp cutting edges” – a trait that increases its durability, and requires less pressure on the sander as a result.

The design means it doesn’t have the same eight-hole dust extraction arrangement as other discs here, but it does have a hook and loop fastening.

Key specs – Diameter: 125mm; Pack size: 10; Grit ratings: 80/120/180/320; Material: Ceramic

4. TigerShark 5 Inch Sanding Discs: Best wet and dry orbital sandpaper

Price: £22 | Buy now from Amazon

Wet and dry orbital sandpaper is best suited to finer work, and with five discs of 800, 1,200, 1,500 and 2,000 grit discs, this TigerShark set gives you plenty of options. The discs are constructed from stearated aluminium oxide, which has its own dry lubrication properties in addition to the lubrication the water brings. Similarly, the stearated compound helps to reduce temperatures further over conventional aluminium oxide wet and dry paper.

The abrasive surface is attached to film rather than paper, and is less prone to tearing – especially when wet – even when sanding edges, corners or irregular shapes. It also allows a more uniform spread of abrasive coating, allowing the consistent sanding that’s so important when finer grades are used at the end of your project.

Key specs – Diameter: 125mm; Pack size: 20; Grit ratings: 800/1200/1500/2000; Material: stearated aluminium oxide

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