Sandpaper Grit Grades Guide

Sandpaper is a sheet of paper, card, or other material coated on one side in an abrasive surface. It is a useful accessory to have when painting or decorating. The sheets are used to smooth down rough surfaces or to remove layers of paint. You are able to purchase sheets in varying grades of grit and in this guide, we look at the various options for Sandpaper Grit Grades.

Sandpaper Grit Grade

Sandpaper showing Grit levels on packaging

Sandpaper grades are numbered. The lower the number the more coarse or rough the sandpaper is and the higher the number is how fine the sandpaper will be. There are lots of different types of sandpaper starting at 30 grit which is classed at extra coarse going all the way to 800,000 grit which is nano fine.

Remember: The higher the number = Small grains and finer sandpaper

For painting and decorating purposes in the paint preparation stage, normally the range used is 80 to 360 grit. The following table shows the differences, please be aware that there are further options but these are the typical sandpapers used for DIY and painting purposes.

In the UK we follow the FEPA(European standard) scale of grit size grade which shows a P followed by the number, for example, P220. The grading is based on the size of the abrasive material on the sandpaper.

Grit or Grade (P):Normally Known As:Uses for this Sandpaper
40CoarseHeavy Stripping
Fast Removal of material
60CoarseHeavy Stripping
Removes wood and materials fast
80MediumLight Stripping,
Smoothing shallow scratches,
Used for hardwood
120FineSmooths,
Removes small bumps and marks
Starting grain for softwood
General prep work
Plaster patches
180Very FineFinishing
Preparation work for latex & Acrylic
Raised wood grain
Final preparation of old paint
220Very FineSurface finishing
Prep for wood stain
Leaves a general smooth finish
320Very FineSanding between coats
Wet sanding
Final finish
400Extra FinePolish of final coats,
Smoothing Top Coats
Sanding between coats
Leaves smooth finish
600+Super FineSanding metals, plastics and ceramics
Leaves smooth finish
1500Ultra FineFinal Delicate Sanding
Polishing thick surface

Sandpaper Grit Grades and Uses

The Grit grades below are a guide to the commonly found sandpapers available and thier uses. Manufacturers differ on the scale but this is the average.

P40-P50 Coarse Sandpaper

This sandpaper choice is used for quick removal of material such as paint or wood and is extremely rough.

P60-P80 Medium Sandpaper

A Medium sandpaper is widely used in paint preparation for sanding back bare wood ready for finishing. It can also be used for removing varnish.

P100-P180 Fine Sandpaper

Fine sandpaper is used for sanding back bare wood ready for coating with varnishes or paint. This choice can also help with cleaning plasterwork and removing water stains from wooden surfaces.

P220-P240 Very Fine Sandpaper

Very fine grit is used for sanding in between coats of paint and stain to flatten down the finish.

P280-P320 Extra Fine

This sandpaper helps in removing small dusts and marks between coats of paint

P360-P600 Super Fine

Very minor blemishes or small scratches in final coats can me smoothed out with super fine sandpaper.

Grit Material

As wells the grit grade the actual grit material can differ. It can be made with man-made materials such as aluminium oxide, silicon carbide or alumina-zirconia. The most commonly used is aluminium oxide. Emery and Garnet are the natural occurring materials used.

Sandpaper Backing

The grit material requires a backing for it to be glued on. Although the word sandpaper implies it would be paper it can be a variety of materials and can include rubber, polyester, rayon, cotton, PET film, cloth (more commonly used for mechanical sanding).

Further Reading:

Federation of European Producers of Abrasives