How to Use an Orbital Sander to Remove Paint

Published on: January 2, 2022
Written by Eric Devin / Fact-checked by David Rowan

When somebody plans to renovate a house, office building, furniture, or any kind of surface, one of the most common tasks of renovation is removing paint and preparing the material to get repainted.

how to use an orbital sander to remove paint

Removing paints is a complex job as it may damage the quality of the materials if you don’t comply with the standard procedure and guidelines while working on your project for achieving the best outcome.

Sometimes lack of knowledge, insight, or use of the wrong tools for removing paint misleads people towards undesirable outcomes.

Orbital sanders can be used for a variety of sanding and smoothing needs. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your ventilation system, and safety issues.

how to use an orbital sander to remove paint
how to use an orbital sander to remove paint

There are a variety of sanders available in the market. And that would puzzle you to choose the most effective one for your paint removing project. In fact, among all, Orbital sander ranked top because of its unique features. 

However, considering the above aspects, I have designed this article with a few steps for you to follow for achieving outstanding results in removing paint with an Orbital sander. Now, let’s discuss the steps on how to use an Orbital sander to remove paint.

Step-by-Step Guide

Personal Protection Equipment 

Before commencing your project work, you must wear safety goggles; ear plugs; musk, protective clothes, and boots to prevent injuries, respiratory infections, and workplace hazards.

Determine the Base under the Layers of the Paint 

The first step is to identify the base of your project surface under the layer of paint. Use a sander to clean the layer of paint off the drywall. Never use chemical paint remover which can cause damage to the drywall of the material.

The orbital sanders are also appropriate to remove paint from hardwood floors, plain door frames, or even metal surfaces. For the molded baseboard, it would need to apply a chemical paint stripper so the sanding process won’t disfigure its shapes and design.

3 Organize the Project Surface  

At this stage, prepare the project surface following three crucial steps, cleaning the painted surface, taping off the edges, and spraying some paint remover.

Cleanse the painted surface thoroughly, rinse it well, and leave it overnight to dry off. Cleaning could be done by a grease-cutting cleaner, dish detergent, or some all-purpose household cleaners.

Border or mark the project surface for paint removal with the tape on the edges. It would help you protect the area where you don’t want to sand.

Then the next step is to spread over the paint remover on the project surface. Spray the paint remover on the surface and leave it for some time to get the paint dissolved. 

Then, wipe off the project surface with paper towels or a microfiber soft towel. In case of hard paint substance that may not be dissolved with chemical spray, use a paint scraper to get it off clearly.

Organize Sanding Room

Before sanding, vacant the room completely. There should be no furniture or any other stuff. Keep all the windows open. Then block the doorways with the plastic drop sheet to make sure that no sawdust gets to the adjacent rooms or areas.

Start Sanding for Paint Removal

The standard procedure recommends two methods for removing paints by an Orbital sander. One is, to place the Orbital sander on the project surface and move it very gently and lightly in a circular motion with recommended speed like taking a second to sand one inch of the surface. And the other is to scrape away the remaining solid paints with the abrasive sandpaper or with the recommended power-grade sanding disk.

It is recommended to use abrasive 60-grit sandpaper to commence the sanding with the Orbital sander which has the capacity to cover a large area at a time while operating. Then, vacuum the sanding area with the shop vacuum and check the first outcome of the sanding task.

Continue sanding with sandpaper ranging from 80 to 100 grit as appropriate. Continue vacuuming and sanding until it removes all the layers of the paint. For a metal surface, you can sand with 80 grit of sandpaper.

Finally, refinish the surface with higher-grade sandpaper from 150 to 200 grit as appropriate. For metal surfaces, you can rub the steel fiber in a circular motion over the metal to have a smooth finish.

Finishing Task

After the sanding is over, inspect the surface carefully if there are any cracks, damage, or open grain. Fill the holes with wood putty if any before finishing. Then apply a pre-stain wood conditioner to help sustain the color, removing the blemished appearance of the surface.

It is also to be noted that a handy orbital sander is an appropriate tool to remove paint from flat or curved surfaces.

Removing old paint is not a relaxed job sanding in general. It is time-consuming and demands a lot of patience to achieve outstanding results. After finishing with an orbital sander, if it did not yet give you the best results, you can try some other different stripping methods. When there are several layers of gloss paints on top of some varnish, the only way to use the more powerful sander is to have the optimum results.

Features of Orbital Sander

Please check out the following features while you buy for your project


An orbital sander is a hand-held sander that vibrates in small circles, or “orbits.” The sanding disk spinning while moving simultaneously in small ellipses causes the orbital action that it is known for. Mostly used for fine sanding or where little material needs to be removed;

Variable Speed:

Variable speed offers more control, especially when sanding the painted surface which is not even/flat;

Speed lock: It allows you to hold on to your sander more freely and focus on the task. Speed Lock is able to lock any speed level, not only the highest;

Good Vacuum:

The built-in dust collector is good for extracting paint dust and other super fine clouds of dust quite nicely. The option for attaching the shop vac. is an added advantage; 

Low Vibrations: 

​The vibration control system offers more comfortable and regulated sanding. Compared to disc sanders, the rotation and vibration of the orbital sanders lessen the risk of eliminating a circular pattern on the surface;

Heavy Grit to Fine-grain:

The movement part of orbital sanders to scrape the paint away from the surface is spinning heads and a variant of sanding discs from heavy-grit sanding discs to fine-grain polishers;

What Type of Orbital Sander Should I Use for My Project

The type of orbital sander you should use for your project will depend on the specific task and the surface you will be sanding. Here are a few common types of orbital sanders and their uses:

  • Random orbital sanders: These sanders have a round pad that oscillates in a random pattern, making them good for general-purpose sanding and removing material quickly. They can be used on wood, metal, and paint.
  • Finish orbital sanders: Also known as quarter-sheet sanders, these have a smaller pad and are designed for fine sanding and finishing. They’re typically used on wood and paint.
  • Detail orbital sanders: These are the smallest type of orbital sander and are designed for getting into tight spaces and sanding small areas. They’re good for removing old paint and varnish, and for sanding tight corners.

Ultimately, the choice of orbital sander will depend on the type of surface, the specific task, and the level of finish desired.

Safety Precautions to Take When Using an Orbital Sander

When using an orbital sander, it is important to take the following safety precautions:

  1. Always wear protective gear, including goggles or safety glasses, a dust mask, and ear protection.
  2. Make sure the work surface is clean and free of debris before sanding.
  3. Keep the sander moving at all times to prevent deep scratches or uneven sanding.
  4. Use the sander on the lowest speed setting first and gradually increase the speed as needed.
  5. Do not sand near flammable materials or in poorly ventilated areas.
  6. Disconnect the sander from the power source before making any adjustments or cleaning it.
  7. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use and maintenance.
  8. Do not use the sander for any purpose other than what it is intended for.
  9. Keep a steady hold on the sander at all times, and do not sand in any awkward or uncomfortable positions.
  10. Regularly check the sander for wear or damage, and replace any worn or damaged parts immediately.

Concluding Remarks

As I said earlier, removing paint from the surface is a little complex job as it may cause damage to your workpiece for various reasons. It demands sufficient time, concentration, and the right tools to have an excellent level of performance for your project. Therefore, I would remind you to strictly follow the standard procedure and guidelines while working with such sensitive jobs as paint removal. 

In addition, I would suggest that if you detect any abnormality in your device, you are always welcome to consult with us at any time. Also please check with the manufacturer’s instructions further to deal with the problem in a proficient manner. 

I am quite confident that if you strictly adhere to all the steps while implementing your project, it would give you a worthwhile experience with the paint removal project with an Orbital sander. We, your professional experts, always love to have your valuable comments, and feedback which would allow us to respond to your needs more promptly and efficiently. 

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About This Writer

author eric devin

Hi, I am Eric Devin and I am a professional interior architect. Since childhood, I've always enjoyed DIY projects! And, I have loved to solve simple household problems using essential tools and equipment. I have also acquired a lot of information about basic household tools settings by working with contractors.

Hi, I am Eric Devin and I am a professional interior architect. Since childhood, I've always enjoyed DIY projects! And, I have loved to solve simple household problems using essential tools and equipment. I have also acquired a lot of information about basic household tools settings by working with contractors.

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