How Do You Keep Sandpaper from Gumming Up
Tips & Tricks

How Do You Keep Sandpaper from Gumming Up?

While it’s normal for sandpaper to wear out as you work on a surface, there are times when you have to swap it out because gunk and residue has accumulated and clogged the abrasive surface. Since sandpaper shouldn’t be gumming up very fast when used right, the problem is more of a technique issue than it is sandpaper’s nature.

To find out why your sandpaper keeps gumming up (especially when sanding painted surfaces), you first have to identify the top scenarios that put your abrasive paper at a disadvantage.

Things that Make Sandpaper to Gum Up

Sandpaper gumming up is a critical issue, and before preventing it, it’s best to understand the affecting factors.

  1. Finish techniques-  some finishing wood materials like lacquer are sticky, oil-based, and make sandpaper to gum up fast.
  2. Different floor finish materials- may lead to corns, resin, and other types of sticky flammable substances.
  3. Incomplete drying- if the sanding materials are wet, the sandpaper will clog or gum up.
  4. More prolonged use and more pressure- If you use the sandpaper for an extended period or apply more pressure, there will be more heat generation. The heat and pressure may create faster and frequent clogging.
  5. Smooth sandpaper- sandpaper with smooth grit clogs faster than rough grits. Reusing sandpaper with smoother than usual grit will also lead to clogging
  6. High speed- using sandpaper at high speed generates more heat which leads to clogging.

How to Prevent Sandpaper from Gumming

  • Choose the right sandpaper- buy the one with appropriate smoothness and roughness.
  • Based on the grit number, you can determine the smoothness and roughness of the sandpaper. The grit numbers vary from 24 up to 2000, so you can choose depending on your work.
  • Smooth sandpapers are best for light sanding purposes or smoothening delicate surfaces; they have grits from 200.
  • Coarse sandpapers- suitable for heavy-duty work and have less grit. Rough sandpapers leave scratches on the surfaces but limit the clogging.
  • Choose the best sandpaper material- they are several like ceramic, aluminum oxide, silicon carbide, garnet and will help you reduce clogging.
  • Ceramic – they are durable, reddish-brown, and best for power sanders. The sandpaper delivers excellent performance in working on rough sanding.
  • Aluminum oxide- they are in sheets for machine or manual use. They are synthetic and convenient for all types of work; wooden surfaces, painted and metal surfaces.
  • Silicone carbide- have a waterproof quality making it worth finishing work and surface polishing.
  • Garnet sandpapers – works well for light duties and delicate surfaces.
  • Use dry-lubricated sandpaper- like the stearated zinc. 
  • Reducing heat generation-  use an average speed while sanding and exerting less pressure to minimize gumming up.
  • Use lubricants- like oil or water to create a layer on the sandpaper that will prevent clogging.  Remember to use lubricant after the final coating; otherwise, the lubricant may penetrate the wood and affect its quality.
  • Drying the finish properly- the well-dried surface will reduce the heat generated and thus overcome clogging.
  • Use sanding sealer- best to use on larger surfaces to increase powdering properties and prevent clogging.
  • Determine the right finish- some finishes are more prone to encouraging gumming up, while others like oil-based polyurethane don’t corn up easily.

How Can I Make My Sandpaper Last Longer?

You can extend the life of sandpaper by using a cleaning stick. Hold the abrasive cleaning stick down and run the sander over it or rub the stick over the sandpaper. The rod will pull most of the gunk off the sandpaper, and it will function and last longer.

Additionally, if you are gluing up a flat surface-like cabinet before using sandpaper, take a card scraper and remove excess glue. The card will prevent the glue from burning the sandpaper. Hold the card scraper at an angle of 75-80 and pull it toward you.

How to Unclog Sandpaper

You require a sandpaper saver; however, if you don’t have one, you can use the bottom of an old tennis shoe. Apply the shoe’s rubber sole to the sandpaper while the sander is running and remove all the dirt to make it almost brand new.

How Do You Store Sandpaper?

To keep your sandpaper organized and easy to access, construct a storage shelf. The key to proper sandpaper storage is ensuring the sandpapers are flat and that there is no risk of destroying grits. A plastic document file is an affordable way to store your sandpaper and save space in your workshop. Buy a document file with partitions, label each of them with different grit numbers, and keep the sandpapers.

Again, you can use an ordinary three-ring binder; the zip-lock bags are perfect for holding standard sheets of sandpaper. Use a punch to puncture holes in the edges and use them as leaves. Store the sheets of sandpaper in the leaves as per the variety and grit number.

Moreover, you can make a simple wooden box with shelves for the storage of sandpaper. This box can be a milk crate or wooden box, or discarded drawer. But you require some lumbers to place on top and ensure the sandpaper remains flat. Place the sandpaper and lumbers in layers, and the sides should flatten out.

Another option is using a hanging file box from the office supply store and adding wheels.  You can still use the sanding disks to store them. While purchasing sandpaper of this kind, don’t throw away the packaging to help for storage. Label each clearly according to grit numbers and hang them up on a pegboard.

When Should You Throw Away Sandpaper?

The best way to check when to change the sandpaper is to run your fingers lightly over the used part and do the same over a part that is still new. If the grit feels smooth than the new section, it’s already worn-out, and you should replace it. You should throw it away, too, if it’s also clogged with wood dust, varnish, paint, or any other material.


The tips above will help you prevent clogging in your sandpaper. Consider using the right sandpaper for the job, like the correct grit size, the appropriate smoothness, roughness, and more. Ensure you also store your sandpaper appropriately to make it last longer.