Abrasives, what they are and how to use them Articles

Abrasives, what they are and how to use them

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Abrasives are substances used to smooth out other softer materials through extensive rubbing. They work by scratching away the surface of materials in order to rid it of unwanted roughness or substances. 

Common examples include, pumice, sandpaper, emery, and sand. Each of these minerals has a different hardness, allowing for the completion of a particular task. Grit size of the mineral can be modified, with larger grit sizes well suited for finer detail work.

Using the right abrasive will depend on the type of project you’re working on, whether you want to touch up a small area or to strip an entire surface clean.

Sandpaper  - is one of the most common used abrasive, it is an essential tool in paint preparation and by applying the proper technique will improve how a project feels and looks. Choosing the right type of sandpaper will also play an important role, for example;

  • Aluminium oxide is the most popular sandpaper for woodworking, and it also works well on metal and cured finishes.
  • Garnet is often used on bare wood. It wears quickly, but costs less than other sandpapers.
  • Silicon carbide is ideal for smoothing metals, plastics and joint compound. It is also used to sand between coats of paint or finish, although it is not ideal for wood.
  • Ceramic sandpaper can be used on wood and is usually found on belt sanders.


Before you start sanding make sure the surface is clean and dry, with a cork block or sanding sponge wrap the sandpaper comfortably around so that it covers the block or sponge. When you start sanding, remember to always sand with the grain and never across the grain as it will scratch the timber. When sanding always remember to use your safety gear, a dust mask and some safety glasses will do the trick.

Sanding Block

Other types of commonly used abrasives are things such as;

Steel Wool - Choose the right grade of coarseness, and this bundle of metal fibres can scour anything from tile to brass to wood.

Files - Just as a nail file creates a well-manicured fingernail, these files smooth out rough patches of wood.

Sander - Both electric and manual sanders speed up the process, allowing you to sand a larger surface quickly and more easily.

For more hints & tips on using the right abrasive for your next project visit your nearest Inspirations Paint store and speak with our expert staff today.

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Over recent years the proportion of paint sold to DIYers in Australia has fallen from 55% to 45%, signalling a move towards consumers handing over the paint brush to a trade painter, rather than taking on the job themselves.

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