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How To Wet Sand

Updated on May 8, 2012

What Is Wet Sanding?

Wet sanding is the process of sanding off thin layers of clear coat to remove blemishes and even out the final layer. In a sense, it's almost like polishing but won't leave you with a great finish (which will be achieved by buffing and polishing).

Items You Need to Wet Sand

1. Waterproof sandpaper. 3M makes a great line of waterproof sandpapers called "Wetordry." They can be found at your local hardware stores, automotive stores, and even Wal-Mart. If you're in no hurry, you can probably get them cheaper online. Generally you'll want 1500grit, 2000grit, and possibly 3000grit sandpaper.

2. A spray bottle. A spray is the best option for applying your lubrication (water) when you're working indoors. If you happen to be wet sanding very large object and have room to lay them in the yard (set them on top of something sturdy) then a hose will work fine.

3. A sanding block. This isn't a necessary item but if you don't feel that you can apply even, consistent pressure with just your hand then you will want to invest in a sanding block.

4. Soft towels. Microfiber towels are great, but not necessary. Cotton will do fine because you'll simply be using the towels to clean up afterwards. You want to make sure they're soft so they don't damage the paint.

Wet Sanding

Grab your lowest grit sandpaper and wrap it around your sanding block. If you bought large sheets of sandpaper, you can cut them into smaller sheets to fit your sanding block better (and save some for a future project). Before you get too into things, pick a direction. Up and down or side to side works best. This is the direction you'll be sanding. Do not change directions, do not make swirling motions. Up and down or side to side.

Now grab your spray bottle (which you should have filled with water) and spray your sandpaper. Don't skimp on the water, you can always get more. Then spray the object you're about to wet sand. Again, don't skimp on the water. More water reduces the chances of you taking too much clear coat off as you're sanding.

Remember the direction you picked? Time to use it. Long strokes all the way across the object are best to keep your sanding even. Keep your pressure consistent (it doesn't have to be hard) and keep a steady pace (it doesn't have to be fast as that won't help the process). Slowly work your way over the entire object, apply more water as needed and occasionally rinse the object to get rid of the clear coat that is coming off. Be cautious of edges on your object. Sanding too hard over an edge will take the clear coat and paint off in no time. Then you'd have to start all over.

After a good amount of passes with your first sandpaper, rinse your object off and get out the next sandpaper. Remember, the higher the grit, the less the sandpaper will remove. So don't go overboard with your lowest grit sandpaper. Remember to rinse the object well between sandpaper. The clear coat coming off will clog up the sandpaper so the cleaner the object is, the longer your next sandpaper will last.

As you increase sandpaper grits, you should feel the surface getting smoother. Blemishes should be disappearing.

Wet Sanding Is Done

Once you've finished wet sanding with your highest grit sandpaper, you need to clean your object well. Rinse it off and wipe it down a few times with your soft towels.

At this point, your object may look a bit hazy. Not worry, some buffing and polishing will clear that haze up and leave you with a vibrant, glossy shine.


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    • profile image

      mitchy1874 5 years ago

      wet sanding is great for many things like after you have painted the panel and for light scratches all you need to use is 1500 3m wetordry i find it better if you fill a bucket with water and a bit washing up liquid so the wetordry doesn't get clogged and is easier too sand the panel once the panel is dirt free and the scratches are gone dry the panel and machine polish i find it easier with G3 rubbing compound polish off with a micro cloth then you have a factory finished panel

    • lupine profile image

      lupine 5 years ago from Southern California (USA)

      Good subject to write about. Wet sanding is great for removing light scratches to your vehicle, saving you the cost of a paint job. You can also use a pail of water and dip the sandpaper as needed. A good soft towel to use is Scott Shop Towel, sold in rolls, blue in color...get at Wal-Mart, auto stores too $$.

    • Cobrafan profile image

      Cobrafan 5 years ago from Nowhere

      You're right, Peggy. This process is generally used on items that have been clear coated which is most commonly cars.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I am assuming this is meant for car finishes. Correct? I refinished a bedroom set of furniture once and used the different grades of sandpaper (and LOTS of "elbow grease"), but no water except a damp cloth to collect the dust. It turned out beautiful and we use it to this day.

    • DS Duby profile image

      DS Duby 5 years ago from United States, Illinois

      Informative hub especially for the amateur body man or painter. Thanks