Can You Sand Wet Wood? (AVOID Doing This!)

can you sand wet wood

Sanding is important to smoothen the wooden surface by removing scratches and by eliminating flaws.

Sanding woods, woodworks, or furniture that caught up in the rain or spill is a real pain because you’ll probably wait for hours and days until they dry out before sanding.

You’ve probably wondered how to sand wet wood. So, let’s find out, Can you sand wet wood?

Here’s what I learned from years of experience:

No, Never sand wet wood because it will result in warped and cracked uneven surface and clogged sandpaper. Wet wood sawdust won’t blow away and stick between sandpaper grains to ruin the sandpaper. To get a fine, smooth surface the wood must be completely dried to sand it effectively.

But there’s more to know.

In this article, we’ll explore can you sand wet wood and how to sand wet wood effectively without ruining the surface or the sandpaper.

Furthermore, we’ll discuss wet sanding and dry sanding processes and how they affect wet wood to get a fine smooth surface.

I’ll answer some frequently asked questions about can you sand wet wood.

Let’s get started.

Can You Sand Wood in High Humidity?

No, wait until the wood is dry. Wood in high humidity will shred with sandpaper and clog it up. So, the best thing is to wait until the wood is completely dry and then do the sanding.

Then wooden fibers will cause to stand up and you can easily sand them off.

Cells in the woods act like a sponge. They can absorb water a lot under high humidity and make the wood wet.

Wet wood is usually expanded than the regular size of the wood because wood cells are almost filled with water that is absorbed from the outside environment.

Because of this absorbance of water popping the grain effect will happen due to the expansion of wood fibers.

If you sand wet wood that is already affected by popping the grain effect, it will expand further, and you’ll only get an uneven surface with clogged sandpaper. Moisture will make the grit of your sandpaper fall off.

So, always make sure to dry wet wood or wood in high humidity before the sanding process.

Never think drying wet wood is a waste of time because it’ll save you money and time. At the end of the project drying, wet wood will help you to get a nice and smooth finish.

Wet wood can sand through wet sanding and dry sanding once the wood is dried completely.

So, let’s find out what is dry sanding and how to dry sand the wood effectively.

What Is Dry Sanding?

Dry sanding comes prior to the wet sanding. Dry sanding reduces the roughness of the wood to the point where wet sanding should begin.

Therefore, sandpapers that use for dry sanding have low grit values than sandpapers that use for wet sanding.

During dry sanding, so much amount of sawdust will be created, and it can be eliminated by compressed air or vacuum.

Usually, dry sanding starts with 20 grit or near sandpaper and gradually increases up to 200 grit sandpaper until the surface gets nice and smooth.

After dry sanding, wet sanding is recommended to achieve further smoothness.

So, let’s find out how to do dry sanding effectively with wet wood to get the required outcome.

How To Dry Sand?

Here’re the things you need to have before dry sanding.

  • Sandpapers (20-200 grit)
  • Brush
  • Rag

Here’re the steps you need to follow to dry sand the wood effectively.

  1. Dry the wet wood
  2. Sanding
  3. Clean
  4. Repeat

So, let’s discuss each of the above steps deeply to dry sanding more efficiently without making errors.

1. Dry the Wet Wood

Wet wood should dry completely before the sanding process. Wet wood cannot work well with sandpapers due to the high moisture level.

If you sand wet wood, eventually the wood surface will get cracked and with an uneven look.

The sandpaper will also get clogged and the whole project will be ruined. So always make sure to dry the wet wood before sanding.

Once the wood is dry with less moisture content, you’re good to go with dry sanding to achieve a nice and smooth surface without any unevenness, surface blotchiness, or cracks.

2. Sanding

After the wet wood is completely dried, take the sandpaper with the lowest grit value and sand the whole wooden surface along the direction of the wood grain.

When you’re sanding with the lowest grit sandpaper you can’t see dents and scratch marks from the manufacturing process.

When you’re sanding make sure to apply even pressure throughout the wood to avoid random blotchiness in future activities.

If you’re sanding using your hands, better to wrap sandpaper around woodblock for better handling.

Otherwise better to use an orbital sander to make the sanding process easier.

It is so much easy to gain a nice and smooth finish, by starting sanding with the lowest grit value sandpaper and gradually increasing it to a higher value.

3. Clean

After sanding with sandpaper with the lowest grit value, better to clean up the whole surface before moving to the next sandpaper.  

Otherwise, sawdust will stick between sandpaper and wood surface and cause troubles like making deep scratches on wood which are hard to remove.

Better to use a compressed air blower or vacuum machine to remove the sawdust and make the surface clean during the dry sanding process.

4. Repeat

Once you are done sanding with 20 grit sandpaper or the lowest value one, gradually increase the grit value up to 200 or near value.

Usually, it’s not recommended to surpass 200 grit sandpaper because that will start closing the wood pores. Those higher grit value tasks belong to the wet-dry process.

However, at the end of the dry sanding process, you’ll get a smooth even surface with a nice appearance.

Wet sanding is great to improve its sharpness and smoothness to the top-notch. So, let’s discuss what is wet sanding and how it should be done especially with wet wood.

What is Wet Sanding?

Wet sanding is a less abrasive method that uses water as a lubricant to get a nice and smooth finish.

Wet sanding helps to give an even finish and special sandpaper is used for wet sanding.

Before the wet sanding it’s important to varnish the wood and dry sand it first.

The sandpaper should soak a while before using it. When you’re wet sanding the wood make sure to keep the sandpaper wet all the time and use it in gentle circles.

Sand the wood two-three times by increasing the grit of the sandpaper all the time.

Let’s find out how to sand wet wood using wet sanding to get a fine and smooth finish.

How To Wet Sand?

So, let’s discuss how to wet sand effectively to get a nice and smooth finish.

Here’re the things you need to have before starting the wet sanding process.

  • Varnish or lacquer
  • Sandpaper (200 to 2000 grit)
  • Brush
  • Water bucket
  • Dish detergent
  • Container

Selecting the right type of sandpaper for wet sanding is important. Mostly you can use the same sandpaper for both dry sanding and wet sanding but before the wet sanding process makes sure to soak the sandpaper while.

For wet sanding, you’ll need sandpapers with a high grit value above 200.

Here’re the steps you need to follow to wet sand the wood effectively.

  1. Mix the lubricant
  2. Sanding
  3. Repeat

Let’s discuss all the above steps in-depth.

2. Mix the Lubricant

First of all, take a water bucket and pour a considerable amount into the medium-sized container, and add a few drops of dish detergent into it.

Then thoroughly mix those two ingredients.

Dish detergent helps to turn water into a slippery version and make the whole mixture a better liquid for sandpaper to keep wet all the time.

Some people tend to use mineral spirit over water.

But I don’t see anything that makes the mineral spirit more advantageous than water.

According to me, it’s just a waste of money because water doesn’t damage the wooden surface and it’s free.

3. Sand

Now dip 200 grit or above sandpaper in the mixture of water and detergent and sand in gentle circles.

Make sure to cover whole the wooden area without missing any spots.

Apply even pressure throughout the wood when sanding to avoid surface blotchiness when painting or staining in the future.

To get a nice and smooth finish you need to have good patience and sand oval rounds along the direction of the wood grain.

During the sanding process keep the sandpaper wet all the time. To do that, dip sandpaper in a water detergent mixture as soon as when it’s trying to dry out.  

During the process, you’ll notice sawdust won’t blow away easily because of the wetness of the surface.

Sawdust won’t blow away and stick between sandpaper grains to ruin the sandpaper. so, make sure to remove stuck sawdust using a brush or rag.

Do the sanding until you meet a nice and smooth surface as you wish.

4. Repeat the Sanding

After sanding with 200 grit or above sandpaper, gradually increase the grit value of sandpapers until you meet 2000 grit sandpaper.

This is helpful to make the surface super smooth gradually without any random patches or cracks.

That’s how you should sand wet wood using the wet sanding technique. You’ll get a nice and super smooth surface at the end of the project.

So, let’s answer some frequently asked questions about can you sand wet wood.

Is It Better to Sand Wood Wet or Dry?

Better to sand dry wood than wet wood. if you’re willing to sand wet wood, make sure to dry it completely before contacting with sandpaper.

Otherwise, the whole wood will be ruined with hard starch marks and sandpaper will be clogged.

Sanding dry wood using wet sanding and sanding wood that is completely wet is different tasks. When you’re sanding dry wood using the wet sanding process only sandpaper will get wet, and you’ll get a super nice and smooth surface in the end.

But when you’re sanding wet wood, it is so much more difficult, and cannot get the expected results that you looked for.

So, always make sure to keep the wood dry to sand. It helps to remove mill glaze.

Can You Sand Wet Pressure Treated Wood?

It is not recommended to sand wet pressure-treated wood because sandpaper will damage the protective layer of pressure-treated wood and the wood will be ruined.

If you want to remove dust and debris from pressure-treated wood, better to use a pressure washer or detergent.

Once the wood is dried completely, apply a transparent stain to make it look fresh as new.

How Long After It Rains Can You Sand a Deck?

Wait until the wood deck is completely dry before sanding. Mostly paints or stains that have been applied on wood deck need around 24 hours to dry completely.

So, better to wait for 48 – 72 hours to dry before sanding the wet deck.

But the deck is protected with a waterproof sealer; you can wipe off the water droplets and keep it dry only for around 24 hours before sanding by assuming water has not penetrated inside of the wood.

What Happens If It Rains On A Freshly Sanded Deck?

It won’t any difference if it rains on a freshly sanded deck unless the pore structures of the wood have absorbed the moisture from the rain.

Because the wood tends to expand when it is wet and this can cause surface randomness.

Eventually, the smoothness of the surface will be gone and you’ll probably have to dry the deck completely and do the sanding again.

Did I cover all you wanted to know about: Can You Sand Wet Wood?

In this article we have deeply discussed can you sand wet wood and how to do that effectively without ruining the woodwork or furniture.

It is not recommended to sand wet wood because the wood is already increased in size due to the moisture content and once you hit the sandpaper the wood will try to work against it.

This will make deep scratches on wood which are hard to get rid of and the sandpaper will also get clogged. So, better to wait patiently until the wood is completely dried before sanding.

Furthermore, we have discussed, the main two sanding techniques, dry sanding, and wet sanding.

How to dry sand wet wood and how to wet sand wet wood. Drying the wood is the initial step of both methods.

Plus, we’ve answered some frequently asked questions under can you sand wet wood.

Hope you have gained pretty good knowledge about sanding wet wood and why sanding wet wood is not recommended in the woodworking industry.

Sanding is one of the best woodworking tasks that give you a nice and smooth finish if you did it correctly with proper methods.

Keep learning and enjoy woodworking!

Walter Parker is a woodworking enthusiast. He is passionate about woodworking projects & plays with woodworking tools having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Woodworking Planet. He wants to make people love woodworking! Read More About Him!

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