Dust Free Sanding

Whether you’re sanding drywall, flooring, or furniture, the biggest problem you face is all the dust that is kicked up.

Not only is it a pain in the backside to clean up, but it can also become an irritant if it gets in your eyes or your lungs.

Dust is particularly annoying if you’re only working in one part of your home because it seems to escape and get everywhere. It ends up being stuck to your shoes and tracked through the house, or it sticks to your clothes and your hair and gets deposited on your furniture.

There are a few things you can do to limit or contain the dust created by sanding. We can’t promise that these tips will make the sanding process completely dust free, but they can help reduce the amount of dust you have to deal with.

Safety Warning

Whenever you crack out the sander, you should make sure that you are wearing the appropriate safety gear.

We strongly recommend that you wear the following personal protective equipment even if you are using our dust reducing tips.

  1. Goggles – You need to wear safety goggles, not glasses. Safety goggles have a skirt that completely seals your eyes off. This prevents the tiny dust particulates from getting in your eyes.

2. Dust mask – You should always wear a dust mask when sanding. The mask needs to fully cover your mouth and nose and should contain a particulate filter.

Please note that the surgical or cloth masks that are worn as part of COVID-19 guidelines are not good enough for sanding. The particulates can get in through the sides and fabric of the masks.

3. Ear protection – Sanders can be incredibly loud. You should wear ear plugs or ear defenders if you’re going to be working with a sander for any length of time.

These things should be worn for powered sanders and if you’re sanding by hand. Although, you probably don’t need ear protection if you’re sanding by hand.

You might also want to wear overalls with a hood to prevent dust or particulates from getting in your hair or under your clothes.

How to Reduce Dust When Sanding

1. Hook up a vacuum – Sanders typically have an exhaust port where dust is expelled from. Usually, you get a few bags that fit over the exhaust, but these only catch some dust.

You can, however, use a vacuum to make a super-efficient dust extraction system.

First of all, you’re going to need a vacuum with a hose. We recommend using a workshop or industrial vacuum. If you’re going to use your home vacuum, make sure you have lots of clean filters on hand. They will get blocked.

Measure the exhaust port of your sander and the hose of your vacuum. Once you have the diameters, you can purchase a plastic hose adaptor from a hardware store. These are easy enough to find.

You may also need a hose clamp to secure the adaptor to the exhaust. Sometimes this is included in the adaptor pack.

Use the hose clamp to secure the adaptor to the exhaust and then fit your vacuum hose pipe into the adaptor.

All that’s left to do is turn both machines on! The vacuum sucks pretty much all the dust away and works much more efficiently than the supplied sanding bags.

2. Wet sanding drywall – This works for sanding drywall and isn’t technically sanding as you use a sponge to smooth down the joins.

To wet sand drywall, you need a special drywall sponge. These are much stiffer than your average sponge.

Dunk the sponge in water and wring it out to remove excess. You don’t want the sponge to be bone dry, but you also don’t want it dripping with water. The sponge just needs to be damp enough to wet and loosen the joining compound.

Using the abrasive side of the sponge, move over the drywall in large circular motions. You don’t need to press too hard because this can cause dips and depressions.

On your first pass, you just want to focus on the big spiky parts. Ignore the smaller imperfections for now.

Every so often, when the sponge becomes saturated with drywall compound, dunk and wring out the sponge again.

Once you’ve smoothed out those jagged and spiky bits of joining compound, it is time to start on the bump.

The bump is where the compound meets the wall. You want to spread this compound out so that there is next to no bump or transition.

To do this, flip to the smoother side of the sponge. Dunk and wring the sponge out as before, then start smoothing the joining compound away from the join.

Try not to focus on one area for too long. You’ll end up making the drywall too wet. This can cause tears and breakages.

The great thing about wet sanding is that it created zero dust. However, it is a slower process and sometimes isn’t enough to get a super smooth finish.

3. Wet sandpaper – This method is helpful if you’re sanding by hand. It can be used with power sanders, but it tends to become fiddlier and more time consuming.

In essence, you just soak the sandpaper in water for a few minutes before using it. The damp paper will trap the dust before it has a chance to fly everywhere.

The downside to this is that the sandpaper quickly becomes clogged with dust. To remove the dust, dunk the paper in water again and give it a rinse.

This is the bit that becomes fiddly when using a power sander because you have to unclip the paper each time to clean it off. You also need to let the paper dry slightly before attaching it to the sander again. After all, electricity and water don’t get along well.

4. Cover everything – if you don’t have the equipment or inclination to try out the other tips, then the best way to prevent dust getting everywhere is to cover up.

You’ll want to use plastic sheeting on the floors, doors, and furniture to catch the dust. It’s important to remember to tape down the edges of the plastic sheeting. Dust particles are small, and they will work their way underneath.

Don’t block off windows as they provide necessary ventilation. If you’re in a room or area without windows, make sure to open a window in an adjacent room. You’ll need to avoid taping the bottom of the doors in order to get a decent draft.

5. Put a fan in the window – This only works if you’re in a room with a window, duh!

A box fan is best for this but any fan with an open back and front will work. Place the fan in or near an open window. You want to put it so that the fan blows air out of the window.

Make sure you have some airflow through the room by opening a window in an adjacent room and leaving a gap around the door.

When you turn the fan on, it will pull the air and dust from the room towards and then out of the window.

Naturally, this is more effective with a larger and more powerful fan. However, even a small fan will help reduce the dust that is in the air.

Final Thoughts

You won’t ever eliminate 100% of the dust caused by sanding, that stuff is so small it manages to escape no matter what.

However, you can significantly reduce the amount of dust by using one or more of our tips.

The vacuum attachment is probably the most effective method and the most versatile. This is because you can attach the hose to any sander with an exhaust.

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About Tony

Tony Moran is a writer, blogger and DIY enthusiast living in rural Norfolk, England, UK, with his wife and a lively border collie. Subscribe to this blog for updates and receive more awesome home improvement tips.

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