It should be noted that liquid sandpaper is really a colloquial term since you do not actually “sand” with the product.
Instead, it is an alternative to regular or standard sandpaper products that offer advantages in certain situations.
This is especially true if you need to paint a surface that needs to be prepared quickly and easily.
In general, liquid sandpaper can be defined as a chemical solution that helps in removing the glossy layer from your already painted surface.
Unlike your regular sandpapers, these are designed just for removing the gloss and not to provide any smoothness, so that you can easily paint over the object without dripping off the paint.
While most people are familiar with standard sandpaper (which is a rough, sandy surface on hard paper that is used to smooth surfaces, take away small imperfections, or prime a surface for painting) liquid sandpaper may be less familiar.
Understanding the differences will help you make the best-informed decision about which product to use.
Liquid Sandpaper Vs Regular Sandpaper
Understanding the differences in detail starts with a definition of what regular and liquid sandpaper is, how liquid sandpaper is used, and the situations in which liquid sandpaper is superior compared to regular sandpaper.
Standard sandpaper (paper-like abrasive material) has been used for many decades to smooth wooden surfaces.
It is one of the most common items used ranging from construction sites to home projects.
Most standard versions of sandpaper can be found on thick paper or rolls that allow you to move it back and forth across a surface.
This means that you can sand by hand or use a tool to do the job.
Sanding by hand helps you smooth out the small cracks and depressions that sanding with a tool will miss, but it is also considerably more difficult and labor-intensive.
But it is commonly used to refinish furniture and other wood surfaces by preparing it for a new coat of oil paint.
What is Liquid Sandpaper?
As noted, before, the term itself is not accurate to the product.
Although the intention is basically the same, liquid sandpaper is a solvent that is applied to the surface and wiped with a rag to achieve the same results as regular sandpaper.
It is generally made from ethyl acetate, ethyl alcohol, and naphtha among other chemicals like TSP or tri sodium phosphate.
A more accurate term for a liquid sandpaper might be a de-glossing solution designed to remove the finish from a surface for preparation to paint.
When rubbed into the surface using a rag or cloth, it can remove the layers of paint or gloss that have been applied previously from both wood and metal surfaces.
In certain circumstances, using liquid sandpaper offers advantages that cannot be matched by standard sandpaper.
How to Use a Liquid Sandpaper Correctly?
To apply the liquid sandpaper properly, you will need to understand the steps for its use.
Keep in mind that it primarily will remove the top layers of varnish, glossy finish, or paint from a surface, but it does have its limitation.
- Wash the surface with warm water and soap. Remove all dirt from the surface.
- Dry the wall with a cloth. Let it fully air dry before applying the product.
- Place a small amount of liquid sandpaper on a lint-free cloth.
- Rub the cloth on the surface so that the liquid sandpaper is transferred.
- Let the liquid sandpaper sit on the surface for the time designated by the instructions (about 10-15 minutes).
- Wipe off the surface with another lint-free cloth to remove any residue left.
You can also wash away the liquid sandpaper if you choose, then dry it properly before you start painting.
Just be sure to read and follow the directions properly.
As you can tell from the instructions, liquid sandpaper works as a chemical reaction, and not friction as it does with a regular sandpaper.
Safety Tips When Using
Since liquid sand paper is made from toxic chemicals, it’s crucial for you to follow certain precautions and safety tips when using them.
Some of them are as follows;
1- Ventilate the area
Because the liquid contains chemicals there can be fumes emitted when using it. You should therefore avoid the fume inhalation.
Also, do not use it near to children, pregnant woman or family member with any respiratory problems.
Its good to use the liquid in a well-ventilated area or consider opening up the windows and doors in the room where you are using it.
2- Wear proper protection
Getting the skin contact with the liquid can be highly dangerous. If it gets into the eyes (or any other organ) it can cause blindness, organ damage or even death.
Hence, it is important that you wear gloves, safety goggles, mask and proper clothing (like painter’s apron) while using the mixture.
If it gets in contact with the skin accidentally, wash the skin immediately with warm water and soap.
3- Keep away from flames
Few liquid sandpaper solutions can be inflammable. So, make sure that you do not use them near to open flames or electric equipment.
Also, do not ever smoke when you are using the liquid. While storing, also check that there is no chance of a fire (or open flames) erupting near to the area.
4- Store the container safely
If you are storing the left out liquid sandpaper for future use, make sure that the storage place is out of reach of pets and children in your home.
Also, ensure that you keep the container erect to prevent any spillage or leakage.
Never ever store the liquid in the kitchen or in the vicinity of food or drinks at home. This can prove to be highly toxic and dangerous.
5- Dispose of the liquid carefully
While it’s always been tempting to store the liquid sandpaper (if you have any left after the usage) I am completely aginst the idea especially if you have small kids, pets, or seniors at home.
Instead you should dispose of the hazardous liquid sandpaper carefully while following the applicable rules and regulations specifically meant for your area.
Never try to dispose it of by emptying it down into the drain. This can pollute the environment by leaching into the waterways.
When and Why to Choose Liquid Sandpaper?
The main reason to use liquid sandpaper is to prepare a surface for painting with less time and effort that will be needed when using regular sandpaper.
So, if you are on a small project that needs to be completed relatively fast, its good to use liquid sandpaper rather than your regular piece of sandpaper.
Both products do essentially the same job, but in different ways which is important to understand, so you can make the right decision as to which one to use.
1- Ease of Use
Liquid sandpaper takes less time and effort to use compared to regular sandpaper.
This is particularly true for uneven or rounded surfaces that are common with many furniture products.
A wooden chair for example may have rounded, uneven areas complete with design patterns that make regular sandpaper unwelcome in such situations.
This is because regular sandpaper is both labor-intensive and might dull the details that such furniture may have that makes it unique.
Liquid sandpaper is far less labor-intensive and helps preserve the details to a much greater degree.
2- Faster Results
Liquid sandpaper solution is good at quickly removing the gloss without correcting the imperfections.
In most cases, it does take less than 15 minutes for liquid sandpaper to dry, before you can put the primer or repaint the surface.
This means, if you want to remove the gloss from the surface that doesn’t need any priming or sanding (for correcting any imperfections it may have), liquid sandpaper can work faster without creating any mess.
3- No Dust Particles
Another advantage of liquid sandpaper is that you have little in the way of clean-up after the project is finished.
Unlike regular sandpaper which leaves behind many dust particles on the table or hardwood floor, liquid sandpaper leaves little to clean up apart from removing the product from the surface area.
This also means, you do not need to waste extra time for cleaning the surfaces when you have limited time and energy to spend.
4- Good for Detailed Projects
If you have large detailed woodworking projects, regular paper sandpapers can be tough and time-consuming.
One major problem with them is they do not allow you to reach and sand the fine details of an ornate object.
Liquid sandpaper, on the other hand, can be conveniently used to sand any kind of grooves, nooks, and cranny in the design without damaging your delicate object.
5- Safe for lead paints
Using a standard sandpaper for sanding the old painted surface will expose you to risk of inhaling toxic lead particles, especially if you do not know how old the object is and whether there is lead present or not.
Using a liquid sandpaper solution on the other hand will allow you to safely deal with it.
You just rub the solution on the object, wait for some time and wipe it off.
Are There Any Disadvantages of Liquid Sander?
One major con of liquid sandpaper is that many of the products use toxic chemicals.
So, you will need to use it in a well-ventilated area and wear the proper protection.
For objects that can be moved, you may want to do the work outdoors or in a garage with the garage door open and the fans running.
Another potential con is that liquid sandpaper is more expensive and not really designed for use on large surfaced.
If you want to repaint a chair, table, or wall that is relatively smooth to begin with, then liquid sandpaper can be quite useful.
However, if you want to sand a large, rough surface such as a wooden floor that has many cracks and imperfections, you may want to use a sanding machine instead.
Despite its disadvantages, liquid sandpaper is perfect for applications where you want to preserve delicate details in the wood surface.
It is also quite useful when you want to save time and effort in removing the gloss or paint from an item that needs to be repainted.
What Is the Best Liquid Sandpaper – Where to Buy?
Klean-Strip Liquid Sander Deglosser is one of the finest products I have used when it comes to removing the stain or glossy layer of the wood.
The good thing I noticed about this product is its biodegradable and water-based chemical ingredients that makes it safe to use for any project.
This liquid Deglosser can work quickly to increase the adhesion of the old surface – you want to remove the shiny layer off and repaint.
Klean Strip not only can work for peeling away the glossy varnishes but also for taking of polyurethane, lacquer, stain or enamel off the surfaces like wood molding, and door facings, cabinets, etc.
The product is manufactured in the USA, its non-flammable, non-corrosive, and nearly odorless.
If in the US, you can buy it online from stores like Amazon (here) or Home Depot where it’s available at a very low cost.
Based on your location, Sherwin Williams, Woodies, Wickes, Screwfix, Wilko, Polycell, etc. are some other well-known brands you can look at when buying.
Do not forget to check the consumer reviews of the specific product if you are buying them online.
The Bottom Line
Naturally, liquid sandpaper is more expensive than its regular sandpaper counterpart and you will need special protection such as a mask and gloves when using it.
But the advantages are considerable as it does the work for you with far less time and effort compared to regular sandpaper.
No matter you are using a liquid sander for varnished wood cabinets, door trims, deck, or for metals, it works perfectly fine.
You can even use it for refinishing the car paints in your garage.
Do not forget to follow the instructions provided on the pack to use it correctly.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls. He had worked as a painter for more than a decade to serve the customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques that are being implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.