What is an Emery Cloth – Uses and Different Grades

emery cloth grades and uses

Emery cloth consists of synthetic or metallic particles that have been bonded to dense fabric using adhesives. Most emery cloth is sold in sheets of 25mm up to 50mm wide.

You may have heard it described as “emery tape.” The result is that the cloth backing is stronger than sandpaper, but you can still tear the sheets to the size that you desire.

For the most part, emery cloth is used to polish and smooth out metal surfaces, along with removing paint, rust, or corrosion.

Because the cloth has tiny particles of iron that can cause damage, it should not be used on wood. 


A naturally occurring rock that consists of impure crystalline aluminum oxide that is mixed with iron, silicon, and other elements, emery also includes small amounts of clay and other silicate materials such as kaolinite.

In fact, emery cloth was originally made from emery rock that was milled, hence the name. The milled rock was bonded to paper with glues that were made from animals.

Today, synthetic adhesives and silicon carbide are used in place of emery. This is because silicon carbide is harder and more durable compared to emery.

You rarely find emery paper existing today as it has been replaced by silicon carbide or pure aluminum oxide.

Emery Cloth Grades

The average size of the grit is what grades emery cloth. This means that you will find grades ranging from coarse to fine and listed as numbers.

The lower the number, the coarser the grade, while the higher the number, the finer the grade.

This is like how sandpaper is graded. So, numbers that range from 40 up to 54 represent the coarsest of grades. While numbers 220 up to 320 are the finest and result in giving a smooth polish.

Emery paper tends to have a finer grit. Emery was considered a suitable alternative for fitting work and the final adjustment of steel parts to create a better fit.

Because it did not leave abrasive traces behind, it is well-suited for cleaning and removing rust from steel components.

Although machine grinding is more commonly used today, you can still find emery cloth and paper in most hardware stores.

difference between emery cloth and sandpaper

Is Emery Cloth Better than Sandpaper?

Both emery cloth and sandpaper are similar in the sense that they contain natural materials and function in a similar manner.

The outer layer tends to be rough enough to smooth a surface. However, you cannot use them interchangeably.

Emery cloth is better suited for surfaces that sandpaper has difficulty penetrating. Although emery cloth should not be used on natural wood.

Emery cloth is best suited for metal such as steel or iron, bronze, stainless steel, aluminum, and most alloys.

You can even use emery cloth on some solid hardwoods. While sandpaper is best used on wood products and materials not suited for emery cloth. 

What is the Difference between Crocus Cloth and Emery Cloth?

Sheets of emery have grit particles that are block-shaped and will cut slowly as a result.

Crocus sheets consist of a soft abrasive that ranges from 1500 to 2000 on the grit scale. This makes it well-suited for polishing nonferrous metals.

Like sandpaper or emery cloth, crocus cloth includes a layer of loose iron oxide particles that are very fine in nature.

For final metals and gemstones, crocus cloth does exceptional finishing with grade or particle sizes that you can select.

You can use a crocus cloth, either wet or dry; it will depend on the application that you are performing. When folded, it can wrap around bends and curves rather easily. This allows you to finish areas that otherwise would be hard to reach.

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