How to Stop Sandpaper Gumming Up / Clogging

When I bought my new house, it was an absolute dream come true. When I entered it, I knew I had to do a lot of work; the most important one was sanding the wooden floor and furniture.

After we began sanding of the floor, we encountered a severe problem. The sandpapers were gumming up significantly before even finishing the sanding of a single room!

So, I looked up for the reasons and the prevention steps to the problem. And guess what? They worked great for me!  For your convenience, I’ve analyzed and gathered them in this article. Have a look!

Sandpaper Gumming Up

What do you mean by sandpaper keeps gumming up?

Now, the problem frequently faced when sanding, is the sander’s sandpaper gumming up or sandpaper corning. Though most of you are already aware of this, yet let us have a brief idea about what that is.

While sanding on a surface, heat generates, which makes the corns or small pieces of wood finish to clung to the sandpapers. Clogging disrupts the efficiency of the process as well as increases wastage and expense.

Besides, due to more corning, the finish is left out with broader and deeper scratches. They need to be sanded again before the final coat for finesse. Hence, you can see how the cost gradually reaches the peak due to the gumming up of sandpapers.

7 Possible Reasons for Sandpaper Keeps Gumming Up:

Hence, sandpaper clogging is a severe problem. Before looking for prevention techniques or solutions, we need to know about the possible reasons for it.

1. Different materials for floor finish

Corns usually form due to several reasons, including- resin, varnishes, or different types of floor finishes.

2. Finishing techniques

Some finishing techniques accentuates corning. Mentionable among these- lacquer, shellac, and mostly oil-based varnishing techniques.

3. Incomplete drying

Sanding on a finish that is not adequately dried, may result in gumming up of sandpapers quicker.

4. More pressure and longer use:

Using the sanding machine for a longer time at a stretch or applying more pressure while using it allows the generation of more heat. And ultimately, that results in clogging of sandpapers.

Especially for rotational or vibratory sanders, the only pressure that should be exerted is the resting of your hand on the sander. Additional muscle pressure may result in frequent and faster sandpaper clogging.

5. Higher speed

The higher speed can be a problem as well, due to speeding up of the process, the machine is likely to get heated up, and corns ultimately cling to the sandpapers.

6. Smooth sandpapers

Another reason can be the smoothness level of the grit; smoother sandpaper can be a cause of clogging faster. However, rougher sandpaper leaves more scratches on the finish. So you need to choose sandpaper with average smoothness.

7. Miscellaneous reasons

Besides, some other reasons may include- frequent usage of the same sandpaper, lack of efficient cleaning after use and excessively dry sandpaper, etc.

No matter what the reasons are, this inevitably affects the finishing procedure to a great extent. What we need to know are the ways of prevention.

How to Prevent Sandpapers from Gumming Up / Clogging?

Has this issue significantly affected your procedure of coating and finishing of surfaces? No need to be worried.

Just like many reasons behind the gumming up, there are prevention methods as well. You can choose the convenient one for you from the following methods.

1. Choosing the right one:

Different Types of Sandpaper
Selecting the Right Types of Sandpaper =>

Various kinds of sandpapers are manufactured and sold in the market for different purposes. You need to understand the requirement before selecting one.

The sandpaper used for smoothing wooden surfaces may not be the right choice for other surfaces. The smoothness or roughness of sandpapers plays a significant role in the work process.

 a) Based on grit system:

The smoothness generally means the grit system used in the sandpaper that includes- grit number, finer or coarse grits, etc. Grit number can range from about 24 up to 2000, depending on the work to do.

b) Smoother sandpapers:

Smoother sandpaper is usually used for light sanding purposes or smoothening of delicate surfaces; they have more grits starting from 200 or so.

c) Coarse sandpapers:

Coarse sandpapers are capable of doing the heavy-duty work; they usually have lesser grits.

Rougher sandpapers are used on hard and uneven surfaces or removal of heavy substances. Although they leave more scratches yet, they are suitable for restricting the clogging up of sandpapers.

2. Based on the sandpaper material:

Several materials used in the making of sandpapers, include- ceramic, aluminium oxide, silicon carbide, garnet sandpapers, etc.

a) Ceramic sandpapers:

Ceramic sandpapers are reddish-brown durable sandpapers used for power sanders. They are usually used for rough sanding and delivers splendid performance in the removal of the deep wood.

b) Aluminium Oxide sandpapers:

Aluminium oxide sandpapers come in sheets for machine use or manual use. They are synthetic sandpapers convenient for all types of work, including- wooden surface finish, painted, and metal surfaces as well.

c) Silicon carbide sandpapers

Silicon carbide sandpapers have a waterproof quality that makes them useful for sanding within finishing coats, smooth surface polishing, including- metal, fibreglass, and plastic.

d) Garnet sandpapers:

Garnet sandpapers are best for light sanding and more delicate works. They are generally sold in sheets and wear out faster than others.

Thus, choosing the right sandpaper for your essential purpose can help you reduce the clogging of sandpapers.

3. Using dry-lubricated sandpaper:

These sandpapers are coated with dry lubricants like stearated zinc. You may ask, “Why stearates?” Stearates accentuate powdering and hence reduce gumming up of sandpapers.

4. Reducing heat generation:

Heat generation accelerates due to speeding up sanders, applying more pressure, or using it for long. An average speed needs to set for sanding while you remember to only rest your hands on the sander without exerting more pressure.

You also need to give sufficient intervals between the sanding process to reduce heat production.

5. Use of lubricants:

There is also an option of using lubricants on the sandpaper. Lubricants may include water or oil. Lubricants create a layer on the sandpapers that reduce clogging.

But it is suggested to use lubricants after the final coating or else the liquid may penetrate inside the wood affecting wood or surface quality.

use lubricant sandpaper

6. Drying the finish properly before sanding:

It is needless to say that a finish not appropriately dried will result in more corning. It is suggested to take enough time to dry the finishing before sanding on the surface; otherwise, the generated heat will allow more corns to stick to the paper.

7. Acting according to the machine design:

Vibratory or rotary machines produce more heat on sanding as they make use of more power. In these cases, you need to pay attention as not to exert additional pressure while sanding.

8. Use of Sanding Sealer:

Sanding sealer can be used under nitrocellulose lacquer or alkyd varnish as they increase the powdering properties; this results in less clogging. Sanding sealers are most active on larger surfaces.

spar vernish sanding sealer uses
Varnish>  Sealer>

9. Determining the right finish for the respective surface:

As mentioned earlier, lacquer, etc. finishes are more prone to getting corned, whereas finishes like- catalyzed finishes, oil-based polyurethane, and water-based ones do not corn up that easily.

 Are hardwood floors gumming up sandpapers quicker?

Resin and wax are usually used to coat hardwood floors. They enhance the look of the floors delivering a polished, smooth surface.

My house also has hardwood floors, and trust me, this is a more severe issue than it sounds. Within only minutes of sanding, the sandpaper gets all clung with chunks of wooden pieces!

As sanders get heated up while using, this results in the melting of the wax and resin, and hence clogged corns appear on them.

You can take off the wax before sanding, with hand scrapers and steel wool. Or you may simply use turpentine or chemical stripper on the surface and sand it later.

Is shellac responsible for gumming up sandpaper fast? What to do?

Shellac is a kind of resin found as dry-flakes. Dissolving them in alcohol allows their usage for wood finish.

Shellac has a low melting point, which results in quick melting. After shellac finish added on the surface, a day or two needs to be given for complete drying up of the surface.

You can later sand the surface carefully as to produce the least amount of heat to prevent the shellac from melting and causing gumming up of sandpaper.


Since sanding is an essential job to do for your new home, renovation, or any type of finishing jobs, the gumming up of sandpapers needs to be restricted. Find the reasons why you are facing this problem and look for convenient solutions to prevent it. I hope this article helps to get your work done with less effort, time, and cost!

Last Updated on July 6, 2020 by Rogers Weber

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