Sanding Wood Mistakes You Should Stop Making [Tips to Be Better Now]

close up image of a female sanding blue paint off a desk top. The text reads "17 sanding tips for a flawless finish" and in smaller text "read more"

Sanding Wood for a Flawless Finish

When I first dove into DIY, I honestly had no clue about how to sand. I just bought a cheap sander and went for it. I absolutely made all the sanding mistakes, but over time I’ve realized there is a better way to sand wood.

Have you ever pushed down harder to make things go fast? 

Skipped grits? 

Forgotten to wipe away dust before applying your finish?

I’m totally guilty of every single one of these sanding mistakes.  But the good news is there are super simple tweaks ways to drastically improve your results.

Want to reduce your arm strain?

Spend less money on sandpaper?

Get rid of those pesky swirl marks?

This post not only give you 17 effortless ways to drastically improve your sanding skills, plus insider secrets to prevent those pesky swirl marks, AND it also includes a special invitation to join the sisterhood where you’ll have access to personalized help from fellow female DIYers – you won’t find this anywhere else! 

Let’s dive in!


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Just a friendly reminder: This tutorial and any opinions or recommendations are genuinely mine, but this is not a substitute for consulting a professional. I also use affiliate links to earn a commission.


Sanding Smarter, Not Harder: 17 Effortless Ways to Drastically Improve Your Sanding Skills

an image in the background of a female using a random orbital sander and the text reads "stop making these sanding sins"
  1. Check for Nails: Before sanding reclaimed wood, scan for hidden nails or staples.
  2. Start with the Right Grit: Begin with a coarse grit sandpaper for heavy material removal.
  3. Sand with the Grain: Always sand in the direction of the wood grain to avoid creating scratches or swirl marks.
  4. Clean the Surface: Ensure the wood is clean and free of dust and debris before you start sanding.
  5. Even Pressure: Apply even pressure across the sanding surface to avoid creating low or high spots.
  6. Frequent Inspections: Periodically stop and check your work to ensure even sanding and to address any imperfections.
  7. Change Sandpaper: Replace sandpaper once it becomes clogged or worn to maintain effective sanding.
  8. Keep it Moving: When using a power sander, keep it in motion to prevent over-sanding in one spot.
  9. Evaluate Progress: Periodically stop and check your progress for consistency.
  10. Work Through Grits: If you’re using a power sander, progress through different grits to achieve a smoother finish.
  11. Lighting Matters: Use good lighting to identify imperfections and track your progress.
  12. Contour Sanding: Use flexible sanding tools for curved or irregular surfaces.
  13. Be Cautious on Edges: When sanding edges, be careful not to round them excessively. Use a sanding block if needed.
  14. Detail Sanding: For corners and crevices, use folded sandpaper or specialty sanding tools designed for detail work.
  15. Remove Dust: After sanding, thoroughly remove all sanding dust to prepare the surface for staining or finishing.
  16. Sandpaper Organization: Label your sandpaper grits for quick reference. This is especially important for sanding blocks because once you remove the packaging there is no way of knowing its grit.
  17. Sandpaper Cleaning: Extend the life of your sandpaper by use acetone to remove adhesive residue from sanding discs.

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Preventing Those Pesky Sanding Swirl Marks

female sanding blue paint off a dresser top using a random orbital sander and the test reads "preventing pesky sanding swirl marks"

Even when I’m being a good girl and doing all the right things with my sand technique, it never fails that I end up with at least a few of those pesky swirl marks. 

Most of the time, I’m painting over the wood, so it really doesn’t matter. But if you are planning to stain then you have to be better at sanding, so those swirl marks don’t ruin your results.

Here are 7 simple ways to achieve the most flawless finish

  • Get a Random Orbital Sander: Random orbital sanders move in random motions, which minimizes the chances of swirl marks. I’ve put together a tools list of the must-have diy tools, more specifically, tools for women who are looking for diy tools for beginners. Go ahead, check out the list now!
  • Apply Even Pressure: Apply even pressure as you sand and avoid pushing down too hard.
  • Keep the Sander Moving: Always keep the sander in motion, moving it with the grain of the wood.
  • Sanding Pattern: Move in a figure-eight.
  • Low Speed Settings: Lower the speed when working with fine grits.
  • Check for Clogs: check and replace clogged sandpaper. Clean the sander’s dust bag too.
  • Use a Sanding Block: For areas that are difficult to reach with a power sander, use a sanding block to maintain control.

Special Invitation for Female DIYers

Have you ever been in that Facebook group, you know the one, where you are afraid to ask questions because your worried someone will make a snarky, rude comment?

How did that make you feel? Self-conscious? Inferior? Annoyed because you’re not getting the help you needed? 

I know that self-conscious DIYer feeling because it happened to me just the other day when I was looking for feedback on a DIY project.

If you wish you could ask honest questions, without fearing the internet troll attacking you, then you should join The Sisterhood. 

Forget the fear of judgement when making a post. Instead, feel free to asking anything all with the added bonus of making meaningful connections with other likeminded women who share a passion for projects.

Don’t delay, join here and now for personalized project help!


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furniture flipping // diy projects // home renovations // modern farmhouse decorating ideas