clean wood after sanding it down

How to Effectively Clean Wood After Sanding

In Tips by Jamie P.

Whether you have decided to use a paint stripper or not you still need to sand down your wooden project prior to staining or painting. The reason you sand down a surface is to remove all of the old paint, topcoat, or stain while creating a smooth flat surface. After doing all this hard work, how do you clean wood after sanding?

The most effective way to clean wood after sanding is to brush all the dust off the wooden surface using a painters dust brush and then wipe the surface with a lint-free rag and mineral spirits.

The mineral spirits will clean any grime or grease off of your surface making it ready for painting or staining. Also, the advantage of using mineral spirits when compared to water is that water swells wood, also know as a raised grain. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you should wait until the wood dries before applying anything over it. Mineral spirits will dry faster, because it evaporates quickly, and it doesn’t swell up the wood.

Cleaning a wood surface after sanding can be done in more than one way, lets take a look at the several best ways on how to clean wood after sanding it down.

6 Ways on How to Clean Wood After Sanding

1. Use a Dust Brush

Sanding dust accumulates quickly, even rubbing sandpaper back and forth a couple of times creates a small pile of dust. The first thing you should do after sanding is to brush away your sand dust using a dusting brush. You can use a regular paintbrush if you want, I prefer to have a designated dust brush in my tool drawer.

Instead of using a paintbrush, you can use a real dusting brush, but it is very important that it is super soft or it can leave scratch marks on your wooden surface.

Simply brush as much sand dust off the surface, its really that simple.

2. Mineral Spirits

mineral spirits to clean up sanded wood

Before applying any mineral spirits make sure you do your best to brush away as much dust as possible first. Use a dusting brush, dry rag, or a vacuum, either one will do the trick to remove the dust.

When I apply the mineral spirits to clean up wood, I just pour a small amount directly on the dirty surface or add some to a clean cloth/rag. I then like to wipe along with the wood grain to prevent any small scratches, because even small scratches show up after staining. If you are painting you don’t need to worry much about small scratches then.

I actually use mineral spirits to clean my product before I begin sanding too, I like to keep my furniture projects clean. Before sanding it helps make sanding easier, if grease and grime can get on your sandpaper it creates clumps of dirt on the paper reducing its effectiveness, just a little tip I thought I would throw-in. If you are stripping your furniture, read my article on how to properly clean wood after stripping.

3. Vacuum the Dust

Having a vacuum in the shop is a must, trust me it will get used for a lot of different cleaning tasks. One thing a vacuum can do is clean your wooden project after sanding it down. Preferably with a soft vacuum hose nozzle, suck up all the dust surrounding the wood and on the wood. This is a very popular choice and many electric sanders have a vacuum installed on them. This new technology has helped keep projects and workshops much cleaner than before.

4. Tack Cloth

What is a tack cloth? Its a cloth designed to wipe away dust. It is another popular choice when cleaning up sawdust after sanding furniture. Another commonly used name for a tack cloth is a cheesecloth, no matter the name used they can be found at your local hardware store or on Amazon for specifically being used for various woodworking projects.

The way a tack clothe works is the cloth has the perfect amount of tackiness that grabs any dust on the surface. All you have to do is wipe the surface with a small amount of pressure and it will pick up dust deep in the wood grain.

5. TSP – Trisodium Phosphate Powder Cleaner

TSP is a grease cleaner that has been used for years in woodworking and furniture painting. It is a great product to use before applying paint, so it is a great option to use to clean up wood after sanding. Similar to mineral spirits, you should dust the sawdust off and then wipe things down with a rag and TSP.

TSP can be found in a powder form or a liquid, if you are looking for your best bang for your buck grab the powder form that mixes with water.

6. Compressor to Blow Away Dust

Opposite to a vacuum, try blowing away the dust on a sanded surface. If you have a compressor you can easily give this a try, use the high pressured air from the compressor, and aim the hose end at a 45-degree angle. Let the air flow out and now you have the perfect dust remover! It is a very easy process that can be an option if you have an air compressor in your home shop.

After blowing away the dust I recommend using mineral spirits to give it one last cleaning. This will prepare the wood for whatever your plans are, whether its to paint or leave it bare and apply a protective topcoat, it doesn’t matter because it’s clean!


Wood Cleaning FAQs

Let me answer a few frequently asked questions about cleaning wood after you sand it down.

Should you use mineral spirits after sanding?

It is recommended to use mineral spirits after you sand down a project, however, a light dusting is recommended prior to using the mineral spirits, as I mentioned numerous times above. Mineral spirits will provide your wooden surface a deep cleaning while helping to remove any remaining dust.

If you plan on staining using mineral spirits is even more important after sanding. Since it deeply penetrates the wood, it almost acts as a conditioner to the wood making the stain penetrate even deeper. This works best with oil-based penetrating stains.

How to Clean Exterior Wood Before Staining?

Exterior wood can be treated a bit differently, typically this stuff is stronger against water because it’s built to last in harsh weather conditions. Exterior wood comes in more quantity, and if you are sanding a lot of it using water and detergent will work best. I recommend using water mixed with TSP to clean exterior wood after sanding it and before staining it.

How to Clean Wood Before Painting?

The best way to clean wood before painting it is to wipe it clean with a cleaning detergent. I recommend using mineral spirits or TSP cleaner. If you don’t want to wait for it to dry, grab a tack cloth and wipe your wooden surface clean from dust and other particles. The tack cloth will not remove grease and grime like a cleaning detergent would though.


Final Thoughts

There isn’t a “best” way to clean wood after sanding, but there are a variety of options that you can choose from. You won’t know what works best until you give them a try. I prefer to brush off my sanded surface and then wipe it all clean with mineral spirits, however, its only one of the many ways.

I hope this article has helped you with your wooded project, and if you have any tips on how to clean wood after sanding let me know!