What Grit Sandpaper to Remove Varnish from Wood: The Ultimate Guide

What Grit Sandpaper to Remove Varnish from Wood

For removing varnish from wood, start with a coarse grit sandpaper, such as 80 or 100 grit. A lower grit allows for quicker removal of the varnish layers.

Are you wondering how to remove varnish from wood? Whether you’re refinishing furniture or restoring old wooden surfaces, getting rid of varnish can be a challenging task. However, with the right approach and the appropriate tools, you can achieve excellent results.

One important factor to consider is the choice of sandpaper grit. Using the correct grit will ensure efficient removal of varnish without damaging the underlying wood. We will explore the ideal grit sandpaper for removing varnish from wood and provide useful tips to help you complete the job effectively. So, let’s dive in and discover the best way to restore the natural beauty of your wooden surfaces.

Types Of Grit Sandpaper

When it comes to removing varnish from wood, using the right grit sandpaper is essential. Grit refers to the level of roughness or coarseness of the sandpaper, and different grits are suitable for different stages of the varnish removal process. In this article, we will explore the three main types of grit sandpaper: Coarse Grit Sandpaper, Medium Grit Sandpaper, and Fine Grit Sandpaper.

Coarse Grit Sandpaper

Coarse grit sandpaper, typically in the range of 40 to 60 grit, is the first type to use when removing varnish from wood. It has a rough surface that effectively strips away the top layer of varnish and any imperfections on the wood surface. This grit provides quick and aggressive material removal, making it ideal for initial sanding or removing thick layers of varnish.

Some common uses of coarse grit sandpaper include:

  • Removing old, flaking varnish
  • Sanding down rough patches or high spots on the wood
  • Eliminating deep scratches or gouges

Due to its abrasive nature, it is important to exercise caution and apply even pressure while sanding with coarse grit sandpaper to avoid damaging the wood surface.

Medium Grit Sandpaper

Medium grit sandpaper, typically ranging from 80 to 120 grit, is the next stage in the varnish removal process. It is smoother and less aggressive than coarse grit sandpaper, making it suitable for refining the wood surface after using coarse grit sandpaper. Medium grit sandpaper helps to remove any remaining varnish and smooth out the wood surface.

Some common uses of medium grit sandpaper include:

  • Removing the initial sanding marks left by coarse grit sandpaper
  • Smoothing out rough areas and uneven spots on the wood
  • Preparing the wood surface for further sanding and finishing

Using medium grit sandpaper helps to achieve a more even and refined surface, creating a smoother base for the final stages of the varnish removal process.

Fine Grit Sandpaper

Fine grit sandpaper, usually ranging from 150 to 220 grit, is the final step in removing varnish from wood. It has a very smooth surface and is designed to eliminate any remaining imperfections, scratches, or marks left by the previous sanding stages. Fine grit sandpaper gives the wood a polished and satin-like finish, ready for staining or refinishing.

Some common uses of fine grit sandpaper include:

  • Removing fine scratches and blemishes from the wood surface
  • Smoothing out the wood grain for a finer finish
  • Preparing the wood for staining or applying a new coat of varnish

Using fine grit sandpaper brings out the natural beauty of the wood and ensures a professional-looking result.

In conclusion, understanding the different types of grit sandpaper and their specific uses is crucial when removing varnish from wood. Coarse grit sandpaper strips away the initial layers, medium grit sandpaper refines the surface, and fine grit sandpaper provides the finishing touches. By using the appropriate grits, you can achieve a smooth and flawless wood surface for your desired finish.

What Grit Sandpaper to Remove Varnish from Wood

Step-by-step Guide To Removing Varnish With Sandpaper

Removing varnish from wood can be a daunting task, especially if you’re unsure about the right grit sandpaper to use. However, with the right tools, technique, and a little patience, you can restore the natural beauty of your wood surfaces. In this step-by-step guide, we will walk you through the process of removing varnish using sandpaper, ensuring a smooth and successful result.


Before diving into the sanding process, it’s essential to prepare the area and gather the necessary materials:

  • Determine the type of varnish on your wood surface – oil-based or water-based.
  • Ensure you have the appropriate safety gear, such as safety goggles, gloves, and a dust mask, to protect yourself from dust and debris.
  • Clear the area of any furniture, rugs, or objects that might get in the way or be damaged during the process.

Sanding Process

Now that you’re prepared, let’s dive into the sanding process. Follow these steps for an effective varnish removal:

  1. Start by selecting the correct grit sandpaper. For removing varnish, it’s recommended to start with a coarse grit, such as 60 or 80, and gradually work your way up to a finer grit, such as 120 or 150.
  2. Begin by sanding the wood surface with the coarse grit sandpaper in the direction of the wood grain. Apply even pressure, but avoid pressing too hard, as this may damage the wood.
  3. Continue sanding in smooth, steady strokes, overlapping each pass slightly, until the varnish starts to come off. Be patient and take your time.
  4. Switch to a finer grit sandpaper as the varnish becomes thinner. Repeat the sanding process, gradually moving to higher grits until you achieve the desired smoothness.
  5. During the sanding process, periodically wipe away the dust with a clean, dry cloth or use a vacuum with a brush attachment to prevent accumulation.
  6. Once all the varnish has been successfully removed, inspect the wood surface for any rough spots or imperfections. If necessary, use a fine-grit sandpaper to smooth out any areas.

Post-sanding Care

After the varnish has been removed, it’s crucial to take care of your newly sanded wood surface for optimal results:

  • Remove any sanding residue and dust from the wood surface using a clean, soft cloth or vacuum.
  • If desired, you can apply a wood conditioner or sanding sealer to enhance the wood’s natural beauty and protect it.
  • Allow the wood surface to completely dry before applying any new finish or paint.

By following this step-by-step guide, you can confidently remove varnish from wood using sandpaper, ensuring a pristine and beautiful outcome. Remember to take your time, be patient, and always prioritize safety throughout the process.

What Grit Sandpaper to Remove Varnish from Wood

Frequently Asked Questions Of What Grit Sandpaper To Remove Varnish From Wood

What Is The Easiest Way To Remove Varnish From Wood?

The easiest way to remove varnish from wood is by using a chemical stripper or sanding it off. Apply the stripper, let it work, then scrape off the softened varnish. If using sanding, start with coarse-grit sandpaper, then move to finer grades until the varnish is fully removed.

How Do You Sand Wood Varnish?

To sand wood varnish, follow these steps:

1. Start by cleaning the surface with a damp cloth.

2. Use medium to fine-grit sandpaper in smooth, even strokes.

3. Sand in the direction of the wood grain.

4. Remove dust with a cloth before applying new varnish or paint.

How Much Do I Need To Sand Varnished Wood Before Painting?

Sand varnished wood before painting to ensure a smooth finish. Use medium-grit sandpaper and sand in the direction of the wood grain. Remove any dust or debris before applying primer and paint. Proper sanding helps the paint adhere better and provides a better overall result.

What Is The Difference Between Sanding And Stripping Varnish?

Sanding removes the top layer of varnish, providing a smooth surface for a new finish. Stripping varnish, on the other hand, involves using chemicals to dissolve the varnish completely.


To conclude, selecting the right grit sandpaper is crucial for effectively removing varnish from wood. It is recommended to start with a coarse grit, such as 80 or 100, to strip away the varnish layer. Gradually move to finer grits like 150 or 180 to achieve a smooth finish.

Remember to work patiently and evenly, ensuring the wood is fully prepared before refinishing or repainting. Finding the right grit sandpaper will undoubtedly bring your wooden surfaces back to their former glory.

Md Meraj

This is Meraj. I’m the main publisher of this blog. Wood Working Advisor is a blog where I share wood working tips and tricks, reviews, and guides. Stay tuned to get more helpful articles!

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