Which Should I Use and When Between Sandpaper and Emery Cloth?

Sandpaper and emery cloth are two of the most often used abrasives for smooth surfaces. But what distinguishes them from one another, and when should you choose to use one over the other? We’ll look at the qualities of sandpaper and emery cloth in this post, as well as their uses and benefits.

Describe sandpaper

For ages, rough surfaces have been smoothed using sandpaper. Sand and shark skin were used by the ancient Egyptians to smooth plaster and wood surfaces. Sandpaper was first created in the 13th century by Chinese craftsmen using crushed seeds, shells, and sand.


A thin paper or cloth backing that has been coated with abrasive granules makes up modern sandpaper. The most often used abrasives are garnet, silicon carbide, and aluminum oxide. The term “grit” of sandpaper describes the range in abrasive particle size from coarse to fine.


Based on the size of the abrasive particles, multiple levels of sandpaper grit exist. The coarser the sandpaper, the lower the grit number. Whereas fine grits are used for finishing, coarse grits are utilized to remove paint or other materials.


Sandpaper comes in a variety of forms, including silicon carbide, zirconia alumina, and aluminum oxide. Each type has distinct qualities that make it appropriate for particular purposes. Grit sizes, which range from very coarse to very fine, are used to classify sandpaper. How smooth or rough the surface will be after sanding depends on the grit size.

Both positive and negative aspects

Sandpaper is useful for removing old paint, smoothing uneven surfaces, and shaping wood, among other things. It does have some drawbacks, though, like clogging easily, wearing out rapidly, and leaving noticeable scratches on some surfaces.

Describe Emery Cloth

Emery is the name of the mineral that is used to make emery cloth. Corundum and other minerals can be found in emery, a form of rock. In the nineteenth century, Turkey was where it was originally found.


Emery dust is adhered to a fabric backing to create emery cloth. In order to generate a long-lasting abrasive surface, the particles are typically combined with a binder, such as glue or resin.


Emery cloth grits range in size from coarse to fine, like sandpaper grits. Emery cloth is used for heavy-duty applications but is often rougher than sandpaper.


There are several kinds of emery cloth available, including crocus, silicon carbide, and aluminum oxide. Grit sizes, which range from very coarse to very fine, are another factor used to categorize emery cloth. How smooth or rough the surface will be after sanding depends on the grit size.

Both positive and negative aspects

Emery cloth provides a number of benefits, including its resilience against clogging, flexibility, and durability. It is perfect for polishing and sanding plastics, metals, and other materials. Emery cloth can be used to shape wood and remove old paint, but it is not as efficient as sandpaper.

Differences Between Emery Cloth and Sandpaper

The materials they are formed of, their compositions, and the purposes they are used for are the key distinctions between sandpaper and emery cloth. Whereas emery cloth is composed of a fabric backing glued with emery particles, sandpaper is constructed of a paper or fabric backing coated with abrasive particles. Sandpaper is typically used for drywall sanding, metallurgy, woodworking, and automotive refinishing. Woodworking, jewelry-making, and metalworking are the main applications of emery cloth.

Comparison table between sandpaper and emery cloth

Feature Sandpaper Emery Cloth
Primary Use Woodworking, Metalworking, Automotive Refinishing, Drywall Sanding Metalworking, Jewelry Making, Woodworking (occasional use)
Abrasive Material Silicon Carbide, Aluminum Oxide Emery (a mixture of corundum and iron oxide)
Grit Range Coarse to Fine (40-600) Coarse to Fine (40-320)
Clogging Prone to clogging, reducing the effectiveness Less prone to clogging than sandpaper
Durability Less durable than emery cloth More durable than sandpaper
Finish Can leave behind scratches or swirl marks if not used properly Can be coarser than sandpaper, making it more difficult to achieve a smooth finish
Cost Widely available and affordable Generally more expensive than sandpaper

Composition of Materials

Emery cloth is formed of abrasive particles applied to a cloth backing, as opposed to sandpaper, which is made of abrasive particles adhered to a backing substance. There are several varieties of sandpaper, including zirconia alumina, silicon carbide, and aluminum oxide. Moreover, there are other types of Emery cloth, such as crocus, silicon carbide, and aluminum oxide.

Finish and smoothness of the surface

Sandpaper is used for giving wood and other materials a smooth surface finish. On certain people, though, it may leave noticeable scratches, and substances, like metal. In contrast, Emery cloth is perfect for giving metals, plastics, and other materials a smooth surface finish. Surfaces can also be polished till they resemble a mirror.

Longevity and Resilience

Sandpaper is prone to rapid wear and clogging, especially when applied to soft materials. In contrast, Emery cloth is stronger and less likely to clog, making it perfect for usage on a variety of materials.


The kind and grit size of sandpaper and emery cloth affect price. Sandpaper typically costs less than emery cloth. But, emery cloth is more cost-effective in the long run because it often lasts longer and is sturdy.

Applications and Suggestions

Sandpaper works well for smoothing and sculpting wood, metal, and other materials. Also, it works well to get rid of old paint and get surfaces ready for painting or staining. For sanding and polishing metals, plastics, and other materials, Emery cloth is superior. Knives and other cutting equipment can be sharpened with it.

When to Use Sandpaper

Sandpaper is a frequently used abrasive that works well for a variety of tasks, including drywall sanding, car refinishing, and woodworking.


In woodworking, sandpaper is frequently used to smooth surfaces before adding a finish. While finer grits are used for finishing, coarser grits are utilized to remove flaws or rough areas.


Sandpaper is another tool used in metalworking to remove coatings such as paint, corrosion, and others. For heavy-duty tasks, coarser grits are employed, whereas finer grits are used for finishing.

Vehicle Refinishing

Automobile restoration projects also utilize sandpaper to get surfaces ready for painting. Old paint or rust is removed with coarse grits, and the surface is smoothed with finer grits before painting.

Sanding Drywall

Sandpaper is also used for drywall sanding. It is utilized to smooth the drywall surface before painting or wallpapering. In finishing the surface, finer grits are utilized after removing excess joint compounds or other flaws with coarser grits.

When to Use Emery Cloth

Emery cloth is a multipurpose abrasive that is frequently used in jewelry- and metalworking-related applications.


Emery cloth is generally employed in applications involving metalworking. Rust, paint, and other coatings are removed from metal surfaces with this technique. Metal surfaces are also polished with it to a high sheen.

Creating Jewelry

To polish and shape metal components, jewelry makers frequently employ emery cloth. Moreover, it is employed to clean tarnish off metal surfaces.


Emery cloth can be used in woodworking on occasion to shape and smooth metal items or to clean them of rust.


In conclusion, sandpaper and emery cloth are both useful abrasives with unique properties and uses. Sandpaper is frequently used for drywall sanding, metallurgy, woodworking, and automotive refinishing. Emery cloth is mostly utilized in the manufacture of jewelry and metalwork, with some use in carpentry. The application, the desired finish, and the grit of the abrasive must all be taken into account when deciding between sandpaper and emery cloth.


Can you use sandpaper on metal?

Yes, you can use sandpaper to remove paint, corrosion, and other coatings from metal surfaces.

Is sandpaper more expensive than emery cloth?

Emery cloth typically costs more than sandpaper because of its toughness and lifespan.

Can you use emery cloth to make wood?

In woodworking, emery cloth can be used to polish and shape metal components or to clean rust from metal parts.

What sandpaper grit should I use when dealing with wood?

The application determines the grit of the sandpaper used in woodworking. While eliminating flaws or rough areas, coarser grits are utilized; when finishing, finer grits are.

Can you reuse sandpaper?

Sandpaper can be used repeatedly, although each time its effectiveness might be diminished.