How to Use Liquid Sandpaper in 7 Simple Steps

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Recently, I had the opportunity to remove damaged sealants and old stains from painted wooden surfaces without creating a mess. My woodworker colleagues whom I consulted with actually discouraged using standard sandpaper on wood surfaces, suggesting that liquid sandpaper could be a better option if used correctly.

If you’re curious how to employ method effectively like I did, I’ll share key steps on how to effectively use liquid sandpaper.

What is Liquid Sandpaper?

Applying liquid sandpaper simplifies wood preparation as an alternative to traditional sandpaper for paint jobs. It is also referred to as a deglosser or wet sanding products which have similar chemical solutions to those in the market.

liquid sander and white cloth

Its solution can be mild because it is composed of ethyl acetate, ethyl alcohol, and naphtha. For the stronger version, look for solutions with TSP or Tri-Sodium Phosphate. Either solution can remove undesirable materials on the surface.

However, this is not your wood product to fill the holes and cracks or make a unique finish on the surface. Liquid sandpaper is used to restore the natural appearance of wooden furniture, tables, and floorings without completely stripping the paint. 

How it Works

These chemical solutions work like paint strippers, but they will not penetrate the wood. It does not eliminate the paint except that it only softens the top surface or layer of the painted wood. 

This means it will weaken a sealer or any finishing product you use on the painted surface, making it easy to wipe off and letting your new paint and sealer product adhere more effectively. 

Liquid Sandpaper vs. Traditional Sandpaper

But how does liquid sandpaper differ from regular sandpaper? Although they are both useful in wood preparation, they have a wide array of different uses and characteristics.

various types of sandpaper

With its role and how it works, why would you choose this over the traditional method? 

In my experience, liquid sandpaper is easier to use than traditional. It only takes half an hour or at least 15 minutes to finish removing the top coat. But, to work with the traditional, you need to make an elbow grease effort which will result in muscle pain and fatigue. 

Also, by using traditional sandpapers, you are susceptible to inhaling dangerous dust from the painted wood. You can also eliminate the mess from the dust produced by ordinary sandpaper if you are using it.

Most importantly, regular sandpaper has limitations on reaching the small and complicated areas like curves, holes, and carvings of the wood. But, if you are going to use it for these areas, you can rub off the paint or sealer easily. 

liquid sander on wooden surface

Liquid sandpaper can save you time and effort for your other wood projects and paint jobs.

Using Liquid Sandpapers Effectively: 7 Simple Steps

Knowing how to use liquid sandpaper beforehand can make your task easier. Refer to the steps below to start your project. 

Materials You’ll Need

Before you begin, you need to prepare the following materials. 

After preparing the materials and selecting your well-ventilated work area, you can start your wood preparation.

paint stripping materials

Step #1: Start by Preparing the Surface

Make sure that you have removed the extra dirt on the surface by washing it with soap and clean water in a circular motion. You can use either hand or dish soap. If the previous smooth surfaces are full of filth, use a stronger cleaner.

Afterward, I let this dry by using a dry towel or rag. You can opt to air dry for at least 15 minutes. Remember that the surface should be 100% dry so you can have the best result.

Step #2: Then, Begin Applying the Liquid Sandpaper

When the surface is cleaned thoroughly, you can apply the liquid sandpaper. Using your brush or lint-free cloth, spread the deglosser on the surface. For recessed areas, I recommend using a smaller brush. Make sure that you apply it slowly and in easy strokes. 

pouring liquid sandpaper to cloth

Step #3: Leave the Liquid Sandpaper to Dry

Drying your liquid sandpaper is recommended before the second layer. The recommended time to soften the top layer of the painted wood is indicated in its container or bottle. Make sure you got the timing right.

Step #4: Don’t Forget to Check the Surface

Different liquid sandpaper products require different removal methods, so make sure you check the surface to see if it can already be rubbed off. Using a clean rag or cloth without lint, dry off the surface. 

Step#5: Apply the Second Layer of Liquid Sandpaper (If Needed)

After wiping off the painted wooden surface, I look to see if there are remaining sealers or top coats that need to be removed. If required, you should do a second layer of liquid sandpaper.

Step #6: Allow the Liquid Sandpaper to Dry

Again, give it time to soften the surface, and refer to the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure you do it right. Then, rub off using a clean cloth.

person holding a wooden board

Step #7: Coat the Surface with Paint or Stain (Optional)

If you have removed the damaged top layer of the painted wood, you can apply a new coat of paint or stain. This is optional if you still need to fill the holes and imperfections on the surface.

How to Use Liquid Sandpaper on Cabinets

When you are going to remove the varnish or glossy surface in your cabinet, using liquid sandpaper is better than common sandpaper. Here’s how to use it on kitchen cabinets.

Make sure all the surfaces are clean before applying the deglossers using a clean and lint-free cloth. Leave the solution for 15 minutes before you rub it off with another cloth. Normally, a single layer of wet sandpaper can remove the existing sheen.

Liquid Sandpaper Advantages

The works of liquid sandpaper are wonders for woodworkers whose time and effort are precious, and so are yours. Therefore, here are the advantages of using it.

Quick to Use

As I mentioned earlier, using it can save both time and effort. This is the most effective wood preparation if you have a line of things to do for your wood project. You can exert your effort to other procedures for your wood project. 

liquid sander on white surface

Allows Ease of Application

Once you apply the liquid, all you have to do is wait and rub it off until the result is achieved. The application only requires a brush, a cloth, and a chemical solution. It is an apply and rub wood preparation. 

No Dust Particles

Unlike ordinary sandpaper, which could make your work area full of dust, a liquid detergent does not produce dust particles. According to studies, high exposure to dust can trigger allergies and irritations on the skin as well [1].  


The versatility of liquid sandpaper updated the application of chemical solutions to areas that ordinary sandpaper cannot reach. Using the right tool, a smaller brush and tiny cloth can push to the recessed areas.

Less Messy

In my line of work as woodworker, I definitely value clean and tidy workspaces. When dealing with old stains and sealants on painted wooden surfaces, using a cloth soaked in liquid sandpaper not only took care of those issues but also effectively cleared away other residues on surfaces, even those with uneven textures. 

One major perk I noticed when employing liquid sanders is that I could do away with the traditional tarp that I regularly use when working with regular sandpaper.

Also Read: Does Applying Vinegar Remove Paint from Wood

Ideal for Detailed Projects

One of the tricky parts of wood projects is the complex areas of a wood surface. These areas consume most of the time and effort of woodworkers. Thus, liquid sandpaper is the ideal material to remove old stains and sealant on these areas.

liquid sander application

How to Pick the Right Liquid Sandpaper

Dozens of liquid sandpaper are promising, but you should know how to pick the right one. Here’s what you need to know before buying it.

Know Your Project

The first parameter is to complement it with your project. If you are doing a wood project, make sure you have it for wooden surfaces. And for metal surfaces, choose a sandpaper solution for them. 

Depending on your project, it offers mild and strong solutions.

Opt for a Reputable Brand

The second parameter in choosing the ideal liquid deglosser is to look for a brand with good reviews. Learning from the real customers who bought and used the product will give you pieces of information based on their experiences and actual application. 

Saving money is encouraged, but the higher quality product has better performance than those at bargain prices. You can also buy it at an affordable price from a reputable brand, and the quality is excellent.

Essentials Tips When Using Liquid Sandpaper

Despite its many benefits, do not forget that it is composed of chemical solutions that are hazardous to your health and the environment. So, I listed here the safety standards from experts:

pouring liquid sandpaper to cloth

Don’t Forget to Protect Yourself, Your Family, and your Pets

Liquid sander emits volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are hazardous if we breathe them in. It can cause asthma and allergies, but sometimes extreme symptoms like nausea, dizziness, and brain damage if exposed frequently. 

To protect your family and self, wear safety masks, gloves, and goggles. Some medical stores offer masks and goggles that can protect both your eyes, nose, and mouth by wearing a single protective item. 

It can also be harmful to your pets if it’s roaming near your work area. So, make sure your pets are distant from your work area. It is highly toxic, and it can burn your skin if accidents occur.

Therefore, you should start by choosing the proper work area. It should be a well-ventilated area and have no obstructions from your pets and children.

Read and Follow the Manufacturer’s Instructions Carefully

The sole purpose of a manual is to guide properly and give the dos and donts on using the product. The instructions and labels on the container are imperative to read and follow. 

applying liquid sander to furniture

Manufacturers’ customer responsibility is to provide their customers with warnings and directions on how to use the product. So, read and follow the instructions and labels carefully.

Dispose of Any Remaining Product Properly

Included in the instructions of manufacturers is to dispose of it properly after you use it. It means you need to separate it from regular trash and dispose of it at your community’s hazardous waste sites.

Refrain from flushing the containers in your sink or your toilet bowl. It will eventually pollute the environment via waterways.

Our Top Pick for the Best ​​Liquid Sandpaper: Klean Strip Liquid Sandpaper

Having tried numerous liquid sandpaper products before, there’s been one that I reach more often than others. My top pick for the best liquid sandpaper is the Klean Strip Liquid Sandpaper

The Klean Strip offers variations of container sizes depending on your budget. It is a wipe-on cleaner and de-glosser, but it is not a paint stripper. Once you apply it on the surface, you do not need to rinse it off before applying paint.

The only drawback I found in using this is that it’s not advisable to apply on fresh coat, rubber or plastic, fiberglass, or other solvent-sensitive surfaces. There are also incidents where a bit of residue is left on the surface, but it can be covered with paint or stain. 

The Klean Strip has become my go-to deglosser over the years because of its convenience and how it works as it should. I have enjoyed its very sole feature of sanding dust-free. 


What is the best way to use liquid sandpaper?

The best way you can use liquid sandpaper is by rubbing it off with a clean and lint-free cloth. You need to set the right timing before wiping it off the surface.

Once done, wipe away any residue with a clean cloth and let the surface dry completely before proceeding with painting or staining.

How long do you leave liquid sandpaper on?

You can leave liquid sandpaper for about 15 minutes after applying it on cabinets and other surfaces. Make sure you follow our basic steps for applying liquid sandpaper. It will work on the deep-set areas of the wooden surface.

Do you let liquid sandpaper dry?

You can let liquid sandpaper dry for a specific time as indicated on its container or bottle. If it gets too dry, it will be hard to rub it off with a cloth. So make sure you wear gloves and safety goggles, and masks when using them.

Is it better to sand or use a deglosser?

It is better and more efficient to use a deglosser than manual sanding, especially if you have lots to do on your paint job. Technically speaking, deglosser and sand are similar; however, deglosser makes the removal of old paint and stains easier and less messy.

Can I use liquid sandpaper indoors?

Yes, you can use liquid sandpaper indoors, but our experts recommended that the work area for its application should be well-ventilated. It is also suitable for walls with existing paint and surfaces with gloss, especially the higher part of the walls.

How can I use the Klean strip liquid sandpaper?

With our basic steps and the best product on it, the Klean Strip, you can get the results you want for your wooden surface. Klean strip liquid sandpaper works as it should and has less odor compared to other brands.

What’s the recommended deglosser for cabinets?

Klean Strip liquid sandpaper works well with any surface, so it is my recommended deglosser for cabinets. With its door facings and enclosed area, it can accumulate molds and other issues on its surfaces. But Klean Strip can remove the filth and dirt on the cabinets’ surface.

Are liquid deglossers as good as sanding?

The chemical solutions of liquid deglossers make it more reliable than traditional sanding. It offers convenience and is a time-saver for woodworkers, especially safer to use than ordinary sandpaper.

More Related Reads


Now that you know how to use liquid sandpaper, you can refinish your old furniture without causing unintended damage. With all the important information, including Klean Strip as the best liquid sandpaper, you’re prepared to do your paint job with no hurry and mistakes! 

robert headshot

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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