How to Use an Orbital Floor Sander

Worker operating floor orbital sander to to hardwood flooring.

Strictly speaking, there are basically two types of sanders you can use for sanding hardwood floors. One is the drum sander, and the other is an orbital sander. You can use the drum sander for rough sanding, while you can use the orbital sander for fine sanding. The orbital sander, of course, will provide you with a unique type of sanding. If you use it well, it can help you achieve a thorough sanding job.

The orbital floor sander should be used with the drum sander. This is because the drum sander, being the aggressive sander, removes the top surface of the floor that got damaged over time. Afterward, you can use the orbital sander to provide the floor surface with a smoother finish the drum sander can’t provide. 

Things You Must Know When Using the Orbital Sander

Before you use the orbital sander, it will be best to understand the equipment well and the factors you should consider when using it. The orbital sander is also called a palm sander. It is a hand-held sander that makes use of random-orbit action. This technology was first commercially rolled out in 1968, and it combines the belt sander’s aggressiveness and speed and the slow speed of orbital finishing sander.

You can use the orbital sander in sanding softwood floors to provide them with a light refreshing. Moreover, you will find that the majority of floor sanding companies utilize orbital floor sanders to achieve fine sanding. After sanding with 100-grit belts, you can sand the floor with 120, 150, and 180-grit sandpapers using the orbital floor sander. 

The orbital sander also functions by moving the sanding disk elliptically. This action helps prevent swirl marks while making the grain’s direction a non-issue in sanding. Additionally, you can find random orbital sanders in sizes of five or six inches, referring to the size of the sanding disk. 

The orbital sander relies much on its weight to provide enough pressure for sanding the floor. Its weight gives this machine two pounds-per-square-inch pressure. Moreover, this equipment gets referred to as a random orbital sander because it doesn’t have a patented movement that requires following the wood grain.

Steps on How to Use the Orbital Floor Sander

Aside from understanding how the orbital floor sander works, it will also help if you know the following straightforward steps to follow when using the orbital floor sander:

Step 1: Vacuum and Sweep the Floor After Sanding Using the Drum Sander

Before using the orbital floor sander, you should first sweep and vacuum the floor. This sander is more often used after sanding the floor using the drum sander. So, you will need a thorough cleaning of the floor area after using the drum sander. Check likewise for any protruding nails, tacks, or any other thing that could damage the equipment. Although the orbital floor sander is heavy-duty equipment, you would surely not want to risk damaging it by any protruding nail or object.

Step 2: Use the Appropriate Sandpaper

You will need several grits of sandpaper when using the orbital floor sandpaper. Remember that sandpapers are graded, so you need to find the correct grade of sandpaper for this equipment to get the best result. Begin with coarse-grit sandpaper to do away with the old top surface. You can also use this coarse grit to smooth out the most obvious blemishes. 

This coarse grit can also remove several paint layers from the floor’s surface. For the best result, use 20 or 40-grit sandpaper. Likewise, it will be best to use 36-grit sandpaper to remove the old varnish. For the final sanding, you can use 100-grit sandpaper or higher.

Step 3: Attach 40-grit Sandpaper to the Orbital Sander

With the first sanding, you can use 40-grit sandpaper for more aggressive action. But before you engage in sanding, do not forget to wear your safety gear like safety glasses and face mask.

Step 4: Begin Sanding at the Room’s Farthest Corner

When sanding a room, always start at the room’s farthest corner. Moreover, it is a good idea to sand along the wood grain. As you sand away from the farthest corner of the room, you can enhance the sanding process by developing a sanding system, i.e., a pattern of sanding. This sanding pattern may come naturally as you get the hang of the use of the sander.

Step 5: Sand Using a Hand Orbital Sander

After sanding using the orbital floor sander, you can transition to using the hand orbital sander with the same grit sandpaper. Sand the edges and low spot with ease using the orbital hand sander. With this sander type, you can reach the hard-to-reach areas.

Step 6: Sweep and Vacuum the Floor Again

After sanding using the hand orbital sander, you can sweep and vacuum the floor again. In this way, you can remove the dust and debris produced by the previous sanding. Ensure that you keep the floor area clean. In this way, you can reduce the risk of damaging your orbital sander. 

Step 7: Pour Mineral Spirits on a Clean Towel and Wipe Down the Floor

After vacuuming the floor, you can pour mineral spirits on a clean towel and wipe down the floor. You will do this to do away with the fine dust layer and render the floor with a smooth look. Likewise, you should wear your gloves to avoid hurting your skin with the chemicals when wiping the floor. 

Step 8: Dry the Floor and Finish

Once the floor dries, you can apply the floor coating that works well with the hardwood floor. You can ask your local retailer for tips on how to finish best. Moreover, the manufacturer can provide tips on how to do it well. If you follow the abovementioned steps, you will indeed finish with the best result from your orbital hand sander.

Things to Avoid When Sanding Using the Orbital Floor Sander

If it is your first time using the orbital sander, it will also help to know the following mistakes you should avoid and additional tips and tricks when using the orbital floor sander:

  • Avoid starting the sanding process using fine-grit sandpaper. Doing so might slow down the sanding process and might make it difficult for you to do away with old varnish, paint, or coating. Begin with coarse sandpaper to remove old layers or stains. Then, transition to finer sandpaper for the finishing sanding. 
  • Avoid sealing the floor surface sans cleaning the debris and dust left by sanding.
  • Make sure you wear your safety gear when sanding.
  • Ensure the openings to the room, like doors and windows, are wide open to prevent the accumulation of dust and odor inside the room.

Frequently Asked Questions About Orbital Sander

Aside from knowing the steps and tips on how to use properly the orbital sander, it will also help if you are familiar with the following FAQs about the orbital sander:

Why Should You Not Use Orbital Sander Alone?

Floor sanders come in different varieties. Some floor sanders, like drum sanders, are perfect for removing dents and damages because they are powerful and aggressive in sanding. They have higher RPM and weigh heavier than the orbital sander. These sanders can remove the wood’s top layer with ease. 

The drum sander comes with a belt-style design. You can use it like a lawnmower to remove different materials from the hardwood floor. It can do away with dents, gouges, adhesives, bumps, and paints. 

So, you will need this sander if you want to remove damages from the floor. However, after using the drum sander, you need to sand the floor again using the orbital floor sander to get a finer sanding result. Thus, you must use the orbital sander with the drum sander.

How Long Would It Take to Sand Using the Orbital Floor Sander?

The duration of sanding using the orbital floor sander depends on the floor area you will sand and the blemishes or damages the floor has. To achieve the best sanding result, you would usually make up to three passes of the orbital floor sander. Besides, the standard floor area would usually take a day or two to thoroughly sand. 

How Would You Attach the Sandpaper to an Orbital Sander?

The orbital floor sander features a design that allows for the quick replacement of sandpaper. To swap grits, you only need to turn on its side the orbital sander. Then place the sander on an even surface to let you access quickly the pad. 

Make sure you unplug the sander before turning it on its side. Afterward, you can release the clamp that keeps the sandpaper attached. Pull out the worn sandpaper and discard it. After that, you can hold the new sandpaper, line up its edge, and clamp it. 

Ensure that it sits evenly. Lock it in position using the lever. Do this likewise with the other end of the paper, and ensure that no kinks or sagging are there. Then, plug the sander into the electrical outlet and start sanding.

How to Maximize the Use of the Orbital Sander?

As mentioned above, sanding a hardwood floor is not an easy task. Once you’ve opted to do it yourself, you need to prepare for the rigors of sanding. It will help to use a suitable sander and grit sandpaper to ensure you will do it right. 

Ensure you follow the abovementioned steps on how to do it and the safety tips. Make sure that you do it thoroughly to get the best result. Moreover, it will help to make a maximum of three passes with your orbital floor sander to ensure the best outcome.


If you want to provide your hardwood floor with a makeover, you will surely need to sand the floor using a drum sander and an orbital sander. Using these two sanders, you can accomplish the sanding process quickly and efficiently to prepare the floor surface for refinishing. You can’t sidestep the sanding process because it is essential in refinishing an old hardwood floor. 

If you would do the sanding on your own without hiring a professional, you might as well equip yourself with the necessary equipment and knowledge on how to use the equipment. It will also help to review the abovementioned steps and tips on how to go about sanding using the orbital floor sander.

Related Posts:

Leave a Comment