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How To Sand Drywall with an Orbital Sander: 8 Super Easy Steps

Sanding drywall with an orbital sander makes the task easier. It saves a lot of time and energy.

So, how can you sand drywall with an orbital sander?

First, you have to follow some precautionary steps like sealing the room or wearing a mask. Once you gather all the tools that you require, you should cut off the excess drywall. Clean up the area and apply joint compound to the piece of dry wood. Choose the ideal grit for sanding, and you’re good to go!

Does this seem good enough? The steps are much easier to follow. Just start, and you’ll be done in no time.

What are you waiting for?!

6 Things to Follow Before Starting the Process

Here are 6 steps that you need to follow before sanding your drywall-

Seal the Room with Masking Tape

Before you start using your orbital sander, you need to seal the room. It’s so that the dust doesn’t enter your house. Use masking tape to seal the gaps around your doors or vents. Then, after that take the masking tape off and remove it from the doorway. You can also seal the gaps between the baseboards to avoid dust accumulating inside. 

Keep a Window Open

As you’ve sealed the room for the dust, you need to let them exit. If your room has a window facing outside, keep that open. The dust particles will then exit the room from the window.

Use a Dust Collection System

There are many tools you can use to collect dust from your drywall. A dust collection system helps you to collect all the dust that comes up from sanding. You can buy a separate one to use. Or you can use an old vacuum cleaner or shop vacuums. The idea is to collect as much dust as you can before they enter your lungs.

Be Careful when Using Sandpaper

Every time you’re using your orbital sander, be sure that you are very careful. This is because sometimes when the paper is moving at high speed, they tend to fly off. Especially if the airflow isn’t strong enough.

Use a Sanding Screen

The sanding screen is very important because it helps the sander work longer without overheating. If you forget this piece, your sander will get too hot. And stop working once it has overheated. 

Look for a quality sanding screen online or in the market. And make sure that they are made of polyester. Because they will last longer than other materials. Sanding screens are also more durable than sandpapers.

Use a Dust Mask

Using a dust mask is very important because this tool creates an enormous amount of dust. So with that, you need to have some protection so that you won’t have any complications later on.

There are many orbital sander brands and types in the market today.

Before you choose one, check these out:

Mini Air Sander Mini OrbitalCheck Current Price
DEWALT Random Orbit SanderCheck Current Price

These are some of the most popular small orbital sanders you can find today. With this machine at hand, your job will be easier and faster than ever.

8 Steps to Sand Drywall with an Orbital Sander

Now for the main steps. Here are 8 detailed steps on how to sand drywall with an orbital sander. I will explain each of the steps in as detail as possible. And inform you about the difficulty level of each step. Along with the time required to complete them.

Step 1: Gather the Tools You Need

Locate all of the tools you need to perform this job. Here is a list of tools that you need to follow in this article:

  • Orbital sander 
  • Drywall joint compound 
  • Tape measure 
  • Marking pencil 
  • Hammer 
  • Utility knife 
  • Safety glasses

You will use these tools throughout the sanding process. This article will help you understand how to use these tools to sand drywall. And how to do each step.

Step 2: Cut a Piece of Drywall for Sanding

Cuts of drywall often have nails in them. To prevent injuries from these nails, wear hands and feet protection. Then cut the piece of drywall to the desired size. While cutting it, keep in mind the measurements of your room to ensure it fits perfectly.

This step is very easy and it takes about 2 minutes.

Step 3: Cut Away the Excess Pieces of Drywall 

If you are working with a larger piece, you need to cut away any excess pieces. These pieces will not be attached to your final product anyway. Therefore, it is recommended that you cut them off before attaching them to your project. This will also make your project look cleaner and nicer when finished. Cut in as straight lines as possible using regular household scissors or a utility knife.

Step 4: Remove the Nails

Before sanding, it’s important to remove the nails that are left in the drywall piece. But make sure not to drill and nail improperly. Unplanned nailing can be a real pain in this step. This can be done by hammering them out with a utility knife or hammer. A hammer will make this job easier, but either way will work. You just need to remove all of the nails before starting the sanding process.

Step 5: Clean Up Your Work Area and Sander

You should always clean up your work area. And do a quick inspection of your sander for any damage before you start anything.

Step 6: Apply Joint Compound to the Piece of Drywall

Once you have cut your piece of drywall, apply joint compound over it. It is important that you use the right type and amount of joint compound. That you need in sanding the drywall. You will be working on this piece for a long time. So it must be strong and solid. You can use several types of joint compounds when sanding drywall.

The time required to complete this step will take around 5-10 minutes.

Step 7: Sand the Drywall Using Orbital Sander

Use a sander to sand the drywall at the desired angle. Always sand from top to bottom and side to side. You can get a better finish if you sand from top to bottom and side to side. And this will also minimize mess in your garage or workshop, especially if you have children. 

You can also use a random orbital sander that has different sizes of grits on it. Like 100, 200, 300, 400, and 600 grits. These are the most common types of orbital sanders used by professionals in their garages or workshops.

Step 8: Choosing the Grit

This step is important because you should choose the grit that you need to sand the drywall. If your Orbit sander has a random orbital sander, then use the lowest grit first. Always start from the top of the wall. And work down to the bottom until you have sanded through all of them. You can also alternate between different grits between each section of drywall. That’s if you want an even finish. For example, start with 600 grit, then work on 1,400 grit. And then move to 1,000 grit.

Final Inspection

Make sure that all of your edges are smooth and shiny by inspecting them with your hand. Or by using your palm sander. There are also a lot of cheap tools to do this job. Using them you can also fix drywall anchor holes.

5 Tips on Using Orbital Sander to Sand Drywall

Here are 5 detailed tips on using an orbital sander to sand drywall:

Tighten the Locking Nut

When sanding drywall, always start with the power off and tighten the locking nut for maximum control. The locking nut allows you to control the movement of the sander and to make sweeping motions. If the nut is not tight, it will be very difficult to maintain control of your sander.

Bear a Hilti Staple Gun

When you purchase an orbital sander, be sure to also purchase a Hilti staple gun. You can’t use your hands for the job because they will get tired and sore. So, what do you do? You grab a handful of long staples from a Hilti staple gun.

These staples are strong enough to hold up your drywall while you sand it. But they won’t leave marks on the drywall as tacks would.

Set Optimum Speed

What is the optimum speed when sanding drywall? The best technique is to do 3 passes. The first pass will be as fast as possible. Make sure that you do not bump the sander while you are sanding. 

This can cause scratches, and if this happens, a second pass will have to be done. Sometimes a second pass can’t get rid of all the scratches. Then a third run will have to be done at slower speeds. 

For example, you would use 1500-3000 or 2400-3600 RPM on your sander for the first two runs. And then 3000-5000 or 5000-7500 RPM for the final run.

Select the Ideal Grit

For plasterboard, use 120 grit paper and 180 grit sandpaper. Do not use 80 grit in this case.

Take Long Strips to Remove Paint

Do not try to remove large amounts of paint with an orbital sander. Instead, try using a lower speed setting on the sander and remove paint in long strips (about 1″).


To sand drywall, what grit sandpaper should you use?

When the surface is completely dry, use 80 or 100 grit sandpaper to gently hand-sand the surface. Alternately, use a medium-grit sanding sponge or a 120-grit sanding screen.

Is it preferable to wet-sand drywall?

It takes longer to wet-sand drywall compound than it does to dry-sand it. You should dry-sand if you’re interested in speed. Neither does wet sanding result in an absolutely flawless surface.

When applying drywall mud, should I sand in between coats?

You must sand the fasteners, apply the first coat, and then apply two additional coats. Sand in between each application, when the first coat has completely dried. Draw your knife over the mud pan or hawk’s edge to keep it clean.

Winding Up

I hope now you know how can you sand drywall with an orbital sander. Be sure to use a mask while executing this. As the dust can cause serious problems to your lungs. And if you have allergies, you can get into serious trouble. 

Till then, all the best!