Common Sandpaper Types

Common Sandpaper Types

The most commonly asked question from people new to the abrasive industry is what are the differences between the types of sandpaper?
You could spend hours learning about grain structures and backing materials (i.e. cloth/paper, material thickness, etc…) so I will do my best to keep this as simple and to the point as I can.
To break it down in the most basic way, I have separated sandpaper into the four main categories that are the most common in the industry:

• Aluminum Oxide
• Silicon Carbide
• Zirconia Oxide
• Ceramic

Each of these materials is available with different backing materials to create a different flex or stiffness to the abrasive.

Aluminum-OxideAluminum Oxide – Open Coat & Closed Coat Material

Used On: Non-Ferrous Metal, Carbon Steel, Stainless Steel, Aluminum, Hardwood, and Softwood.

Aluminum Oxide is the most common sandpaper or coated abrasive on the market. The grain consists of a durable furnace-produced mineral that fractures during use, continuously exposing new, sharp grinding edges. Until they eventually becomes too dull to cut. These belts will provide a fast cut and long life for grinding and polishing.

Aluminum Oxide material typically comes in a red/brown colour.

Silicon Carbide

Used On: Glass, Plastic, aluminum, hard cast iron, Non Ferrous Metals, rubber, and stone.

Silicon Carbide is a sharper and harder mineral than traditional aluminum oxide. Used to remove material much more quickly, the average Silicon Carbide product does not last as long as Aluminum Oxide. The grain consists of extremely sharp pointed grains that work great for cutting glass, plastics and more. Silicon Carbide products commonly have waterproof backing making them ideal for dry and wet applications.

Silicon Carbide material is typically black in colour.

Zirconia Oxide

Used On: Non Ferrous Metal, Carbon Steel, Stainless Steel, Titanium, Aluminum, Hardwood and Softwood.

Zirconia Oxide has an extremely tough grain the does well under heat and high pressure making it ideal for steel fabrication and grinding applications. Like Aluminum Oxide, the grain particles fracture, exposing sharp edges over the use of the product, but last significantly longer.

If you find Aluminum Oxide belts just do not have the lifespan you require, this is your option, though these belts are a slightly higher price point.

Zirconia Oxide material is typically blue in colour.


Used On: Non Ferrous Metal, Carbon Steel, Stainless Steel, Aluminum, Hardwood and Softwood.

Ceramic was designed for the long haul; the grain is extremely sharp, hard and wears slowly; making this material ideal for removing a bunch of material quickly. The grains are designed to break down in a controlled manner allowing for a very consistent clean cut. Ceramic materials perform best when moderate pressure is applied.