Emery Cloth vs Sandpaper: A Comprehensive Comparison

Human ingenuity has brought about a plethora of artificial abrasives, such as emery cloth and sandpaper, that incorporate elements and minerals from nature. These products have rough exteriors that create friction against a surface, resulting in the desired texture or luster. While both are used by manufacturers and craftsmen, they serve unique purposes and are not always interchangeable.

Understanding Sandpaper

Sandpaper is a specific type of thick paper with an abrasive, coarse exterior. It is predominantly used to scrub rough surfaces and is a handy tool for professionals who need to sand a wall before painting. Its applications extend to woodworking, where it is used to smooth wood surfaces, and to remove loose paint, grit, or grime during painting or refinishing tasks.

Grit and Its Categories

Grit, or the number of abrasive particles per square inch, is the primary factor that differentiates sandpaper types. Coarse grits, ranging from 40 to 60, are ideal for removing old paint or finishes. Medium grits, between 80 and 120, are suitable for initial sanding on rough wood. Softwoods require a fine grit of 150 to 180 for the final sanding, while hardwoods might demand super fine sandpaper with a 220 to 280 grit.

Deciphering Emery Cloth

Emery cloth is a type of woven fabric coated with a grayish-black abrasive mixture of corundum and magnetite on one side. It is popular for manual labor tasks that involve smoothing metal surfaces. Emery cloth is excellent for wiping away dirt, rust, and excess paint from a metal surface.

Emery Cloth Grits

Like sandpaper, emery cloth comes in various grits. The smaller the grain size, the more abrasive the cloth. For instance, emery cloth with a grit size of 120 is used for fine finishing tasks.

Sandpaper Vs Emery Cloth: Distinguishing the Differences

While both emery cloth and sandpaper are abrasives used for finishing different types of materials, they have some key differences.

  • Material Composition: Emery cloth features corundum, a hard stone used for cutting metal. On the other hand, sandpaper is made up of softer stones like garnet, quartz, or flint. The hardness of corundum is slightly lower than that of a diamond.
  • Application: Sandpaper is typically used to scrub softer materials like wood and plastic, while emery cloth is used for metal surfaces. Iron traces in emery cloth can contaminate wood surfaces.
  • Durability and Usage: Emery cloth is more durable than sandpaper, but sandpaper is more commonly used in both DIY and professional settings due to its versatility.
  • Cost and Flexibility: Emery cloth is more expensive and flexible than sandpaper.


In conclusion, emery cloth and sandpaper are distinct types of abrasives with unique properties and uses. They are both instrumental in finishing various materials but do not leave an ultra-smooth surface. Notably, sandpapers used in woodworking are more robust and more expensive than those used for metals.