Sand Abrasive Blasting: Smooth And Rough

sand abrasive blasting

Sand abrasive blasting is a process that uses various abrasive materials, such as sand, to clean, strip, and prepare surfaces for further treatments like painting and coating. The type of abrasive material used depends on the specific application and can include materials such as aluminium oxide, walnut shells, glass beads, and steel shot. Sand abrasive blasting is an effective way to remove rust, paint, and dirt from surfaces, improving their durability and appearance. The choice of abrasive material can significantly impact the efficiency and outcome of the blasting project, and factors such as surface type, desired finish, and environmental impact should be considered when selecting the appropriate material.


Soda abrasive is made from baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, and is a popular choice for non-destructive cleaning. It is a soft, water-soluble, and non-marking abrasive that is ideal for removing paint, rust, and other contaminants from soft and medium-strength materials like plastic, wood, and aluminum.

Baking soda is a gentle abrasive that effectively removes tough stains and dirt from most hard surfaces. It rates 2.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness, making it softer than traditional blasting abrasives such as silica sand, mineral slags, and glass beads. This softness allows it to deliver its energy along the substrate rather than into it, ensuring that the underlying material is not damaged during the cleaning process.

Soda abrasive is particularly useful for removing coatings and contaminants from sensitive materials without causing harm. For example, it was successfully used to strip layers of coal tar epoxy from the Statue of Liberty's interior without damaging its copper plating. Soda abrasive is also effective at removing paint, dirt, grease, burnt-on carbon, and other contaminants from a variety of substrates, including stainless steel, aluminum, brick, stone, masonry, glass, fiberglass, wood, plastic, and rubber.

One of the key advantages of soda abrasive is its ability to remove layers without penetrating the substrate, thereby avoiding the introduction of contaminants into the material. Additionally, its water-soluble nature means that any spent soda can be easily rinsed and dissolved, preventing the clogging of tiny passageways in intricate parts.

Soda abrasive is also a safer option for cleaning multiple surfaces in close proximity, as it does not require masking or removal of certain materials like rubber seals, plastic gaskets, or metal bearings. Its unique characteristics make it a safe and effective choice for a wide range of applications, including graffiti removal, cleaning machined parts, scrubbing metal surfaces for inspection, and de-griming intricate equipment.

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Glass beads are manufactured into preformed balls, leaving smooth surfaces

Glass beads are manufactured from high-grade glass and are made into preformed spherical shapes. They are chemically inert and environmentally friendly. They are used in both wet and dry blasting and are primarily used in blasting cabinets for honing, polishing, peening, blending, finishing, removing light burrs, and cleaning more light foreign matter. They can be recycled approximately up to 30 times.


Silicon carbide is an angular, reusable abrasive that penetrates hard surfaces

Sand abrasive blasting is a process that uses specialized machinery to project media at high speeds across a hard surface. Abrasive blasting is used to power away rust, prepare a surface for painting, or remove old finishes on a product’s surface.

Silicon carbide is an angular, reusable abrasive with a blocky grain shape that can penetrate hard surfaces. It is the hardest abrasive media available and is extremely fast-cutting. This makes it ideal for applications that require shorter blast times. As the media breaks down, it yields sharp, cutting edges, which makes it perfect for etching and carving hard metals and glass, as well as stone, glass, and metal engraving.

Silicon carbide is also used for high-performance etching and frosting, as well as micro-blasting on metal and glass. It is often used in tumblers for polishing rocks and stones, as well as for concrete additives to create a sparkling effect.

The benefits of using silicon carbide as an abrasive include shorter blast times compared to other media, minimal contaminants and magnetic content, a lighter composition than metallic abrasives with a denser blast stream, and the ability to perform light to very heavy etching on a variety of surfaces. It is also available in a wide range of grit sizes and mesh, and it is biodegradable and reusable.

Silicon carbide is a popular choice for sand abrasive blasting due to its low cost and long-lasting properties.


Coal slag is used for light to medium blasting applications, such as paint and rust removal

Coal slag is a recycled byproduct of coal combustion in power plants. It is created when coal is fired at over 2500 degrees, producing a by-product called slag. This slag is then cooled through a process called vitrification, which crystallizes to form sharp, angular granules in a variety of sizes.

The unique shape of coal slag enhances its cutting ability, making it suitable for a wide range of applications. It is often used in open blasting operations in industries such as oil and shipbuilding, as well as other metal surface treatments. Due to its physical properties, it is seen as an alternative to silica sand.

One of the key advantages of coal slag is its versatility. Its wide array of mesh sizes allows it to be used in multiple applications, from light to medium blasting. It is particularly effective in removing paint and rust, thanks to its sharp edges that facilitate fast material removal.

For instance, the Black Diamond Coal Slag product line offers different gradations to achieve specific target profiles. Their 2040 gradation is designed to remove light rust, mill scale, enamels, and acrylics, producing a moderate profile suitable for new construction and special maintenance applications.

In summary, coal slag is a versatile and effective abrasive blasting media, well-suited for light to medium applications in various industries. Its recycling capabilities, sharp edges, and range of mesh sizes make it a popular choice for paint and rust removal, as well as other surface preparation tasks.

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Walnut shells are a natural, eco-friendly abrasive used for cleaning and removing mould

Walnut shell blasting is a highly effective method for removing rust from objects without disturbing the layers underneath. It is also used for paint stripping, coating removal, pressure blasting, tumbling, deflashing, and deburring. The process involves using an abrasive material to strip off the uppermost layer of an object, such as a boat or vehicle, which has multiple layers of protective coating.

Walnut shells are also used in mixtures to prevent slipping on surfaces such as decks, stairs, ramps, floors, and pools. They are non-toxic, biodegradable, and dust-free, and do not cause silicosis, which can be a problem with some sand and silica products. They are also reusable, reducing the time and cost of finishing operations.

Walnut shell blasting has been used for over 60 years, with Composition Materials Co., Inc. pioneering its use with the US Navy in the 1960s. The company continues to supply walnut shell abrasive media worldwide and offers technical assistance and quick shipping for bulk orders.

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Frequently asked questions

Sand abrasive blasting is a process that uses various abrasive materials, such as sand, to remove rust, paint, and dirt from surfaces. It is often used to clean and prepare surfaces for further treatments like painting and coating.

There are several types of sand abrasive blasting, including:

- Soda abrasive blasting: made from baking soda, it is a non-destructive cleaning method that is popular among operators.

- Coal Slag abrasive blasting: a disposable abrasive that produces less dust than Copper Slag.

- Aluminum Oxide abrasive blasting: a sharp and long-lasting abrasive that can be recycled multiple times.

- Crushed Glass Grit abrasive blasting: made from recycled glass beads, it is considered eco-friendly and health-friendly.

- Glass Beads abrasive blasting: manufactured into pre-formed ball shapes, glass beads leave smooth surfaces and can be recycled up to 30 times.

- Steel Shot abrasive blasting: made from carbon steel, it produces a very smooth surface and is often used in cleaning and polishing metal surfaces.

When selecting a sand abrasive blasting media, consider the following factors:

- Surface type: Is it a hard or soft surface? Will the abrasive media stain the surface?

- Desired finish: Are you looking to simply clean the surface or also prepare it for a new coating?

- Productivity: The size, strength, and shape of the abrasive particle impact blasting speed and productivity.

- Recyclability: Some abrasive media can be recycled and reused, which can reduce costs and increase efficiency.

- Environmental impact: Consider the level of dust generated and its impact on worker safety and the environment.

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