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Aluminum oxide and zirconia are two of the most popular abrasive grains in industrial-grade sandpaper. Each has its own set of benefits for certain applications. But which one should you use? The answer depends on the type of project you’re working on. Significant projects with heavy-duty materials require zirconia, while smaller-scale operations work fine with aluminum oxide.
The most common grain for sandpaper, aluminum oxide is inexpensive and reliable. It comes in three colors: pink, white and brown, with grit sizes ranging from coarse to very fine. You can use it for sanding drywall, removing dry paint or lacquer, smoothing surfaces and much more. Aluminum oxide is also low in iron, which helps prevent rusting when working on metals.
Alumina zirconia is more expensive than aluminum oxide, but it can withstand higher temperatures and can last longer. It’s also highly friable, allowing for lower-temperature grinding. Its durability makes it the preferred material for abrasive products like sanding belts and discs. Its grains sharpen over time and won’t need replacement until they’re worn out.
While zirconia can perform well on a variety of materials, it’s especially suited for grinding and shaping hard metals. It can sand through stainless steel with ease and remove burrs from harder alloys. But be careful with it. It requires increased pressure to sand, so it’s not suitable for delicate polishing jobs. Also, it’s not as effective for soft metals or wood.