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Abrasive Blasting: Is it the same as sand blasting?

Sandblasting, bead blasting or abrasive blasting...Is it really the same thing? The short answer is yes! For many years the term sandblasting was used simply because the abrasive choice was sand. Well times have changed! We do not recommend using sand in any of our blasters.

An abrasive blaster works on the principle of high pressure compressed air being used to force a mix of air and fine abrasive through a nozzle. The abrasive particles will quickly remove paint, rust, corrosion, dirt, and discoloration from many different types of surfaces. Just as there are many surfaces to be cleaned there are many different types of abrasive materials that can be used.

Although there are many reasons, we believe there are three important reasons why we do not recommend the use of sand. The first reason is a health and safety concern. Sand contains silica which can cause serious respiratory illnesses. The use of a proper respirator with most abrasives will reduce your health risks. The second reason is due to the high moisture content and the impurities in sand. It can cause equipment blockages and other moisture related problems that can cause premature failure of your blast equipment. The third reason is sand just does not work as well as other abrasives. Sand used once in a blaster turns into a powder and loses its abrasive capabilities. Using the correct abrasive can make the job go quicker and using the right abrasive can give you a more desirable finish to the item you are blasting. Remember, time is money!

When choosing the right abrasive for the job, the size, hardness, mass, sharpness break down rate and reclaim capabilities should be considered.

We have gone as far as taking the words "sand blasting" our of our catalogs and other printed materials. One could argue that sand is plentiful and easy to find. Many users do not know there are other options to sand so they have never invested the time looking for anything else. Larger cities have multiple suppliers of abrasive for blasters. If you open your local phone book and look under sand blasting supplies you may be pleasantly surprised by what you find. For the computer user, a Google search of "abrasive supplies" may be very informative.

The following are a few common types of abrasives with some general recommendations for uses.

Coal Slag

  • Used to remove rust, paint and scale from steel
  • Fast cutting and will not collect moisture
  • Economical
Steel Grit
  • Used to remove rust, paint and scale from steel
  • Fast cutting
  • Leaves a smooth finish
Silicone Carbide
  • Used to remove paint and rust
  • Stays sharper longer
  • Popular for glass etching
  • Is generally used in reclaim systems or blast cabinets
Glass Bead
  • Used in general cleaning
  • A very fine materials
  • Is generally used in reclaim systems or blast cabinets
  • Leaves a satin or matte finish
Aluminum Oxide
  • Used in paint removal and general cleaning
  • Is sharper than glass bead and stays sharper longer
  • Is generally used in reclaim systems or blast cabinets
  • Used in glass etching
Walnut Shells
  • Used in cleaning and paint removal on delicate surfaces such as wood
  • Great for removing carbon or paint from aluminum
  • Leaves a very smooth finish
  • Is generally used in reclaim systems or blast cabinets
Plastic Grit
  • Used for removing paint without damaging soft surfaces such as fiberglass
  • Very low dust
  • Used on aircraft parts and boat parts
  • Is generally used in a reclaim system or blast cabinet
Corn Cob
  • Used in cleaning delicate surfaces
  • Popular with the wood crafter
  • Used in cleaning stone and glass

There are many additional abrasives available. Check with your local "sandblasting" or abrasive supplier for the best application.

Have a blast!

ALC Abrasive Blasters
Cleveland, Ohio