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What Happens When You Over-Sand Wood (And How to Fix It!)

More sanding is always better, right? Not necessarily!

There are a couple of ways you can over-sand wood.

If you sand wood past 240 grit sandpaper, the wood dust becomes so fine that it starts clogging the pores of the wood. This prevents stain and finish from soaking into the wood properly, risking a poor finish job.

Alternatively, if you sand too much in one single spot, you might create a divot in the wood.

Luckily, both of these ways to over-sand wood are fixable, so lets dive in!

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How to Fix an Over-Sanded Spot of Wood

It can be really easy to over-sand wood in one spot.

Maybe you’re trying to get rid of manufacturing marks, or a flaw in the wood, and you spend more time sanding a specific section.

Obviously, try not to do that. But I’ve fallen into that trap more often than I’d like.

Luckily, it’s fixable. That said, fixing a single over-sanded spot of wood is kind of cumbersome, and if it’s not too obvious, sometimes I leave it be.

Either way, here’s how to fix a spot you oversanded.

Step 1: Lightly Shade the Over-Sanded Spot

In order eliminate the spot, you’re going to need to sand the rest of the wood down to match that area, which means you need to be able to see when you’ve gotten the wood level.

So start by lightly shading the spot, and a fair amount of wood around it.

Wood shaded with pencil

In the image above, the circled area is roughly where the divot is. But I shaded plenty of wood around it too, that way as I sand, I can see the progress I’m making.

The pencil marks outside the divot will disappear first, and then once the pencil marks in the divot are gone, I know I’ve leveled out the wood.

It’s also worth noting that I shaded lightly. I don’t want to shade too firmly, because on soft wood, this could dent the wood even further, and make it more difficult to remove the dip.

Step 2: Sand the Wood Level

The sandpaper grit you choose depends on how deep the dip is.

Lower grit sandpaper will level the wood faster, but you’ll have to sand at higher grits to remove the sandpaper marks from the wood.

Higher grit sandpaper doesn’t require extra sanding after you’ve leveled the wood, but you’ll have to spend more time leveling it in the first place, because it won’t take off as much wood.

I generally choose my sandpaper grit based on how deep the groove is. The deeper it is, the more likely I am to start with a lower grit sandpaper.

For more on choosing grits and my sanding process, check out this post.

Once you’ve chosen your sandpaper grit, sand normally, this time being careful not to spend any extra time or pressure on a certain spot.

Sand until all the pencil marks have disappeared, which means that wood is finally level.

Step 3: Erase Sanding Marks

If you started with a low grit sandpaper, you’ll need to sand with higher grit sandpapers to erase the marks made by the low grit paper.

When using a low grit sandpaper, I usually start at 60. Once I’ve leveled the piece, then I lightly scribble a line on the wood, and sand with 80 grit until the line has disappeared.

Then I repeat the process with 120, 150, and 180 grit sandpaper.

I don’t usually sand past 180 grit, because then I risk running into the other type of over-sanded wood!

How to Fix and Over-Sanded Wood Project

Say you’ve finished sanding and you go to apply the stain, and none of it soaks in. Or maybe it soaks in a little, but not anywhere near as much as you’d like.

There are bunch of reasons that can happen (check out this post on why stain won’t soak in,) but one of the main reasons is that the wood is over-sanded.

If you sand past 180 grit, the wood dust created by the sandpaper starts getting incredibly small. This wood dust can work its way into the wood pores, and clog them up.

This prevents the wood from absorbing stain and finish properly.

Because of that, I usually stop sanding at 180 grit just to be safe. Occasionally, I’ll sand with 240 grit if I’m working with end grain that I’m trying to seal, but other than that, I stop at 180.

I’ve never had an instance where I could see the sandpaper marks after this, which is the whole point of sanding that high anyway, so it works for me!

Regardless, what happens if you’ve already made this mistake? Luckily, it’s easy to fix… sand more.

Step 1: Pick a Low Grit Sandpaper

If you’ve clogged up the pores of your wood with fine sawdust, the best thing to do is sand them off.

In this scenario, I’d go with 80 grit sandpaper. You don’t need to remove three layers of paint or anything, just the top layer of wood, so 80 grit is low enough.

Any lower, and you increase the amount of work you need to do later.

Step 2: Scribble a Light Pencil Line onto the Wood

Scribbling in pencil helps determine when to stop sanding.

Pencil scribble on wood

Since you’re not trying to remove any specific flaws, a light pencil line is enough to indicate how much sanding actually needs to be done.

Just like above, scribble lightly, that way you don’t accidently dent the wood, which takes more time and effort to remove.

Step 3: Sand

Grab your sander, and sand until the pencil line has disappeared.

Step 4: Erase Sanding Marks

Once you’ve sanded with a low grit, you’ll need to re-sand with higher grits to erase any marks made by the sandpaper. I typically go 80-120-150-180 grit, in that order.

I use the pencil trick for each grit, which helps me make sure I’ve sanded enough to remove any marks.

This time, make sure to stop sanding at 180 grit, else risk over-sanding again!