What Type of Sandblast Media to Use on Rust?

Sandblasting your car can remove rust stains and help prepare your car for new paint. However, you must choose the sandblasting media carefully; the wrong media may damage the metal panels of your car, causing small dents or other flaws. When sandblasting rust away, a good rule of thumb for media is to start gentle and step up.

When sandblasting rust, the safest way to remove rust without damaging the rest of the material is by starting with the softest sandblasting media available. One advantage to using abrasive sandblasting to remove rust instead of chemical cleaners is the lack of harsh chemicals and pollutants involved in sandblasting.

For gentle rust sandblasting, ground walnut shells are a soft and environmentally friendly sandblasting option. Walnut shell sandblasting media does not blast the metal, but for some heavier rust jobs, walnut may be too soft to come through.

Aluminum oxide is another gentle abrasive; in fact, aluminum oxide is so gentle that it is used on skin for microdermabrasion. Aluminum oxide packs nearly the power of stronger abrasive sandblasting media like glass beads, but is considerably cheaper than other forms of sandblasting media. However, aluminum oxide is not biodegradable and must be disposed of properly after use.

Silicon carbide is another popular anti-rust abrasive used both in sandblasters and in abrasive rust-cleaning creams. Silicon carbide is more expensive than aluminum oxide.

Stronger abrasives for sandblasting include glass beads and steel shots. Stronger abrasives can be used on cars with thick metal panels that are resistant to damage from the stronger abrasive media.

Steel shots are tiny balls of steel used as an abrasive; they can also be called steel grits. These materials are generally not recommended for removing rust because they are overkill—the strength of the material will remove the rust, but it could damage the metal. But if you have been unable to remove rust with a gentler form of sandblasting media, step up to a stronger form of sandblasting media to finish the job.

No matter what you do, make sure your chosen media is dry before sandblasting. Media that are even slightly damp can clog your sandblaster and stop up operations. If you are using a compressor-powered sandblaster, keep your compressor way out of the sandblasting area to keep from getting even the smallest amount of sandblasting media caught in its intake. This is especially important when the media you use is very fine and can stick to your clothes or blow toward the compressor.

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How to Choose Sandblasting Media

Sandblasting is a process in which sand, glass beads or some other medium is shot at high speed through a machine across the surface of a hard material until it is sanded smooth. Sandblasting is often done to remove a previous finish on an item, to remove rust, or to prepare a surface to receive a new coat of paint. The kind of medium used to blast the surface depends on how difficult the removal is and how much impact the material can withstand.


1 Start with a gentle medium if you are uncertain. If you are unsure how the material will withstand sandblasting it is best to choose the gentlest medium and work your way up. Walnut shells are one of less abrasive sandblasting media you can use and are completely biodegradable, so there are no concerns about environmental impact. Corn cob is also biodegradable and will not etch the material being blasted. Pumice is the softest of all the blasting media. It is often used to remove paint from soft wood.

2 Consider glass beads as a medium. Glass beads give a soft, bright finish that is more attractive than angular media. Glass beads can be recycled up to 30 times. Crushed glass grit made from 100 percent recycled bottle glass is also available.

3 Choose plastic beads for automotive sandblasting. Plastic beads are made out of acrylic, polyester, melamine and urea. They deliver a high stripping rate without damaging or warping the underlying material.

4 Take care with cleanup if you use aluminum oxide, another gentler medium on the sandblasting palette. It is composed of small grains of aluminum oxide and is very long-lasting. The disadvantage of this medium is that you must carefully dispose of the material after it is used.

5 Use silicon carbide for toughest jobs. Silicon carbide is the hardest medium available for sandblasting. It allows for shorter blast times and lower cost overall than other media. It can be recycled more times than aluminum oxide or sand.

6 Pick steel grit or steel shot for special finishes. Though softer than aluminum oxide medium, steel grit leaves an etched surface that makes it easier for paints to adhere. Steel shot is used for peening operations to leave a smooth, polished finish. The shot can be used up to 3,000 times and produces minimal dust.

7 Try dry ice sandblasting. One of the newest methods of sandblasting is using compact dry ice pellets shot in a jet of compressed air. Dry ive is used to clean machinery, electrical installations, electromechanical equipment and other surfaces where the residue from standard sandblasting techniques would be detrimental.

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Sandblast Introduction

sandblast, stream of sand or other abrasive particles driven by a jet of compressed air or water or by centrifugal force against a surface to clean or abrade it. When centrifugal force is used, the abrasives are whirled in a rapidly rotating device before being directed against the surface. Powdered quartz, emery, chilled iron globules, and other hard granular substances are used as the abrasive material. The sandblast is used for cleaning castings in foundries; for preparing metal surfaces for painting, enameling, and galvanizing; and for cleaning the stonework of buildings. Frosted designs are worked on glass by placing a stencil or suitable pattern over the surface so that the blast affects only the uncovered parts.
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Sandblasting Media Applications

Product is a water soluble, environmentally friendly soda blast abrasive that’s cleans, removes paint, and degreases in one step without shutting down the process. It is much more aggressive for soda blasting than baking soda abrasives, yet safe to use around rotating equipment, bearings and sliding mechanisms. It also will not corrode aluminum jacketing or damage brass or copper electrical enclosures.

  • Environmentally friendly to wash into soil
  • Greatly reduced abrasive disposal cost
  • Non-sparking, water soluble and Silica-free
  • Containment is minimized
  • Cleans calcium deposits
  • Safe to use without shutting down operations
  • Sizes Available: Fine(20-40 Mesh), Medium(40-60), Coarse(64-80)
  • Moh’s Hardness = 3.5 / pH = 7.0

Blasting Applications:

  • Marble and Stone Restoration
  • Boat Bottom Paint Removal
  • Graffiti Removal
  • Mold Remediation
  • Mill Scale Removal
  • Car Restoration
  • Decontaminating
  • Soot Cleaning
  • Deodorizing
  • Tile Restoration
  • Medium to Heavy Rust Scale Removal
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