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Metalworking

Blast Media Chart

8/7/18
Revised: 2/18/22
Grainger Editorial Staff

With some surfaces, a simple cleaning solution just won't do. Media blasting (also called sandblasting or abrasive blasting) has many uses, from removing a layer of paint to deodorizing molded wood beams to removing soot and fire damage. With the right high-pressured system and the right abrasive, this process can produce the end result you need.

Soft vs. Hard Abrasives

Softer abrasives are often better for cleaning, because they can remove dirt and grime with minimal effect on the material beneath. This is especially desirable if you're cleaning relatively soft or delicate surfaces like wood, plastic or machinery.

Hard abrasives remove material more quickly and can be used to create a surface profile, which is a texture of shallow indentations that helps iron, steel and other hard surfaces more easily accept protective coatings. Harder abrasives work faster and create a deeper surface profile. In general, the depth of the surface profile should be at least one quarter of the thickness of the coating you intend to put over it.

Abrasive Shape

Angular abrasives work more quickly and create a crisper surface profile. Round abrasives create a satin or peened finish and are used when no later surface coating is needed. 

Abrasive Friability and Recyclability

Abrasives that break up easily into smaller pieces have high friability. Abrasives that don't break up easily have low friability and are usually recyclable. This means they can be collected and reused via a reclaiming system, usually in an enclosed cabinet.  

This chart will help you understand the differences among many common types of abrasive blast media. 

Media Type Description Hardness Friability Shape Surface Profile Speed Pressure Recyclability
Aluminum oxide Used for removing paint before repainting and for etching prior to recoating and plating 9 Mohs Medium Angular 1 mil to 16 mils Fast 60 psi to 100 psi Medium (six to eight cycles)
Coal slag Used for removing paint before repainting and for etching prior to recoating and plating 7 Mohs High Angular 2 mils to 6 mils Medium fast 80 psi to150 psi Nonrecyclable
Corn cob Used for removing oil, light coatings and surface oxidation from delicate surfaces 4.5 Mohs High Angular None Slow 60 psi to 150 psi Nonrecyclable
Glass beads Used to produce a smooth and bright finish, as well as cleaning and peening 5.5 Mohs Medium Round None; satin finish Medium fast 40 psi to 80 psi Medium (four to six cycles)
Garnet Used for paint removal before repainting or recoating 6.5 Mohs Medium Varies 1 mil to 6 mils Fast 60 psi to 120 psi Low (three to four cycles)
Ground glass Used for paint removal before repainting or recoating 5.5 Mohs High Angular 2 mils to 6 mils Fast 80 psi to 150 psi Nonrecyclable
Silicon carbide Used to prepare hard surfaces 9.5 Mohs Medium Angular Very high etch Very fast 60 to 100 psi Low (two to four cycles)
Soda Used for cleaning and paint removal 2.5 Mohs High Angular None Medium low 50 psi to 150 psi Nonrecyclable
Stainless steel shot Used for peening, polishing and smoothing 8 Mohs Low Round No etch Medium Not applicable High (25 to 50 cycles)
Steel shot Used for polishing and smoothing surfaces 8 Mohs Low Round No etch Medium Not applicable High (25 to 50 cycles)
Steel grit Used for fast pain removal 8 Mohs Low Angular 1 mil to 6 mils Medium fast 80 psi to 150 psi High (10 to 25 cycles)
Walnut shell Used for cleaning and stripping without damage 3.5 Mohs High Angular No etch Slow 60 psi to 100 psi Nonrecyclable

The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.

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