The Secret To A Silky Smooth Paint Finish: Wet-Sanding

If you're looking for the ultimate finish on your furniture project, wet sanding is the key to success. But what exactly is wet sanding and how do you go about doing it? In this article, we'll discuss why, when and how to use wet sanding for a silky smooth paint finish on your upcycled furniture.

What is wet-sanding?

Wet-sanding is a technique that can be used to create a buttery smooth finish on painted surfaces unlike anything else. It is a less abrasive method to remove dust nibs, orange peel texture, brush strokes, and other surface imperfections from paint. It is also a good way to level out uneven surfaces or to blend in repaired areas with the surrounding paint. 

The process involves using a wet ultra-fine sanding sponge or paper over the surface of the paint, removing any imperfections and leaving a silky-smooth, even finish. And it's really easy!

Before you begin

  • Ensure the sandpaper you use is a wet & dry paper with a high grit. I find 800 or 1000 grit a good start. I also use 1200 and 1500 grit. The higher the grit, the less abrasive, which is what you want.
  • Wait until your paint is properly dry otherwise you risk damaging the paint and ruining your hard work. It's best if the paint is fully cured but most of us don't have time to wait for that! I generally wait 24-48 hours and then proceed carefully.

How to wet-sand

  • The first step in wet sanding is to wet your sandpaper. You can do this by submerging it in water for a few minutes or spraying it with water from a spray bottle. Once the paper is wet, you'll need to apply some pressure to start sanding.
  • Start with light pressure and work your way up. Use long, even strokes and pay close attention to the area you're sanding. Feel the surface with your fingers until it feels buttery smooth.
  • Once you're happy with the results, rinse off the entire area with clean water to remove any residuals or grit and dry it off with a clean towel.
  • Allow it to dry completely before applying any additional top coats.

Tips for successful wet-sanding

Here are some tips for successful wet-sanding:

  • Use a high-quality sandpaper. Cheap sandpaper will wear out quickly and leave your paint surface uneven.
  • Soak the sandpaper in water for at least 10 minutes before use. This will help to prevent the paper from drying out too quickly.
  • Use a damp sponge or cloth to wet the area you'll be sanding before you start. This will help keep the area moist and prevent the paper from clogging up.
  • Use light pressure at first and then increase the pressure as needed. Be careful not to press too hard or you'll damage the paint surface.
  • Rinse off the area frequently to remove any sand that has become clogged in the paper. Otherwise, it will just scratch your paint when you continue sanding.
  • The key to wet sanding is to use very little pressure and keep the sandpaper moving across the surface of the paint at all times. If you press too hard or stay in one spot for too long, you risk creating scratches or damaging the paint.
  • Keep the area wet enough. The goal is to keep the paint lubricated so the sandpaper can glide smoothly over it without damaging the finish. If the paint starts to dry out, add more water or switch to a different sandpaper grit.
  • Wet-sanding is best on the final coat. 
    This gorgeous cabinet was painted in Fusion Milk Paint in the colour London Fog

    What about wet sanding chalk paint or milk paint?

    Wet sanding works well for Fusion because Fusion is an acrylic paint. As the paint dries, the acrylic seals the painted surface and water can’t fully penetrate.

    Chalk paint and milk paint are different. This much water on either of those paints will start removing the paint and leave you with a very distressed finish.

    You can wet sand those paints with an oil, like hemp oil. Wet-sanding dark colours of milk paint with hemp oil results in a luscious finish. 


    Wet sanding is a great way to make sure your painted furniture looks its best. With the right technique and patience, you can turn any paint job into a showroom-quality finish.