Belt sanders are excellent tools for stripping, shaping and sanding things quickly. However, belts can get clogged with dirt and residue from old finishes, paint, oily wood, metal, etc. long before they wear out. But replacing them simply because they're clogged can become expensive and slow you down while working on a project.
Can you clean custom sanding belts, or are they useless once clogged? As it turns out, you can clean them fairly easily, thus extending their life significantly. Here are some quick ways to clean your sanding belts, and some tips for proper maintenance to extend the life of your belts.
If you work a lot with wood or metal, you're well aware of how quickly sanding belts can clog up, and you may be frustrated by how expensive it can be to replace them. You also have to have space to store all those belts, which can be equally irritating, depending on how much space you have.
Maybe you try to clean them to no avail, so you have to buy a large number of sanding belts for each project so you don't have to worry about burning or unevenly scratching your surfaces. Thankfully, the cleaning process itself is fairly easy if you have the right tools on hand.
The best and easiest belt sander cleaner is the abrasive cleaning stick. An abrasive cleaning stick is a rubber stick that you lean against the belt as it passes through the sander.
Cleaning sticks are good for wood, paint and wood finish residue, as well as metal shavings and other materials that would normally clog a sanding belt. They look like large pencil erasers and essentially "wipe" the clogs off the belt, extending life, increasing efficiency and improving cuts and finishes.
These are the best way to clean sanding belts and are specifically designed for this purpose. They are easy to use, long-lasting, and more affordable than frequent belt replacements.
For wide belts, you can purchase water-based cleaners. Most of them are biodegradable and emulsify the material clogging the belt, making it easy to remove. They are usually only suitable for materials such as industrial belt sander for wood, resin and paint, so they are not suitable for cleaning metal that has been loaded onto a sanding belt.
With this method, you begin by spraying the abrasive side of the belt with a liquid cleaner. The solution will emulsify the buildup on the conveyor belt. Take an air hose or compressed air and blow off the debris.
The Desperate DIY Shoe Method
This cleaning method is a popular DIY technique. Who doesn't have unused old shoes that they can destroy to save some gritty belts? Since using an adhesive coated product is best for cleaning sanding belts, you can use old shoe soles to clean sanding belts, just like you would with a cleaning rod.
Best results can be obtained with crepe-soled shoes, which have soles made of multiple layers of latex. They are not the best soles for activities such as hiking, but this material collects and traps a lot of dirt and dust, which is what makes them suitable for cleaning sanding wheels and sanding belts.
If you do choose the shoe method, just make sure they are old shoes that you do not intend to wear again. Abrasives will tear off enough of the sole to make the shoes unwearable.
What is the belt sander cleaning rod made of?
Abrasive cleaning wands use either natural or synthetic rubber in their construction, as the material that most often gets stuck between the sanding belt particles will stick to the rubber.
The rubber is also soft enough not to reduce the abrasiveness of the abrasive belts. That's how they remove dust, residue and debris without shortening the life of the belt.
Pro Tip - Use a grease stick before grinding
Another way to extend the life of your belt is to prevent clogging and loading in the first place. This can be done by using belt grease sticks that are placed on the belt before grinding. These sticks have a light grease that coats the surface of the sanding material with a thin layer of lubricant.
Lubricating the belt from the start prevents clogging and reduces frictional heat, thereby extending the life of the belt. It also helps ensure more efficient belt cutting and is ideal for those who handle metal objects such as blades.
In addition to knowing how to clean abrasive belts, you should also know how to maintain and store them in order to make the most of them.
▴ Clean abrasive belts
One of the best ways to properly maintain your sanding belts is to make sure they are kept clean after each use, so anything that clogs them doesn't have a chance to solidify. Abrasive cleaning sticks are easy to use and you can quickly clean the belts after each use.
Simply expose the sanding surface, turn on the sander, and then gently turn the bar back and forth until the surface is clean. At this point, you can turn off the sander, remove the belt and put it away.
▴ Hanging sanding belts
You should remove the belts from their packaging and hang them vertically at least 24 hours before you plan to use them. The wider they are, the more important they are because they need to have a chance to fit in your workspace.
Use a non-metallic shelf with pins at least four inches long to hang sanding belts. Wooden pins are perfect for this purpose. This is usually a matter of the bigger the better, depending on the size of the belt and sander.
Also, make sure your shelves are at least one foot off the ground and one foot from each other. Avoid storing them directly on the concrete as the concrete will continue to release moisture even in dry conditions.
▴ Temperature and humidity
The two biggest factors that can damage sanding belts are heat and humidity. You should try to store your sanding belts in an environment between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit with a relative humidity of about 45%.
If you only use your belt sander occasionally, you may not find this feasible. However, for those who use their sander regularly, proper temperature and humidity are critical to the longevity of their belts. Low humidity can make belts brittle, while high humidity can make them soft.
Belts that are brittle or soften during use may break, posing a safety hazard. Storing them in an environment that is as close to optimal temperature and relative humidity as possible is critical not only to their longevity but also to your safety.
You already know how expensive sanding belts can be, and you may not be able to stand replacing them as often as they clog.
Fortunately, you have options to extend the life of your abrasive belts, including easy-to-use rubber abrasive cleaning sticks. These wands remove the dust, dirt and residue that cause belts to lose effectiveness and efficiency, extending their life and reducing the headaches associated with sanding.
Our abrasives china experts are available to assist you during normal business hours to discuss your sanding and grinding problems. Please feel free to contact us by email or by phone.