"Dustless sanding" is a misleading marketing term used in the hardwood floor sanding and refinishing business. There I said it. I see this term plastered on advertisements, on the sides of vans, in newspapers and basically anywhere else a mid-large sized company is selling floor sanding services. While it can be explained in a way that can bring some truth to it the phrase to me is not very honest on its face.
The term “sanding wood” itself can be defined in different ways. Bob Villa describes it on his website as “The process of abrading wood fibers so that they are rendered uniformly rough. We call it sanding and the tools employed are sandpaper and sander, but no sand whatsoever is involved”. This is funny to me because the initial term is misleading so why not attach another misleading word to the end of it and then sell it as an additional service?! Maybe we should start referring to it as “scratching”.
Now let’s talk about the dust part. Since we know that the process of sanding wood is actually scratching the face of the wood, it’s reasonable to assume that this produces waste. The waste is in the form of fine wood fibers that we refer to as dust. Notice the dishonest part of dustless sanding yet? It’s pretty simple really, when you sand it makes dust.
So why do companies claim they are able to perform “dustless sanding” and what could be a better more honest term to describe what they actually mean? They claim this because they are using vacuum systems that hook directly to their equipment and in many cases HEPA filtration systems that can actually leave the air quality better than it was before the sanding started. Also many professional grade sanding machines (including the ones used here at Dayton Hardwood Co in New Braunfels, TX) have onboard vacuum and dust containment systems that work very efficiently.
That is sort of lengthy a explanation that isn’t going to be an efficient advertisement hence the birth of the term dustless or dustfree sanding. I’d like to offer an alternative term that can help spark discussion with clients and offer contractors a chance to explain their process while also conveying the same sort of intention that they care about what they are doing and have respect for your home and health. This term is Dust-managed-sanding.
Dust management is the actual process taking place and the relationship between contractor and machine and the most important part of the task. Well built machines that are designed for floor sanding equipment are the absolute best for this. Some of the major players like American Sanders and Bona make machines to attach to their sanding equipment while others like Lagler offer this level of extraction on the sanding equipment itself. The smaller machines like edgers and orbit sanders can be attached to something like a Festool dust extractor.
One of the really fun parts about being a wood floor contractor is choosing your own path and what works best for you and your setup to make all the decisions on what to use. I’ve used a lot of this stuff and will continue to implement newer better technology to my process to offer the best dust management to my clients available. This will also keep me healthy and help extend my career so win win. Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts on dustless and dust management in general and please feel free to add your comments below.