Dealing With Dust From Sanding Hardwood Floors

By Cezar

Coming as a surprise to no one, sanding hardwood floors creates dust. If you don’t take the right measures, it creates a LOT of dust.

A total mess isn’t inevitable, however. You can mitigate the amount of dust that hardwood floor refinishing creates by taking a few simple measures. We explain those measures in the sections below.

Dustless Refinishing

Truly dustless refinishing is hard to achieve, but you can get close to it.

There are essentially two roads that branch off from here. The first road involves simply hiring a good professional. They will have the right equipment and the right experience. The other road is you doing it yourself. If you elect to take that secondary road, there are some measures you can take to keep things pretty tidy.

Rent or Buy the Right Equipment (or Make Sure Your Service Professional Has It)

The most important choice is buying the right sander. Top-shelf machines hook up to external trailers with powerful vacuum engines that suck the dust right out of your house. These will get you as close to dust-free as is realistically possible.

Other vacuums, not quite as effective but still better than running a sander with no vacuum at all, have hoses attached to units that fit inside the house. They aren’t as good as the external trailers, but they’re still pretty good.

Either of those choices will be exponentially better for sanding your hardwood floors than simply running a sander with no cleaning system at all.

Hire the Right Professionals

This one only applies to those who choose to hire professionals to do the work (obviously). Not all contractors are the same, and saving a few bucks here can often lead to major headaches down the road. In the context of this piece, those headaches would specifically mean finding dust in nooks and crannies for months after the work is done.

If keeping down dust is important to you, take time to find reputable, experienced contractors. Hardwood floor refinishing is a skill, and like any skill it helps to have a depth of experience in it. Make sure the team you hire has that experience.

The Process You Can Look Forward To

First off, know how much you can realistically expect to achieve. You’re reading this article right now because you want to make your house look better, and that can definitely be achieved, but there are limitations. The only way to make hardwood floors look brand new again is to actually put new ones in. Still, a good job can indeed vastly improve the look of your hardwood floors.

Also, do expect some dust. It’s an inevitable by product of sanding. However, you can expect a manageable level of dust if you take the measures suggested above. Now, as for the time that sanding your hardwood floors will take, here are some good general guidelines:

  • 1 day for each 1,000 square feet of flooring
  • 2–5 days for stain and finish to fully dry so that you can put your furniture back on it
  • The maths generally works out to a job taking 3–6 days

If you’re sanding the hardwood floors yourself, here is a general rundown of the steps you’ll take:

  • Remove furniture and all other items from the room you’ll be sanding.
  • Pull up vent covers, baseboards, moldings, and similar items
  • Cover doorways and openings with plastic sheeting
  • Clean the floor and then sand it. The sanding process is a bit more complicated than you might expect, so find a resource dedicated to explaining that specifically
  • After the sanding is done, you’ll apply stain and finish
  • Clean the space up and replace the furniture

If you have access to a good sander with a vacuum system (as described above), then the dust to clean up should be negligible. If not, then the dust may be rather extreme.

In any case, wear the proper protective gear when sanding. Inhaling clouds of dust is a serious health no-no. You’ll not be happy you did so.

How To Clean Up Dust After Sanding

Even if you use a vacuum-enhance sander, you’ll likely do some detail work with a palm-sander. There are a few different methods to cleaning up dust after sanding.

  • You can sweep the dust away with a soft-thistled brush. Brush gently to avoid kicking the dust up into the air as you move it into a dustpan and dump that into a garbage receptacle. Wipe the area down with a damp cloth.
  • Use a shop vacuum and hover it over areas with dust. After vacuuming is done, wipe the area down with a cloth that is wet with denatured alcohol or mineral spirits.
  • Use an air compressor set to high pressure and point the nozzle at a 45-degree angle to the dusty area. Once down, wipe it down with a damp cloth.
  • Tack cloth, also known as cheesecloth, is made for wiping up dust and dirt. Soak the cloth in Tung oil. Wipe the dust up.

Any of the above methods will work. The key is really just doing them carefully and paying close attention.


Hardwood floor refinishing is time-consuming process with multiple steps, and there’s simply no way to do a true hardwood floor refinishing without sanding. That sanding is going to leave behind some dust, but it doesn’t have to be a nightmare. You can keep things manageable with the steps above.

Many people decide to hire professionals specifically for the reason of keeping down dust they have to deal with (pros will have the best machines). Whichever route you choose to, though, you can refinish your hardwood floors without being buried under a mountain of dust.

There is no “one size fits all” solution here! Each wood floor and its condition are unique. We will provide you with the best and most cost-efficient solution for your floors.

Get a Free In-Home Consultation & Estimation from one of our flooring experts

As a general rule, professionally refinished hardwood floors last 5 times longer vs DIY.