Photo: Tom Scalisi for Bob Vila
Few people look forward to sanding drywall. It’s messy and laborious. Fortunately, there are now a wide variety of tools that make the job quicker and easier. They vary from basic manually powered pole sanders to those with high-speed motors that hook to their own collection bag to minimize airborne dust.
But with so many options, it can be hard to start to look for the right one. To help make the search process easier, we researched and tested some of the top options. We performed 4 days of drywall sanding with each of the models below to put them through a real-deal hands-on test.
Keep reading to find out how each of these devices works and the features that separate some of the best drywall sanders from one another. Plus, find out what our hands-on tests revealed.
- BEST OVERALL: Wen 6377 Variable-Speed 5-Amp Drywall Sander
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Hyde 09170 Dust-Free Drywall Vacuum Sander Kit
- BEST POLE SANDER: Marshalltown 3.25-Inch by 9.25-Inch Pole Sander
- BEST CORDLESS: DeWalt 20V MAX Cordless Drywall Sander
- ALSO CONSIDER: Yattich Drywall Sander With Automatic Dust Removal
Photo: Tom Scalisi for Bob Vila
How We Tested the Best Drywall Sanders
We want to make sure that any of the drywall sanders we suggest are up to typical household tasks. Even if the DIYer only needs it for a job or two, it’s important to us that these tools feel like they will last and work well. We called upon all of our experience with drywall, power tools, hand tools, and DIY projects to come up with a list of the most important features that we feel are necessary.
Once we knew what to look for, we rounded up seven of the top-rated drywall sanders and put them through hands-on testing over the course of 4 days (joint compound needs time to dry!). We had a few areas in the home that needed drywall repair, but then we also set up a mock wall and ceiling for testing. This allowed us to gauge speed, comfort, quality, and dust collection. The sanders that failed our tests were removed from the list, while the rest were given awards based on their strengths.
Our Top Picks
The following products include some of the best drywall sanders on the market. Make sure to compare each sander closely and then continue reading to learn more about choosing the right model.
The Wen 6377 drywall sander follows a common design for corded electric models with a head-mounted motor. This one has 5-amp power and offers variable speeds between 600 and 1,500 revolutions per minute (rpm). The head can pivot and swivel, allowing use at all angles for easy sanding.
One of the big benefits of the Wen 6377 is the inclusion of a triangular head in addition to the typical 8.5-inch round version. Changing between heads is easy and tool-free. This allows the drywall sander to reach right into corners, something none of its competitors offer. It also has adjustable speeds that vary between 600 and 1,500 rpm.
The triangular head might not be used often, but hand sanding corners with a block is the only alternative. As far as ceiling sanders go, it’s much more convenient. A starter pack of sanding sheets is included—five of both round and triangle in grits of 60, 80, 120, 150, 180, and 240.
The Wen drywall sander is actually fairly lightweight (just 9 pounds without one of the swappable heads attached). While it’s certainly end loaded, we found that the weight is also distributed fairly evenly and is manageable. The adjustable shoulder strap makes it easier to carry, and it has the speed to get the job done relatively quickly. Plus, the flexible hose can stretch to 15 feet. While vacuum bags are seldom as efficient as wet/dry vacs, it would be nice if one was included for portability.
The swappable heads are great, as the rotary head can do the bulk of the work while the triangle-shaped head gets into corners—plus, they’re very easy to change. It doesn’t come with a bag, which is somewhat of a shame since most of the sanders do. But it does have a telescoping and folding handle, allowing it to break down into a very tight package for storage or transport. However, it also feels sturdy and secure when in use.
- Type: Corded electric
- Weight: 9 pounds (body only); total 17.4 pounds
- Dust collection: Hose for wet/dry vac
- Comes with 2 different sanding head shapes for bulk sanding and getting into tight spaces (and they’re easy to swap)
- Folding and telescoping handle breaks down into a tight package, yet feels sturdy when in use
- Adjustable shoulder strap makes it easier to handle when sanding ceilings
- It doesn’t come with a dust bag, so users will have to hook it to a wet/dry vac
Get the Wen drywall sander at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Wen.
Manual pole sanders offer a low-cost solution, but the usual drawback (apart from the physical effort required) is that drywall dust gets everywhere. The Hyde 09170 vacuum sander is different in that it includes a hose attachment plus an adapter that will fit 1¼-inch, 1½-inch, or 2½-inch hoses. This covers the vast majority of wet/dry vacs.
The swiveling head is designed to clamp a sanding screen rather than using hook-and-loop abrasives. A washable, reusable screen is included, and it will work with any standard broom or painter’s pole with an Acme thread (no pole is provided).
Given that the Hyde drywall vacuum sander does require more physical labor in the form of back-and-forth or up-and-down strokes, it’s actually quite a deal. It’s affordable and saves a ton of time during cleanup. The hose is short and somewhat stiff, but it does hook to a wet/dry vac hose, and the combination of the two does a really good job of collecting the sanding dust. It actually has adjustable vents that can regulate the suction for maximum dust collection.
We found that the head swivels well and remains flat when sanding, rather than simply flipping over like many pole sanders do. Our biggest complaint is that it doesn’t come with a pole, but it does feature universal threads for broomsticks and poles from other tool handles.
- Type: Manual pole
- Weight: 2 pounds
- Dust collection: Hose for wet/dry vac
- Comes with a vacuum hose and adapter, and it does a great job of collecting sanding dust
- Lightweight design makes it easy to use for long periods
- Head stays flat on the surface, which is unlike many poles that flip during use
- It doesn’t come with a pole but it does feature universal threads for broomsticks and painter’s poles
Get the Hyde drywall sander at Amazon or Walmart.
For those on a tight budget or who have only a modest amount of drywall to sand, a manual pole sander is a cheap and efficient solution. This model from Marshalltown is just that, and it includes a lightweight aluminum pole, which is something many rivals omit. The reinforced cast-aluminum head is light, maneuverable, and doesn’t flex, thus keeping the abrasive flat against the wall. We liked how free swiveling it is while not simply flipping over and marring the compound like many pole sanders tend to do.
This is the type of drywall pole sander that we’ve used for years, so we certainly know a quality tool when we see one. Its quick-action clamps bite down right on the edge of the sanding head, which makes replacing the screens easier than cheaper models. The clamps are designed to hold sanding screens, which are more durable than sanding discs. Precut sandpaper screens are available, but further savings are possible by buying the sandpaper by the roll and cutting it to fit.
The Marshalltown pole is also extremely high quality, with aluminum construction and a smooth paint finish—the pole is so nice that we’d like to use it for other tools. Unfortunately, we can’t because both ends are female threads (one universal, one machine), so it won’t work with any other pole-mounted tools.
- Type: Manual pole
- Weight: 1.64 pounds
- Dust collection: None
- High-quality quick-clamp design makes installing sanding screens easy and holds screens securely
- No-flip swivel maneuvers easily without flipping over and gouging the compound
- Comes with a high-quality pole that’s comfortable and durable
- Pole is double female, meaning it can’t be removed from the head and attached to any other tools
Get the Marshalltown pole sander at Loweâs.Â
No power? No problem. The DeWalt cordless drywall sander offers the ability to work in locations where no electricity is available. The 20-volt brushless motor delivers competitive power, driving the 9-inch head at speeds from 700 to 1,200 rpm. It also features a wireless on/off control when paired with a compatible dust collector.
Unfortunately, runtime is only around 30 minutes when using the recommended 5-amp-hour (Ah) battery, so a spare battery is something of a necessity. There is also a bit of a weight penalty, though the tool is well balanced. Automatic dust extraction is possible if you attach a compatible DeWalt vacuum.
The DeWalt cordless drywall sander is listed as 12.6 pounds, but we think that might be wishful thinking. It feels heavier, and the tube (which has to double as a handle) is wide, so it’s not the most ergonomic design. However, the lack of a cord is a serious plus as we found it much easier to sand the ceiling without worrying about tripping over a cord, but the hose is still a factor.
We really liked the quick-release clamp used to adjust the sander’s length as other models require unscrewing clamps and screwing them back down again. This allowed us to go from walls to ceilings quickly. We didn’t have a compatible dust collector, but we could certainly see the wireless on/off capability as being an asset.
- Type: Cordless electric
- Weight: 12.6 pounds
- Dust collection: Hose connection (no hose provided)
- Cordless design allows you to work safely without tripping over cords (but the hose can still get in the way)
- Quick-release length adjustment is easier to use than screw-down clamps
- Wireless on/off switch for compatible dust collectors will automatically turn on dust collection
- Weight and large tube occasionally make it somewhat awkward to use
Get the DeWalt drywall sander at Ace Hardware, The Home Depot, or Grainer.Â
The Yattich drywall sander has a lot in common with other tools in our drywall sander test. It has a 9-inch multiposition head that works in conjunction with a vacuum bag to provide a convenient, highly portable, all-in-one solution.
The 7-amp motor on the Yattich offers plenty of speed. There are seven speeds, from 1,000 to 1,850 rpm. The telescoping handle does have an advantage over most competitors, being just 3.6 feet long when closed and 5.9 feet long when fully open. It also has a rear handle, which is especially useful for control given the somewhat heavy head.
To be fair, the Yattich is not perfect. It’s fairly top-heavy and the handle on the end of the pole is awkward to use. However, it does a good job of collecting dust, and the head actually swivels quite well, making it easy to manipulate on the wall or on the ceiling.
It has a lot of power and speed, which could get you in trouble if you crank it up too high and aren’t paying attention (ask us how we know). Also, the handle has a quick release that allows it to fold and fit in the included carrying bag for convenience and storage.
- Type: Corded electric
- Weight: 16.5 pounds
- Dust collection: Vacuum bag
- Has plenty of power and does a good job of collecting dust without a wet/dry vac
- The head swivels well and is easy to keep flat against the wall or ceiling
- Handle folds and telescopes, allowing it to store in the bag for transport or storage
- It feels top-heavy, and the handle on the end of the pole is awkward to use
Get the Yattich drywall sander at Amazon.Â
The Ginour comes with tons of accessories, a handy carrying bag, a really flexible hose, and a large dust-collection bag. But, we recommend staying away from it. First, it has a very finicky spring that users have to attach and detach to keep the head from flipping over while sanding a ceiling. Ours bent immediately and was actually quite unsafe (it will poke the user if they are not careful). Also, ours sounded like gravel in a coffee can while it was running. We can’t recommend it.
The F2C is a high-speed, cable-driven design that allows the head to be lighter and better balanced. However, the cable creates an unreasonable amount of tension on the front of the sanding pad. This forces the front of the sanding pad into the fresh compound, especially on the ceiling and the lower foot or so of the walls. The motor is also in the handle, and its motor fan blows sanding dust everywhere. While the speed and weight are great, there are much better options available.
What to Consider When Choosing a Drywall Sander
Those who already own a sander might wonder whether a dedicated drywall sander is really necessary. It really depends on the area that needs to be sanded. While random orbital or detail sanders can cope with small areas, trying to sand a whole room soon becomes very tiring. Even at their simplest, drywall sanders have the advantage, as the following section explains.
Types of Drywall Sanders
While a manual sanding block can be found in any hardware store, its small size and the physical effort required makes these tools impractical for sanding drywall. The most basic solution is a larger pad, attached to a pole. Not surprisingly, they are called pole sanders. The head can be oblong or round and usually attaches to a hook-and-loop sanding disc or a sanding screen (more on that below). Advanced versions incorporate a hose that can be attached to a wet/dry vac.
The next progression is to powered solutions. Portable cable sanders or cordless versions can be handheld or attached to a pole. These are effectively large-diameter orbital drywall sanders. They usually hook up to a wet/dry vac or their own dust-collection system. A self-contained dustless sander is not only a rapid way to finish drywall but also dramatically reduce cleanup time.
Motor Power and Speed
Electric drywall vacuum sanders allow DIYers and professionals to work faster. Heads vary in size from 7 inches to 9 inches, so a reasonably powerful motor is important to drive them efficiently. We would recommend 5 amps, and models with up to 7 amps are readily available.
Cordless models are rated in volts, which reflects the battery power. The few models currently available are all 20 volts. The Ah capacity of the battery is another important element. The higher the number, the longer the tool will be able to run without needing to be recharged. It is worth pointing out that cordless tools are often sold “bare.” While the price might look attractive, both the battery and the charger cost extra.
Electric drywall sanders also offer variable speeds. This offers improved control for rapid material removal or fine finishing. It varies depending on the model, but the tools we considered ran anywhere from 500 to 2,000 rpm.
Flexibility, Hose Length, and Weight
Sanding drywall usually involves working from floor to ceiling height and possibly across the ceiling surface. The reach provided by the drywall sander has a major impact on convenience. Handheld electric models—much like an orbital sander but with a larger head—are often more affordable than long-reach versions, but a ladder is required to reach the top of walls.
Low-cost manual pole sanders can offer good reach and have articulated joints that allow for multiple sanding angles. However, the pole may not be included, whereas the best drywall sanders often include a telescopic pole. If dust collection is offered, it is important to check hose length. If it’s short, the collecting bag or wet/dry vac will have to be close to the user and could get in the way. Some vacuum bags have shoulder straps to overcome this problem.
Weight also is an important factor. Most electric models have head-mounted motors. A heavy tool will prove tiring, particularly if the drywall sander is used above shoulder height for extended periods.
Sanding Discs and Screens
Many drywall sanders use hook-and-loop discs that are inexpensive and easy to change. A range of grits is available and includes anywhere from 60 grit for fast material removal to 220 grit for final finishing before painting.
The challenge with standard sanding discs is that the disc can clog quickly, even on drywall sanders with dust collection. Sanding screens are an alternative that can fit some tools. The mesh screen is resistant to tearing and doesn’t clog as easily. Many can be rinsed and reused, whereas discs are usually disposable.
There is a wide range of sanding screens for rectangular pole sanders, which are attached via clamps or clips. It can be difficult, however, to find screens for 9-inch-diameter heads that take hook-and-loop discs.
In the sections above, we looked at the technical aspects of the best drywall sanders and offered a selection of some of the top models currently available. While that information may have answered many questions, during our research we found a number of other concerns that crop up often. Answers to those are included below.
Q. Is a drywall sander worth it?
For small drywall repairs, a finishing sander can do a reasonable job. For large areas, particularly those projects that include more than one room, a drywall sander is faster. Plus, most offer much better dust control, making it one of the best drywall sanding tools for the job.
Q. Can you use a hand sander to sand drywall?
Yes, you can. Any good hand sander can be used, though the job will take considerably longer, and most have no kind of dust control.
Q. Should I use ear protection when using drywall sanders?
It is advisable. Noise levels above 80 decibels (dB) may cause hearing loss, and in work situations, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires hearing protection for those experiencing sound levels that are above an average of 85dB for an 8-hour day. Many drywall sanders are around this level, but even quieter, prolonged exposure can be uncomfortable.
Q. Can drywall dust make you sick?
Yes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drywall dust can cause eye, nose, throat, and respiratory tract irritation. Long exposure can lead to coughing, phlegm production, and breathing difficulties similar to asthma. Using some kind of mask while sanding is absolutely vital. We recommend a half-mask respirator with replaceable filters.
Q. What is the best way to get rid of drywall dust?
Drywall dust is very fine and flies everywhere. Damping it down with a water spray helps it stick together and makes for easier cleanup. Any spray bottle that produces a reasonably fine mist will do. You don’t want to soak things; just make them damp. Next, use a soft broom to sweep up as much dust as possible. Finally, vacuum. Drywall dust can easily clog household vacuums, so a wet/dry vac is recommended.
Why Trust Bob Vila
Bob Vila has been America’s Handyman since 1979. As the host of beloved and groundbreaking TV series including “This Old House” and “Bob Vila’s Home Again,” he popularized and became synonymous with “do-it-yourself” home improvement.
Over the course of his decades-long career, Bob Vila has helped millions of people build, renovate, repair, and live better each day—a tradition that continues today with expert yet accessible home advice. The Bob Vila team distills need-to-know information into project tutorials, maintenance guides, tool 101s, and more. These home and garden experts then thoroughly research, vet, and recommend products that support homeowners, renters, DIYers, and professionals in their to-do lists.
Meet the Tester
Tom Scalisi is a full-time DIY and construction writer for many of the largest websites in the industry, including BobVila.com, This Old House, Family Handyman, and Forbes. He spent years working in the trades and industrial maintenance, undertaking more drywall projects than he can count.
Additional research provided by Bob Beacham.