One of the first rules of woodworking is to sand in the direction of the woodgrain to avoid creating cross-grain marks that compromise your home project’s finished look. But when a woodgrain pattern changes—for instance, on a parquet floor where grain direction varies from board to board—it’s difficult to sand without causing at least some blemishes.
In these situations, one of the best (and quickest) solutions is to use a random orbital sander—a power tool that features a sanding pad that simultaneously spins and oscillates (orbits) in an ellipse pattern. That magic combination of spinning and oscillating dramatically reduces sanding marks.
Keep reading to learn more about the key features of these power tools, and to find out why we’ve chosen the models below as our top-favorite picks among the best random orbital sander options available today.
- BEST OVERALL: Makita XOB01T 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Cordless 5″ Sander
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX Random Orbital (BDCRO20C)
- UPGRADE PICK: BOSCH Power Tools – GET75-6N – Orbital Sander
- BEST CORDED: DEWALT Random Orbit Sander, 5-Inch (DWE6421K)
- BEST CORDLESS: DEWALT 20V MAX Orbital Sander, Tool Only (DCW210B)
- BEST PNEUMATIC: Dynabrade Non-Vacuum Random Orbital Sander
- BEST FOR TIGHT SPOTS: Chicago Pneumatic CP7200S Smart Series Mini Sander
- BEST PALM SANDER: Bosch ROS20VSC Palm Sander – 2.5 Amp 5 Inches
When shopping for a random orbital sander, there are several features to keep in mind to help choose what best suits a given circumstance. Below are some of the most important considerations to keep in mind when comparing one model against another.
Many random orbital sanders have a single speed, but some models feature variable speeds that alter the sander’s aggressiveness. A higher speed is helpful when quickly grinding down finishes and high spots (as when removing varnish from an old bookcase). A lower speed is better suited for fine sanding (to achieve a smooth surface on a tabletop, for example).
Also, understand that while most tools use rpm (revolutions per minute) as their standard of speed, random orbital sanders use the term “opm,” which stands for oscillations per minute. And oscillation would essentially be a revolution, but with a random, oval path rather than a tight circle.
A lack of variable speeds shouldn’t be a deal breaker, however, as success can be achieved simply by using the appropriate sandpaper grit (coarse to deal with rough work, medium for smoothing, and fine for finish work).
Standard disc size for random orbital sanders is 5 inches in diameter, and there are a wide variety of generic 5-inch sandpaper discs in any hardware store or home improvement center. DIYers can also find sanders with smaller, 1- to 4-inch discs that are handy for sanding in tight spots.
For larger projects (such as sanding a hardwood floor), 6-inch or larger discs are the best bet. Depending on the size and model of the sander, it may be necessary to purchase brand-specific sandpaper discs.
Some random orbital sanders come with attachable dust bags that collect some of the wood dust generated while sanding. Others include attachments that can be connected to a standard wet/dry vacuum hose for dust collection. These collection methods won’t remove every speck of dust (always wear a dust mask when sanding), but they can greatly reduce it, so they’re good options to look for, especially when sanding indoors.
Random orbital sanders are powered in one of three ways: electrical cords, rechargeable batteries, or compressed air (pneumatic). Each method has its benefits.
- Corded: Because there’s no battery to recharge, corded sanders are always ready to go as long as there’s an electrical outlet nearby. Just plug in the corded random orbital sander and get to work.
- Cordless: These sanders are great when sanding far from a power source, such as when building the kids a treehouse without an extension cord long enough to reach. With a cordless sander, however, the battery’s charge is a limitation to be considered. You’ll usually get 30 to 45 minutes on a single charge, and many users keep a spare battery on hand to continue working while the first battery charges.
- Pneumatic: Powered by compressed air, pneumatic sanders are a good choice for the woodworker who has a central air compressor to power a number of air tools. Small, pancake-type air compressors, however, are not always powerful enough to run a sander without frequent stops to recharge with air. For the best results, use a pneumatic sander with an air compressor that can produce an air volume of 40 cubic feet per minute (cfm) or higher.
A typical 5-inch random orbital sander weighs about 2 to 4 pounds. Mini sanders weigh as little as 1.5 pounds, while larger random orbital sanders can weigh 7 pounds or more. Lighter sanders create less hand and wrist fatigue, especially if sanding a vertical surface, such as wood paneling.
Most random orbital sanders feature a top palm grip that makes it easy to maneuver with just one hand. If there’s going to be a lot of sanding in the future, however, it may be a good idea to go for a model with an additional side grip that allows two-handed control.
Some sanders and polishers also feature a barrel grip, similar to some jigsaws. The barrel grip allows the user to keep their hand closer to the work surface, improving leverage and control.
Our Top Picks
That’s a lot of information on the best random orbital sanders, and it can make a shopper’s head spin. To help, check out the following list of products compiled with the top considerations in mind. Be sure to consider the features necessary for a given situation when comparing one model against another.
When electrical outlets are scarce, or when there’s a need for free range of motion to complete a project, the variable-speed Makita 18V Random Orbit Sander is worth a look. This 5-inch sander uses the company’s 18-volt batteries, and comes with a 5.0 amp-hour battery for up to 65 minutes of sanding on low speed, and 32 minutes at high speed. It also comes with a charger and a carrying bag.
This sander features three adjustable speeds, including 7,000, 9,500, and 11,000 oscillations per minute. While it doesn’t have an extra handle, it is (just) compact enough for one-handed use. Also, this model comes with a dust collection bag and it uses hook-and-loop 5-inch, 8-hole sanding discs.
- Size: 5-inch
- Speed: 7,000, 9,500, and 11,000 opm
- Power source: 18-volt battery
- Cordless portability allows for sanding anywhere
- Adjustable speeds for different materials and aggressiveness
- Comes with a large battery for a longer runtime
- It’s a little big for a palm sander
Get the Makita 18V XOB01T Sander on Amazon or at The Home Depot.
When it comes to sanding on a budget, the Black & Decker 20V Max Random Orbital Sander is tough to beat. This 5-inch sander comes with a 1.5 amp-hour, 20-volt lithium-ion battery, a charger, and a detachable dust collection system. It weighs just over 3 pounds, and it features a rubber, molded grip for comfort and fatigue reduction.
The Black & Decker random orbital sander utilizes hook-and-loop sanding discs, allowing users to quickly replace a worn disc. While it’s just a one-speed sander (and that one speed is relatively high), quick-swapping sanding discs does allow the users to dial in the rate at which they’re removing finish or sanding the surface.
- Size: 5-inch
- Speed: 12,000 opm
- Power source: cordless 20-volt battery
- 12,000 opm top speed
- Affordable price point
- Allows for quick sanding disc changes
- Only one speed (but it is fast)
Get the BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX Random Orbital Sander on Amazon or at Walmart.
When it’s more about power and capability than portability, check out Bosch Power Tools’ GET75-6N Electric Orbital Sander Polisher. This burly corded random orbital sander features a large design with multiple hand positions for control and comfort, including a removable handle that mounts on either side, as well as a barrel grip and a molded hand pad on top. It uses 6-inch sanding and polishing pads.
This model features two modes: a random orbital mode and a turbo mode. The turbo mode maxes out at 7,300 opm, and removes stock at five times the rate of the basic mode. Also, this sander features a built-in vacuum port to which users can hook their shop vacuums or shop dust collection systems. It is a little expensive, but its capabilities make up for the price.
- Size: 6-inch
- Speed: Up to 7,300 opm
- Power source: 7.5-amp corded motor
- Multiple hand positions for better control and comfort
- Turbo mode for aggressive stock removal
- Built-in port for vacuum
Get the BOSCH Power Tools – GET75-6N – Electric Orbital Sander, Polisher on Amazon or at The Home Depot.
For those looking for a random orbit sander with continuous corded power, check out the corded DeWalt Random Orbit Sander. The 5-inch sander comes with a detachable dust collection bag for catching all the small bits of sawdust. It also comes with a soft carrying bag to keep things organized.
This 5-inch, 4-pound sander’s 3-amp motor is designed for reduced vibration while also offering up to 12,000 opm of speed. This palm sander features a rubberized palm grip to further reduce vibration and increase comfort, making the tool easier to use over the duration of a project. However, do keep in mind that this sander has just one speed (and it’s a high one), so be sure to use the correct sandpaper at all times.
- Size: 5-inch
- Speed: 12,000 opm
- Power source: 3-amp electric
- 12,000-opm high-speed sanding
- Comes with a detachable dust collection bag
- Design reduces vibration and discomfort
Get the DeWalt Random Orbit Sander on Amazon or at The Home Depot.
Any DIYers, woodworkers, or cabinetmakers—professional or weekend warrior—should check out the DeWalt 20V MAX Orbital Sander. This 5-inch cordless sander features a compact design for ease of use, as well as variable speeds between 8,000 and 12,000 opm for controlling aggressiveness on different surfaces. It also features a one-handed locking dust bag that allows the user to empty it fuss-free.
This sander utilizes 5-inch, 8-hole hook-and-loop sanding discs, allowing for quick changes between grits or when one pad runs out. While this particular model doesn’t come with a battery or a charger, it’s compatible with the brand’s 20-volt Max battery lineup. This allows users already invested in DeWalt tools to take advantage of their stock of batteries.
- Size: 5-inch
- Speed: Up to 12,000 opm
- Power source: 20-volt battery (sold separately)
- Adjustable speeds for controlling aggressiveness
- Compact design for control
- Offers cordless portability
Get the DeWalt 20V Max Orbital Sander on Amazon.
Anyone creating a workshop of pneumatic tools, the 5-inch Dynabrade Non-Vacuum Random Orbital Sander will make a fine addition. This 5-inch random orbit sander utilizes air pressure instead of electricity, allowing users to take advantage of their compressors while leaving an extension cord on the shelf.
Weighing in at just 2.04 pounds, the Dynabrade is easy on the hands and lightweight enough to use for extended periods. It features a 5-blade rotor for high-speed sanding capability, the speed of which changes with the air pressure exerted by the compressor. It also features an ergonomic palm grip and fits a standard 3/8-inch air compressor hose. Do keep in mind that it’s important to have a large compressor on hand, as air-powered random orbital sanders use a lot of air.
- Size: 5-inch
- Speed: Depends on psi
- Power source: Air
- Allows users to take advantage of compressors
- Lightweight and easy to maneuver
- Palm grip is ergonomically designed
- Will use quite a bit of air
Get the Dynabrade Air Random Orbital Sander at Amazon.
The Chicago Pneumatic Mini Random Orbital Sander makes it easy to sand in tight spots. This single-speed mini sander features a molded rubber trigger grip and weighs just 1.5 pounds. It is air-powered, meaning a compressor is necessary to run it, but it can run at speeds up to 15,000 opm.
Designed for small areas, the Chicago sander comes with interchangeable 2-inch and 3-inch backing pads and 60 sandpaper discs (20 per pad size). The sander connects to a standard 3/8-inch air compressor hose, and it comes in a molded plastic case for storage. It also features a pistol-style grip, which can get awkward in some positions.
- Size: 3-inch
- Speed: 15,000 opm
- Power source: Air
- Compact size makes reaching into small spaces easier
- Comes with 60 sandpaper discs
- High-speed at 15,000 opm
- Pistol grip can get awkward in some positions
Get the Chicago Pneumatic Mini Random Orbital Sander on Amazon or at Walmart.
For light-duty sanding with an easy-to-control palm sander, check out the Bosch ROS20VSC Palm Sander. This 5-inch model features a corded design with a 2.5-amp motor, giving users continuous power without the need of managing battery life. It comes with a dust collecting cartridge as well as a built-in test port for vacuum connection.
This model from Bosch packs a lot of capability in a small package. It features variable speeds between 7,500 and 12,000 opm, allowing users to choose the best speed for the project. Despite being small, it uses 5-inch hook-and-loop sanding discs for plenty of surface area and quick changes in the middle of a project. The only downside to this sander is the motor might be slightly underpowered, but the speed should help offset that deficit.
- Size: 5-inch
- Speed: 7,500 to 12,000 opm
- Power source: 2.5-amp corded motor
- Compact design for easy handling
- Adjustable speed between 7,500 and 12,000 opm
- Uses full-size 5-inch discs despite its compact size
- Might be slightly underpowered
Get the Bosch ROS20VSC Palm Sander on Amazon or at The Home Depot.
For those looking for the best all-around random orbital sander, the Makita XOB01T 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Cordless 5″ Sander’s portability, speed, and battery life are tough to deny. But, for those who’d prefer to save a bit of cash while still being able to sand their projects to a beautiful result, the BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX Random Orbital Sander’s price point compared to its features makes it a solid choice.
How We Chose the Best Random Orbital Sanders
When we decided to put together a list of the best random orbital sanders, we knew we’d have our work cut out for us. But, we wanted to offer a list of only the best models, so we took the job seriously.
First, we performed extensive product research and compiled a list of models from the brands we know and trust. Next, we called upon our experience of sanding in the woodshop or the auto body shop so we could choose the features we thought were most important, and then chose models that offered them. Finally, we compared each model’s pricing to its features to ensure that the value they offered was worth it. At that point, we gave each sander an award to complement its strengths, and the rest is history.
Power sanders make quick work of smoothing rough trim, decks, railings, and virtually any other type of wood project, and random orbital sanders figure among the most popular types of sanders, due to their ability to smooth wood without leaving telltale crossgrain marks. Those who are expanding their power tool collection to include random orbital sanders will likely have a few questions.
How do random orbital sanders work?
Random orbital sanders employ two different types of motions–spinning and oscillating (moving in an elliptical fashion). The combination of these two sandingmovements keeps the sander from leaving marks on the wood.
What’s the difference between orbital and random orbital sanders?
Orbital sanders simply spin. Random orbital sanders spin plus the entire sanding head moves in an elliptical pattern. Hold a random orbital sander and then turn it on–your entire hand will want to move in an elliptical pattern. That’s due to the orbital force of the sander.
What are random orbital sanders used for ?
Random orbital sanders are used for primary sanding steps, such as removing coarseness or roughness from the wood surface. They are often followed up by sanding either with a finish sander, or by hand, with fine-grit sandpaper.
Are random orbital sanders finishing sanders?
No, but using a random orbital sander will help remove most of the roughness–a finishing sander can be used afterward to create a very smooth surface.