Wet Sanding Tips for Smoothing Orange Peel in Car Paint


A flawless, glossy finish on your car is the mark of a professional paint job, but achieving this perfection can be a challenging endeavor. One common issue that many car owners face is “orange peel” in the paint, a texture that resembles the skin of an orange. While this textured surface may not be as appealing as a smooth, glass-like finish, the good news is that it can be fixed. Wet sanding is the technique you need to make your car’s paint surface as smooth as a mirror, and this article will guide you through the process of wet sanding orange peel in car paint.


What is Orange Peel in Car Paint?

Orange peel is a textured finish that resembles the skin of an orange, characterized by a bumpy, uneven surface on the car’s paint. It occurs during the painting process when the paint dries unevenly or when the paint is applied too thickly, leading to irregularities in the surface texture. Orange peel can also result from dust or contaminants settling on the paint surface before it dries.

The primary goal of wet sanding orange peel is to level the uneven surface and make it smooth, creating a polished, high-gloss finish that looks professional.


Tools and Materials You Will Need

Before diving into the wet sanding process, gather the necessary tools and materials:

  • Sandpaper: You’ll need different grits of wet sandpaper, typically ranging from 1000 to 3000 grit. The lower grit numbers remove more material, while higher numbers are for finer smoothing.
  • Sanding Block: A rubber or foam sanding blockprovides even pressure and helps prevent uneven sanding.
  • Bucket of Water: For wet sanding, you’ll need a constant source of water to keep the surface lubricated and to carry away paint residue.
  • Car Wash Soap: High-quality automotive car wash soap ensures a clean and smooth surface to work on.
  • Clean Rags or Microfiber Towels: These are essential for drying and inspecting your work.
  • Automotive Paint Compound: After sanding, you’ll need a high-quality compound to restore the shine and remove any marks left by the sandpaper.
  • Polish and Wax: These will help restore the paint’s shine and protect it in the long term.
  • Masking Tape and Plastic Sheeting:To protect surrounding areas and prevent overspray from sanding.


Preparing the Work Area

  1. Choose a well-ventilated and well-lit workspace. Outdoors is ideal, but if that’s not possible, ensure good air circulation in your garage.
  2. Cover adjacent surfaces, like windows, trims, and rubber seals, with plastic sheeting and masking tape to protect them from water and debris.
  3. Clean your car thoroughly using automotive car wash soap to remove any dirt, grime, and contaminants from the paint surface. Rinse and dry the car completely.
  4. Ensure your car is cool to the touch and parked in the shade. Avoid working on a hot surface as it can cause the water to evaporate too quickly during sanding.


Wet Sanding Orange Peel in Car Paint


The process of wet sanding orange peel involves gently removing the top layer of uneven paint to level the surface. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Start with Coarse Sandpaper: Begin with the lower grit sandpaper (around 1000-1500 grit) to remove the majority of the orange peel. Wet the sandpaper in a bucket of water, and make sure to keep the surface consistently lubricated. Use even pressure and sand in straight, back-and-forth motions. Do not apply excessive force, as you don’t want to remove too much paint.
  2. Check Your Progress: Frequently rinse the area and inspect it to gauge your progress. Continue sanding until the orange peel is mostly gone and the paint surface is uniformly dull. The goal is to level the surface, not remove all the paint.
  3. Move to a Finer Grit: As you remove the orange peel, transition to a higher grit sandpaper (around 2000-3000 grit) to refine the finish. Continue the wet sandingprocess with this finer grit, making sure to keep the surface well lubricated. Sand in one direction and avoid circular motions to minimize swirl marks.
  4. Keep the Surface Clean: Regularly wipe the surface with a clean, damp cloth to remove residue and check your progress. This step is crucial to ensure that you’re not inadvertently introducing new imperfections.
  5. Repeat as Necessary: Depending on the severity of the orange peel and your skill level, you may need to repeat the process with finer sandpaper until you achieve a smooth, uniform surface. Remember that patience and attention to detail are key.
  6. Compounding and Polishing: After you’ve completed the wet sanding process and are satisfied with the surface, it’s time to restore the paint’s shine. Apply an automotive paint compound using a clean, soft cloth or polishing pad. Follow the product instructions, and work in small sections, buffing the paint until it regains its luster.
  7. Final Steps:Finish the job by applying a high-quality car polish to further enhance the shine and a wax to protect the newly polished surface.


Tips and Best Practices

Practice on a Small Area: If you’re new to wet sanding, practice on a small, inconspicuous area of your car to get the hang of the technique before tackling the entire vehicle.

  1. Use Proper Technique: Apply even pressure, keep the sandpaper wet, and sand in straight lines. Avoid using a circular motion, as it can leave swirl marks.
  2. Be Patient: Wet sanding can be time-consuming, but taking your time and paying attention to detail will yield the best results.
  3. Keep the Surface Clean: Regularly wipe the sanded area with a clean, damp cloth to inspect your progress and prevent the buildup of paint residue.
  4. Take Safety Precautions: Wear eye protection and a dust mask to protect yourself from dust and debris during the sanding process.



Wet sanding orange peel in car paint is a skilled process that can transform a textured, uneven finish into a smooth, high-gloss surface that looks professionally done. With the right tools, materials, and techniques, you can achieve impressive results and restore your car’s paint to its original beauty.

Remember that this process requires patience, practice, and attention to detail. Start with a small test area if you’re new to wet sanding, and gradually work your way up to larger sections. With the proper care and effort, you can have your car looking like it just rolled out of the showroom, with a flawless, glass-like finish that’s bound to turn heads on the road.

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