Whether you need it to sand old paint off a piece of furniture, smooth down a deck in preparation for a new coat of stain, or get kitchen cabinets ready to paint, a random orbital sander makes the admittedly tedious job of sanding easier, smoother, and more effective than merely scrubbing away with a piece of sandpaper. Says Eamon Lynch, Director of Warranty Service at Power Home Remodeling, "When it comes to carpentry or woodworking projects, having a random orbital sander in your toolbox is helpful for creating the smoothest finishes."
Our favorite random orbital sander is the Bosch ROS20VSC Palm Sander, which our product tester put through its paces at his home, evaluating it for power, ease of use, effectiveness, durability, and overall performance.
Here are the best random orbital sanders for a variety of needs.
Best Overall: BOSCH ROS20VSC 5-Inch Random Orbital Sander/Polisher Kit
Very effective dust-filtration system
Handful of complaints that sanding pad doesn't stay in place
Who else recommends it? Popular Mechanics and BestReviews both picked BOSCH ROS20VSC Palm Sander.
What do buyers say? 93% of 3,500+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.
Sanding is dusty work, but with the Bosch ROS20VSC Palm Sander, you won’t have as much to contend with once the job is done. This small-but-powerful random orbital sander’s built-in microfilter system traps dust particles as small as one-half micron in diameter and has a twist-off dust canister that lets you see at a glance when it’s full. There’s also a vacuum-hose adapter in case you prefer to hook the device to your wet/dry shop vacuum.
But that’s not the only benefit of this handy tool. It has a 2.5-amp motor, which is plenty of power for most DIY tasks, and you can adjust the sanding speed between 7,500 and 12,000 orbits-per-minute to fine-tune the speed to your needs.
Our product tester used this sander to clean up three rough-cut bookshelves with heavy grain. He applauded the sander's easy use, powerful performance, and effective filtration system, saying, "The Bosch Palm Random Orbit Sander stands shoulders above its competition in performance, dust control, and ease of use. Its lightweight, ergonomic design makes it easy to handle all sorts of work without fatigue, the sand discs are easy to swap in and out, and the pad dampening system eliminates swirl marks. "
The ergonomically shaped handle has a soft-grip top and is just long enough to allow you to grasp the sander in a variety of positions, greatly reducing strain on your hand and wrist. Plus, it weighs only 3.5 pounds and has an 8-foot cord, so you can stand comfortably while working.
The sander includes a sanding pad, sanding disc, vacuum adapter, and soft-sided carrying case. The warranty is one year.
Runner-Up Best Overall: SKIL SR211601 5-Inch Random Orbital Sander
No vacuum-hose adapter
Few complaints that dust filter doesn't stay in place
If you’re looking for a great choice at a slightly lower price than the Bosch Palm Sander, you’ll love the SKIL SR211601 Random Orbital Sander. At 2.8 amps, its motor is slightly more powerful than the Bosch sander, and at a maximum of 13,000 orbits-per-minute, it’s a little faster, as well.
But while this sander has an easy-to-clean, highly effective dust collector, it can’t trap particles quite as small as the Bosch’s filtration system, and it lacks a vacuum-hose adapter that would allow you to hook the sander to your shop vacuum.
Still, with variable speed control that lets you sand as quickly or as slowly as necessary, a vibration-damping system to reduce stress on your hands and wrists, and a soft rubber grip and ergonomic design that’s comfortable to grasp even during lengthy sanding sessions, there’s a lot to love about this random orbital sander.
The SKIL sander takes 5-inch discs, weighs 3.4 pounds, and is compact enough to fit into fairly small spaces. It comes with a one-year warranty and three sanding discs.
Best Budget: BLACK+DECKER BDERO100 5-Inch Random Orbital Sander
Very reasonable price
Excellent for basic DIY projects
Not the most effective dust-collection system
If you’ll only need a random orbital sander for very light or infrequent household tasks, such as refurbishing an old piece of furniture, overspending doesn’t make a lot of sense. The best-selling BLACK+DECKER BDERO100 earns raves for doing a great job at a rock-bottom price. It’s not as powerful as many higher-priced sanders–the motor is just 2 amps–but that’s sufficient for a simple job like smoothing the top of a table before painting. Note, though, that the sanding speed is fixed at 12,000 orbits-per-minute, making this model a little less versatile than higher-priced choices with variable-speed control.
The BDERO100 features a dust-sealed switch to keep grime out of the tool, a Velcro-type system for holding the 5-inch discs in place, and an easy-to-grip rubberized handle. And at 3.2 pounds, it’s quite lightweight. However, it does not come with a vacuum hose adapter or carrying case. The sander is covered by a two-year warranty.
Best Cordless: Makita XOB01Z Cordless 5-Inch Random Orbit Sander
No cords to deal with
Somewhat awkward to hold
Not the most effective dust-collection system
Tired of being tethered to a power cord? While most random orbital sanders run off AC power from your home’s electrical system, you can stop worrying about staying close to an outlet with the Makita XOB01Z, which instead, runs off a rechargeable 18-volt lithium-ion battery. And if you’re worried about runtime, don’t be: You’ll get 20 minutes of power on high speed and 40 minutes on low–enough for all but the most intense sanding tasks.
The sander doesn’t lack for power, either. It has a three-speed motor that spins the 5-inch disc at 7,000, 9,500, or 11,000 orbits-per-minute. Note, however, that it isn't variable speed; you can't adjust the speed beyond the three settings.
There are other nice features as well, including one-touch electronic speed control, a dust-sealed switch, and an attached dust collection bag. And surprisingly, the battery doesn’t add too much weight– this sander weighs about 3.6 pounds, right in line with our top picks. Plus, it has an easy-on-your-hands ergonomic handle. However, note that this is the sander only; you’ll have to buy the battery and charger separately, unless you already own another 18-volt lithium-ion battery. The sander is backed by a one-year warranty.
Best Heavy-Duty: Ingersoll Rand 328B Heavy-Duty Air-Geared Orbital Sander
No dust-collection system
Requires large air compressor with high air flow
Most DIYers won’t require this much muscle from their sander, but if you plan on tackling tough jobs, such as sanding a big deck in poor condition, a boat hull, a load of lumber for fencing, or touching up an entire home’s worth of wooden floors, you’ll appreciate the air-powered Ingersoll Rand 328B Geared Orbital Sander. Built for heavy-duty tasks, this sander has a large 8-inch pad to get the job done fast.
Note that this sander runs off a large air compressor–preferably 80 gallon or more–not batteries or your home’s AC electrical system, and you’ll need to buy the air compressor separately if you don’t already own one. This Ingersoll Rand has a ¼-inch air inlet and accepts a minimum hose size of 3/8 inch. Average air consumption is 4 cubic feet per minute.
While very powerful, the sander is surprisingly easy on your hands and wrists, with low-vibration performance and an ergonomic design that’s easy to grasp even through long work sessions. It’s a heavy tool, however, at 4.7 pounds. And unlike most sanders, it lacks an integrated dust collection system, so this power tool is best used outdoors in an area that can handle some dust.
It’s backed by a one-year warranty.
Best for Big Jobs: Makita BO5041K 5-Inch Random Orbital Sander
Extra front handle for superior control
Few complaints that pads don't stay in place
Not the most effective dust-collection system
When you’re tackling a lengthy job, such as sanding wooden floor edges, you’ll definitely appreciate the extra front handle on the Makita BO5041K 5-Inch Random Orbital Sander that makes it easy to use two hands instead of just one while working—that’s a lot less fatiguing—and gives you extra control when working in tight corners. Plus, this sander has rubberized grips and an ergonomic design to reduce user fatigue even further.
But don’t fear that you’re giving up on power or speed with this sander; it has a variable speed control dial with settings from 4,000 to 12,000 orbits-per-minute, a 3-amp motor, and a fairly large 1/8-inch orbit, allowing you to work quickly. Even better, the trigger switch has an easy-to-use lock, so no need to waste finger power keeping the power switch on while you work.
There’s a vacuum-port adapter if you prefer to let your shop-vac collect the dust, or you can rely on the tool’s built-in high-capacity dust collection bag.
The sander comes with a 5-inch sanding disc, case, and one-year warranty.
Best Compact: BLACK+DECKER BDERO600 5-Inch Random Orbital Sander
Very reasonable price
Compact size for tight spaces
Not the best dust-collection system
Sometimes, you just need a sander to do a small job, such as a furniture makeover, or to get into tight spaces. And for those times, the BLACK+DECKER BDERO600 5-Inch Random Orbital Sander is the power tool you need. At 8.8 x 5.1 x 6.3 inches, this tool is a little more compact than most others, making it well suited to tackling corners and edges, or for any quick sanding tasks. Plus, it only weighs a bit over 3 pounds, which is lighter than most other sanders on this list.
But just because it’s small doesn’t mean it’s a weakling. The 2.4-amp motor has enough oomph for lightweight jobs, and with a fixed speed of 14,000 orbits-per-minute, it gets the job done just as quickly as many higher-end sanders.
The comfortable, rubberized grip is easy on your hands, and the high-performance dust collection bag keeps your work area clean, although, as with any sanding device, you need to wear a suitable dust-protection mask while working.
The sander is covered by a two-year warranty.
If you’re looking for a random orbital sander, it’s hard to go wrong with our top pick, the Bosch ROS20VSC Palm Sander. It’s loaded with great features, has lots of power, is easy on your hands, and has one of the most effective filtration systems for these types of tools. But if you just want a sander for occasional or lightweight use, such as sanding down old furniture in preparation for a new paint job, you’ll appreciate the performance and the price of the BLACK+DECKER BDERO100 (view at Amazon).
What to Look for in a Random Orbital Sander
Random orbital sanders can be powered in a few different ways. Some devices must be plugged into an electrical outlet, meaning you may need an extension cord if you’re planning to work outside. Other units are cordless and run on rechargeable batteries. While battery-powered sanders are infinitely more portable, they have a limited run time. Lastly, some orbital sanders are powered by air compressors, making them a handy option if you already have a compressor in your workshop.
You’ll likely kick up a lot of sawdust while sanding, which is why many people prefer a random orbital sander with a built-in dust collector. This feature sucks sawdust into an attached bag or canister that you need to empty periodically. Some higher-end sanders also have a vacuum attachment that allows you to hook the tool to your shop vac. Either way, however, you need to wear a protective dust mask and eye protection while you work to avoid injury to your eyes and respiratory system.
Random orbital sanders use round sandpaper discs that come in various sizes, most commonly either 5 inches or 6 inches in diameter, although heavy-duty sanders can take discs as large as 8 inches across. Note that you can’t simply swap disc sizes; sanders are designed to hold one specific disc size only. If you’re looking to tackle large jobs, you’re probably better off with sander that uses larger discs, as this will help you sand large areas faster. On the other hand, smaller disc sizes give you a little more control and fit into tighter spots.
What is a random orbital sander used for?
Typically, random orbital sanders are used for moderate sanding needs on flat surfaces, such as removing paint or other finishes, smoothing down rough edges on furniture or other items, sanding away rust, smoothing small areas of patched drywall, preparing wood for painting, and similar tasks around the home, garage, or worksite. The beauty of a random orbital sander, thanks to its irregular movements, is that it won’t mar or scratch woodgrain, so you don’t have to be as mindful of the grain while you work.
When tackling the toughest sanding jobs, such as smoothing very rough wood or removing multiple layers of paint, a belt sander will get the job done faster. And if you need to sand a delicate surface, a sheet sander is the appropriate tool. Still, for the majority of sanding tasks the typical DIYer is likely to face, a random orbital sander will get the job done quickly, efficiently, and effectively.
What’s the difference between a random orbital sander and an orbital sander?
While the major difference between a random orbital sander and an orbital sander may seem slight, it’s important. On a random orbital sander, the sandpaper disk spins in a circle while the pad holding the disk is also moving in a slightly oval pattern, creating a “random” spin that won’t move the sandpaper in an exact path over the material being sanded—that’s why these tools don’t mar or scratch wood grain. By contrast, an orbital sander also has a spinning sandpaper disk, but lacks the additional oval rotation, meaning you’ll need to be much more mindful of wood grain while you work.
A sheet sander, also called a palm sander, has a similar appearance to the typical random orbital sander, but instead of a round sandpaper disk, it has a rectangular piece of sandpaper that moves in a back-and-forth motion, rather than a spin. Sheet sanders are useful for detailed work, or when sanding along edges of materials. Be aware that sometimes random orbital sanders and orbital sanders are also sold under the term “palm sander,” as the most common form of all of these tools is as a fairly small device that’s shaped for easy grasp in the palm of the user’s hand, although there are also random orbital sanders that are large enough to require the use of both hands to control the tool while working.
A fourth common type of sander is a belt sander, which differs from both types of orbital sanders in that instead of a vibrating sandpaper disk, you have a loop of sandpaper that’s spinning between two rotating drums. Belt sanders are very efficient for fast, rough sanding, but lack the finesse that’s possible with a random orbital sander.
Can you use a random orbital sander on metal?
While most people will use their random orbital sander on wood—removing paint, smoothing down rough edges, or preparing the surface for paint—you aren’t limited to wood. With the appropriate sandpaper in place, you can also use your tool to buff or sand metal, remove rust from metal surfaces, smooth down plastic, and buff, smooth, or sand composite materials such as countertops. You can even use the sander on plaster or drywall to buff away rough edges after patching or before painting. It’s truly a versatile tool.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article is edited and updated by Michelle Ullman, the tool expert for The Spruce. She has extensive experience not only in writing about all things related to the home, but also in carrying out various DIY projects, including landscaping, painting, flooring, wallpapering, furniture makeovers, and simple repairs. For this roundup, she considered dozens of random orbital sanders, evaluating each for basic features, extras, and customer feedback, as well as product tester input.
Eamon Lynch, Director of Warranty Service at Power Home Remodeling provided further tips and advice on choosing and using a random orbital sander.