While sanding is a necessary part of woodworking, it is undeniably a tedious task. A good random orbital sander—sometimes referred to as a palm sander or as a random orbit sander—can make your sanding job easier, smoother, and more effective than merely scrubbing away with a piece of sandpaper, as well as far easier on your hands.
Ben Kuhl, home remodeler and CEO of Shelf Expression, says, "Random orbital sanders are a great tool to achieve smooth surfaces, whether you're tackling polishing or finishing up home remodeling projects. While belt sanders are designed to remove a lot of material, quickly, RO sanders are designed to provide a finished surface for your project. To find the right model for your needs, consider what kind of job it's going to be used for and pay attention to features like motor power and adjustable speed settings—these will determine how quickly and precisely you can complete any task."
We researched, tested a few at home, and evaluated the best random orbital sanders based on their power, speed, reliability, extra features, effectiveness, and overall value.
Bosch ROS20VSC 5-Inch Random Orbital Sander/Polisher Kit
Very effective dust-filtration system
Smooth finish without swirl marks
Handful of complaints that sanding pad doesn't stay in place
Not the highest level of power
Sanding is definitely dusty work, but with the Bosch ROS20VSC 5-Inch Random Orbital Sander, you won’t have as much to contend with once the job is done. We put this small-but-powerful random orbital sander to the test and greatly appreciated its built-in microfilter system that traps dust particles as small as one-half micron in diameter. It also 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 (opm) to fine-tune the speed to your needs. Like most random orbital sanders, it uses 5-inch discs with hook-and-loop (that basically means Velcro) attachments, so it’s very easy to swap out discs when one wears out or you want to switch to a different grit. Although we had no difficulties during our testing session, a handful of buyers have complained that the discs come loose, however.
We used this sander to clean up three rough-cut bookshelves with heavy grain and found it very easy to use. Not only does it have powerful performance, but it’s designed for comfort and reduced hand fatigue. 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. Even better, the soft grip helps reduce the vibration of the tool—all power sanders tend to create a great deal of vibration while in use, which can be tough on your hands.
Overall, we gave this tool the top spot based on its combination of ease of use, powerful performance, and effective filtration system. It does a wonderful job of sanding without leaving any swirl marks or blemishes on the wood. While it’s not the most powerful random orbital sander, it’s more than sufficient for most typical DIY projects. Along with a one-year warranty, this tool includes a sanding pad, sanding disc, vacuum adapter, and soft-sided carrying case.
Price at time of publish: $77
Power Source: Corded | Motor: 2.5 amps | Disc Size: 5 inches | Max. Orbits per Minute: 12,000 | Variable Speed: Yes
DEWALT DCW210D1 20-Volt Cordless Sander
Battery runtime might be short, depending on use
Most random orbital sanders are corded tools, but this model from DEWALT is a great cordless option with a 20-volt battery. That means there's no need to worry about the distance to the nearest electrical outlet and no fear of tripping over a cord. Instead, you get a brushless motor, which extends the tool's runtime, and plenty of power to tackle most common DIY projects. The sander comes with a 2.0-amp-hour battery; on the plus side, that's not too heavy but on the minus side, you can expect no more than a half-hour or so of runtime before you need to recharge. Still, that's enough time for many sanding jobs, and if you really want longer runtime, the sander will work with any 20-volt DEWALT battery with higher amp hours.
There's a variable speed control with settings from 8,000 opm to 12,000 opm, so you can go slow for better control or fast when you just want to remove material as quickly as possible. The sander has an ergonomic handle with a rubbery over-mold on the grip that is comfortable in your hand and helps to reduce vibrations. The low-profile shape of the tool means your hand is closer to the wood while you work, thus increasing your control. And you'll appreciate the smooth, swirl-free results. Although this is a fairly expensive option, it might be worth it if you are looking for the convenience. a cordless option provides. We also appreciate that it comes with a battery, charger, tool bag, and a 3-year warranty.
Price at time of publish: $250
Power Source: Battery | Motor: 20 volt | Disc Size: 5 inches | Max. Orbits per Minute: 12,000 | Variable Speed: Yes
Best for DIYers
SKIL SR211601 5-Inch Random Orbital Sander
Few complaints that dust filter doesn't stay in place
If you are planning on tackling a big project in your home that involves sanding, such as restoring wood floors, or you do a lot of woodwork as a hobby, then you need a versatile, reliable, and powerful random orbital sander like the SKIL SR211601. It has an ergonomic design with a soft-grip handle that helps reduce vibration, so you’ll be more comfortable during those long sanding sessions. And its fairly compact size means you can easily reach into tight spots or maneuver around curves or obstacles.
The 2.8-amp motor is powerful enough to up the pace without overheating. This is a variable-speed sander with a range of 7,000 opm to 13,000 opm, so you can go slow when you need more control and fast when you are doing rough sanding.
On the downside, while the sander has an easy-to-clean, highly effective dust collector, a few buyers complained that the dust-capture box didn’t stay in place well or rattled while sanding. Still, this is a very reasonably priced random orbital sander that creates a smooth, whirl-free finish and is easy to use. The SKIL sander takes 5-inch discs, weighs 3.4 pounds, and comes with three sanding discs. It has a 1-year warranty.
Price at time of publish: $48
Power Source: Corded | Motor: 2.8 amps | Disc Size: 5 inches | Max. Orbits per Minute: 13,000 | Variable Speed: Yes
BLACK+DECKER BDERO100 5-Inch Random Orbital Sander
Very reasonable price
Excellent for basic DIY projects
Not the most effective dust-collection system
Not variable speed
Not every job, nor every DIYer, requires the highest power or speed in a random orbital sander. If you’ll only need a random orbital sander for very light or infrequent household tasks, such as refurbishing an old piece of furniture, a simple, budget-friendly option might make more sense. The best-selling BLACK+DECKER BDERO100 earns high praise 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.
This sander has a dust-collection bag, but several buyers complained that the bag does a poor job of containing the dust, and unlike many similar tools, you cannot attach this one to a shop vacuum. That’s our main complaint with this random orbital sander, which otherwise does a good job of creating a smooth, mar-free finish. It’s comfortable to hold, is designed to reduce vibration, and has a rubberized handle.
Like most of these tools, the BDERO100 uses 5-inch discs that attach with Velcro tabs. It comes with one sanding sheet and is covered by a 2-year warranty.
Price at time of publish: $40
Power Source: Corded | Motor: 2 amps | Disc Size: 5 inches | Max. Orbits per Minute: 12,000 | Variable Speed: No
Best for Remodeling
Milwaukee 2648-20 M18 Random Orbit Sander
Powerful performance for a cordless sander
Battery sold separately
Some complaints about dust collection box coming loose
If you are doing some remodeling around your home—maybe you are installing new cabinets or trim, refinishing floors, adding built-in shelves, or replacing doors—then a sander is going to come in handy for those inevitable rough edges and slight adjustments. Our recommendation for DIY remodeling is this cordless offering from Milwaukee, which runs off an 18-volt battery (not included) and provides almost the same kind of power and performance you'd expect from a corded sander, but without the bother of a cord. Runtime will depend on the amp-hours of the battery you choose, as well as the way you're using the sander, but generally, you'll get around a half-hour of runtime from a 3-Ah battery.
This random orbital sander uses 5-inch pads and has variable speed control with a range of 7,000 opm to 12,000 opm. It's designed to fit comfortably in your hand and to reduce vibrations, which is especially helpful during long work sessions. Like other cordless random orbital sanders, it can be a bit cumbersome until you are used to it, however. It includes an adapter for attaching the sander to a shop vacuum, but also has a dust collection box. A few customers complained that the collection box fell off easily or was hard to empty, though. Considering that you have to buy the battery separately, this is a somewhat expensive tool. Still, if you already have an 18-volt Milwaukee battery, or use other cordless Milwaukee tools, the price is far more reasonable.
Price at time of publish: $163
Power Source: Battery | Motor: 18 volts | Disc Size: 5 inches | Max. Orbits per Minute: 12,000 | Variable Speed: Yes
Best for Woodworking
Makita BO5041K 5-Inch Random Orbital Sander
Extra front handle for superior control
Few complaints of excessive vibration
It might not be the most inexpensive random orbital sander, but when you’re tackling a lengthy job, such as sanding wooden floor edges, or if you regularly do woodworking as a hobby or professionally, then you’ll definitely appreciate the extra front handle on the Makita BO5041K 5-Inch Random Orbital Sander. This handy feature 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. A handful of buyers did mention that they felt too much vibration, however.
But that’s not all that we love about this sander; with a 3-amp motor, it has a lot of power, and it has a variable speed control dial with settings from 4,000 to 12,000 orbits-per-minute. It also has a fairly large 1/8-inch orbit, allowing you to sand quickly. (The typical range of orbit size on this type of tool is between 3/32-inch and 3/16-inch.) 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.
Price at time of publish: $113
Power Source: Corded | Motor: 3 amps | Disc Size: 5 inches | Max. Orbits per Minute: 12,000 | Variable Speed: Yes
Best for Light Sanding
BLACK+DECKER BDERO600 5-Inch Random Orbital Sander
Very reasonable price
Compact size for tight spaces
Some complaints of insufficient power
This isn’t an especially high-powered random orbital sander, although its 2.4-amp motor has enough oomph to get the job done. However, we like this very reasonably priced 5-inch sander for small or lightweight sanding tasks, such as smoothing the edges of a wooden shelf before installation or removing paint from a piece of furniture. And at 8.8 x 5.1 x 6.3 inches, this tool is a little more compact than many others, making it ideal for sanding in confined spaces, like the inside of a cabinet or bookshelf, or working around edges or corners. Plus, it only weighs a bit over 3 pounds, which is lighter than many other sanders on this list.
Its 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 should wear a suitable dust-protection mask while working. But on the downside, this is not a variable-speed sander; it has a fixed speed of 14,000 orbits-per-minute, which might be faster than you are comfortable with when doing delicate work. And a few customers did complain that it didn’t have the power they expected, although this isn’t the tool for heavy-duty tasks.
The sander is covered by a 2-year warranty and comes with one sanding disc.
Price at time of publish: $42
Power Source: Corded | Motor: 2.4 amps | Disc Size: 5 inches | Max. Orbits per Minute: 14,000 | Variable Speed: No
Bosch GET75-6N Dual-Mode 6-Inch Random Orbital Sander
Turbo mode basically turns the tool into a belt sander
No integral dust-collection system
This beast might be more sander than you need, but if you do extensive woodworking that involves both aggressive sanding and finish sanding, then the Bosch GET75-6N might be for you. This 7.5-amp sander has two modes. One is random orbital sanding, for smooth, swirl-free finish sanding. The other is turbo mode, which kicks up the sanding power times three, basically turning the tool into a belt sander for rapid and rough sanding of wood and other materials. There is variable-speed control, with a range of 3,300 opm to 7,300 opm, and the tool maintains speed even during heavy use. It uses 6-inch discs, and has a removable pad guard to keep the sander from hitting nearby surfaces while you work.
This is a rugged tool, constructed to last. It has a comfortable handle on top, as well as an auxiliary handle along the side for better control with less fatigue. However, at almost six pounds, this is a heavier sander than the others on our list. It has an attachment for connecting the sander to a shop vacuum, but it does not have a dust-collection system of its own. Designed for serious woodworkers, the Bosch GET75-6N is expensive, but for those who demand or need high power and performance while spending hours sanding, it's money well spent. It's covered by a 1-year warranty.
Price at time of publish: $280
Power Source: Corded | Motor: 7.5 amps | Disc Size: 6 inches | Max. Orbits per Minute: 7,300 | Variable Speed: Yes
We recommend the Bosch ROS20VSC random orbital sander, thanks to its excellent performance, ergonomic design, variable speeds, and especially efficient dust-collection system. It’s a great addition to any woodworker’s tool collection. But if you only need to use a random orbital sander occasionally for light sanding tasks, and you don’t want to spend too much, then the BLACK+DECKER BDERO100, while not the most high-powered tool, is more than adequate for most light tasks the average DIYer will undertake.
What to Look for in a Random Orbital Sander
In terms of power sources, you’ll find three basic types of random orbital sanders: those you plug into an electrical outlet, those that are powered by a rechargeable battery, and those that are pneumatic, or air-powered. Typically, air-powered tools are used by professionals in carpentry or automotive shops, while contractors, remodelers, and DIYers prefer corded or cordless sanders.
As a general rule, corded random orbital sanders, such as our top choice, the Bosch ROS20VSC Palm Sander, are more powerful than cordless models, but of course, keep you tethered to the nearest electrical outlet. Cordless sanders also often weigh more than corded types, because the battery itself can be quite heavy, but are very convenient to use. The Milwaukee 2648-20 is an excellent cordless option for use when remodeling your home.
"Both corded models with steady power supplies as well as portable cordless options offer their own set of pros, so take stock on what is most important before making an informed decision", notes Ben Kuhl, home remodeler and CEO of Shelf Expression. When choosing the option that’s best for you, consider the way you’ll be using the tool—long sessions or rough sanding call for a corded tool, while occasional use on light projects might be better handled by a cordless option—as well as whether you need a sander that you can tote to wherever you need it without concern for a nearby electrical outlet.
Most corded random orbital sanders used by DIYers have motors with 2 amps to 5 amps of power. This gives enough power to handle most common tasks, but not so much power that it’s difficult to control the tool. There are more powerful random orbital sanders, however, which are useful for rough sanding. The Bosch GET75-6N has a 7.5-amp motor and a 6-inch disc.
Cordless random orbital sanders run off either an 18-volt or a 20-volt battery. You won’t notice a huge power difference between these batteries, but a 20-volt battery will give the tool a bit of an edge in terms of power. We especially like the 20-volt DEWALT DCW210D1, which is close in power to a corded tool.
The speed of a random orbital sander is measured in orbits-per-minute (opm), which indicates the speed at which it performs its tiny oscillations, not in the more common revolutions-per-minute (rpm) measurement used for many other power tools.
Many random orbital sanders, especially lower-priced models, have just one set speed, which is usually somewhere between 10,000 opm and 13,000 opm. Higher-end models, however, often have variable speeds. Typically, the range on these tools will be from around 7,000 opm to 13,000 opm. The slower speeds are useful when doing fine sanding or delicate work, while higher speeds are best for more aggressive sanding or when removing paint or other finishes from wood that you plan on refinishing or painting. SKIL’s SR211601 is an excellent variable-speed random orbital sander.
Sanding, whether done by hand or with a power sander, is very dusty work. Not only can the dust be irritating to breathe and hard on your eyes, but it can also clog your sander and make it difficult to achieve a smooth surface on the wood you are sanding. Kuhl recommends, “Be sure to choose a sander equipped with a reliable dust collection system. This helps keep your workspace neat while minimizing airborne particles and can keep your sand paper clean, and will help avoid the dreaded sanding pigtails, aka swirls.”
Most commonly, the tool will have either a small dust bag made of paper or cloth or a plastic dust collection box. You’ll need to empty the dust collector frequently and be aware that even the best dust collection system is unlikely to catch every speck of dust, so it’s advisable to wear a dust mask when using your random orbital sander as well as eye protection. While most random orbital sanders include the dust collection bag or box, a few require you to purchase it separately, so check before buying your sander.
Many sanders also accept an adapter that lets you connect the tool to your shop vacuum, rather than relying on the sander’s small bag. This is usually more effective and also cuts down on annoying pauses to empty a dust bag. The Makita BO5041K is a powerful sander with a built-in port adapter for attachment to a shop vacuum. Depending on the brand and model, the adapter might come with the tool or need to be purchased separately.
Most random orbital sanders used by DIYers take 5-inch discs, which is the best size for fine sanding without creating any swirl marks or scratches. However, you’ll also find sanders that use 6-inch discs. These are best for heavier-duty sanding tasks when you want to get the job over with quickly and aren’t as concerned about a smooth and perfect finish.
Typically, 5-inch sanding discs attach to the tool with hook-and-loop tabs, so you can simply peel off one disc and replace it with another when necessary. You’ll find random orbital sander discs in a full range of sandpaper grits ranging from very fine to coarse so you can tailor the grit to your project.
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 similar 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 wood grain, so you don’t have to be as mindful of the grain while you work.
While random orbital sanders are mostly used on wood, they can be used on other materials as well, even including metal, as long as you attach the appropriate sanding disc. You can also use the tool on plastic or drywall.
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.
Are random orbital sanders better than sheet sanders?
There are a lot of different types of sanders, which can make it confusing to know which would be best for your needs. In particular, because random orbital sanders are often referred to as “palm sanders” due to their shape which fits nicely underneath your palm, it’s easy to confuse them with sheet sanders, which are also called palm sanders and are similar in size.
Sheet sanders use a rectangular sheet of sandpaper, rather than a round disc, and move the sandpaper in a back-and-forth motion, unlike the spin of a random orbital sander. While similar, these two tools have slightly different uses. A sheet sander is ideal for detail work or sanding along the edges of a wooden surface, while a random orbital sander is most useful for sanding large, flat wood surfaces.
Also, because a sheet sander uses a simple back-and-forth motion, you have to be careful to always sand with the direction of the wood grain to avoid leaving swirls or imperfections on your finished piece. By contrast, a random orbital sander rotates the sandpaper disc in a circle while adding a very slight oval oscillation. This adds a randomness to the spin of the disc and prevents the sandpaper from moving over the wood in exactly the same pattern with each pass. This greatly cuts down on swirl marks or other obvious sanding imperfections on the finished wood. It also means that you don’t need to be as careful to sand with the grain of the wood—although it’s always a good idea for the best results—as with a sheet sander.
Two other common handheld sanders are detail sanders, which are basically sheet sanders with a pointed front edge, making them useful for sanding into corners or other tight spots, and belt sanders, which 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 the other three smaller sanders.
Does a random orbital sander leave swirl marks?
One of the best things about a random orbital sander, is that unlike old-fashioned orbital sanders, which simply rotated the sandpaper disc in a rapid circle, today’s tools incorporate a slight “wiggle” along with the rotation, creating a random movement that is never exactly the same as it moves over the wood surface. This means that even if you sand against the wood grain, instead of with it as is commonly recommended, you are unlikely to create annoying swirl marks or other imperfections in your finished wood surface.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was researched and written by Michelle Ullman, who is a writer specializing in home and garden products. She has been a commerce writer for The Spruce since 2020, covering a wide range of home improvement products including power and hand tools, painting supplies, landscaping tools, and tool organizers. To choose the best random orbital sanders for this article, she evaluated dozens of these tools from various brands, evaluating each for power, effectiveness at creating a smooth finish, speed, ergonomics, dust collection capabilities, and overall value. She also relied on feedback from customers, both positive and negative, as well as information from various tool and woodworking websites.
Ben Kuhl, home remodeler and CEO of Shelf Expression, offered further extensive expertise on choosing and using the best random orbital sander.