Steel Wool

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Steel Wool Comes in Seven Grades – Each Used for a Different Purpose


Steel wool, which is sometimes referred to as wire wool, is an abrasive material that looks like a large grayish cotton ball or cotton pad. It is not as soft as cotton, however, because it is made out of steel fibers.

Steel wool is used for many reasons including washing dishes, washing glass, removing rust, getting rid of scratches on metal, and it is sometimes used as a means of eliminating a rodent problem. In some situations, steel wool is used to help start fires because it burns easily – even when wet.

The purpose of steel wool in the world of furniture refinishing revolves around its use as an abrasive to remove finish, paint, dirt, and grime. Steel wool is also used as a polishing agent on certain types of finishes.

Steel Wool Grades

Steel wool comes in a variety of grades. It’s very important to use the correct grade and coarseness of steel wool for specific projects because using the wrong grade can cause damage or can produce an undesirable result. Using the correct grade will help ensure professional looking results as opposed to a finish that looks sloppy.

  • Grade Number 3: This is the most abrasive grade. It is considered to be “coarse”. It can be used as the first step in the finish removal process.
  • Grade Number 2: This is the second most abrasive grade. It is considered to be “medium coarse.” It is used to eliminate starches in metals such as brass. It can also be used to get spots out of tile, or as an abrasive used in between coats of finish on wood floors.
  • Grade Number 1: This grade is used to get rid of rust on various surfaces and to remove spots on wood floors. It is considered to be “medium.” It can also be used in conjunction with chemicals such as varnish remover on wood furniture.
  • Grade Number 0: This grade is considered to be “medium fine.” It is used to shine brass and to clean different types of tile. It is also used as a finish remover and can be used in conjunction with finish removing chemicals.
  • Grade Number 00: This grade is considered to be “fine.” It is often used in conjunction with linseed oil to help produce a high-gloss finish.
  • Grade Number 000: This grade is considered to be “extra fine.” It can be used as an abrasive on stains or spots that exist on wood. It is also commonly used to polish various types of metals and as an abrasive that can be used between multiple layers of finish.
  • Grade Number 0000: This grade is considered to be “super fine.” It is the finest grade of steel wool that is available for sale in local hardware stores. It is often used to complete the final stage of rubbing out certain types of finishes. It can also be used to remove wood stains.

Steel Wool and Oak Wood

Oak is a common wood used to build furniture, so if you are working with oak, make sure to use steel wool made of either bronze or stainless steel. The regular and most common type of steel wool used to remove or polish finish contains very low levels of iron which can respond to the chemical compounds that exist in oak, and can cause dark stains to appear on the wood.


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