Best Sanders for Stairs – 2021 Reviews

| Last Updated: January 30, 2021

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Sanding stairs requires plenty of patience and energy to get it done within a reasonable time. However, the exhaustion and time it takes can be halved easily by using a sander.

Below, we'll provide you with all the information you need for finding the best sander for working on stairs. 

Hoping to cut right to the chase? Below are the best sanders for stairs:

  1. 3M Random Orbit Sander 20317
  2. Makita BO5041
  3. Craftsman CMEW231

Comparison Chart of the Best Sanders for Stairs


Main Features


3M Random Orbit Sander 20317

  • Best Stair Sander
  • Compact design
  • Aluminum body

Makita BO5041

  • Adjustable front handle
  • Variable speed control
  • Rubberized contoured grip

Craftsman CMEW231

  • Dust sealed switch
  • Possible vacuum attachment
  • 12,000 OPM

Galax Pro Random Orbit Sander

  • 15pcs of sandpaper included
  • 6 variable speeds
  • Heat emission system

Black+Decker BDEMS600

  • Elongated rubber handle
  • Finger attachment
  • Three position grip

What Makes a Sander Great for Refinishing Stairs? 

Considering the task of sanding stairs, there are a few features that you should look out for which significantly help with the task at hand. Below, we've included some of the essential features to keep an eye out for. 

The Shape of The Head

The head of your sander is important for when you get to those tight corners. You'll have the choice of several shapes such as rectangular, square, circular, and even triangular-shaped heads. 

The triangular-shaped sanders get into the tighter corners far easier. However, rectangular ones cover more area. 

Comfortable Handle

Comfort is key. You'll most likely be exerting plenty of pressure on the sander as you work on the stairs; this then creates a strain on your hand and wrist. 

Be sure to look out for sanders that offer plenty of gripping surfaces, and it is made from soft rubber. The rubber helps reduce vibration and provides a better grip. 

Size of Sander 

If you're working on stairs, you don't want a large, bulky sander that's going to impede the task at hand. Try to find a sander that's relatively lightweight along with a compact design; this helps the sander get into small spaces. 

Review of the Best Sanders for Stairs 

In the section below, you'll find some of our favorite sanders for working on the stairs. We'll go through their main features as well as their various benefits and downsides. 

Best Stair Sander
3M Random Orbit Sander 20317


  • Operates at 12,000 RPM
  • The small size allows for detailed work
  • Lightweight design means no wrist strain
  • Made from aluminum, which protects from cracks


  • Handle can get uncomfortable after long periods of use

Our Review

A relatively simple design for this palm sander. The lightweight body ensures the user doesn't suffer from any strain after prolonged use. The sander's small size also ensures that those tight staircases can be accessed; many larger sanders would struggle.

If there's ever a point when you drop the sander, the aluminum body effectively protects the internal components from damage. The speed is another bonus as it can provide a speed of 12,000 RPM; you'll be sure to get the stairs sanded in no time. 

The only issue is that there's no comfortable grip on the handle as it's made from aluminum; after a while of use, it can soon become sore. 

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

This sander's unique selling point is that it offers a basic and compact design while providing the best value. It does what it promised to do, and it does it well. The small body gets into those tight staircases, ultimately sanding more material than a larger sander. 

Makita BO5041


  • Dust collector bag keeps the area tidy
  • Variable speed controls allow more control
  • Elongated rubber grip provides greater comfort
  • Hook and loop attachment makes changing paper easier


  • The hook and loop adhesive eventually wears off

Our Review

A close overall best, but this sander deserves to bag the runner's up spot for a few reasons. The variable speed controls attracts most people to this sander, operating between 4,000 and 12,000 RPM. This allows you far more flexibility than just a set speed. The elongated rubberized handle and the front handle both offer the user greater comfort and control over where and how you're sanding. 

Unlike our top spot winner, this sander has a dust collector that you'll benefit from along with a hook and loop adhesive attachment; this means you'll swap out sandpaper far easier and faster than a clamping system. 

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

The elongated rubber handle, coupled with its adjustable front handle, makes this sander stand out from the rest. 

If you're faced with tight spaces and corners, you can switch to the front handle, making it easier to sand these areas. The elongated handle provides more grip space and is ultimately better for control. 

Best for the Money
Craftsman CMEW231


  • Detachable dust bag ensures no mess
  • Rubber handle reduces the vibration created
  • 12,000 OPM will be suitable for most sanding jobs
  • Dust sealed switch keeps dust out of internal parts


  • No variable speed means less control

Our Review

A common problem for many sanders on offer is that the dust can easily clog the internal parts without adequate protection. With this sander, that's thankfully not the case, thanks to the dust-sealed switch that provides satisfactory protection.

Another great feature to combat dust is the dust bag collector attached at the back of the sander; this can be replaced with a vacuum hose. 

The rubber handle not only provides comfort but also reduces the vibration created by the device. Your sander can offer 12,000 OPM. However, this speed cannot be controlled. 

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

You get the same value as the most expensive sanders but for a lower price. The comfort, speed, and dust protection abilities are all similar to that of our overall best.

If you're beginning to find an interest in carpentry, this sander is highly recommended to be an excellent starter sander. 

Editor's Pick
Galax Pro Random Orbit Sander


  • 15pcs of sanding paper included
  • Heat emission fan keeps the user safe at all times
  • Six variable speeds on offer to improve user control
  • Effective dust collection system dramatically reduces mess


  • The dust container is sometimes stiff to remove

Our Review

Operating at speeds between 6,000 and 13,000 OPM with six variable speeds to choose from for added control. 

You'll also receive 15pcs of sandpaper with your purchase with varying grit ratings. The dust system is unique in the sense that it's sucked up and travels through the machine straight into the container, significantly reducing the mess. 

After prolonged periods of use, you'll notice that the heat generated from a sander can sometimes be uncomfortable. The heat emission fan built into the side of this sander efficiently disperses heat with ease. 

The only issue with this sander is that when removing the dust collector, it can be stiff. Applying too much pulling force might result in it popping off and creating a mess. 

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

The heat emission system is the winning feature here because heat creation can be a common issue that causes discomfort for many users. 

With an effective system that disperses heat like this one, you can work for longer without the device requiring a cooldown, ultimately extending the product's life. 

Honorable Mention
Black+Decker BDEMS600


  • The oval-shaped pad gets into tight spaces
  • Finger attachment offers even more precision
  • The 3-position grip provides better control and grip options
  • A transparent dust collector means less time emptying the container


  • Low-speed meaning it takes longer to complete tasks

Our Review

An oval-shaped pad makes a great deal of a difference when working with stairs or cabinets. Stairs have many tight corners that can't be accessed with large, rectangular sanders. 

A finger attachment can be slotted into even tighter spaces like between stair posts or legs of a chair. This attachment gives the user more control and better precision sanding. 

Comfort is key with this sander. You can switch between three different gripping positions that ultimately provide better control and comfort. You'll also spend less time guessing if your dust collector is nearly full as it's made from transparent plastic. 

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

The prioritization of precision sanding with this product is rare to find. Not only is the fitted pad suited to detailed work and tight spaces, but an added finger attachment makes this product fantastic for finishing and precise detail work.

Types of Sanders Perfect for Stairs 

Various types of sander are used on stairs that all come with their unique features, benefits, and downsides. Below is a quick comparison of the most commonly used sanders. 

Orbital Sander vs Palm Sander

An orbital sander operates in small circular movements. The head can either be a circular shape or rectangular shape. 

Orbital sanders tend to be larger than palm sanders and also heavier. Still, they get the task done faster as they cover more area. Palm sanders are more lightweight and are better for detail work. 

Belt Sander vs Orbital Sander 

Belt sanders are more powerful than orbital sanders and cover more area at any given time. Belt sanders are used to remove larger quantities of material, in contrast to orbital sanders, considered more of a finishing sander. 

Belt Sander vs Disc Sander

Disc sanders aren't very useful unless you're building them from scratch in terms of working with stairs. They're mainly fixed into a sanding unit, which tends to be installed in a workplace. 

They can be used to sand individual wooden railings. The belt sander offers more flexibility in terms of movement and guidance. 

Sander Safety Considerations 

You should 100% be following the basic safety recommendations that experts have set out. You can find most of these in your instruction manuals. However, below are some of the most common safety tips to consider when operating a sander. 

Belt Sander Safety

  • Wear a Mask - When you're sanding, you can easily release dust or toxic fumes into the air; wearing a respirator or safety mask will help reduce any damage to your lungs that this could cause.

  • Power Off When Changing Paper - Always remember to switch the sander's power off when changing the sandpaper, one slip of the finger, and you're scarred for life.

  • Ear Protection - Regardless of the sander, you should also be wearing ear protection as these tools can be loud. A constant loud noise without ear protection can damage your hearing in the long term. 

Disc Sander Safety

  • Safety Glasses - Disc sanders can be dangerous, especially when operating thin pieces of wood. It can crack and send a sharp piece straight into your eye. Protective eyewear is a must.

  • Keep Fingertips Away - Fingertips can easily be damaged if you get too close to the disc sander; always remember to keep your fingers on the side closest to your chest and adjust when the wood gets close to the sander. 


We've given you features to look out for, safety tips, and even our personal favorites. You should now have the majority, if not all, the information required to purchase a high-quality sander suited to working on stairs. 

People Also Ask

We've compiled and answered below some of the most commonly asked questions regarding sanding stairs. 

What is a Sander?

Its most simple definition is a powerful tool that helps smooth down surfaces by using sandpaper. 

What is an Orbital Sander?

The orbital sander can come in either a circular or rectangular pad shape; the pad makes small circle movements when sanding; you don't need to worry about sanding against the grain when operating an orbital sander. 

What is a DA Sander

A dual-action sander operates a back and forwards motion while also utilizing a rotary motion, similar to an orbital sander combined with a belt sander. The difference being is that you can switch between these two modes with a click of a button. 

What is a Palm Sander

The palm sander provides a small orbital motion when in use; the sander is small enough to be operated with one hand. Palm sanders are great for shaping and finishing details on a sanding task as they remove small amounts of material. 

What is a Belt Sander

A belt sander operates in a linear motion. It's one of the most popular types of the sander. It is excellent for removing large quantities of material due to the speed and width of the belt. 

How Much is a Sander? 

If you're going with the quality of sanders we've shown you today, the price could range between $50 and $120 on average.