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What Is Wet Blasting (and Why Do I Need It?)

What Is Wet Blasting (and Why Do I Need It?)

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Do you want the paint or protective coating on your products to last?
The answer to this is almost always yes. The longevity and quality of a protective coat depend heavily on the quality of the surface finish. A poor surface finish will cause any protective coat to peel, flake, and fail.
This is why you need to know about wet blasting. It’s a method of surface preparation you didn’t know you needed.
Wet blasting offers a variety of great benefits, more than sandblasting and other forms of surface preparation. It’s also safer, more effective, and has numerous applications. You can wet blast almost any material without worrying you’ll damage it.
If you’re looking for a more effective way of preparing the surface of your products, look no further. Here’s everything you need to know about wet blasting and how it can benefit you!
What is Wet Blasting?
Wet blasting, also known as vapor blasting, is the practice of preparing a surface for protective coating. It involves cleaning the object’s surface and adding an even texture to the surface. The textured surface is what allows the paint, or protective coating, to adhere to the object.
Wet blasting is safe to use on a variety of materials. Users can select the type of abrasive media and pressure to effectively clean and prepare anything from wood to stainless steel. You can use wet blasting to safely prepare:

  • Wood
  • Soft metals
  • Plastics
  • Glass
  • PVC
  • Aluminum
  • Iron, steel, and other hard metals
  • Carbon fiber

Wet blasting is similar to dry sandblasting as both methods propel a form of abrasive media, like sand, onto an object using pressurized air. Wet blasting, however, uses a third ingredient, water. Water softens the impact of the abrasive media creating a finer texture and making it safe to use on a variety of materials.
How Does Wet Blasting Work?
There are several methods of wet blasting but they all work by propelling abrasive material and water onto a surface using pressurized air or water. The abrasive media will hit the surface of the substrate, leaving little indents. The introduction of water helps soften these indents to create an even texture.
Without water, the abrasive media will hit the surface of an object harder and more erratic. This causes an uneven and sometimes harsher texture.
Hydro blasting is a form of wet blasting that uses a mix of abrasive media and water to create a slurry. A blaster uses water pressure to propel the slurry onto the surface to clean and prepare it.
Vapor blasting also uses a mix of water and abrasive media to create a slurry. The difference here is vapor blasting uses compressed air to propel the slurry onto a surface at a higher velocity. Vapor blasting breaks down into three main abrasive blasting techniques.
Halo and Water Injection Nozzles
The nozzle is an extended part of a blaster where the abrasive media and water shoot out. Halo nozzles work by forming a ring of water at the nozzle around the propelled abrasive media. This halo of water suppresses the dust.
A water injection nozzle injects water into the dry abrasive as it leaves the nozzle. This dampens the particles and cushions the abrasive media’s impact on the object.
Both options are fairly inexpensive and effectively suppress dust. The drawback to this method is it uses a lot of water.
Adapted Sand Blasters
This method uses a modified sandblaster complete with a pressurized pot, air blaster, and nozzle. The user stores the slurry in a pot consisting of pressurized air. The slurry enters the airflow in the blaster and propels onto the surface of the blasting object.
This process uses a practice known as the Venturi effect. This method also reduces dust and is ideal for those needing high abrasion for their projects.
Blast Cabinets and Blast Rooms
Blast cabinets and rooms spray media and water onto the object inside of an enclosure. This method is ideal for smaller items and parts.
An advantage to using blast cabinets and rooms is you can reuse the water and abrasive media which saves your money. Blast cabinets contain the mess water and abrasive media cause during the blasting process.
The only drawback with blasting cabinets is they limit you to small parts and objects that can fit inside of the enclosure.
Vapor Blasters
Vapor blasters are a form of hydro blasting but use airflow to propel the water and abrasive media mix onto the surface of the object. The benefit of vapor blasting is it gives you greater control over the slurry mixture and air pressure. This allows you to blast a greater range of materials, create a variety of surface textures, and reduce the amount of media and water used.
Popular Uses for Wet Blasting
Wet blasting is a useful surface preparation method that benefits nearly every industry. Wet blasting is primarily used for preparing a surface for paint or a protective coat but its uses can go even further.
The surface of the objects you’re planning to paint need to be clean. Wet blasting doesn’t only prepare a surface for paint, it cleans it too. Wet blasting can effectively clean and remove:

  • Oxidation and rust
  • Old paint
  • Stains
  • Old coatings
  • Powder coatings
  • Grease and oil
  • Chemicals
  • Dirt
  • Dust
  • Smoke and carbon residue

Wet blasting can effectively remove other contaminants and debris, as well. Each type of abrasive media has specific contaminants it can remove. You can learn more about the different types of abrasive media available here:
Automotive Industries
Wet blasting is great for removing old, tough contaminants from used automotive and motorcycle parts. The abrasive media can cut through grease, rust, and factory coatings without damaging the underlying substrate.
With wet blasting, you can achieve a satin finish on any of your aluminum, steel, or chrome surfaces. Finer abrasive media can achieve a finer finish.
Industrial Applications
Sandblasting can be dangerous to do in certain industrial settings. With dry blasting, media particles slam into the surface of the object, create an electric charge, and form dust. This dust can get into sensitive areas and the static electric charge can cause sparks.
Sandblasting near flammable materials is hazardous as it can cause a fire, or worse, an explosion.
Wet blasting is safe for sensitive areas as it creates little to no dust. Any sparks that may occur are cold sparks, which are less likely to catch fire or cause an explosion.
Safe for Sensitive Surfaces
Soft metals, wood, and other sensitive materials are easily damaged by harsh dry blasting media. Not only will the dry media strip away unwanted coatings and contaminants, but it will also damage the material underneath.
Wet blasting gives you the flexibility to adjust the blast media and PSI to your needs. You can effectively wet blast sensitive objects by using softer abrasive media and a lower PSI. This lets you safely restore vintage wood, remove graffiti from buildings, and clean fire damage.
The dry blasting process can create heat due to the friction caused when the dry media hits the surface of a metal object. The heat created can cause softer metals to bend and warp.
Wet blasting doesn’t cause any unwanted heating as the water cools the frictional heat. This makes it ideal for thin materials and soft metals like aluminum.
Outdoor Settings
Many states and countries have regulations on the creation of airborne dust. Dust from dry sandblasting is a form of air pollution that can harm human health.
Wet blasting is a safer alternative for outdoor and construction use. The water suppresses most, if not all, of the dust created in outdoor blasting.
Aerospace and Engineering
The engineering industry often needs to remove contaminants like paint, oxidation, and carbon deposits from their products and parts. This includes parts made during production and cleaning machine parts.
The aerospace industry uses wet blasting for cleaning and peening aerospace parts. Peening works the surface of an object to improve its material properties.
The Pros of Using Wet Blasting
Wet blasting is growing in popularity, and for good reason. Its many benefits set it apart from other surface prep methods. If you’re still unsure if wet blasting is right for you, then you must check out its benefits.
Less Dust
Dust particles created from dry blasting can pose a threat to your health. Some old paints and coatings may contain lead and other hazardous materials that can harm the user and pollute the air. As briefly mentioned earlier, certain industrial areas can be dangerous to dry blast.
The water in wet blasting surpasses the abrasive media preventing any dust from forming. You can safely use this method indoors, outdoors, and in most industrial settings.
A Single Step Surface Prep
Many surface preparation methods require you to clean the surface of the object before blasting. The abrasive media in dry blasting, for example, can get stuck on sticky substances and leave the surface dirtier. Cleaning your products may require a third party, additional time, and the use of dangerous chemicals.
Wet blasting cleans and finishes a surface, all in one step! This saves you time and money.
Less Media Use
Abrasive media isn’t always cheap, depending on the media you choose for your project. Some wet blasting methods and abrasives, such as glass beads, allow you to recycle your abrasive media and use it multiple times. This recyclability saves you time and reduces surface preparation costs.
More Uses
Wet blasting has a nearly infinite number of uses. You can use wet blasting in nearly every industry that needs to prepare the surface of an object for a protective coating. This includes everything from vintage restoration to peening new aerospace parts.
Some blasting methods are ineffective in certain weather conditions. High humidity and heat can cause some dry blast media to become damp and sticky. Most methods of wet blasting use a slurry, so the abrasive is already wet and unaffected by the humidity.
Environmentally Friendly
The lack of dust is the most notable eco-friendly advantage of wet blasting, but there are more ways wet blasting is safe and environmentally friendly.
Some abrasive media is recyclable, a benefit not found in dry blasting. This allows you to reuse abrasive media rather than toss it. Most wet blasting abrasives are free from silica, a compound that can affect human health and pollute the air.
It’s Fast
Wet blasting is a fast process. Harder, larger abrasives coupled with a higher PSI will strip and finish the toughest surfaces in little time.
You’ll save more time as wet blasting will clean the surface in the process. There’s no need to spend time cleaning the product before blasting.
A Better Surface Finish
Wet blasting offers a better surface finish. This is, in part, due to the flexibility you have with adjusting the PSI and choosing the proper abrasive media for your project.
It’s the water, however, that allows wet blasting to create a better surface finish compared to other blasting methods.
The water acts as a cushion around the media particle. When it hits a surface, the water diffuses the force and prevents the particle from creating jagged edges. The water also prevents the particles from breaking apart which can cause larger rougher depressions.
The final finish will appear smoother and more even, offering superior adhesion to paints and protective coatings.
What To Know About Wet Blasting
While few, there are a few potential drawbacks to wet blasting. The first is it can be expensive when you start. The upfront costs involve acquiring blasting media and a reliable vapor blaster, like the power eagle wet sandblast kit. You’ll also need to train or hire someone to properly use the blasting kit.
You’ll have less time to add a protective coating after wet blasting certain metals. Waiting too long can cause the bare and raw surface to oxidize and rust.
You Need To Try Wet Blasting 
Wet blasting offers more benefits than almost any other type of surface preparation method. Not only will you enjoy products and parts with an improved surface finish, but you’ll also save time and cut costs. If you haven’t already, it’s time to give wet blasting a try!
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