To Sand Blast Or Not To Blast Sand. That Is The Question

what is in a name, William Shakespeare

Sand Blasting, What should it be called?

Sand Blast, Sandblast, Grit Blast, Abrasive Blast, etc.: What’s in a Name and Does It Even Matter?


When it comes to surface preparation and cleaning, there’s a name that has stuck more than the rust and paint we commonly blast off. The terms ‘sand blast,’ ‘sandblast,’ ‘grit blast,’ ‘abrasive blast,’ and many more have been used interchangeably over the years to describe a common procedure. But does the choice of words really matter?

The main question here is: Should we still be calling it ‘Sandblasting’?

Let’s look at the terminology of ‘sandblasting’ and the evolving nomenclature of sandblasting.

Where does ‘Sandblasting’ even come from?

Back in the 1870s, the first patent for a machine was submitted and it used sand particles to ‘blast’ the surface of an item. Pretty basic but that is where the name started. For a good 50 years since the first machine was used, it had many improvements in application and power. The biggest leap was potentially in 1904 when compressed air was used to propel the sand.

Why sand? It was cheap and readily available, and no one at the time fully understood the potential health risks it posed.

When did ‘Sandblasting’ first become a dirty word?

Fast forward many years, and we encounter a significant problem: silicosis. This debilitating lung disease is caused by inhaling the fine silica dust produced during sandblasting. The consequences of silicosis led many countries to take action, making the use of sand for sandblasting illegal due to its severe health risks.

Legal Aspects of sandblasting

  • Is it illegal to use sand for sandblasting? Yes
  • Is it illegal to sandblast? Not quite. The legality hinges on what you’re actually using as the abrasive material. Sandblasting as a procedure isn’t inherently illegal; it’s the use of sand that’s problematic. This subtle yet crucial distinction reflects the changing landscape of safety regulations.


Alternative Names

In response to the health concerns and legal restrictions surrounding sandblasting, alternative names emerged. Phrases like ‘abrasive blasting’ and ‘grit blasting’ gained popularity. These terms convey the same procedure without the associated dangers of sand. However, as Shakespeare said (paraphrasing here) If we call it ‘Abrasive Blasting’ it still smells like ‘Sandblasting’.

In a country like Australia where we try to shorten/abbreviate most of what we say, asking us to add in extra syllables is too much to ask. Industry suppliers, retail shops, and online shopping all use ‘sandblasting’. If you search Google for ‘buy abrasive blaster’ you get sandblasters.

Community’s Understanding

Interestingly, despite the availability of safer alternatives, many people still associate ‘sand blast’ with the process. It’s a testament to the enduring power of terminology in our collective consciousness. This phenomenon might be attributed to the familiarity and history associated with the term.

The community’s perception of ‘sand blasting’ as the generic term for the procedure indicates the need for ongoing education and awareness.  However, is this education and community awareness going to achieve anything meaningful? Probably not.

You can purchase small ‘sandblasters’ from online and tool shops for less than $100. This is just one reason why it feels like the horse has bolted as far as the name is concerned. We often hear ourselves quoting from the unwritten script that ‘we use garnet because you are not allowed to use sand anymore’. Often the client does not really care. 


So, does the name really matter when it comes to sandblasting? Not really, however, in the end, it’s not just about semantics. The terminology we use reflects the evolution of safety standards and awareness in an industry that has come a long way since its humble beginnings. While ‘sand blast’ will remain a familiar term, the shift toward other names will help to show the progress in ensuring the well-being of those involved in surface preparation.

In conclusion, the name carries historical weight, but the industry’s future lies in embracing safer practices. As the ‘Surface Preparation’ industry moves forward, using alternative abrasives and safer practices to protect both workers and the environment. The name may persist, but our commitment to safety and innovation should always come first.

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