Sanding is fun, but sandpaper is not forever - even the best abbrasive will wear down over time. There are ways to extend that time, like using dust collection and preventing it from getting too hot, but there is one way to clean your sandpaper that will not only extend its lifetime but also make it sand better.
There are commercial solutions available in the form of huge rubber blocks, glorified erasers that, when held against the sandpaper will remove the gunk that has built up on it. But there are two ways to do this, and they cost next to nothing!
Step 1: Method 1 - Upcycle Plastic Wrap and Bottles
This method makes use of plastic from the garbage. Plastic bottles and bunched up plastic foil work great, and my solution for the actual shop application was to take a plastic bottle with a wide throat (more of a container, really), and stuff it with as much plastic wrap (the slightly thicker stuff that a few boards from the home center came in) as I could fit into it.
Now whenever I need to clean sandpaper, whether on the belt sander, the disc sander or the random orbital, I pull out a bit of plastic, wrap it around the edge of the container to keep my fingers out of the way, and hold it against the running or spinning sanding surface. I love watching how within seconds the color of the paper changes as dust and gunk are removed.
If you want to see it in action, you can check out the video I made two years ago. I am still on the same bottle.
Step 2: Method 2 - the Sandpaper Shoe
"Give bad sandpaper the boot" would be a great tagline for this - use the sole of an old sports shoe to clean the sandpaper. Admitedly not very cost effective if you went and bought new shoes for this, but a great use for worn-out shoes that you would otherwise throw away. To give credit where it is due, I got this tip from a video by Izzy Swan, so go check out his channel, too.
Step 3: Downsides?
If there is a downside to this method, then it is that the plastic does not escape unscathed, either. It has served its purpose, and what a purpose it is, but be aware that tiny specks of plastic will end up in your dust collector if you are using one. But that is the case with any cleaner that works this way, even the commercial ones. Also, it is only a small amount - since I have filled my bottle more than two years ago I have barely used up half of it. I have no experience on how long a shoe will last, though.
Still, since this will cut down on wasted sandpaper, I think the net result is definitly in favor of this method.
Thanks for checking out this Instructable, let me know what you think and the solutions for this problem that you came up with in the comments down below, and as always, remember to be Inspired!