Matt is a professional painter and freelance writer, sharing his knowledge, house-painting tips, and product reviews.
Paint Eater Pros and Cons
The Wagner Paint Eater is a rotating disc sander that does work well for removing peeling paint, but like most power tools, the sander isn't without its flaws. Having owned two of these for my painting business, I will share the pros and cons and whether or not I recommend this tool.
- Paint removal speed. The abrasive 3M sanding disc breaks down loose paint fast, eliminating the horrid task of scraping.
- Sands edges easily. Scraping peeling paint from the edge of a board is a pain. This tool removes loose paint from the edges of exterior trim boards in one or two passes. It worked well for me at removing peeling paint from the bottom edges of siding boards I was preparing for stain.
- Sanding disc durability. The 3M sanding discs aren't cheap, but they're very thick and last a while if you don't push down too hard while sanding. I was able to remove an old stain from a whole deck using only two discs.
- Changing the disc is easy. A small locking mechanism underneath makes unscrewing and replacing a worn disc very easy.
- Surface gouging. The Paint Eater will eat wood too if you aren't careful. The motor is very powerful, and the highly abrasive sanding disc will leave indentations and round out corners if you use it too forcefully. I have damaged boards without applying much pressure using this machine. You also need to absolutely wear protective gloves during operation or risk losing skin.
- Sanding disc expense. The sander comes with one 3M disc, but the replacement discs cost about $12 each. An entire package of sanding discs for a rotating orbit sander can be purchased for the same price, but this tool only accepts the matching 3M disc.
- No dust collection bag. Unless you're willing to get creative with your shop vac, this tool is best used outside only, not in your shop. When sanding, it produces an incredible amount of dust, creating a huge mess. A dust mask is a must.
- Heavy Weight. I used this tool to remove peeling paint from all of the siding on a house, and my arm was destroyed at the end of the day. Sanding a deck is much easier, but holding up the weight vertically all day is uncomfortable after eight hours. The handle is adjustable, but it doesn't help much for comfort.
- Small cord. The cord needs to be knotted when used with an extension cord to avoid disconnection during use. The small cord also makes it nearly impossible for use without an extension cord. The cord position is also annoying when working off of a ladder.
Is the Wagner Paint Eater Worth the Money?
The first unit I owned lasted about three years until the motor stopped working completely while sanding a deck. I bought a replacement, and one month later the motor on the new one stopped working and wouldn't turn on again.
To be fair, I did use the sander a lot, but at the cost of $70, I would expect a brand new replacement to last longer than one month. I was able to replace the second one under warranty at zero cost.
Based on the motor failure I experienced twice, I can't recommend this sander for anyone who plans on using it several times for large projects. I have since purchased a random orbit sander that is more versatile and reliable for my painting projects. The Wagner sander does perform well, but the motor quality is obviously poor based on my experience with this product. For occasional homeowner use though, I'm sure this product will likely last longer.
I still use the Paint Eater for small exterior paint preparation tasks, but for larger projects, I use my random orbit sander. With a random orbit sander, I don't have to worry as much about damaging the wood, making it possible for me to sand more delicate areas around exterior windows and doors.
I believe the lack of a dust collector allows sanding dust to backup into the motor area over time, causing failure. Not having a dust collector bag is also very messy and eliminates the option of using it indoors.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: Is the Wagner Paint Eater a tool that can be used to strip paint from interior woodwork?
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Answer: You can, but I wouldn't. The disc is way too coarse and aggressive for interior woodwork. It would likely damage the wood.
Question: Can this tool take off a polyurethane finish?
Answer: I've never used it for that purpose, but yes, it should. The Wagner Paint Eater is a bad choice though if you're looking to take poly off an interior floor, cabinets, or furniture. The discs are very powerful and very abrasive. It's best for exterior surfaces like decks, siding, or fencing.
Question: Will Wagner Paint Eater work on removing polyurethane?
Answer: It should, yes.
Question: Does this product work on polyurethane?
Answer: Yes, it should remove it if that's what you're asking, but the Paint Eater is a remover, not a sander.
© 2017 Matt G.
Matt G. (author) from United States on June 14, 2019:
When I've used the Wagner Paint Eater on wood siding it smoothed out the surface and removed the old coating, but there's going to be some loose wood fibers and a lot of dust. When I used it on wood siding I didn't sand again with separate sandpaper, but I removed the dust before staining. But for staining a deck floor or something, sanding after using this tool would smooth it out more. You can do the same for you siding if the surface isn't smooth.
Bill on June 13, 2019:
So given the abrasiveness of the Wagner, do you find that you need to go over exterior wood siding with another, finer sander to smooth it out before re-painting? I want to get the prep right and get the old paint off, but would rather not sand twice. As you say, holding a sander up for hours at a time is arm-wrecking. Thanks!