Sandblasting, also known as abrasive blasting, is a technique for surface finishing. The sandblasting machine forces out abrasive particles under high pressure to blast whatever is on the surface, off. It creates a smoother texture and evens it out as well. 

For sandblasting, choose an air compressor with a CFM of at least 10-20 and a PSI of 90-100. A smaller machine with a lower CFM (2-6) works fine for small jobs, and CFMs of 35 or above are perfect for heavy-duty or industrial work.

Overall, the Central Pneumatic 30 Gallon is the best air compressor for sandblasting. While it is not as powerful as the Industrial Air unit, it is powerful enough and yet very affordable. With an ideal sandblasting CFM range of 18-19.5 and a maximum PSI of 180, you’ve got the best in terms of power and performance. A good alternative is the Ingersoll Rand SS3J5.5GH.

Best Air Compressor For Sandblasting

Product NamePrice*Max PSICFM
Ingersoll Rand SS3J5.5GH$13013511 CFM
Quincy QT-54 Splash Lubricated$2,000145-17515
Industrial Air 10-HP 120-Gallon$4,500100 17535 33.6
HPDAVV Rotary Screw$4,600125-15071-81
Central Pneumatic 30 Gallon 420cc$1,700Max 180 90 4018 SCFM 19.5 SCFM
* Price is Approximate

1.Quincy QT-54 Splash Lubricated Reciprocating Air Compressor – The Most Featured Option

There’s a reason you’ll find this Quincy air compressor on every list. This is the model to choose if you want a durable, long-lasting machine built for heavy use. With an RPM of 1310, this compressor stays quiet and cool. Plus, it has a pump life of about 50,000 hours, one of the best you’ll find on the market.

The PSI range of 145-175 makes it suitable for many jobs and has the toughness you need. However, with great power comes great size, and this beast weighs in at 475 pounds. This model comes with a conveniently located moisture valve so you don’t have to crawl around to drain it.

Overall, this is a well-built, beautifully designed air compressor that suits all industrial needs. Its performance level and lifespan make it a worthwhile investment. I love that it’s made in the U.S. and boasts a heavy-duty motor.

This air compressor can handle any task you need it for, from stripping rust or paint to cleaning grease and dirt. Plus, the horizontal design makes it a convenient fit for many locations and is a great way to save space.

Pros

  • Quiet
  • Long pump life
  • Perfect for all types sandblasting

Cons

  • Not portable
  • Best for stationary uses

The company recommends bolting this model down, but I’ve found it stays in place if you use anti-vibration pads. If a problem occurs or you need a replacement part, they are easy to obtain since Quincy has been around for many years.

Quincy QT-54 Splash Lubricated Reciprocating Air Compressor - 5 HP, 230 Volt, 1 Phase, 60-Gallon Vertical, Model Number 2V41C60VC

$2,199.99
$1,899.99
 in stock
5 new from $1,899.99
Amazon.com
as of July 5, 2022 1:22 pm

2. Ingersoll Rand SS3J5.5GH – Best Overall

The Ingersoll Rand air compressor is designed for maximum versatility, which is why it has been selected as our best overall air compressor. It offers a high CFM, PSI, and HP rating, ideal for sandblasting. 

 It’s powered by a durable Honda gas motor that delivers the ideal pressure for sandblasting. Its handy wheelbarrow design makes it simple to tote around if you’re working in multiple locations.

Additionally, since it’s gas-powered, it can be used where there’s no power available.

As far as performance goes, this compressor features a powerful 5.5 horsepower motor that’s capable of producing 135 PSI of maximum pressure and a whopping 11 CFM @ 90 PSI.

As you know, a sandblaster only requires roughly 2.6 CFM. You could easily operate 4 sandblasters at the same time if you had to. With a 76 Decibel rating, you may need to secure the unit outdoors unless the sound doesn’t bother you or you have earplugs. 

Pros

  • Durable construction
  • High CFM rating
  • High PSI
  • Portable & Reliable
  • Powerful gas-powered motor

Cons

  • Loud

Lastly, there are two 4-gallon tanks within a cast iron frame that are supplied by the 0.825-gallon fuel tank.

You will also find an automatic start/stop pressure switch and a high-efficiency finger valve that are not only easy to maintain but also easy to operate. There is also a regulator gauge and an enclosed belt guard for additional safety. 

Ingersoll-Rand SS3J5.5GH-WB 5.5 Horsepower 8 Gallon Oiled Gas Twin Pontoon Compressor

$1,693.20  in stock
Amazon.com
as of July 5, 2022 1:22 pm

3. Industrial Air 10-HP 120-Gallon Horizontal Two-Stage Air Compressor – Best High Capacity Option

Industrial Sandblasting using Industrial Air Compressor

Not all jobs require a high-capacity air compressor like this one from Industrial Air, but with its ability to operate multiple tools at a time, you can’t find better.

The horizontal, 120-gallon tank offers an impressive level of output. With 35 CFM at 100 PSI, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a sandblasting tool with more power. All this power comes in a hefty size. This model is five feet tall, just over six feet long, and about two and a half feet wide.

I like that this model boasts a Baldor Industrial Class 10-HP electric motor, which can easily wire into a three-phase, 460-volt system.

The two-stage piston design of this compressor makes it more efficient for those needing a higher PSI output (in this model, it reaches up to 175 PSI, which is more than suitable for large-scale or industrial jobs).

Pros

  • Special patented pump
  • Two PSI options
  • Run multiple tools at once
  • 2 year warranty

Cons

  • Weighs 920 pounds
  • Expensive

All of the features make this air compressor well worth the price, and it’s a solid investment for yourself or your company. Keep this model well-maintained, and you’re unlikely to ever have an issue with it. Overall, this is a well-designed, reliable model capable of completing any job.

Industrial Air IH9919910 10 HP Two Stage Air Compressor, 120 gallon

$4,937.25
$3,762.98
 in stock
Amazon.com
as of July 5, 2022 1:22 pm

Other Shopping Option: Industrial Air 10-HP 120-Gallon (460V Three Phase) Horizontal Two-Stage Air Compressor |$4,473.40 (pittsburghsprayequip.com)

4.HPDAVV Rotary Screw Air Compressor – Best Industrial Model

If you’re looking for an air compressor that can handle heavy usage and is designed for efficiency in an industrial setting, look no further than this model from HPDAVV.

This compressor is a monster, weighing 900 pounds, with a 20 HP motor for top-level performance. Factor in a maximum PSI of 150 combined with 71-81 CFM and this air compressor is more than suitable for your industrial, automotive, construction, or steel industry needs.

I love that this compressor is super simple to install. Plus, it has a built-in oil separator to speed up maintenance and make the replacement process faster. HPDAVV prioritizes safety, and this compressor is no exception.

Pros

  • High-powered
  • Built-in oil separator
  • Easy controllers
  • Perfect for heavy sandblasting

Cons

  • Not portable
  • Suited for industrial use

The stability of this compressor is enhanced by its efficient air-cooling system, which maximizes your output. If a rotary screw air compressor is on your business wish list, this model is for you.

A heavy-duty air filter helps protect this compressor’s components and greatly improves the air quality. The company offers a warranty and lifetime assistance with maintenance, so if you get this compressor, sleep soundly knowing it’s built to last.

HPDAVV Rotary Screw Air Compressor 20HP / 15KW - 81-71CFM @ 125-150PSI - 460V/ 3-Phase/ 60Hz - NPT3/4" Skid Commercial Air Compressed System with Spin-on Air Oil Separator

$4,519.00  in stock
Amazon.com
as of July 5, 2022 1:22 pm

You may also be interested in a compressor for car painting.

5. Central Pneumatic 30 Gallon 420cc Truck Bed Air Compressor – Best Mid-Size Model

If you’re in the market for an air compressor that balances size, work capacity, and budget, then this model from Central Pneumatic is perfect.

I like this option because it hits the sweet spot in terms of CFM for an air compressor suitable for sandblasting (10-20 CFM). It also boasts a maximum PSI of 180, so there’s plenty of power to go around.

Because this compressor is gas-powered, you can set it up in your truck bed and haul it around to any worksite. The tank features a heavy-duty cast iron head and cylinder, which means long-lasting durability. Everything about this compressor is not only built to last, but it’s built to handle tough jobs.

Image Credit: Harborfreight.Com

If you’re someone who forgets to check the oil, this compressor has a built-in low oil engine shutdown and an oil viewing window, so it’s easy to see when you need more. The air pressure builds up quickly and this compressor works well with a range of tools.

I love that this air compressor is budget-friendly, yet comparable in power and performance to many of the higher-priced options. The volume can be a bit loud, similar to running a lawnmower, but reasonable given its size.

This air compressor can last you for a long time and will need some maintenance, but it’s easy to order new parts and complete any repairs.

Pros

  • Can be portable
  • Perfect CFM power
  • Safety and monitoring features
  • Can be mounted

Cons

  • Moderately loud
  • Weight 500 pounds

Where to buy it: 30 gallon 420cc Truck Bed Air Compressor EPA (harborfreight.com)

Lower CFM Units

ProductCFM @ 90 PSIHPDecibelTank SizeMax PSI
Ingersoll Rand SS3J5.5GH11 SCFM5.5 768-Gallon135 PSI
California-Air-Tools-200205.3 SCFM2.07020-Gallon125 PSI
Campbell Hausfeld DC2000004 SCFM1.3 8020-Gallon150 PSI

Other Blasting Applications

Of course, sandblasting is just one use for air compressors.

Soda Blasting

Soda blasting is a type of abrasive blasting that utilizes sodium bicarbonate (or baking soda) instead of sand. Most air compressors that work for sandblasting are also sufficient for soda blasting.

The Quincy QT-54 is an excellent choice, as is the Ingersoll Rand Electric Stationary Air Compressor. With 5 HP and a CFM of 18 at 90 PSI, this 60-gallon model is perfect for your soda blasting needs.

Vapor Blasting

Vapor blasting uses a mixture of compressed air, water, and gentle detergents to help remove corrosion and oxidized metal. You typically need a compressor with a bit less power, since this process is gentler.

Look for a model with around 15 CFM and 40-60 PSI. The Central Pneumatic 30 Gallon 420cc Truck Bed Air Compressor works, as does the Campbell Hausfeld 5-HP 80-Gallon Two-Stage Air Compressor. It offers 12 CFM at 90 PSI, reduced noise, and a pump life of up to 5,000 hours.

How Does A Sandblaster Work?

In order to choose the right size compressor for your sandblaster, you should know how they work. There are actually a few types of sandblasters available and each one provides air in different ways: 

Siphon Sandblaster

These sandblasters have two hoses. When the air flows through the first hose, pressure is created and sand is pulled from a tank through the other hose. The air and sand then are released together through the gun.

Pressure Blaster

This gun is connected directly to a canister that contains sand. The air and sand are then blown through the canister and gun at the same time.

Gravity-Fed Sandblaster

This sandblaster has a hopper on top of a pressure gun. The hopper will open when it senses the compressed air and the air being pulled will allow sand to be drawn through the hopper and out of the barrel along with air.

Nozzle Size & Pressure

The key to figuring out what size air compressor you need is to know what size sandblast nozzle you are going to use along with the pressure you’re going to need.

If your nozzle has a larger opening and higher pressure coming from it, you will need more air from the compressor. 

CFM

Once you have determined the size of the nozzle, you will then need to acquire CFM information. CFM stands for cubic feet per minute and it’s essentially the speed at which air leaves the compressor. 

If your air compressor has a higher CFM rating, it means that more compressed air is going to come out at the desired PSI. If you are operating a sandblaster that has a high air volume requirement, you need a compressor with both a high CFM and PSI rating. 

Additionally, different nozzles will require different CFM standards, but most are in the 2.6 CFM range. Once you know the CFM, a good rule of thumb is to have an additional 30% to 50% compressor capacity.

There are many individuals who choose to use a low-duty compressor that has low demands. If this is an option you are looking for, then you may want to take a look at a two-stage compressor rather than a rotary. Rotary compressors constantly run, but they become more of an inconvenience if it’s not operating consistently. 

PSI

In terms of PSI, you should use a tank that disperses a minimum of 100 PSI for maximum efficiency. If your compressor has a low PSI, you are going to spend more time on the project than you want to because it’s going to reduce your blasting pressure by half. It may even increase your project time by four times. 

Horsepower

CFM and horsepower go hand-in-hand. The more horsepower a compressor has, the higher the CFM will be. This is another consideration that you need to make when choosing an air compressor for sandblasting. 

Voltage

Make sure you take a look at voltage type as well when choosing an air compressor. If the voltage on the compressor doesn’t match the voltage from the power source, the compressor is going to be a dud. 

Single-stage compressors will utilize a standard power supply that is found in homes, apartments, and even smaller businesses.

f you don’t have another choice for a power supply, then a single-stage compressor would work, but it does come with restrictions. Single-stage compressors can only go up to 7.5 HP. If you need a stronger motor than that, you may have to look at a three-phase compressor. 

Three-phase units are more commonly found in commercial or industrial applications. These are more efficient and bring smoother power, but it costs a pretty penny to install than a traditional compressor would out of the box. However, if your building already has a three-phase power hookup, then this type of compressor would work well. 

Conclusion

As you can see, there are a ton of considerations you have to make before choosing the right air compressor for sandblasting.

You really need to think about the CFM rating, size of the nozzle, PSI, and HP ratings. Without the right compressor for the job, you aren’t going to receive the best performance.