Where to buy steel wool

Where to buy steel wool isn’t a difficult question. It’s clear from the Google search results that any hardware store, home improvement store, and even one of the large discount store chains carries steel wool. But finding it in those huge 100,000-square-foot stores is another matter. I’ve even heard people lament that nobody seems to sell plain steel wool anymore, that all they can find are SOS pads that have a cleaner embedded in them. In this blog post, I’ll reveal the secret of where to find steel wool in big box stores.

You can still find plain steel wool today, but the trick is to not look in the cleaning section. It’s usually in the part of the store that sells paint, wood stain, and/or sandpaper.

Where to find steel wool

where to find steel wool - in the paint section
You can still buy steel wool at hardware stores today. The secret to finding steel wool is to look by the sandpaper.

The main reason steel wool is hard to find today is because it has several uses. Growing up in the ’70s, I remember seeing adults use it for scrubbing pots and pans, so I think of it as a cleaning supply. But that’s not the best place to look anymore because that’s not the main thing people use it for anymore.

Some people think of steel wool as pest control, because rodents don’t like to chew through steel wool. But you probably won’t find it by the mouse traps.

You’ll find steel wool in the paint and woodworking supplies section of the store, probably near the sandpaper. That’s because the main use of steel wool in the 21st century is painting and woodworking. Coarse steel wool works extremely well for scuffing or removing old paint and old finishes, especially on contoured surfaces. Arguably it’s the best thing to use on contours or corners because it can conform readily to the surface.

Fine grade steel wool is excellent for finishing, such as when you apply multiple coats of a finish like polyurethane, lacquer, or shellac. The fine grade steel wool knocks down high spots about leaving deep scratches in the flat areas. Fine-grade steel wool is also useful when you use a paint stripper, as you can soak the steel wool in mineral spirits to deactivate and remove any remaining paint stripper from the surface.

That’s why you’ll probably find the steel wool near the sandpaper. Because there’s a pretty good chance that someone who’s in the market for steel wool also wants sandpaper, or the other way around.

Where to find steel wool at Walmart

Unlike many other discount stores, Walmart does sell steel wool, but you won’t find it in the cleaning aisle. The clue is on the packaging, although if you haven’t seen the packaging that doesn’t help you much. The brand of steel wool that Walmart sells is Hyper Tough, which is their house brand for tools. That’s the clue that they keep steel wool in the hardware section. Go to the aisle that has things like sandpaper and wood filler, not the aisle that has hammers and screwdrivers.

Where to buy steel wool for mice

If you need steel wool to control mice or other rodents, you’re probably looking in the section of the store that has mouse traps. But you can find steel wool in the section of the store that sells painting supplies, sandpaper, and woodworking supplies.

Be sure to buy the right grade. Very fine steel wool won’t do much to deter adult rodents. If you have a big opening to fill, the coarsest grade provides the greatest deterrent, but at the expense of not conforming into tight spaces as well. The best balance is medium grade steel wool, something around number 1, since it will do a better job of squeezing into tight spaces. You will find it works best if you apply some caulk or spray foam into the area, then stuff steel wool into the gaps. The caulk or foam holds the steel wool in place and provides an insulating barrier, while the steel wool does most of the work of keeping pests from chewing through.

Where to find 0000 steel wool

If you’ve read this far I apologize for being repetitive. If you need 0000 steel wool for a project, the best place to look is in the painting and woodworking section of the store, usually near the sandpaper. Very fine grade steel wool like number 0000 is usually used for sanding between coats of clear finishes like lacquer, shellac, or polyurethane.

And if you don’t want to fight a big-box store crowd, and happen to live near a paint store, there’s a reasonably good chance you can find 0000 steel wool in a paint store. Most paint stores sell 0000 steel wool. They may or may not carry a full selection, however, so if you need the other grades for another reason, the paint store may not be your best bet for that.

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