Why Size Matters When Choosing Tumbling Media

Size is everything when choosing the right tumbling media for a cleaning job. Ultimately, it will have an impact on the overall quality of the cleaning process. But the size of the parts also matters. In general, the media should be able to clean all surfaces of the parts without lodging. So, the trick to achieving the best results is to carefully mix the parts with the media of the right size.

However, making that decision might only seem like an easy task. In other words, issues can occur when the size of the media and the parts don’t match.

Size of the media

It’s easy to choose the wrong size of the media when cleaning certain parts. If that happens, the parts could sustain damage or the cleaning job won’t be successful. In general, larger media is good for quick deburring or finishing. On the other hand, media that is smaller will take more time to finish the cleaning job.

Differnet size of tumbling media
Different size of tumbling media

On top of that, the results of the cleaning or polishing job will differ based on the size of the media. Larger media can damage fragile parts, while smaller media might not. Similarly, larger media will leave rough traces, while smaller media will have a more gentle impact.

Sometimes, it’s alright to mix different-sized media to get the best results if only one size is ineffective. That’s especially true when using steel media to clean metal parts.


Problems with lodging are common when dealing with tumbling media. Usually, such problems happen when the media gets stuck in parts that have holes or slots. In other words, lodging issues will most certainly happen when using smaller media to clean large parts.

prevent media lodging in parts
prevent media lodging in parts

As a rule of thumb, the media should be larger than any hole or gap on a part. To avoid two pieces getting caught in an opening, it’s best to use media that is at least 70% larger. For example, angle cut cylinder media will easily pass through holes.

The trick is to carefully choose media that will get the job done but not get lodged in parts.

Wear and tear

Constant friction eats away at tumbling media. In other words, media reduces in size due to usage over an extended period of time. But the speed at which that happens will depend on the material of the media. For example, organic media will shrink in size faster than ceramic media due to wear and tear.

However, media that shrinks gradually might also cause lodging issues. So, it’s important to take that aspect into consideration as well since it’s easy to overlook it.

Screening for parts

If the media and the parts are of similar size, it might be hard to separate them after cleaning. In general, the media should be smaller than the parts, but not too small so as to avoid lodging. The easiest way to separate parts from media is to use a screen or a media separator. In some cases, magnets will also do the trick.

Media & parts separation
Media & parts separation

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