Maintaining a Car’s Matte Finish Is Easier Than You Think

We understand if you’re a fan of the eye-catching texture of matte or satin car finishes you’ve seen at auto shows or on your neighbor’s sleek new BMW. Matte finishes on automobiles, like many other trends, come and go. The appearance is regaining popularity and is being offered as a factory option, particularly on luxury vehicles. BMW and Lexus are both offering variants of matte finishes on select 2020 models.

However, there are numerous misconceptions that matte finishes require an excessive amount of care. Therefore, if you like the style but have been discouraged by its maintenance, we are here to reassure you.

Matte Finish Isn’t Meant to be Perfect

Maintaining a Car's Matte Finish Is Easier Than You Think

First, we will briefly define matte finish. Matte finish automobiles have a non-reflective appearance and a rough texture, as opposed to the glossy, shiny finish you’re likely accustomed to seeing. Both paints are applied identically; the differences in appearance result from how the clear coat dries. (More on this in one moment.)

As previously stated, matte finish paint has a negative reputation, particularly in terms of maintenance. Some people believe, for instance, that matte paint cannot get wet (what? ), cannot be washed, and cannot be protected.

However, none of these are true today. In recent years, the durability of matte paint has increased, and a matte finish is now just as easy to maintain as a gloss finish. However, it retains its own requirements. Let’s examine why they exist and what they are.

Typical automobile paint jobs consist of primer, multiple layers of color, and clear coat. As previously stated, the clear coat is what differentiates a regular glossy finish from a matte finish. The clear coat, which has a glossy finish, fills in any imperfections to create a smooth surface, and is then polished and waxed to reflect light and create visual depth.

Deliberately imperfect, a matte clear coat has a texture that diffuses light rather than reflecting it. Additionally, the clear coat contains mattifying or texturizing agents to create a haze across all layers. Since the matte effect is achieved through the clear coat and not the colored layers, any color can be used to achieve a matte finish.

While it is true that an uneven matte surface is more likely to collect contaminants, it is not impossible to clean or protect. Some individuals believe that common contaminants, such as bird poop and dead insects, immediately eat through matte clear coat and into the color. According to experts, this is not true. Even though it is recommended to remove contaminants, especially biological matter such as feces and tree sap, as soon as possible, this does not mean that your paint will be ruined before you get home.

Hand-wash Only

Maintaining a Car's Matte Finish Is Easier Than You Think

However, matte paint will eventually etch. And if you’re truly concerned about it, a matte-specific protective sealant can save you a lot of trouble. You cannot simply use your old assortment of car wash products on this vehicle.

The safest bet is likely to be commercial products designed specifically for matte finishes, though some owners prefer homemade solutions, such as a mixture of dish soap and vinegar. Dr. Beasley’s, a company comprised of detailers, chemists, and car enthusiasts who design, formulate, and manufacture detailing products, advises against this. A guide provided by Lexus to owners of matte-finish vehicles recommends using only water whenever possible and a solution of citric acid powder to remove stubborn contaminants. Given this contradictory information, we’ll forgive you if you believed the process to be more complicated than it actually is.

There is little disagreement that the actual washing technique is equally as important as the product used. Matte paint should be hand-washed; you should not use an automatic car wash. The rough rollovers and brushes used in automatic car washes, as well as the harsh chemicals, will remove sealants and protectants, whereas a gentle hand wash with a quality product will only remove dirt and contaminants.

Spot Cleaning and Protecting

Maintaining a Car's Matte Finish Is Easier Than You Think

Again, use matte-specific soaps and detail sprays for spot cleaning and debris removal as needed. They function identically to their conventional counterparts, minus the presence of harsh ingredients with undesirable side effects. They may be utilized as frequently as necessary.

Avoid using regular paste wax because it will fill surface imperfections and (temporarily or permanently) destroy the matte effect. Choose sealants designed specifically for matte paint; they provide comparable protection. Matte sealant is easier to apply than paste wax because it can be applied to a wet car, does not require curing time, and does not leave a hazy residue on trim and emblems like paste wax can. Every six to nine months, a matte car’s finish must be sealed.

On a regular gloss finish, minor scratches, swirls, and etching can usually be buffed out, as long as the damage has not penetrated the paint to the primer. However, abrasive polishes and glazes will permanently alter the finish of a matte car by causing shiny spots. Because the surface is already imperfect, matte paint typically does not reveal minor scratches. Therefore, there is no requirement to polish a matte car. Furthermore, it is impossible to polish a matte car because polishing gradually wears away the clear coat.

In the event that a scratch or scuff shows through the clear coat or penetrates the color, you will need to hire a professional. Instead of buffing or filling visible scratches at home, a professional will need to repaint the affected area. Any reputable body shop is capable of performing bodywork that requires repainting.

Whether you’re shopping for a new car or considering custom work on one you already own, you shouldn’t take the decision to use matte paint lightly. It is not as difficult as you may have heard, nor as difficult as it once was, due to the availability of higher-quality paints and maintenance products. Still, it does require effort.

Scroll to Top