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Proper Matte Care: How to Care for Matte Finishes


Matte Blue Rolls Royce

Matte, flat, satin, frozen…all of these new finishes can look amazing, but how do you maintain them? The first thing to remember is that the nature of these finishes is not to reflect light. However, many of the traditional products and methods for caring for paint are meant to increase gloss and reflection. So a slightly different mentality when caring for a finish like these is necessary.

A lot of people see matte finishes and think they must be very easy to care for because they don’t show swirls, since those disrupt the reflection of a normal paint finish. While that may be true, I disagree that they are easier to maintain. I would argue that they are more difficult to maintain. This is because no matter how delicate we feel that a normal paint finish is, there is often the possibility to correct it, whether it be a scratch, marring, etching, etc. Yet, on a matte finish, there is no correction possible. You cannot polish a matte finish or it will ruin the matte effect. With that in mind you need to be very careful when dealing with matte finishes.

Matte White Saleen S7

Cleaning a matte finish is simple and much like cleaning a glossy finish. Wash with a ph neutral, wax free shampoo (i.e. Chemical Guys Meticulous Matte Auto Wash). It needs to just be pure soap. This is because the matte finish is made to not reflect light and the wax that is in many shampoos with give the paint a splotchy look. The ph neutral part is necessary because you do not want an option to damage the finish in any way since there is no way to correct it. It is also necessary to wash frequently as to not allow contaminants to become embedded into the paint. Over time, the finish may develop a “sheen” to it. This is just excess dirt and oils that have not been removed. For this, try a diluted solution of Isopropyl alcohol, the same you would use for removing excess polishing oils. Often times this will help remove the oils safely. If any bugs or bird droppings are acquired, make sure to remove as soon as possible to prevent etching. Make sure to use high quality microfiber towels and wash mitts, live by the two bucket method, use a foam gun/cannon if available, high quality and extremely soft brushes for wheels, and saturate the surface to add as much lubrication as possible.

Matte Red Rolls Royce

What about quick detailer spray? I can’t wash my car at the car show?

Interestingly enough there is a very simple solution to this. Generally a quick detailer is made to add gloss so will not work for this application. However, you can simply use an ammonia free glass cleaner. Yes, glass cleaner. This is because glass cleaner is just a pure cleaner since it cannot leave behind anything on the glass. Use is just as you would a quick detail spray to remove the light contamination and leave behind a nice matte finish. If you are looking for a quick detailer, make sure it is one specially formulated for matte finishes, like the Chemical Guys Meticulous Matte Detailer (MMD).

Matte Red Rolls Royce Light

Many manufactures of these paint finishes say to just wash and dry, but with the right product we can go a step further and protect it. Protecting a matte finish is, again, much like protecting a glossy finish but the protectant must be optically clear. What this means is there are no “enhancers” that are in many waxes that give that gloss and depth. Adams Quick Sealant, Swissvax Opaque, and Chemical Guys JetSeal Matte are just a few protectants that will protect the finish while not altering the look. The same will work for matte finished wheels as well.

Matte Grey Aston w/ Matte Black Wheels

Matte finish paints can offer an amazing look, and with the right care and protection they can last just as long as normal paints.

Matte Grey Aston Martin

Ian Martinez
Gloss Angeles
Irvine, CA
Instagram | YouTube

26 comments on Proper Matte Care: How to Care for Matte Finishes

  1. mark stone says:

    Great write-up and welcome aboard!!!

  2. Great article! Thanks for sharing your insight.

  3. Jeff Davis says:

    Is there a specific way to apply matte finish protectants? It would seem that if the goal is to NOT introduce correction to the paint, that using a buffer would be tricky.

    Jeff in Flagstaff

  4. Not necessarily. The key is to just be extra cautious. Personally I always hand apply protectants on matte just to be safe.

  5. Chris says:

    Great article, fantastic pictures. Looking forward to more of your articles.

  6. John says:

    Great looking cars and great article

  7. Tony Kiger says:

    Working for 3 dealerships, one of which being Mercedes, we have several matte finished vehicles. I have found doing a cross hatch pattern helps to make sure off full coverage and always apply by hand. It may be possible to machine apply but I would not recommend doing so since you are applying wear to the textured clear coat and is frowned apon. When removing the matte sealant (not wax!) I tend to wipe with a clean new microfiber in case of any leftover wax and wipe clean and then take a second microfiber with matte detail spray perform a final inspection wipe. Proper lighting for side panels is key due to the sealants wanting to blend with a matte finish.

  8. phil jimenez says:

    Is there a way to clean overspray on flat black? Can a fine clay bar be used, or any other product?

    • Tim says:

      I’ve found Dr. Beasley’s Matte Paint Cleanser to be very effective at removing paint overspray from flat/matte paint. Soak the overspray, let the cleaner penetrate for a few minutes and gently remove with plush MF towel.

  9. Chris Vernon says:

    I just purchased American Outlaw (Deputy) wheels with a matte black finish. I cannot get them clean from finger smudges and tire protectant overspray. What can I use that is good but not a wallet breaker?

    • A good, quick touch up cleaner for matte finishes is an ammonia free glass cleaner.

      As for the overspray, spray the product into an applicator first and then work into the tire. This eliminates the overspray and will work the product into the tire for a longer lasting finish.

  10. Birsen says:

    Is it possible someone to write down exactly the color of the Aston pls?!

  11. Kasey says:

    My XD matte black wheels have faded pretty bad. Is there a way I can bring them back?

  12. Reza says:

    great article … does glass coating can be applied in matte – satin finish paint too ??! …

  13. Grant Henry says:

    I just painted my car with a satin black paint but ended up with some dry over spray on it can i take it off with a clay bar ?

  14. Eric says:

    Just discovered your site and I love it! Wanted to see if you would be open to test out my glass etching supplies for free in exchange for feedback. Can you let me know if you are interested by email? I will ship the supplies to you all for free with cream and stencils. I look forward to hearing from you. I can’t wait to hear from you! Eric

  15. HarleyGuy83 says:

    I just bought a Harley 883 Iron for my wife with a matte finish on the fenders and tank. Would it be better to spray directly on the bike on the microfiber cloth, due to it being such little surface area? She wants it to look pretty all the time, but somehow, women lol, that became my responsibility.

  16. Allen says:

    According to Meguiar’s. you can use X-Press Spray Wax, and a few other of their spray waxes without changing the appearance of the matte finish. Is this true, has anyone tried this?

  17. Al says:

    I am trying to clean off some greasy fingerprints off a matte factory finish. I have use the factory recommended soap but no luck. Any suggestions?

  18. Mike Cahill says:

    Ian, Quick question (or two) – My coworker has a Mercedes Benz coupe with a matte white finish. She has what appears to be tar spots on the front and rear fenders behind the wheels. What would be a good way to remove the tar? Can Tar-X or something similar be used on matte paint? Any recommendations? Also, can you clay bar a matte finish? Thanks!
    Mike C.
    Fairfax, VA

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