The Truth About Detailing Matte Paintwork

It's probably one of the most commonly asked questions I see on a weekly basis. So lets break it right down and answer your questions once and for all.  

What is matte paintwork?

Matte car paintwork is a type of finish that is applied to the exterior of a vehicle and is characterised by a flat, non-shiny appearance with a slightly rough or textured surface. This type of finish is achieved by using a special type of paint and clear coat that contains a matting agent, which creates the desired texture and reduces the amount of light reflection on the surface of the paint. Matte paintwork is becoming increasingly popular on vehicles because it offers a unique, modern appearance that is different from the more traditional glossy finish.

Is matte paint the same as satin?

Matte paint and satin paint are similar in that they both have a non-shiny finish, but they differ in the level of sheen and the texture of the surface.

Matte paint has a completely flat finish with no shine at all. It has a slightly rough or textured appearance and does not reflect much light. This type of paint is often used to create a modern, edgy look on vehicles.

Satin paint, on the other hand, has a slightly shiny finish with a soft, velvety texture. It reflects some light but not as much as glossy paint, and it has a more subtle, refined appearance. Satin paint is often used on trim, and on parts of vehicles to break up the colour or highlight certain areas of a vehicle.

Do I need matte specific products?

It's the million dollar question, yet the answer is surprising. NO! Think about matte paint like this, its a regular clear coat which has a textured finish. You can use any pre wash, any snowfoam, and any shampoo on this type of paint. Including wash and wax shampoo or snowfom applied sealants. 

The golden rule is not to use any abrasive products, no clay, no magic erasers and certainly no machine polishing. Its abrasion that will damage the look of a matte vehicle permanently! 

But I hear you say, "I have a matte shampoo from a brand that is specific to my paint". Do you? Or do you have a regular shampoo with a different label? 

From all my years in the car care industry, particularly in product development. I have yet to find any difference between regular car care products and matte specific. Any shampoo, quick detailer, etc is non abrasive anyway so would not damage the surface. 

What about enhancing the "gloss?" Again its a similar story to the safe washing theory. LSP products such as waxes, quick detailers and ceramics are all generally safe, but let's consider this.  Waxes naturally "fill" due to their thick waxy nature, also some poor quality waxes can contain grains of carnauba that are surprisingly abrasive. Ok its unlikely to find an abrasive wax but iv'e seen them more than once! Coupled with the application and removal being more tedious due to the textured surface, personally I would avoid waxes. 

Sprays are completely ok, and again don't worry about adding a gloss effect to the paint, these Si02 sprays and also ceramic coatings create gloss by darkening the finish, its literally not possible for the finish to go from matte to gloss so don't worry. 

What about the "filling ability" of coatings or sprays? This is one of the most valid points, for starters forget sprays filling. If anything they can fill to a tenth of a micron, to put that into perspective, matte texturing is around 50+ microns. So you would need to layer a spray 500 times at least to even see a difference, and after all sprays typically only last a few weeks. 

Coatings on the other hand are different, and can contain up to 10 microns per application, with this in mind it is always advisable to use a product specific for the task here. It's important to understand that the coating its self does not need to be matte specific, but the solids content of the product needs to be low enough to allow the coating to be levelled correctly. Failure to level a coating will lead to whats known as high spots, areas where the coating hasn't been wiped off or spread correctly. Now on a gloss painted car this isn't a major issue, as you can quickly machine polish them off. With matte on the other hand you absolutely CANNOT polish the high spot off. As mentioned before, abrasion will damage the finish. 

With this in mind, only use a ceramic coating that is of a suitable solids content. Your coating supplier should be able to advise you on the best one for the job. I personally recommend Synergy 2 because its about as durable as it needs to be on a matte car (coatings last longer on a matte surface) so you can probably see 3 years from it! And its solids contents are bang in the safe zone for application. 

How do I clean a matte or satin painted car?

Cleaning a matte painted car requires a gentle touch and the use of quality products to avoid damaging the finish. Here are some tips for cleaning a matte painted car:

  1. Use a gentle, quality pre wash, ensuring you remove as much visible dirt as possible before touching the paint is so important here, as you cannot remove defects like on a gloss painted car. Prevent damage by doing a thorough pre wash!

  2. Wash the car using the two-bucket method to avoid introducing scratches or swirl marks. Fill one bucket with clean water and the other with water mixed with the shampoo of your choice. Dip a clean, soft microfiber wash mitt into the bucket of shampoo and gently wash the surface of the car. Rinse the mitt in the bucket of clean water, work top to bottom on the vehicle. 

  3. Dry the car using a clean, soft microfiber towel or a vehicle blow drier. Be sure to dry the car thoroughly to avoid water spots.

  4. Avoid using high-pressure turbo nozzles, like the Karcher patio cleaner (the one that spins when you spray it) or automatic car washes, as these can be too harsh for matte paint and can damage the finish.

  5. If the car has stubborn dirt or stains that cannot be removed with a wash, use chemicals such as fallout remover and agitate with a wash mitt to release the contamination gently.

Final thoughts?

Cleaning a matte car is exactly the same as a regular vehicle, with extra care needed to ensure you don't inflict any damage to the paint. 

When choosing your protection, take note of the above, personally ceramic coatings are the road I would go down, as they last the longest and are the hardest form of protection. Which in turn helps with preventing damage. 

But really the choice is yours, so armed with the correct knowledge, I hope you can stop worrying and enjoy detailing your car once again. 

Thank you for reading and good luck in 2023!


Matte paintSafe washing




Great article, easy to understand and follow.



Hi, I have a half painted matte car that has unfortunately picked up some fine scratches over the years. I was wondering if you know of a matte ceramic that would and cover and hide the existing scratches, whilst iffering future protection? Maybe multiple layers acting as a new coat of matte lacquer? last option before re painting. Thanks.

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