You can’t fail to have noticed the explosion in the popularity of flat paint finishes in recent years, with both matt and satin coatings having never been cooler or more commonplace. What may well have started as a reaction against the massed ranks of glossy, perfect paint and a world dominated by subtle grey and silver hues, has since exploded, to the point where all manner of OE concerns will quite happily sell you a car with matt or satin fresh – the likes of Audi and Bentley included. Indeed, Autoglym has been fortunate enough to work with a number of high end manufacturers on this very subject, so it’s fair to say that we’ve built up a fairly comprehensive understanding of what’s involved with keeping these paint finishes looking their best.
The huge increase in the number of cars running said finishes has inspired Autoglym to give the subject some attention, hence why we’ve put together this handy, easy to follow guide covering the basics of matt and satin paint care.
Matt/Satin Paint Differences
Though very, very similar, there are a number of key differences between matt and satin paint finishes, the principle one being the manner in which they react to light. Matt paint finishes don’t reflect light at all, they’re totally flat and have the ability to make most surfaces look uniform – that’s why it can be such a focal point when applied to something exotic like a supercar. Satin is slightly different in that it’s a ‘mid-sheen’ finish, meaning that it has an ever so slightly polished surface that can reflect a small amount of light. It’s a bit like comparing a lump of coal to a slab of slate – the former merely absorbs all light, while you will be able to ‘bounce’ a bit of light off the latter.
Caring For Matt And Satin
The manner in which they react to light is the key aspect of both matt and satin finishes, and while the two do have a number of distinct traits, the process of caring for them is largely the same. While said process isn’t exactly time consuming, the specialist nature of these paint finishes does mean that they require a little more care than ‘regular’ gloss or metallic paint coatings, though the good news is that the Autoglym range is very well equipped and more than up to the task.
This is something you’re going to get very good at if you own a car with a matt or satin finish, as it’s perhaps the most important stage of the entire cleaning process. The reason that it’s so, so important to give your car a thorough wash with a high pressure hose before applying any kind of mitt, sponge or cloth-care, is because neither matt or satin finishes are easy to repair if you get damaged. Even more so than their gloss or metallic relations, these finishes are all too susceptible to damage caused by improper cleaning, with specks of grit and other abrasives being of particular concern. Worse still, scratched or otherwise damaged matt and satin paintwork is harder to rectify than regular paint, certainly without the coat in question looking like an obvious repair job. The message is clear, pre-washing with a high pressure system is all but essential.
Our development technicians have tested the entire Autoglym portfolio of shampoos extensively, and have found that all are completely safe to use on cars with low light finishes like matt or satin. Our techs did find Pure Shampoo to be particularly effective, and this is down to its pure, gloss enhancer-free formulation. The same Autoglym development team also found that other, preparation products can be used on these paint finishes without causing damage, including Intensive Tar Remover.
What Not To Use
Pre-washing aside, there are a number of other steps and products that should be avoided by anyone keen to retain the unique properties of their matt or satin paintwork. It’s a good rule of thumb that anything with the potential to be layered on in too great a quantity or thick a layer should be avoided at all costs, and most certainly applied to waxes, a product that many apply in an over-zealous manner regardless of the type of paint on their car!
Polish, that other detailing staple, should also be eschewed, and this applies regardless of the type and or quality of the product in question. Applying polish to satin or matt finishes can dramatically and irreparably alter the appearance of your paint, and the very action of polishing should be avoided at all costs if you want to preserve the unique and striking appearance of your paint.
The reason why both wax and polish should be avoided becomes apparent when you examine both matt and satin paint finishes through a microscope, where it becomes clear that, unlike more everyday finishes, both are anything but smooth and uniform in appearance. Indeed, up close matt and satin paints appear like miniaturised versions of the Himalayas, with both mountains and valleys clearly visible – the source of the paint’s flat, anti-reflective properties. Adding wax to either has the effect of filling in said valleys, while over application of polish can buff off the top of the ‘peaks,’ causing damage that’s all but impossible to repair. Basically, avoid applying a too thick layer of anything, and watch out for abrasives.
What To Use
Instead of using thick layers of wax and polish that risk damaging your paint, we’d recommend Rapid Aqua Wax. This product is liquid based and therefore safe to use on both paint types (it follows the contours of the paint so won’t add gloss or sheen), it also come with a whole host of benefits primarily associated with waxes, including UV protection and a degree of hydrophobicity, the latter making future cleaning all the simpler and swifter. The multi-talented nature of this product mean that, in car paintwork terms at least, you really can have your cake and eat it; all the joy of having interesting, show stopping paint, with none of the drawbacks!
A slightly left-of-field product, one which you might well own but probably haven’t considered utilising in this manner, is Fast Glass as a spot cleaner. Fast Glass is ideal for a number of reasons, though the most obvious one is its viscosity – it’s markedly thinner, runnier and, for want of a better term, less ‘gloopy.’ This means that it won’t clog up the ‘troughs’ that makeup the paint surface, while its special formulation (one that’s proven to be kind to even the most specialised of paints) means that it won’t buff off the ‘peaks.’ Last but not least, Fast Glass has proved ideal for removing one of the most annoying aspects of matt and satin paint finishes, greasy marks from fingers and hands. It is important to mention that Fast Glass will strip any wax you have applied to the paintwork, so remember to top up the protection after repeated use.
This viscosity is a key thing to be aware of when re-purposing any Autoglym product for use on matt or satin finishes, and it’s a good rule of thumb that liquid-based, abrasive free products are the ones to go for.
As we’ve already touched upon, Autoglym is well placed to offer advice on satin and matt paintwork care, partly as our range is so large and widespread, partly because we’ve been caring for cars for many decades, and partly because we’ve been entrusted to work closely with some of the largest and most prestigious car makers around. The list of OE manufacturers we’ve worked in conjunction with is nothing if not comprehensive, though some of the most applicable include Bentley and Audi, both of whom have developed and sold cars with matt paintwork in recent years.
Noble is another car maker with a close and relevant association with Autoglym, and it was with their M600 that we first chanced upon Fast Glass’s multi-faceted nature. The M600 can be ordered with satin painted roof, a key bit of bodywork and one which no owner wants to sully or compromise, and all associated with the project were deeply impressed by the abilities of Fast Glass.
Our experience within this field continues to grow, most recently through our work with Steve ‘Baggsy’ Biagioni, one of the UK’s foremost pro drifters and the driver of a very fast, very matt black Nissan S13, and a car powered by a rip-snorting V8! Steve’s found that Fast Glass is the perfect tool to have at his disposal, and one that plays a key role in his car being so perfectly turned out at each and every event he and his team attend.