11 Helpful Tips on How To Wash A Car With Matte Paint

Matte paint adds charm to a vehicle and helps accentuate the shape and natural color of the car. However, with the wrong technique, matte paint is easy to ruin. This article will help you to wash a car with matte paint safely.

Here is what you need to consider when washing a car with matte paint:

  • Use car shampoo for matte paint
  • Avoid car shampoo with wax
  • Do not wash your car with dish soap
  • Avoid car wax at all cost
  • Avoid aggressive solvents
  • Perform a safe prewash
  • Avoid car washes
  • Wash the paint by hand
  • Wash your car regularly (but not too often)
  • Do not polish the paint
  • Apply proper paint protection

Some of these points seem self-explanatory while others are not that easy to understand. Let’s take a closer look at each point.

Use Car Shampoo For Matte Paint

Generally speaking, all car washing equipment like buckets, microfiber cloths, and wash mitts are safe for matte paint.
Honestly, most car shampoos are also safe for matte paint.

Nevertheless, if you really want to be on the safe side, get a car shampoo that is specifically designed for matte paint.

This way you will avoid any potential damage or visual problems like the matte paint starting to get shiny.

Choose neutral or alkaline shampoos to wash matte paint. Neutral ones (pH 7) are suitable for hand washes, while alkaline ones (pH above 7) are designed for touchless washing.

Never use acidic shampoos as they are very harsh and can damage a matte finish.

Avoid Car Shampoo With Wax

This is probably the most important information when it comes to choosing the right car shampoo for your car with matte paint.
Stay away from car shampoo infused with wax at all costs!

Generally, this type of car shampoo is very good and a great alternative for car owners that do not want to wax their car after washing it while still protecting their car’s finish.

If you want to know more about this type of car shampoo, make sure to read my guide about it here.

But if you own a car with matte paint, using a car shampoo infused with wax is a deadly sin.

The whole idea behind having a car with a matte finish is that it does not have a shine to it. So never use a car shampoo that adds extra shine to a car’s finish.

It just does not make sense.

Using a car shampoo with wax will absolutely damage the looks of your matte car.

Removing the wax layer from your car will also take some time as the wax needs to be broken down by safe chemicals before it can be removed.

Just avoid this type of car shampoo and you will be on the safe side.

Do Not Wash Your Car With Dish Soap

Washing a car with dish soap is another deadly sin. There are a lot of reasons why dish soap is not suitable for cleaning a car properly. If you want to read all about it, I have written multiple in-depth articles about it.

Why you should not use dish soap to wash a car
All the differences between car shampoo and dish soap

The main reason is that dish soap does not offer enough lubrication for a hand wash and will lead to serious scratches in the paintwork.

Given that a hand wash is the only thorough way to clean a car, avoiding dish soap is a must if you want to keep your car looking good.

Avoid Car Wax At All Cost

This goes hand in hand with avoiding car shampoo with wax. Do not use products that are meant to add shine to a car. This will only destroy the beautiful matte finish you currently have on your car.

If you still want to protect your car, but you don’t know how, look no further.

There are a lot of different products on the market that offer great protection without adding shine to your car.
Check out my overview over all car wax alternatives here.

Avoid Aggressive Solvents

Active chemicals  — a.k.a solvents  — are suitable for some types of surfaces, but matte paint is not one of them. To clean bitumen and tar from the paintwork, use special cleaners.

However, the way to apply them to matte paint is slightly different than for cars with glossy paint.

The product should not be sprayed on the body but directly on the rag. 

Bitumen stains may be tricky to catch, especially on darker shades of matte such as grey or black.

To find them, wear thin nitrile gloves and run your hand over the body.

You will feel these stains.

Treat them carefully, spraying tar remover on a rag.

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Perform A Safe Prewash

As with every car wash, make sure to perform a proper prewash before touching the matte car with a wash mitt.

This way most of the stuck-on dirt will be removed without touching and possibly scratching the car.

If you have old, dried-on stains on the bodywork  —  that you don’t think the foam can dissolve —  then treat them with a pre-wash cleaner and leave it on for 4-5 minutes.

Sonax Actifoam

A safe prewash is only possible with a great car shampoo. Sonax makes great car shampoos in my experience. So I highly recommend that you click the link below and get yourself some Sonax Actifoam car shampoo!

It’s perfectly safe for matte films and won’t cause damage, but it’s excellent at dissolving dried-on dirt.

After that, top it off with the active foam.

The foam with a pH above 7 would do the trick. Such shampoos are called alkaline-based.

That’s exactly what you need to wash the car cautiously.

A good pre-wash ritual is essential when it comes to cleaning a car, no matter the paint sheen. There are many more tips on how to make a car look amazing that you should check it.

Avoid Car Washes

For some people, this might seem counterintuitive, as car washes are designed to clean cars.

So why should you avoid them with a matte car?

Because car washes are not designed to clean cars safely. They are designed to clean cars fast so that the car wash owner can earn a lot of money.

There are a lot of reasons why car washes are absolutely unsafe for cars, no matter if they have a matte or a glossy finish. Make sure to check these reasons out here.

Friction-based car washes use brushes or cloths to clean cars.

Sadly, these brushes or cloths are not maintained properly and will only act like sandpaper on your car’s finish, given that a lot of old dirt is stuck in them.

This video perfectly shows how friction-based car washes totally destroy a car’s finish after only one session.

It is highly likely that your car feels grainy after using a car wash. But car washes are only one possible reason for grainy paint.

If you care about your car’s finish, stay away from car washes.

Wash The Paint By Hand

As mentioned above, washing a car by hand is the only safe and thorough way to clean a car properly.

The right car wash technique alongside the right car wash products minimizes the risk of scratching or destroying your car’s finish.

Products like car shampoo, microfiber wash mitts, and the two bucket method are developed to remove the most amount of dirt in the safest way possible.

This way you can be sure to retain the look of your matte finish for the longest time possible.

Wash Your Car Regularly (But Not Too Often)

Washing a car regularly is a must if you want it to stay in pristine condition. On the other side, washing a car too often can lead to damage and is also a waste of product.

Make sure to just wash your car regularly. Bi-weekly is great, but once a month is a must if you park outdoors.

Regular car washes make sure that dirt on your car does not accumulate too much and it will stand no chance of actually damaging the finish.

Do Not Polish Your Car

Surely, over time, you might start to see some smaller and maybe even bigger scratches in your matte finish. It is nearly unavoidable.

Most people will tell you that to remove scratches you have to polish your car. The paint will look amazing afterward and your car will look brand new.

And this is absolutely the case if you own a car with a glossy finish.

If you own a car with a matte finish, polishing it will completely destroy the finish and will force you to repaint the car.

Polishing a car smoothes the paint by leveling it so that no imperfections can change the direction that the light is reflected off the paint.

This gives the paint this perfect shine and glossy finish.

Matte paint is structured though in order to prevent perfect reflection and a glossy finish. Polishing this structure removes it and destroys the paint.

Apply Proper Paint Protection

Last but not least, make sure to apply good paint protection to your matte car after you have properly cleaned it.

Paint protection will prevent dirt and debris from sticking to the car easily, protecting the paint.

Adam’s Ceramic Coating Kit

This kit comes with everything you need to protect your matte paint. Rain, dirt, industrial fallout, bird droppings, and more will not be giving you headaches any longer!

Click the link below to get this product.

Just make sure to stay away from car wax, as it is not suitable for matte cars. Instead, make sure to use a spray sealant or a ceramic coating.

How To Remove Stains From Matte Paint

Quick Answer

On average, a rusty car can be restored depending on the level of rust; that is, if the rust hasn’t affected the car’s structural integrity, you can restore the car and use it for a long period.

Honestly, there is not much more to it.

Matte paint has a different surface structure than glossy paint, but that does not mean that other cleaning principles apply to it.

If you have very nasty and stuck-on stains on your car, you can also use more aggressive cleaning agents like tar remover.

Just spray the stain and let the product do its work. Wash the car afterward and the stain should be gone.

Can You Take A Matte Car Through A Car Wash?

Quick Answer

Taking a matte car through a car wash is not recommended. The car wash is guaranteed to destroy the matte finish over time, leaving scratches and scuff marks all over the car. It is best to hand wash a matte car to preserve the paint finish.

As mentioned above, car washes are not meant to wash cars in a safe way.

They are manufactured to make the most amount of money for the owner.

This is achieved by cleaning a lot of cars in the least amount possible without properly cleaning the equipment after each car.

I can totally understand that a handwash sometimes just doesn’t work for whatever reasons.

It can be the equipment that is missing or just the reasons that there is no time for a proper handwash.

Instead of using an automatic car wash, use a pressure washer to get rid off most of the dirt without destroying the delicate matte finish.

This is much safer than a car wash and your car will look better for longer.

Can You Take A Matte Car Through A Touchless Car Wash?

Quick Answer

Taking a matte car through a touchless car wash is not recommended. Touchless car washes use harsh chemicals to get rid of stuck-on bird droppings, industrial fallout, debris, and other forms of dirt. These chemicals can harm the matte finish of the car over time.

Touchless car washes are generally the better choice than friction car washes. Nevertheless, it is best to avoid them with a matte car.

Given that touchless car washes do not touch the car, they have to rely on harsh chemicals to get the job done. These chemicals can, over time, damage the matte finish which can lead to all sorts of optical damages.

Is Matte Paint Hard To Maintain?

Many people like the look of matte paint, but never really consider how to maintain the nice looking finish over time.

Quick Answer

Maintaining matte paint requires some special care. Given the paint texture, special cleaning products and paint protection have to be used to maintain the finish. Also, automatic car washes cannot be used with matte paint cars, meaning that these cars are hand-wash only.

If you want to maintain the matte finish of your beloved car, there are some things you should do and some things you should absolutely avoid at all cost.

Do this to maintain your car’s matte finish:

  • Protect the paint: Matte paint cannot be polished, so it is important to prevent scratches, fading, sunburn, and other damages before they occur.
  • Remove contaminants as soon as possible: Contaminants should be removed asap no matter what finish your car has. With a matte finish optical damages tend to show more clearly, so make sure to avoid these by removing contaminants.
  • Handwash the car: Avoiding automatic car washes is a clear must. There is no exception. Using an automatic car wash will leave damages to the paint that cannot be removed easily or be polished out.
  • Use products for matte finishes: Matte paint has a special texture to achieve the matte finish. This texture needs special care and products. Make sure to invest in them.

Doing this will destroy your car’s matte finish:

  • Do not polish the paint: Polishing will flatten the paint, removing the paint texture and the matte finish. Never do this.
  • Never use household items for cleaning: These products will damage the paint texture and the damages cannot be removed easily by polishing the paint.
  • Do not wax the car: Wax adds protection but also shine to car paint. This is not what you want for your matte car, so stay away from waxes or ceramic coatings.
  • Do not use products for glossy finishes: These products usually contain some sort of gloss enhancers like waxes or silicones. Avoid these products to keep the matte finish looking good.

Key Takeaways

  • Car shampoo with wax is great – just not for matte cars
  • Never polish a matte car
  • Car waxes are not suitable for matte finishes
  • Use paint protection
  • Stay away from harsh chemicals
  • Avoid car washes with matte cars


Waterspots on Matte Paint are Easy to Deal Wtih (drbeasleys.com)

How to Clean and Care for a Matte Car: Complete Guide – Auto Care HQ

Waterspots on Matte Paint are Easy to Deal Wtih (drbeasleys.com)

Tips for Cleaning Your Matte Car Paint (palmengm.com)

Jan-Lucas Ganssauge
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge