For almost forever folks thought that shiny meant brand new and awesome – and it did. Then around the turn of the century, the design community began to embrace finishes that were flat or “matte” and finishes where a new item looked deliberately aged and well-used. Think “pre-washed jeans.” It’s sort of like that.
Matte finishes and Faux / Living finishes are now big business across a broad spectrum of industries. Motorcycle and auto manufacturers and aftermarket providers have embraced flat matte finishes big time! So too with faucet and fixture manufacturers. Matte, patina and/or colored finishes have become a huge business sector. It’s not unusual for designer faucet and fixtures to run into the thousands of dollars. Investments like that require, in fact, demand, special attention.
Rule #1: Father Knows Best
When you’re going about making your purchase of an item with a matte or living finish, the first rule to follow is to get maintenance details BEFORE you buy. Know what you’re getting into before you spend dime one. If what you’re looking to buy requires special babysitting and you’ve got a house full of rambunctious kids, then maybe it’s not for you.
Check on the cleaning instructions before you make your decision. It can be heart-wrenching to discover that a well-intended guest has permanently marred a bathroom fixture with a simple wipe down with a paper towel. Yes, paper towels do have a level of abrasiveness to them. Know what it’s going to take to keep things looking awesome.
Rule #2: See Rule #1
Okay, that was easy, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t look into care and maintenance prior to purchase. After your items have been installed, or after you’ve used them a while, it doesn’t hurt to review care instructions, because if you really do have them committed to memory then you’re definitely weirder than me, and that’s saying something.
If you inherited your matte or living finish items, do your darnedest to discover who the manufacturer is and take a run through their website to look for care instructions. If your motorcycle or faucet came with a matte finish, tracking down the manufacturer will be easy. On the other hand, if the item or vehicle was custom-painted, then you’re going to want to rely on what comes next.
Rule #3: Down To Business
Until you’ve developed a rock-solid regimen for caring for your matte or living finish, start small, start slow and start inconspicuously. That way, if you make a mistake, you’ll do the least possible amount of harm. If you start small, you can always stop and re-think or re-group. If you start big, you’re committed.
Most manufacturers recommend a soft cloth or microfiber and warm water for everyday cleaning of matte and living finishes, followed by drying with a separate dry microfiber. You should heed that advice… with a vengeance. Most higher end fixtures come with a warranty of some kind and in many cases, using the wrong cleaning materials will void that warranty. As usual, it pays to read the fine print.
Of all the “faux” finishes, oil-rubbed or “living” finishes can be the most delicate. You’ll find the most success if you’re diligent about wiping them down literally after every use to minimize soap buildup and water spotting. Remember, the longer you leave water spots, the larger the chance you take that dried minerals in the water may cause etching. Once that happens, you won’t be happy.
Rule #4: When To Break The Rules
If your manufacturer has provided a sturdier finish, or if your items are out of warranty, you do have some options for cleaning and maintaining matte finishes and living finishes. Sturdier matte finishes will respond well to mild soap and water, or for more persistent messes, you can use Flitz Flat/Matte Finish Cleaner. It’s a simple spray and wipe formula designed specifically for matte finishes and it works on everything from cars to faucets to parkerized finishes. It’s a favorite of hunters with custom finishes on their rifles. You’ll find it invaluable on brushed and stainless steel as well.
Whether you opt for soap and water or our Flat/Matte Finish Cleaner, the very first time you try it, remember to start small and inconspicuous. Most manufacturers pride themselves on their unique formulations and finishes and aside from their guidelines, there’s just no way to be sure until you try. So be careful!
Rule #5: An Ounce of Prevention
The best way to keep from harming matte or faux finishes when cleaning, is simply to clean them less often. That’s not as crazy as it sounds. In fact, it’s one of the reasons we developed Flitz Ceramic Sealant. Unlike a lacquer or clearcoat, Flitz Ceramic Sealant doesn’t add a shine to the surfaces it protects, making it perfect for matte and color-coated fixtures and painted finishes. It provides hydrophobic protection, which is just a fancy way of saying that it makes it way tougher for water to sit still on the surface. Indoors, Ceramic Sealant’s protection can last up to a full year, depending on use.
A little knowledge, a little caution and your matte and faux finishes will last a long time. And of course, we’re always here to help. If you’ve got questions, drop a note to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be happy to assist!